Tell Them Of Battles, Of Kings and Elephants *

2356412883.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Book #99: ♫ Parle-leur de batailles de rois et d’éléphants / Tell Them Of Battles, Of Kings and Elephants* by Mathias Enard ★★★★½
Source: Municipal Library
Edition: Audiolib (2011), Unabridged MP3 CD; 3h20
Awards & Distinctions: Goncourt des lycéens (2010)
Goncourt Shortlist (2010)
Original publication date: 2010

I picked up this amazing little book because it came highly recommended in a “best of” directory consisting mainly of French writings (La bibliothèque idéale RTL edited by Bernard Lehut); it has not been translated into English yet, but it can only be a matter of time given it won a prestigious French literary award, its vastly famous protagonist—the artist Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, aka Michelangelo—and the compelling premise that the great Italian Renaissance master had made a trip to what was then known as Constantinople in 1506 after being invited by Sultan Bayezid II.

Portrait_of_Sultan_Bayezid_II_of_the_Ottoman_Empire

8th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Bayezid II (1447 – 1512)

From a few verifiable facts, Mathias Enard has weaved a highly poetic tale on the premise that following the Sultan’s invitation, (which Michelangelo’s famous biographer Giorgio Vasari noted in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects), the great master did in fact accept the invitation and spent three months in Constantinople to present plans for a bridge connecting the Eastern and Western parts of the great capital. Sultan Bayezid II has been mostly forgotten by history, but it seems he was a great visionary who promoted learning, fine arts, poetry and earned the epithet of “the Just” because of the smooth running of his domestic policies. Among other things, he organized the evacuation of Jewish and Muslim Spanish civilians who were evicted from Spain as part of the Inquisition, and granted them full Ottoman citizenship. Bayezid II was keen to have a bridge designed by one of the great Italian Renaissance masters, and asked Leonardo da Vinci to submit his designs first. This drawing is still in existence today, but it seems the proposed bridge was deemed impossible to build with the technology available at the time and it was rejected by the Sultan’s engineers, after which Bayezid II turned to Michelangelo.

The story he weaves here begins with Michelangelo’s arrival to Constantinople in May 1506, where is he given shelter by an Italian merchant and greeted by one of the Sultan’s protégés, the Ottoman poet Mesihi of Pristina. The two men couldn’t be more different; Mesihi, though now still considered as an important contributor to Ottoman letters, having died young in an impoverished state and total obscurity, while Michelangelo went on to become rich and famous and died towards the end of his ninth decade. Mesihi enjoyed much food and drink, and openly courted both men and women, while Michelangelo was of an ascetic nature, refusing all drink and eating little. But here Enard imagines the two men developing an unlikely friendship and the poet introducing the renaissance artist to a performer of great beauty and indefinable sex during one of their outings. The language is sublime, and we are privy to some of Michelangelo’s actual correspondence with one of his brothers, which Enard has translated into French for his book.

As for the intriguing title of the short novel, the author took the sentence from Rudyard Kipling’s preface of Life’s Handicap, a short story collection. This preface contains a fictive conversation between Kipling and “Gobind the one-eyed”, a holy beggar, who explains the art of telling stories:

“Tell them first of those things that thou hast seen and they have seen together. Thus their knowledge will piece out thy imperfections. Tell them of what thou alone hast seen, then what thou hast heard, and since they be children tell them of battles and kings, horses, devils, elephants, and angels, but omit not to tell them of love and suchlike. All the earth is full of tales to him who listens and does not drive away the poor from his door. The poor are the best of tale-tellers; for they must lay their ear to the ground every night”.

Such a beautifully told tale that it’s well worth reading twice in a row.

*Proposed translation for the English title

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The Magical Mystical Tour

Want to commune with the great Renaissance Masters? Not planning a visit to Rome and Vatican City anytime soon? Here’s a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel completely free of charge. Just click and zoom in and out to take in the sights and soothing sounds.

Vatican City not really your thing? Still up for a blast from the past? Want a  rockin’ good time with the lads and a far-out soundtrack? Then The Beatles are waiting to take you away on their Magical Mystery Tour, and it’s just one click away!

