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Category: The Arts

Hemingway Revisited

So when I last appeared we discussed Hemingway’s life in Cuba. It was an interesting time, and one that I find perceptually engaging when you look at his life. But there is so much more than that, finding a good point in time is hard. For that reason I have chosen to go into a little more depth about the man’s life over all.

That is why today, we will once again be guest to Ernest Hemingway’s life. Last year PBS ran a documentary about Hemingway that actually encouraged today’s biography. The documentary was a three part work on his life, split into the different stages. Hemingway, covered a lot of material in the six hour runtime which could be described as his life, his work, and his loves. The series was co-produced and directed by Ken Burns who you might have heard about in the last couple of decades. If you know his style then you will have a pretty good idea of how it was structured and how it looked.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, which is a suburb of Chicago. He was the second of six children (four girls and two boys). His father, Clarence Edmond Hemingway, was a physician and enjoyed hunting and fishing. His mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, had studied music and made begin musical studies at an early age, hopeing to get him interested in music. Ernest’s father owned a small house with land on Lake Bear. There Ernest learned to fish (at the age of three he was already able to handle a fishing rod) and to hunt (at twelve he carried his father’s rifle). He attended Oak Park and River Forest High School, where he learned to play the cello and was part of the orchestra. In his studies he excelled in language, but felt apathy for the other subjects. He showed his literary skills in the school newspaper, using the alias Ring Lardner, Jr. When he finished his studies, in 1917, he did not want to go to university, as his father wanted, nor did he want to perfect his cello studies, as his mother wanted. He moved to Kansas and in October 1917 began working as a reporter at the Kansas City Star, earning $15 a week.

The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, and Ernest did not want to miss the opportunity to follow the American Expedition Corps, as did John Dos Passos, William Faulkner or F. Scott Fitzgerald. But because of a defect in his left eye, he was excluded as a fighter. He managed to get a position as a Red Cross ambulance driver and landed in Bordeaux at the end of May 1918, to go to Italy. On 8 July 1918 he was seriously wounded by Austrian artillery. With injured legs and a broken knee, he still helped Italian soldiers escape to safety. He walked 40 meters until he fainted. The heroism he showed during the attack helped to earn him recognition from the Italian government with the Silver Medal for Valor. During his recovery in the Milan hospital he fell in love with a young nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, who would later leave him for a Neapolitan officer.

He returned to the United States in January 1919, resuming his work as a journalist at the Toronto Star and as an editor for the monthly Cooperative Commonwealth. He married Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, 8 years his senior, on September 3, 1920. The couple moved to Paris in 1922. It was then, shortly after arriving in Paris, his first and only son, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, was born, whom he called “Bumby”. In Paris he met the avant-garde literary environments and related to the members of the so-called Lost Generation: Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald among others. The Hemingway family lived in an austere apartment, but when Ernest wrote to his family he told them that they lived in the best area of the Latin Quarter. His literary beginnings were not easy. His first works: Three short stories and ten poems (1923) and “In This World” (1925) went unnoticed. Ernest earned his living as a correspondent and traveled throughout Europe.

The year 1925 marked the discovery of Hemingway for American publishers, and the year he wrote his first novel, Fiesta. The new style he showed in this book, a portrait of the bohemian Paris of the twenties and much of it autobiographical inspiration, left behind a more experimental and obscure literary work, resulting in more of a sudden surprise success. Also in “Death in the Afternoon”, he recounts his experiences in Spain, a country that he was already beginning to worship, and in which there are still testimonies of his presence today. In 1929, he published “A Farewell to Arms”, a novel with autobiographical content, since it is based on his passage through the war and his experiences on the battle front. It was followed by two more optimistic works, which dealt with two topics that he was passionate about: bullfighting, in “Death in the Afternoon”, and Africa, in “The Green Hills of Africa” (published 1935).

In 1928 he returned to the United States with his second wife, but soon left for Cuba. From that moment on there was a curious and definitive transformation in his style. His work moves away from individualism, as can be seen in “To Have and Not Have” (published 1937), which describes the failure of an individual rebellion, and it is here that he engages in the humanitarian struggle and the union of people.

