Posts Tagged ‘Zygmunt Malinowski’

Bergen holds its first-ever international literary festival – and we’re in Norway for it!

Thursday, February 14th, 2019
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Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf. Norway 2012 (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

The Book Haven has just arrived in Norway for the first-ever Bergen Literary Festival – tired and hungry and footsore and jetlagged, but delighted with the lovely city. For example, the Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf pictured above which dates back to Middle Ages is on UNESCO world heritage list.

We just returned from listening to a riveting onstage conversation between award-winning Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling (2011), about the Colombian drug wars, and now The Shape of the Ruins (2018), about two defining political murders in Bogotá’s past, and Spanish writer Edurne Portela. “Memory is a moral act,” said the Columbian author who spoke about the way we manipulate memory and history so we can go on. “History lies.”

“The truth of the novel is that there is no truth,” he said.

There will be more news on the inaugural festival, but meanwhile – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Bergen, the view from Mount Floyen (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

Reykjavik for book lovers? Who knew? Now you’ll know why…

Monday, December 31st, 2018
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Our well-traveled journalist-photographer Zygmunt Malinowski, at Solheimjokull glacier.

A guest post from our roving photographer Zygmunt Malinowski, this time reporting from Iceland, which he visited over the summer. (All photos are copyrighted by him, of course, and used with permission.)

Who knew that Iceland’s cosmopolitan capital is designated as a UNESCO “City of Literature”? UNESCO looks at several criteria for the tag: quality, quantity, diversity of publishing; the range of libraries and bookstores; its literary events.

Jules Verne’s Snaefellsjokul volcano.

During the cool mostly drizzly summer of 2018, Reykjavik’s main street, Laugavegur, is full of strolling foreigners and locals stopping at one of its many cafes, restaurants, bars and shops. Several chain bookshops are available here, too. Many of the visitors are backpackers heading out to experience this exotic land of “Ice and Fire,” In fact Jules Verne’s well-researched 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth was inspired by this region’s volcanic landscape. Its characters descend into the bowels of the earth.

One way to see Reykjavik is to take a literary walking tour. I booked the one offered by the City Library called “Dark Deeds.” Its theme was crime fiction and ghoulish stories (i.e., Scandinavian Noir). The intention “was not to give an historical overview of literature in Reykjavik but rather to give a small sample of the varied works set in the city…. This walk takes the participant to several locations in the city center for viewing a world connected to both older and contemporary Icelandic literature, although the emphasis is on recent compositions.”

Gathering for “Dark Deeds” next to Gröndal House.

We visited eight sites, and two young men, Salvar and Guttormur, gave a brief introduction and a short reading from each author’s work at each stop. A visit to the harbor revisited a story of a luxury yacht with no passengers crashing into the harbor – a mystery thriller and international best seller, 2014’s The Silence of the Sea by Irsa Sigurðarsdóttir (translated by Victoria Cribb). A nondescript building, formerly a hospital during the 1918 Spanish flu, recalled a detective, a young inspector “drawn into the underworld of the city” in 2015’s  Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason (also translated by Victoria Cribb). At Briet Square, we learned about Gerður Kristný an award-winning author, a former journalist and editor-in-chief of literary monthly, who wrote “Drápa” (a form of skaldic poetry) about a senseless murder based on a real crime. Its an epic novel in verse, which takes its form from old Norse poetry and its mood from modern crime.” An excerpt from the 2018 book:

Snowflakes floated
onto the pavement

The city vanished
overcome by night
into drifting snow

Rabid winds
besieged the town
sent downpours down
to its very core

The winter war
had begun

City-dwellers
ran for shelter

(Translated by Rory McTurk.)

Benedikt Grondal’s notebooks

A more cheerful site was the home of Benedict Gröndal (1826-1907) – a writer, poet, teacher, illustrator of Icelandic birds, translator of Iliad, autobiographer, and natural scientist. His love of nature was one of his strongest characteristics. He was one of the founders of Natural History Society of Iceland and became its first director. His autobiography Dægradvöl (Pastime) is considered one of the classics of Icelandic literature known for it historical value, satire and sincerity.

Inside renovated Gröndal House which was relocated and now is open to the public, on one of the panels there is a quote. The author muses about his legacy when he addresses the future reader:

“I hope dear guest that you will give yourself time to dwell at this window into my life and works. What you will see here is of course no proportion to my body of work, but I hope you will at the end send some warm thoughts my way and give praise to the works I so exerted myself to creating. Many of them were never appreciated by certain people during my time.”

Info column at Grondal House.

One of the amusing poems read at the home, “To Bother,” was popular as a song several years ago. In English translation’:

 

To Bother (Nenni)

I don’t always read I can’t always be bothered to read
I do n’t always bother writing I can’t always be bothered to write
I don’t always paint I can’t always be bothered to paint
what do I bother then? so what can i be bothered to do?

I always love to love I always bothered to love
I always bother to drink
I always bothered to drink I always bother to dream I can always be bothered to dream
something I bother then so I can be bothered to do something

 

Gröndal House in Reykjavik.

According to statistics, Icelanders are avid readers and it is said that one in ten here is an aspiring writer. Having seen only a few folks reading books, I asked the librarian and the National and University Library located at the nearby University of Iceland campus. He confirmed that Icelanders are readers – but mostly at home. Then he added that he also would like to write a book.

He also pointed out that Icelanders can read the ancient Viking sagas in the original language. Because of Iceland’s isolation their language did not change as much as it did as in other Scandinavian countries. The sagas – narrative prose – have an important role in Icelandic literature and are still widely read. They are valued by literary experts for their clear style, originality and uniqueness, which was hundreds of years ahead of its time in Europe (the Gaelic language would be a notable exception, however).

 

Reykjavik across the city lake.

At Gröndal House (his illustrated book of Icelandic birds is in the case)

National and University Library at University of Icelabd.

Holiday greetings from the world, and one from Virginia Woolf: “at this one season, the Heavens bend over the earth with sympathy…”

Monday, December 24th, 2018
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…at this one season, the Heavens bend over the earth with sympathy, and signal with immortal radiance that they, too, take part in her festival.”

A quick holiday message from your exhausted correspondent at the Book Haven – and a better one from Virginia Woolf, from her novella Night and Day The passage comes to us courtesy Book Post, Ann Kjellberg‘s subscription-based book review, offering a “bite-sized newsletter-based book review delivery service, sending paying subscribers high-quality book reviews, by distinguished and engaging writers, direct to their inboxes.

We’ve enjoyed greetings from around the world in our own inbox, and thought we’d share a few from senders who have appeared in the Book Haven pages: Swedish author and translator Bengt Jangfeldt, and his wife, the Russian actress Jelena Jangfeldt, writing from Stockholm; Swedish poet Håkan Sandell sends his julekort from Oslo; cat-loving Russian scholar Valentina Polukhina sends a few felines from her London home; and an Upernavik, Greenland, winter image arrived from Polish photographer, and regular Book Haven contributor, Zygmunt Malinowski in New York City. We’ll be hearing more from him in a few days.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful holiday with family and friends with plenty of good cheer!

 

Celebrating “Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard” in NYC

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018
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Gathered for a discussion of books, poetry, literature, and culture…

The Book Haven has lapsed into an unaccustomed silence. That’s because we’ve been on the road. We’ve reconnected with friends and allies in New York, based at the hospitable Westchester home of Izabella Barry, who hosted a celebration for Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard on Sunday. Old friends were in attendance – the Polish poet and professor Anna Frajlich and the Russian poet and screenwriter Helga Landauer, and the photographer Zygmunt Malinowski who has guest posted on the Book Haven. New friends were there, too: the poet Kathryn Levy.

With poet Anna Frajlich…

Irena Grudzińska Gross was the moderator for my interview– I lucky on that on that score, the author of Czeslaw Milosz and Joseph Brodsky: Fellowship of Poets is a matchless scholar and human being. We ended the interview with a discussion of my forthcoming ‘The Spirit of the Place’: Czesław Miłosz in CaliforniaAs Sunday afternoon crawled into evening, we flicked on the lights, poured more wine, and continued to discuss literature, poetry, culture.

Now I’m hunkered in Yale’s Beinecke Library. I’m finding some gems among the archives, like this one, from Czesław Miłosz, which seems appropriate for the times: “Textbooks of history tell us about crusades, about burning heretics and religious wars. All that pales in comparison with what the twentieth century demonstrated. Uncounted millions of human beings were killed not in the name of religion but in the name of lay fanaticisms and politics, that is, in a struggle for power. By the same token a belief in the moral progress of humanity was undermined, that belief so dear to our ancestors of the nineteenth century when it strangely, against logic, coexisted with the theory of evolution advanced by biologists. Technological progress did not make man a better being, on the contrary; and now we must admit that we know nothing as to where our species drifts, for goodness and purity of heart are as proper to it as the worst monstrosity.”