Books: A Wish List (1.1)

[26/03/09: I did a bit of an edit today on this post originally published on 13/06/08 to indicate which books I’ve obtained (*) and which I’ve also read (**) since then. All the book icons link to Amazon. When I’ve written a review, the book title links to that review. I have yet to compile another list as promised. All in due course I suppose. Most of the text in the rest of this post remains unchanged.]

There was no method to this particular folly I’ve committed, so don’t go looking for one. I’ve made it a full time activity over the past few weeks to look through countless book lists just for the fun of it; New York Times Best Books 1996-2007, The Guardian’s Top 100 Books of all Time, Time Magazine’s All-Time 100 Novels, Dr. Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, a list of the Definitive Book Lists (yes, a list of lists), a list of literary awards, which includes, the Nobel Laureates in Literature, The Pulitzer Prize, The Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, just to name a few, and then read countless reviews and suggestions, all for the sake of compiling my own ideal list of “Books I’d Hypothetically Like to Read In Near Future”. Many books didn’t make it on the list either because a) I haven’t gotten around to including them or b) I’ve already read them, or c) I’d like to read them later on and finally d) they simply don’t appeal to me.

I’m only posting a partial list today—less than half of what I’ve come up with so far in terms of fiction alone.I’ve already spent far too many days agonizing on how best to present the material, and finally my decision is just to present it as it comes. Please don’t be shy to comment, let me know what you’ve read or what you’d love to read whether it’s on the list or not. Today’s list is defined as “Fiction and Literature: part 1”