He was more committed to his writing in this new stage, which focused on the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. Through this commitment that he testified to in the script of the documentary film “The Spanish Earth”, in the play ” The Fifth Column” and of course in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, a masterpiece of universal literature. World War II then broke out. In 1944 he traveled to Europe as a war correspondent, participated in aerial reconnaissance missions over Germany and was part of the landing in Normandy, being one of the first journalists to enter Paris. It was not until 1950 that he wrote again. “Across the River and into the Trees,” it is his first publication after those turbulent years of war. “The Old Man and the Sea” was released in 1952. This was a short story commissioned by Life magazine, “The Old Man and the Sea,” was the work which would win him the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. The story tells of an old Cuban fisherman who has had a rough spot in his life and goes fishing determined to end it. A year later he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for all his work.

From that moment forward he tried to write a novel about the Second World War, something that came very difficult for him, and it was a task that he would never finish. Hemingway was left with a longing for the feeling that caused him to be a young dreamer, brave and risky, who not only wrote about events that would one day become part of history, since he was also part of it. On July 2, 1961, perhaps he decided he couldn’t write anymore – a lifetime of alcohol abuse and long-term use of Reserpine and Ritalin left him in a mentally unstable condition, one that was was further complicated by hereditary hemochromatosis, which is a genetic disorder characterized by excessive intestinal absorption of dietary iron – and shot himself with a shotgun he had purchased from Abercrombie & Fitch. Given the absence of a suicide note and from the angle of the gun shot wound, it is difficult to determine if his death was actually self-inflicted or if it was an accident.

The life and times of Ernest Hemingway were often turbulent, often exciting, and often infused with a brand of melancholic normalcy that only he could create. His style is one that has inspired generations since his passing and has earned him a place among the great writers of the last century.

Hemingway’s Life: Reborn In Cuba

When you know me better you will realize how much I love the works of Hemingway. Today though it amazes me how little is known about the man.

For many American's in my generation it went without say that Hemingway was part of your life. At least academically. His impact on our culture and society as a whole is substantial which is why it pains me to learn that my niece; She will graduate next Spring, has never picked up one of his works. Nor was she forced to read one in school.

She didn't even know he visited Cuba, nor the impact it had on his work. He has spent more than two decades there and it was between the walls of the Finca Vigia, or Ferme Vigie. A property that has become a heritage restoration workshop outside of Havana. It is a joint project of the Cuban institutions and an American NGO, which emerged despite the resurgence of tensions with Washington initiated by Donald Trump. that Ernest Hemingway wrote one of his greatest works, "The Old Man and the Sea".

Ernest Hemingway lived on the premises from 1939 to 1960. He left thousands of documents such as manuscripts of his books, but also correspondence, photographs, or annotated works. A page of his life that he toured almost a year after the revolution. A year before his final his days.

Though he is one of the major figures of literature in the United States I fear that we will someday be oblivious to the importance he had.

I. M. Pei

Abstract shapes and sharp, geometric designs have made Chinese-born architect Ieoh Ming Pei a star in the West. He turned 102 in April.

Pei died in his Manhattan apartment on May 16, 2019.

Pei, famous for, among other things, the design of the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris. His handling of simple geometric shapes and playing with light shaped his work.

Sponsored by Walter Gropius, the exiled founder of the Bauhaus at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, and Marcel Breuer, Pei is considered to be its most accomplished classical modernist supporter. Pei had already moved to the USA at the age of 17 for training, the Second World War prevented his return to China.

I. M. Pei was born into a wealthy family. His father was a senior executive at the Bank of China, and in 1927 he was transferred to the bank's headquarters in Shanghai. The mother, an artistically educated woman and practicing Buddhist closer to him than his father, died of cancer when he was 13.

Pei went to school in Shanghai at a boarding school run by American missionaries. North American standards were conveyed there, wearing Western school clothes, the preferred sports being basketball and tennis. Pei experienced a contrast with this environment during the summer holidays in Suzhou northwest of Shanghai with his grandfather, who introduced him to traditional Chinese values, with family sense and the teachings of Confucius.

Later Pei described the early experiences with both worlds as a win.

At that time, the first high-rise buildings were built in the East Asian business center in Shanghai, of which Pei was very impressed. He decided to study modern architecture, which was only possible overseas. In August 1935, Pei traveled to the United States and, after a brief stint in Philadelphia, enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston.

In 1942, Pei married the Chinese born, Ai-Ling Loon (1920 – 2014), whom he had met four years earlier in Boston. They have three sons and one daughter. Pei never talked about his personal life, nor didoes he talk politics. He was described as an amiable, witty interlocutor who never loses calm even in critical situations. His secretary believed he only cursed once in her presence in the thirty years she worked for him.