Roving photographer Zygmunt Malinowski spends a day with Henrik Ibsen in Norway

Friday, November 3rd, 2017
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They know how to treat theater in Norway: the National Theatre of Norway in Bergen

The Book Haven’s roving photographer and reporter, New York City’s Zygmunt Malinowski, wrote to us following his recent visit to Henrik Ibsen’s Bergen – and, as always, he documents his journey with photos, which he generously shares with Book Haven readers. (Some of his previous photographic journeys are here and here and here and here, among other places.)

From Zygmunt:

The man himself.

On the way to the northernmost part of Norway a few months ago, I had a stopover in Bergen. I was looking forward to revisiting “Bryggen,” a colorful waterfront historical area.

A few short blocks from my hotel, the street opened up into a wide plaza that ended with a stately building in art nouveau style – the National Theatre of Norway. A well-manicured lawn in front with planted flowers, shrubs, and trees on both sides added to its dignity. On one side of the green square, a large modern minimalist statue:  not surprisingly, Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright considered the father of modern theater, as well as the father of realism.

Ibsen was the first director and writer-in-residence of “Det Norske Theatre,” now the new National Theatre. He wrote several plays there, which did not earn acclaim, but nevertheless gave Ibsen much-needed experience in his craft. After he left for Italy and Germany, he wrote his most important works; Brand made him famous in his native country, and world success followed with among others: Peer Gynt, Pillars of Society, Doll’s House, Master Builder. He returned to Christiana (later, Oslo) during his late years.

In 2006, the centennial of Ibsen’s death, A Doll’s House was the most performed play for that year. Ibsen is said to be the most performed playwright after William Shakespeare.

All of Ibsen in 78 minutes.

The Ibsen statue erected more recently was modern. The body was elliptical, only the head was more realistic and even here the eyes were circular, like two oval slices. The sculptor rejected the romantic ideals just as Ibsen did in his works.

On the facade of the building, two large placards announced the current offering, one was for a new Ibsen production: Henrik Ibsen’s samlede verker på 78 minutter performed in Lille Scene, one of the three theatre stages, an intimate setting situated on the east side of the building.

Combining 28 of Ibsen’s plays in 78 minutes seemed like a magic act – as suggested by the graphic depiction of actors juggling top hats in the poster for the event. According to reviews, it’s “a comic marathon by dramatist Knut Naerum that offers a chance to learn all about Ibsen in one evening.” Performances continue through December.

It was good to be back in Bergen, especially since my visit occurred during one of these pleasant sunny days that led many Norwegians to stroll the boulevards and linger outdoors. Across from the statue at the corner building, smartly dressed couples enjoyed a glass of wine with their late afternoon meal on the patio at the Theatro restaurant and bar, part of the boutique Hotel Oleana.

Photos copyright Zygmunt Malinowski.

Hotel Oleana when it’s empty.

Stay cool, folks! Roving photographer Zygmunt Malinowski reports on a long-lost ship from the Arctic.

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017
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Zodiacs near shore of Beechey Island. Devon Island in back. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

The Book Haven’s roving reporter-photographer Zygmunt Malinowski made this trip to the Arctic last September, but we thought it was more than usually timely now given the heat wave that is currently smothering the West. Here’s his latest from our New York City colleague, who recommends Gore-Tex (and you can read about his earlier adventures here and here and here):

During a voyage through the Northwest Passage on Ocean Endeavour in late September, I heard an astonishing announcement on the speaker system: the HMS Terror had been discovered in Terror Bay, south of the Nunavut archipelago’s King William Island. It was Sir John Franklin’s ship. The polar explorer made an ill-fated expedition to find the North West passage in 1848. None of his 129 men survived. Franklin’s flagship, HMS Erebus, and the Terror were abandoned far north of the wreck site.

Through a fortunate coincidence during my voyage, Adventure Canada was nearby. The official travel partner of Explorers Club, specializing in remote Arctic trips, was going north with a Zodiac stop at Beechey Island, also in the archipelago. At 3 a.m. in bone-chilling night I and several others walked up to the upper deck so that when we crossed the intersection line at 3:15 a.m., we could acknowledge the somber discovery of the vessel whose fate had been unknown for 168 years.