  1. Product Image The Swallows of Kabul*, by Yasmina Khadra
  2. Product Image Empress*, by Shan Sa
  3. Product Image The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao**, by Junot Diaz
  4. Product Image The Time Traveler’s Wife*, by Audrey Niffenegger
  5. Product Image Post Office, by Charles Bukowski
  6. Product Image Zookeepers Wife, by Diane Ackerman
  7. Product ImageLove in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  8. Product Image Blindness*, by Jose Saramago
  9. Product Image Kafka on the Shore**, by Haruki Murakami
  10. Product Image A Fine Balance*, by Rohinton Mistry
  11. Product Image The Interpretation Of Murder*, by Jed Rubenfeld
  12. Product Image The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon
  13. Product Image Midnight’s Children**, by Salman Rushdie
  14. Product Image Beloved**, by Toni Morrison
  15. Product Image In The Company Of The Courtesan**, by Sarah Dunant
  16. Product Image People Of The Book**, by Geraldine Brooks
  17. Product Image Shape Of Water, by Andrea Camilleri
  18. Product ImageCatch-22*, by Joseph Heller
  19. Product Image Children of the Alley: A Novel**, by Naguib Mahfouz
  20. Product Image I’m Not Scared, by Niccolo Ammaniti
  21. Product Image White Oleander, by Janet Fitch
  22. Product Image Fabrizio’s Return, by Mark Frutkin
  23. Product Image The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory
  24. Product Image Border Trilogy**, by Cormac Mccarthy (currently reading)
  25. Product Image The Shipping News*, by Annie Proulx
  26. Product ImageMy Brilliant Career, by Miles Franklin
  27. Product Image The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007, by Laura Furman (Editor)
  28. Product Image The Best American Short Stories 2007, by Stephen King (Compiler), Heidi Pitlor (Series Editor)
  29. Product Image Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer**, by Steven Millhauser
  30. Product Image Thousand Splendid Suns*, by Khaled Hosseini
  31. Product Image Runaway**, by Alice Munro
  32. Product ImageTheir Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  33. Product ImageFifth Business**, by Robertson Davies
  34. Product Image Amsterdam, by Ian Mcewan
  35. Product Image Haroun And The Sea Of Stories, by Salman Rushdie
  36. Product Image Music Of Chance, by Paul Auster
  37. Product Image Invention Of Solitude, by Paul Auster
  38. Product Image Moon Palace, by Paul Auster
  39. Product Image In The Country Of Last Things, by Paul Auster
  40. Product Image Leviathan, by Paul Auster
  41. Product Image The Book of Illusions: A Novel**, by Paul Auster
  42. Product ImageTimbuktu, by Paul Auster
  43. Product Image Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing
  44. Product Image The Complete Stories, by Franz Kafka
  45. Product Image Exit Music, by Ian Rankin
  46. Product Image Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Book 3)**, by Alexander Mccall Smith
  47. Product Image Infidel , by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  48. Product ImageAngela’s Ashes: A Memoir*, by Frank McCourt
  49. Product Image Migraine, by Oliver Sacks
  50. Product ImageThe Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeannette Walls
  51. Product ImageDeath at La Fenice: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery**, by Donna Leon
  52. Product Image Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo
  53. Product Image The Tin Drum*, by Gunter Grass
  54. Product Image Et si c’était vrai ?…, par Marc Levy
  55. Product ImageJe voudrais que quelqu’un m’attende quelque part*, par Anna Gavalda
  56. Product Image The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street**, by Naguib Mahfouz
  57. Product Image Lullabies for Little Criminals*, by Heather O’Neill
  58. Product Image New York Trilogy*, by Paul Auster
  59. Product ImageThe Forgery of Venus, by Michael Gruber
  60. Product Image Nobody’s Fool*, by Richard Russo
  61. Product Image The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
  62. Product Image The Poisonwood Bible*, by Barbara Kingsolver
  63. Product Image Human Croquet: A Novel, by Kate Atkinson
  64. Product Image Bright Shiny Morning, by James Frey
  65. Product Image The House at Riverton: A Novel, by Kate Morton
  66. Product Image Letters to a Young Contrarian, by Christopher Hitchens
  67. Product Image Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold
  68. Product Image Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel*, by David Guterson
  69. Product Image The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  70. Product Image Green Darkness, by Anya Seton
  71. Product Image Slammerkin, by Emma Donoghue
  72. Product Image In The Country Of Men, by Hisham Matar
  73. Product ImageLove 0f a Good Woman, by Alice Munro
  74. Product Image My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro, by Jeffrey Eugenides (Editor)
  75. Product Image Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson
  76. Product Image View From Castle Rock, by Alice Munro
  77. Product Image From The Fifteenth District, by Mavis Gallant
  78. Product Image Flying Changes, by Sara Gruen
  79. Product ImageModern Classics At Swim Two Birds, by Flann Obrien
  80. Product Image I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: The Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad, by Karolyn Smardz-Frost
  81. Product Image Le Parfum*, par Patrick Suskind
  82. Product Image Year Of Wonders*, by Geraldine Brooks
  83. Product Image L’élégance du hérisson, by Muriel Barbery
  84. Product Image Unfeeling: A Novel, by Ian Holding
  85. Product Image Italian Folktales, by Italo Calvino
  86. Product Image Je L’Aimais, par Anna Gavalda
  87. Product Image Sept jours pour une éternité…*, par Marc Levy
  88. Product Image La prochaine fois, par Marc Levy
  89. Product Image Modern Classics Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh
  90. Product Image Straight Man: A Novel, by Richard Russo
  91. Product Image Two Lives, by Vikram Seth
  92. Product ImageNative Son, by Richard Wright
  93. Product Image The Bad Girl, by Mario Vargas Llosa
  94. Product Image The Historian*, by Elizabeth Kostova
  95. Product Image Law of Dreams, by Peter Behrens
  96. Product Image The Unconsoled, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  97. Product Image The Outlander, by Gil Adamson
  98. Product Image If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino
  99. Product Image The Book of Salt: A Novel, by Monique Truong
  100. Product Image Natasha and Other Stories, by David Bezmozgis
  101. Product Image The Bone People, by Keri Hulme
  102. Product Image Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family, by Thomas Mann
  103. Product Image Small Island, by Andrea Levy
  104. Product Image The Light of Day, by Graham Swift
  105. Product ImageThe Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa
  106. Product Image Independent People, by Halldor Laxness
  107. Product ImageHunger, by Knut Hamsun
  108. Product ImageThe Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
  109. Product Image Arthur and George, by Julian Barnes
  110. Product Image Shadow Of The Wind*, by Carlos Zafon
  111. Product Image The Yacoubian Building*, by Alaa Al-Aswany
  112. Product Image Green grass, running water, by Thomas King
  113. Product Image Turtle Valley, by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
  114. Product Image Secret River, by Kate Grenville
  115. Product Image Mister Pip*, by Lloyd Jones
  116. Product Image Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill
  117. Product ImageThe Known World, by Edward Jones
  118. Product ImageBrick Lane: A Novel*, by Monica Ali
  119. Product Image Remembering the Bones, by Frances Itani
  120. Product Image One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, by Ken Kesey
  121. Product ImagePenguin Modern Classics World Of Wonders*, by Robertson Davies
  122. Product ImagePenguin Modern Classics Manticore*, by Robertson Davies
  123. Product Image Sweetness in the Belly, by Camilla Gibb
  124. Product Image A Spot of Bother: A Novel*, by Mark Haddon
  125. Product ImageShantaram: A Novel, by Gregory David Roberts
  126. Product Image Tales from Firozsha Baag, by Rohinton Mistry
  127. Product ImageHistory Of Love, by Nicole Krauss
  128. Product Image Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, by Azar Nafisi
  129. Product Image Bookseller Of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad
  130. Product Image Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Novel**, by Dai Sijie
  131. Product Image Girl With A Pearl Earring A Novel, by Tracy Chevalier
  132. Product Image Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood
  133. Product Image Mistress of the Sun, by Sandra Gulland
  134. Product Image Lady Oracle, by Margaret Atwood
  135. Product Image Three Cups Of Tea, by Greg Mortenson
  136. Product ImageFahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  137. Product Image Becoming Madame Mao, by Anchee Min
  138. Product Image The Dante Club: A Novel, by Matthew Pearl
  139. Product Image The Sea*, by John Banville
  140. Product Image Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
  141. Product Image Empress Orchid: A Novel*, by Anchee Min
  142. Product Image The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem
  143. Product Image The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
  144. Product Image White Noise, by Don Delillo
  145. Product Image The Book of Air and Shadows, by Michael Gruber
  146. Product Image Such a Long Journey, by Rohinton Mistry
  147. Product Image On Chesil Beach**, by Ian Mcewan
  148. Product Image Suite Francaise*, by Irene Nemirovsky
  149. Product ImageBel Canto*, by Ann Patchett
  150. Product Image The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus*, by Margaret Atwood

