Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Lagerlof, Tainter, Donkeys

I have started a series for Ploughshares called Lost Classics, and the first entry is Selma Lagerlof's The Phantom Carriage. The Norvik Press is re-issuing a number of Lagerlof's novels in new translations.

I have read two: Lord Arne's Silver and The Phantom Carriage (translated, fittingly, by Sarah Death and Peter Graves!) and think she is a special writer who deserves to be remembered. Her books are difficult to find in America, but I encourage you to seek them out.

To quote Hermann Hesse, an admirer, Lagerlof "possesses what is perhaps the most essential characteristic of the person of genius, an inner relationship with all being, a wealth of connections to all the things and creatures of the world..."

Next, Dark Mountain published my first new review for them, of Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies, and Energy Bulletin republished it. I am proud of this one and I hope you read it.

And finally, Cerise Press published my review of Beso the Donkey, a collection of poems by Richard Jarrette. I was drawn to it because of the praise of W. S. Merwin on the back. Also, donkeys are some of my favorite creatures.

Speaking of which: I don't listen to much modern classical music, but happened to come across a CD of short piano pieces inspired by Platero y yo, one of my favorite books (by Juan Ramon Jimenez, about his friendship with his donkey). The pieces are composed and performed by Sandrine Erdely-Sayo, and I picked the CD up purely out of affection for the book.

And what a pleasant surprise, considering that I usually hear modern pieces and have no idea what to make of them. Erdely-Sayo has written a wonderful collection of miniatures, with the best of the tracks calling up the sense of nostalgia that fills Jimenez's book. I unfortunately don't have the vocabulary or knowledge to write about music—if it helps, the pieces sound a bit like Liszt working with Iberian melodies, with some of Liszt's over-fondness for embellishment but also with a touch of his magic. You can listen to a little of it here.


Thursday said...

You might be interested in Barbara Tuchman's work:

I'd also point to this link:
For societies to collapse usually requires not just internal stresses, but a big push from outside, like a military conquest.

Akshay Ahuja said...

Many thanks for both recommendations. The Tuchman in particular sounds fascinating; I'll look it up. I'd never heard of Tuchman before, but this is probably because I only recently realized that it might be important to learn some history.