An Inuit crew member of Gjoa Haven, a hamlet in Nunavut, was onboard the Arctic Research Foundation’s research vessel Brigmann, and he told them a story: Several years prior he saw part of a wooden mast sticking out of the sea ice which led to the discovery of the shipwreck. The well-preserved ship standing upright in 80-feet of water appears to have been winterized (operationally closed down) with hatches and windows closed when it was abandoned in 1848. Canadian archeologists confirmed the discovery when measurements were compared against original plans, and found the smokestack from a steam engine that was especially installed for the voyage, as well as a wheel and ship bell similar to the Erebus’ bell were identified. The other ship, HMS Erebus, was found in 2014 further south in Queen Maud Gulf.

You can read more about the discovery of the HMS Terror here.

Beechey Island. Burial site for three of Sir John Franklin’s men. (Photo: Zgymunt Malinowski)

Jacobshavn Ice Stream, Ilulissat, Greenland. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

 

Take a look around Nobel poet Czesław Miłosz’s home in Kraków: it almost breathes!

Thursday, December 1st, 2016
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Czeslaw Milosz- reciepient of Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, his former apartment in Krakow. Desk on which he wrote. Near left is bust of his second wife, Carol Thigpen. Krakow/Poland. 8.13.20016

He wrote his poems here, next to the bust of his wife Carol Thigpen

My visit to beloved Kraków last month was very short – so brief and tightly packed I didn’t have a chance to return to the apartment at No. 6 Bogusławski, where Czesław Miłosz spent the last years of his life. Fortunately, our roving photographer-reporter Zygmunt Malinowski made the journey from New York City, accompanied by our mutual friend, Prof. Aleksander Fiut. Here’s Zygmunt’s report:

Not far from Wawel Castle in Kraków and behind Planty, the park encircling the Old Town, is a street named Bogusławski. It’s a very short street, lined with trees on both sides seemingly closed off by perpendicular streets on either end.

Plaque outside Czeslaw Milosz,s former apartment. In this building in the yr 1994-2004 lived ... CM honorary citizen of Krakow, Laureat of Nobel prize for literature. Community of Krakow. Aug. 14, 2005

Number 6, Bogusławski Street

The three-story gray masonry buildings with tall doors and decorative pediments over high windows give an aura of permanence. Aesthetics rather then economics dictated this nineteenth-century architecture. Among several entrances, one shows the address as Number 6.  The hall inside leads into a sunny courtyard.

In the center of the courtyard there is a round enclosure with plants and lush vines that cover the entire building wall. To the right of the hall, a wide wooden staircase with railing leads to the second floor where Nobel poet Czesław Miłosz, “one of the greatest poets of 20th century, perhaps the greatest,” according to fellow Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, lived and worked from 1996 to 2004, as the plaque on the other side of the arched entrance door notes.

Czeslaw Milosz's, Nobel Lureat in Literaturte, apartment. Bench with poet's shoes and slippers.

His shoes and slippers are still there

I am here with Prof. Aleksander Fiut, a longstanding friend of Miłosz (they met in Paris in 1976) and author of several books about him, to visit and photograph the poet’s former apartment. As one enters through a high door there is a short corridor with a small wooden bench on the side – the poet’s shoes and slippers are still underneath, and his canes lean against the corner. At the end of the corridor a canvas tote bag is hanging on a hat and coat stand with Miłosz’s printed likeness and a quotation from his 1985 poem, “A Confession”: “My Lord, I loved strawberry jam…”

Behind, inclined against the wall is a framed front page news clipping with headlines from The Washington Post: “American Czesław Miłosz wins Nobel Prize for Literature” and The New York Times: “Polish Poet in US gets Nobel in Literature.”

Czeslaw Milosz- reciepient of Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, his former apartment in Krakow. Canvas tote bag with UNESCO logo , Krakoew city of literature, with Poet's likeness and quote from poem 'Confession' My Lord I loved strawberry jam... Krakow/Poland. 8.13.20016

“My Lord, I loved strawberry jam…”

To the left there is a small room with a desk opposite the window – a bookcase; file folders; and cartons of books, mostly unopened and sent by publishers. Author copies are stacked on the floor. This was the office of his wife, Carol Thigpen, who died in 2002. On the opposite side across the corridor, I enter the spacious living room (rather high ceilings add to this perception), which served as work space, library, and sleeping quarters. Soft upholstered sofas, a small glass-top table, and large bookcases crammed with books occupy three walls. Several paintings and lithographs are on walls, including ones by Józef Czapski and Jan Lebestein, friends from his Paris years.

My attention is immediately drawn to the right corner. A small antique wooden desk, with the computer he used in his later years, with large fonts to accommodate his failing eyesight. Two chairs offer a view of the courtyard and vine-covered wall. This is where he worked and wrote poems.

