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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Trip: the Narniaverse


From: CS Lewis' The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: " . . . You are now looking at the England within England, the real England just as this is the real Narnia. And in that inner England no good thing is destroyed.  . . .  That country and this country -- all the real countries -- are only spurs jutting out from the great mountains of Aslan. We have only to walk along the ridge, upward and inward, till it joins on."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Off Topic: The current crisis was foreseen 60 years ago, but . . .




After a more careful reading of this book (see) written in the 1950s about our future lifestyle, some amazing discoveries emerged. They can be summarized as follows: No later than 60 years ago, experts already forecast all the major problems of our era, including the 2007 international crisis, still going on, and its causes. But those same experts could not provide one feasible solution . . .  Their suggestions to overcome the world troubles consisted in things like hydroponics, artificial islands, industrial plants in the Moon, that should be extensively operating by now! We're done for, guys.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sea Paradise, Lost and Regained

The national poem of Portugal, Luis De Camões' Os Lusíadas, dealing with Vasco Da Gama's 1497 voyage to India, was known to Tasso, who liked it -- indeed, he considered it his only 'competitor.' Os Lusíadas, which is probably a bit underrated outside Portugal, belongs to the phylum of the great Western Christian epic, from Dante to Milton and Blake, but it provides some insights that its 'colleagues' don't:

* It tells a sea adventure, unlike all others; for some reason, nobody, or at least no great poet ever wrote a poem on Columbus, although Tasso was quite sure someone would;
* It is substantially set in the present, unlike Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (eighth century) and Tasso's Jerusalem-poems (11th century); to be sure, Dante also set the Divine Comedy in his own days, but in places that he himself created;
* It is based on personal geographic and cultural experiences, as Camões actually knew India.

The historic(al) events of Vasco Da Gama's enterprise are simplified, but preserving their main dynamics. Although Da Gama is shown as nobler than he was, e.g. he never tortures prisoners in the poem, the "bloody" side of colonialism is not hidden at all -- the Renaissance was way less hypocritical than (so-called, self-proclaimed) "Enlightenment" politics and literature. What Camões shares with the other Renaissance geniuses is ambivalence as the epitome of the complexity of Reality: celebration and j'accuse, Christianity and pagan Classical Antiquity, virtue and eroticism, Nature's beauty and the horror of the Cross, heroism and irony, history and mythology, optimism and pessimism, Fortune and Providence, . . .  At the same time, Vasco Da Gama is different from almost any other hero, because -- like Aeneas -- he acts on behalf of others, for a purpose that he did not choose; his glory coincides with his obedience, unlike Achilles, Odysseus, Ariosto's Ruggiero, Tasso's Rinaldo/Riccardo, whose deeds also accomplish a general purpose, but, say, indirectly, as a side effect.

A very interesting subject, linking Camões to Milton, is that of Paradise. Like all his contemporaries, the Portuguese poet identified, at least on a literarily level, the Biblical Eden with the islands in the Atlantic Ocean, especially the Canaries, plus India in the Far East, in this case. So, thanks to the Lusiads, readers reach a "widespread" Paradise that the Westerners had lost: they now regain it, and even commercialize it. It would like to seem the beginning of a New Era, but what it actually entails is the definitive loss of Eden. In fact, one century later, Milton will say that the mountain of Paradise had been destroyed quite early by the Flood. This, on the other hand, will give rise, in literature and movie, to the attempt to discover it somewhere else in the universe, see CS Lewis' Space Trilogy and James Cameron's Avatar in his wake.

For a very good Italian version: Lusiadi, transl. by Mercedes La Valle, Parma: Ugo Guanda Editore, 1965.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A monument to Translation


While visiting Lucca together with Nivalis of the Magic Trio, in the church of Saint Frediano we happily chanced to come across the monument to the great Italian translator of Milton's Paradise Lost, Lazzaro Papi. His version, first published in 1811, unashamedly abridged and Catholicized, is -- in spite of this -- so powerful that it made Yours Truly a Milton fan forever. A detail in the monument (see above) recalls his great literary enterprise. As to the statue of the personage himself, it is a classic neo-classical 'anonymous' bust that could portray anybody: Julius Caesar, Dante, Napoleon, . . .



The inscription reads: La[z]zaro Papi, a Colonel for the Britons in Bengal, then a praised writer of verses and historical essays, [a man] of frail luck because of his great prudence and goodness, lived 71 years, honored and loved; his friends made this monument to him in 1835.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Guest: the god Tash


From: CS Lewis' The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: In the shadow of the trees on the far side of the clearing something was moving. It was gliding very slowly Northward. At a first glance you might have mistaken it for smoke, for it was very gray and you could see things through it. But the deathly smell was not the smell of smoke.  . . .
"What was it?" said Eustace in a whisper.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Guest: Roonwit


From: CS Lewis' The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: "You know how long I have lived and studied the stars; for we Centaurs live longer than you Men, and even longer than your kind, Unicorn."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Guest: Jewel


From: CS Lewis' The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: For a moment the King's grief and anger were so great that he could not speak. Then he said: "Come, friends. We must go up river and find the villains who have done this, with all the speed we may. I will leave not one of them alive."
"Sire, with a good will," said Jewel.

Note well: According to Lewis, unicorns are no cute and harmless pets. See one of his masterpieces, The Great Divorce.

Friday, August 8, 2014

One more contemporary fantasy master


Original title: Hilda and the Midnight Giant. For a starter, in order to be able to see the elves, you don't need to be the seventh child of a seventh child, or the like, but to sign a lot of (very tiny) forms. And then, will our little she-Gulliver, Hilda, succeed in surviving in a place that is like both Lilliput and Brobdingnag?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday Guest: Puzzle


From: CS Lewis' The Last Battle (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote:  "You look wonderful, wonderful," said the Ape. "If anyone saw you now, they'd think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself."
"That would be dreadful," said Puzzle.
"No, it wouldn't," said Shift. "Everyone would do whatever you told them."
"But I don't want to tell them anything."
"But think of the good we could do!" said Shift. "You'd have me to advise you, you know. I'd think of sensible orders for you to give. And everyone would have to obey us, even the King himself. We would set everything right in Narnia."
"But isn't everything right already?" said Puzzle.
"What!" cried Shift. "Everything right -- when there are no oranges or bananas?" 


Soundtrack: JUDAS
I don't want your blood money!

CAIAPHAS
Oh, that doesn't matter, our expenses are good.

JUDAS
I don't need your blood money!

ANNAS
But you might as well take it -- we think that you should.

CAIAPHAS
Think of the things you can do with that money:
Choose any charity, give to the poor.
We've noted your motives, we've noted your feelings. This isn't blood money, it's a . . . . . . . . .

ANNAS
A fee!

CAIAPHAS
. . .  A fee, nothing more.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Golden Age of Sci-Fi is still underway, after all

After some wriggling, Anacharsis Grimes emerged from the maggot's unpleasantly oily interior, and plopped onto the floor.  . . .  He had, prior to committing himself, read the PDF instructions but, during the last fifty pages, his patience had flagged. The text, a laborious translation from Korean, had been interspersed with austere lists of non-linear equations. These formulas were requisite for the conversion of Calliphora vomitoria into corridors wide enough for human beings to slither from point A to point B.
. . .
"Your stomach won't stand a flight in a Life-Swan either," Toby said with boyish logic. "And it's very dangerous."
"Not as dangerous as staying put."
"What do you mean? Have you planted a bomb?"
Anacharsis could not disguise a blush.
"You have, haven't you?"
"Of course, I haven't," Anacharsis said irritably. "I'd never been able to get one past security." He decided not to mention the pilots murdered in their sealed cockpit, and his reprogramming of the shuttle's flight path.
. . .
The Life-Swan shifted impatiently. Anacharsis touched its neck. He too was counting the minutes. Uncharacteristically, he availed himself of one to think. "Why don't you come with me? There's plenty of room for two."
"You're serious, aren't you?"
"Well, you know," Anacharsis cleared his throat. "I'm not a monster."
"I am." Toby glanced at his useless legs. "I'm an ungrateful little freak. That's what my mother always tells me."

__Philip Murray-Lawson, Superman's Last Flight, in the anthology Emanations: Foray into Forever, Brookline, MA: International Authors, 2014 (see)