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Sunday May 30
|Agnes Varda (b. 1928) – French film director, writer – The Beaches of Agnes / Les plages d’Agnès (2008)|
Read the Wikipedia article about Agnes Varda
Read the High Museum’s blog post about
The Beaches of Agnes
“Though women played a major role as muses to the French New Wave of the 1960s (think Jean Moreau, Anna Karina, and Catherine Deneuve), Agnes Varda was the only female director in that influential movement. She began her career as a still photographer, taking family photos in a Paris department store to support herself. When she felt the need to add words to her images, she turned to filmmaking.”
Read this Vitro Nasu blog post about Agnes Varda
Read Agnes Varda’s thoughts about her (and others’) films in this 1977 interview by Gerald Peary
Women’s films? “Look, I’ve done them since 1958,” Varda lectures me.” L’Opera Mouffe was a short film about the contradictions of pregnancy. I was pregnant at the time, told I should feel good, like a bird. But I looked around on the street where I filmed, and I saw people expecting babies who were poor, sick, and full of despair.”… Most important for her feminist education was Varda’s journey to Oakland, California, to cover the Huey Newton trial for her Black Panthers: a Report (1968). “The Black Panthers were the first to say, ‘We want to make the rules, the theory.’ And that’s what made me aware of the woman situation. A lot of good men had been thinking for us.”
Monday May 31
|Svetlana Alexievich (b. 1948) – Belarusian writer, 2015 Literature Nobel Prize – The Chernobyl Prayer: Chronicles of the Future (aka Voices from Chernobyl)
Read Julian Evans’ review of Voices from Chernobyl
The book begins and ends with the testimony of two widows; one the young wife of a Pripyat firefighter who went at night to fight the blaze in his shirtsleeves, the other the wife of a “liquidator”, one of the 600,000 men drafted in to bury the topsoil and shoot every animal in the zone. He is the last in his platoon to die. When he can no longer speak, she asks him, “Are you sorry now that you went there?” He shakes his head no and writes for her, “When I die, sell the car, and the spare tyre, and don’t marry Tolik.” Tolik is his brother. She doesn’t marry him.
Tuesday June 1
|Casper de Vries (b. 1954) – South African (Afrikaans) comedian|
Read the Wikipedia article about Casper de Vries
Watch Casper de Vries perform his “Learning Channel” skit
(b. 1925) – U.S. gospel singer
Visit the official Marie Knight website and listen to
“Twelve Gates to the City”
Listen to an excerpt of Marie Knight singing “Lord, I Feel Like Goin’ On”
Watch Marie Knight talk about her life and work
Wednesday June 2
|Dorothy West (b. 1907) – U.S. novelist, short story writer (Harlem Renaissance) – The Wedding (1995)|
“Her 1948 semi-autobiographical novel, The Living Is Easy, explores racism and class-consciousness among the African-American bourgeoisie in Boston. A second novel, The Wedding, was started in the 1960s but West didn’t complete it until the 1990s. Her editor for this book, her Martha’s Vineyard neighbor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, read West’s work in the island’s local paper and encouraged her to complete the novel. Similar to her earlier novel and to many of her short stories, The Wedding examines issues of race and class among upper-middle class African Americans, this time in the Martha’s Vineyard community, Oak Bluffs.”
Excerpt from The Living is Easy (page 88)
Miss Johnson was a lady’s maid, and therefore an undistinguished Negro who deserved no more special consideration than a white servant who happened to be left a house. As the tone of a street is considerably lowered when mistress and maid live side by side, the high visibility of a Negro maid, added to this, plunged its desirability to zero.
“You want to see me, Miss Johnson?” asked Cleo, meeting her midway the room. She stared with pity and revulsion at the wrinkled monkey face, the dim eyes behind the gold-rimmed spectacles, and the mottled hands that were like burnt matchsticks. Her own hand tightened on Judy’s for the young feel of it. She was frightened in the presence of old people. She did not like to face the fact that some day she must surrender the reins of power to someone whose strength was as hers was now.
“I wanted to see you on a matter of my discretion,” Miss Johnson said, in the careful manner of speaking that had been part of her since she had come by Underground to Boston with an untutored tongue which had acquired the accent and intonation of her mistress….
“Oh, by the way, Miss Johnson,” she began, “my husband surprised me to death last night by telling me we’re moving. He heard about a house yesterday and rushed right out to rent it before anyone else. I went to look at it this morning. It’s in Brookline, and, of course, we’re very fortunate. But I’ve spent some very pleasant years in this house, and I’m leaving reluctantly. The thing is, day before yesterday I got a letter from a sister of mine, saying she was coming to Boston to put her child in a Boston school. I told my husband, and I guess he thought it would be nice for use to be together, since she’s a widow. So yesterday he got this house. I’m sure you’re not sorry. One child walking over your head is enough.”
“I love children,” Miss Johnson said quietly. “I like the noise their little feet make. When you lose your eyes, you lean on your ears.”
Judy wriggled her hand free and went to stand before Miss Johnson, lifting her small serious face. “I’ll miss you,” she said gently, and laced the gnarled fingers in her own.
Cleo wanted to snatch her child away from this childless woman who stood among the Victorian relics of her meaningless life, and had no hope of anything but heaven. “Judy, Miss Binney’s waiting,” she said coldly.
Thursday June 3
|Pedro Mir (b. 1913) – Dominican poet|
Read the Wikipedia article about Pedro Mir
Visit the website for Pedro Mir (in Spanish)
Read the first verse of “Hay un país en el mundo”
un país en el mundo
en el mismo trayecto del sol,
Oriundo de la noche.
en un inverosímil archipiélago
de azúcar y de alcohol.
como un ala de murciélago
apoyado en la brisa.
como el rastro del beso
en las solteras
o el día en los tejados.
Frutal. Fluvial. Y material.
Y sin embargo
sencillamente tórrido y pateado
como una adolescente en las caderas.
Sencillamente triste y oprimido.
Sinceramente agreste y despoblado.There is
a country in the world
in the same trajectory as the sun
Native to the night.
in a far-fetched archipelago
of sugar and alcohol.
like the wing of a bat
supported by the breeze.
like the trace of a kiss on aged spinsters
or the day on tiled roofs
Fruitful, fluid, and material.
torrid and trod upon.
like the hips of an adolescent
Simply sad and depressed
Sincerely wild and unpopulated.
Friday June 4
|Margrit Schriber (b. 1939) – Swiss novelist – The Ugliest Woman in the World / Die hässlichste Frau der Welt (2009)|
Read a short description of The Ugliest Woman in the World
Saturday June 5
|Pu Songling (b. 1640) – Chinese short story writer – Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio|
Read Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio online