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Cardiff Bay.

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Sad to hear that Deirdre Bair, who wrote the first major biography of Samuel Beckett, has died at the age of 84. Her work continues to exert an influence on contemporary Beckett scholarship, to say nothing of its inspiration to modern practitioners and performers of his writing. She also wrote a biographies of Simone de Beauvoir, Anaïs NinCarl JungSaul Steinberg and Al Capone. Most recently, she was the author of Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me – a Memoir. She will be sorely missed.

Neil Genzlinger has written an obituary for Bair in The New York Times.

“I translate it in my head as ‘far away from here’, the longing to be elsewhere.”

In a recent interview with Granta, Teju Cole discusses his new book of photographs, Fernweh (literally, ‘far-woe’). Source: Granta Magazine.

“In our current era of uprooting, thanks to economic policies that have created mass homelessness again in California and crushing debt across the nation, Lange’s images seem immediate, urgent, thorny again, questions that demand answers.”

Rebecca Solnit discusses a 1956 portrait by Dorothea Lange for an upcoming exhibition of her work at the The Museum of Modern Art. Source: The Paris Review.

John Berger
John Berger

“I’d rather reject the terms optimistic and pessimistic. They suggest a calculation of how things are going to evolve, and if it’s going to evolve in the way you want, you’re optimistic. That has very little to do with despair and hope. Hope is not a form of guarantee, it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.”

— John Berger, who died on 2 January 2017.

Cardiff at night. I walk through the streets as the sun is going down, and I am reminded that these are the closing days of a decade. May the next ten years bring greater peace, hope and community to this wonderful city.

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William Blake, ‘Newton’ (c.1795-1805)

The poet and artist William Blake was born in Soho in London on 28 November 1757. His ‘Newton’ conveys the scientist as allegorical figure: absorbed by man-made geometry to the exclusion of the self and the wonders of the natural world. Blake’s poetic and artistic works became important cultural touchstones during a tumultuous period in Western history, but his words and images comprise social commentary and critique that still speaks to our times.

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Richard Brody on the final film of the late Agnès Varda, who died in March at the age of ninety:

“The sublime originality of the work and the life of Agnès Varda, who died in March, at the age of ninety, provides her last film, “Varda by Agnès” (screening October 9th and 10th), with both its subject and its form. It’s a personal journey through her career, centered on a series of public lectures, interviews, and conversations that mesh with clips from her work—museum installations and videos as well as movies—and with staged sequences that provide a theatrical context for her reminiscences and reflections. “Varda by Agnès” is a fitting valedictory work that, in its retrospective illuminations, nonetheless pushes Varda’s own aesthetic relentlessly forward: it’s an exemplary illustration of the very concept of the auteur, of the director as prime creator, an idea which—though she was never a critic and never advanced it in theory—her body of work exemplifies as strongly as anyone’s has done, now or ever.”

Source: The New Yorker.

Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis

“In her notes, we see her honing her habit of attention, her sensitivity to shades of meaning and the music of language, her tropism toward writers with a talent for noticing.”

— Parul Sehgal reviews Essays One, a new collected volume from Lydia Davis. Read the review in The New York Times.

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“Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.”

— John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket

Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson

“Commonplace things can be fascinating.”

― Tove Jansson, The Summer Book (trans. Thomas Teal)

Fred Rogers
Fred Rogers

Anticipating the release of A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, journalist Tom Junod has reflected on the friendship with Fred Rogers that inspired the film. Drawing from personal correspondence, he explores why Mister Rogers remains relevant as an important cultural icon.

Source: The Atlantic.

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Noted AIDS researcher Jay A. Levy became friends with Samuel Beckett after encountering his work as a student. This portrait, taken in Beckett’s home, was among books, letters, and memorabilia that Levy and his wife recently donated to Wesleyan University.