Still, he was a figure of controversy; His designs often caused violent resistance at first, but then mostly contributed all the more to his fame. Time and again his special energy was emphasized, which enabled him to perform with a high level of energy even in old age.

One of his partners once said: "He's equipped with a different set of batteries than everyone else." Pei himself said of his motives: "In me I have a great desire to leave something behind. This has nothing to do with ego. I think you owe it to your own existence to leave something that remains."

The last masterpiece is the Museum of Islamic Art in the Emirate of Qatar.

Previously, it was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, USA, from where a disk jockey sent the term "rock and roll" into the world in the 1950s. The design of this building was meant to reflect the energy of rock and roll, the architect once said.

In between, the desire for experimentation would have almost ruined his company – the 240-meter-high John Hancock Tower in Boston, USA, huge discs fell out of the façade during every storm – be it like, the Bank of China in Hong Kong glitters like a crystal once again. This time Pei felt inspired by the bamboo, in Chinese culture which is seen as a positive symbol.

A New Magic Carpet Ride

Disney's animated film "Aladdin" re-envisioning is about ready to hit theaters.

The director; Guy Ritchie, is the man responsible for the reshuffle of the 1992 classic, which appears to be a potential another box office hit for Disney once again. In the role of the famous blue bottled Genie, Will Smith, who has slipped into the role made famous by Robin Williams seamlessly. For fans it was either a perfect fit or a miss-casting. Will Smith is aware of the high expectations fans have placed on his performance: "I was really scared in the beginning. You have to be careful with movies like this because they shape people's childhoods."

For me there is a certain nostalgia associated with the film since it was one of the last that I got invested in in my mid-teens.

Director Guy Ritchie wasn't put off by the expectations people placed on him. The couples three children played a role in their father's film choices.

"My children forced me to make a family movie," he quipped in an interview. "Aladdin was a logical choice for me. I was a fan of the 1992 animated version. One thing led to the other."

The film also stars the Cairo born actor Mena Massoud, with Princess Jasmin played by Brit Naomi Scott.

Aladdin isn't the first Disney animated film that has been subject to a live-action relaunch; "The Jungle Book " and "Dumbo " have already been re-filmed. And later this summer we'll get treated "The Lion King."

Bread and Wine

Something a little bit older landed on my bookshelf the other day; "Bread and Wine" by Ignazio Silone, published in 1936 by the Gutenberg Book Guild or "Vino e pane" published a year later in Italy. The book was republished in 1955 under the title "Wine and Bread," and apparently, in terms of content, it has been modified over the years but remains in print.

From Wikipedia):

Bread and Wine is an anti-fascist and anti-Stalinist novel written by Ignazio Silone. It was finished while the author was in exile from Benito Mussolini's Italy. It was first published in 1936 in a German language edition in Switzerland as Brot und Wein, and in an English translation in London later the same year. An Italian version, Pane e vino, did not appear until 1937.

After the war, Silone completely revised the text, publishing a significantly different version in Italy (in 1955), reversing the title: Vino e pane (‘Wine and Bread’). This updated version is also available in English translation.

I had learned about the author in a documentation that I watched some time ago and decided to try some of his work up. "Bread and Wine" is my first foray into that exploration.

Born in the small village of Abruzzo and died in Geneva in 1978, Ignazio Silone, whose name was Secondini Tranquilli wrote about Italy's poverty in the 1930s and the socialists' struggle against the Fascists, but actually also contains general wisdom for life. He then fled abroad, revised his books, etc.

The book follows the exploits of Pietro Spina, a young revolutionary who is being sought by authorities. To avoid capture disguises himself as an old priest known as Don Paolo Spada.

The story tells a lot about Silone's life, who lost his parents and his siblings early in on and was forced to make due without much schooling; his transition to a revolutionary and journalists were, for a time, under the scrutiny of police spies.

The book is beautifully written and for a work to survive it must be lest it slip into the space in history that is reserved for the forgotten.

Since "Wine and Bread" is still available, you can find some reviews that both provide sound information about the work giving you a good idea of what you are in store for and others. Some of them note downsides, such as "The book is adventure novel and political thriller in one" or "Wine and bread – both appear in the book while the figures consumes them regularly, the title does not suggest the actual content. It is also increasingly political and exciting towards the end."