And This is What an Israeli Winter Looks Like

Israeli winter
winter in Israel
My uncle sent me these totally cool photos the other day. He shot them in response to the one I put up on my last post with the caption “This is Winter from our balcony”. The balcony being of course, around Tel-Aviv. The funny thing is, people complain about how cold it gets there in the winter. I’d say they’re pussies (as in pussy cats of course) but having lived there a hundred and fifty years ago now, from what I remember it’s true that it actually gets very cold in the winter. And if you know Israelis at all, that last thing you’d say about them is they’re pussies. Dogs maybe. But not pussies.

Maybe it’s the contrast with the scorching summer, maybe it’s the fact that all the housing is built to stay cool and fresh to deal with said hot hot hot summers—who knows? From a distance I can laugh and say they have no idea what COLD is. But aside from all that, man would I love to look out my window and have a view like that all year round! All plants and greenery. No neighbours. Sweet.

Pics by Pini

Illustration Friday: Wrinkles

Colette
Collette Burns, born July 2nd 1923.

I met Colette on a cold spring day last year as I was taking a walk on a busy Manhattan avenue. She was inexplicably parked in her wheelchair on the sidewalk, apparently taking in the sights, with a small boy by her side, who turned out to be her grandson. For a fraction of a second I thought she was a homeless person, especially since she looked so wild with her hot pink lipstick liberally applied well past the contours of her lips, but I quickly realized this wasn’t the case. We talked for a long time about life and death and metaphysics and I told her I felt like I’d met an earth angel. She seemed pleased by this, and not terribly surprised.

To view other my other Illustration Friday entries, click here.
To view other participants’ work click here.

Illustration by Smiler