While I find it good that they read the book it feels like they have missed the point. Neither of the opinions are capable of painting the work in a light that would be relevant to the themes and messages the book covers.

I will avoid going into much detail about the book; Instead it is more important to understand the time in which it was written, the struggles people faced, as well as the understanding that it is truly not a work of fiction but a document of the time.

For instance, the lives of the landless peasants are described very forcefully. Mussolini is all present and is feasible for one to see that people actually had no choice but to join the fascists, because they were mislead through the news, exploited and used to further Mussolini's agenda to receive minimal sustenance and support. For a job as a civil servant, teacher, community doctor one had to sell his soul and the poor students got money for their food rations, but only if they agree.

The book explores the populist rhetoric undermined the fabric of society and fake news was employed in much the same manner as today.

It is a time that we cannot return to.

Kubrick A Retrospective

For Stanley Kubrick's fans it is apparent he offers us a look into surreal worlds which challenge our sense of being and morality. But his works are richly layered and offer a broader look at both the future as well as a look into the past when they were created.

Now London is home of a retrospective dedicated to Kubrick's work and rich sense of director until September.

The exhibit honors the renowned director, screenwriter and film producer, marking the 20th anniversary after his death. It shows his creative process; step by step, throughout the whole creative process and gives us a look at one of one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of the 20th century.

Many of the objects are on loan, belonging in private collections and and are now shown for the first time. His daughter Katharina Kubrick, said: "It's all our stuff, all of Dad's stuff. We had them at home, he never threw anything away. Everything was carefully cataloged and kept in boxes. When we moved, it all came with us. I don't think he'd envisage an exhibition, but there was a reason he didn't throw anything."

Awards and iconic movie objects like from films like: "2001" or "Clockwork Orange " are on display at the exhibition.

Kubrick, who was born in New York, moved to London at the beginning of the 60s which became the center of cinematographic operations for the director.

For Kubrick it only seemed logical to use it as a setting for all of his films which was also extraordinary for the time. That is why it is was really the only choice for a retrospective were made in London. He was a master when it came time to recreate these worlds audiences enter when they watch his films. It might be a hotel in the Rockies or for battlefields in ietnam, or space, were ever it was he could transport you there.

About 500 objects are included in the exhibition which lasts until the 15th of September at the Design Museum of London.

The Venice Art Biennial 2019

The Venice Art Biennial 2019 has opened its doors to the public this Saturday and what I wouldn't give to visit it. Not just this year, but generally speaking, sometime.

For those of you who may not be familiar with it:

The Venice Biennale (/ˌbiːɛˈnɑːleɪ, -li/; Italian: La Biennale di Venezia [la bi.enˈnaːle di veˈnɛttsja]; in English also called the "Venice Biennial") refers to an arts organization based in Venice and the name of the original and principal biennial exhibition the organization presents. The organization changed its name to the Biennale Foundation in 2009, while the exhibition is now called the Art Biennale to distinguish it from the organisation and other exhibitions the Foundation organizes.

The Art Biennale, a contemporary visual art exhibition and so called because it is held biennially (in odd-numbered years), is the original biennale on which others in the world have been modeled. The Biennale Foundation has a continuous existence supporting the arts.

This year the Golden Lion for the best pavilion has been for Lithuania by the "Sol y Mar" facility, an artificial beach inside the Arsenal's historic building.

The central exhibition is spread over the old Venetian shipyards and in the Giardini. One of the most shocking facilities is perhaps "Barca nostra ", a ship from Libya that sank in 2015, with more than 700 immigrants and refugees aboard. The Swiss artist Cristoph Büchel's project echoes again this drama, one of the worst shipwrecks of the 21st century.

And it really does have a haunting appeal to it.

"I think it is a good thing that the ship is here, as it should be regarded as a reminder of our present. It is not something that no longer exists, something that can be ignored but something that can happen again and unfortunately occurs almost every day in the Mediterranean," laments Carlotta Sami, regional spokesperson for UNHCR in southern Europe.

Special mention for the Mexican Teresa Margolles has re-envisioned the city's canals as a large concrete wall with concertinas to question the public about the divisions and violence that exists in the world.

The Israeli pavilion takes the appearance of an ER in which the visitor can see with despair that there are still 200 numbers ahead in the waiting room…

If you are lucky enough to be in Venice you will have the chance to visit the Venice Biennial until the 24th of November.

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