On the right, the books that he authored are arranged in the bookcase so they are closest to his desk. On top of it, some small framed photographs: his mother; Miłosz with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican; beautiful Erin, his granddaughter, whom I met in New York City; Prof. Fiut with Miłosz. To the left of his desk, hanging on the center wall, are photographs of his father, his first wife Janka, a small painting of the aunt that he admired, and his father in a group picture on the deck of a ship with Fridtjof Nantes, the famous Arctic explorer (Nantes visited Siberia in 1900s). A bust he commissioned of his second wife Carol Thigpen dominates the room. The people closest to his heart were closest to his desk.

It’s a bit unnerving to be here. It seems as if the inhabitants have only left for an outing and will soon return, and once again this place will be full of life…

I am grateful to Anthony Milosz and Prof Aleksander Fiut for the opportunity to visit the apartment, also to my friends in Kraków for their help. All photos copyright Zygmunt Malinowski.

Courtyard overloking Nobel Laureat's Czeslaw Milosz's apartment. 8.13.2016. Krakow. Poland

First-ever major exhibition on Hemingway – and it even has his wartime “Dear John” letter.

Saturday, January 30th, 2016
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Ernest Hemingway: Between Two wars. Entrance to the exhibit. Morgan Library & Museum. Jan/ 2016

Entrance to the exhibition. (Photograph: Zygmunt Malinowski)

From our roving New York City correspondent, photographer Zygmunt Malinowski filing from … Hawaii! You can read more of his posts here and here and here and here. Meanwhile:

When he was nineteen, young Ernest Hemingway enlisted as a Red Cross ambulance driver on the Italian front during World War I. Within a month, he was severely injured with shrapnel wounds to his legs. Notwithstanding his trauma, he helped other soldiers to safety first and so was awarded medal for bravery.

Hemmingway

In Milan, 1918. (Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

The story behind the exhibition “Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars” begins about then. His personal letters (including his 1920s Paris letters correspondence with Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Beach), partial drafts of manuscripts, first edition books, and photographs can be found at New York City’s Morgan Library and Museum, located near Grand Central Station. It is in the first major exhibition ever for Hemingway (1899–1961), one of the major American writers of the twentieth century.

The war was not all suffering. While convalescing in the hospital, he fell in love and became engaged. Nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, seven years his senior, was the daughter of Polish-Russian-German émigré. However, she broke off the engagement with a Dear John letter – and that, too, is featured in the exhibition.

The romantic setback was only one episode during his war experience. He left a more enduring record with his successful wartime short stories and novels, including Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway later wrote to Fitzgerald, who read and commented on some of his drafts: “war is best subject of all. It groups the maximum of material and speeds up the action and brings out all sorts of stuff that normally you have to wait a lifetime to get.” And so it was with him.

The exhibition is a treasure trove of his written records, handwritten and printed, included in annotated notebooks, single pages, and letters. I felt I was standing over this literary giant’s shoulder, watching a work in progress (he received Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954). Some of his handwritten pages in pencil give the impression that he was in a hurry to jot down his thoughts – his quick and careless handwriting runs slantwise on unlined pages.

The exhibition includes the drafts of Farewell to Arms, in which he rewrote the ending again and again. During an interview George Plimpton asked him why he reconfigured the ending so many times. Hemingway replied: “To get the words right.”

The exhibition, organized in collaboration with John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Library in Boston, ends its New York run on Jan. 31, and then continues to Boston where it will reopen in the spring at the JFK museum. (Read about it in the lower lefthand corner here.)

Getting ready for the Nobel in literature. And where better to do it than Stockholm?

Monday, October 5th, 2015
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Concert Hall with nobel program. Stockholm 8/2015

Laureates are seated onstage at the Concert Hall during the ceremony. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

The Nobel Prize for Literature will be awarded this Thursday in Stockholm. While we await the announcement, our New York City-based  correspondent, roving photojournalist Zygmunt Malinowski, reports on his recent visit to the Nobel Empire in Stockholm…

During last summer’s visit to Gdańsk for the opening of European Solidarity Center (read about it here), I found a nearby harbor with ferry to Sweden. I remembered a well-known photograph of Polish poet Czesław Miłosz dressed up in a tuxedo receiving his diploma from the king of Sweden, and I wondered what traces his visit to Stockholm might have left.

8 © Zygmunt Malinowski

Stockholm City Hall for the Nobel banquet (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

A journey without the usual hustle of airports and cramped airplanes makes a ship seem more natural way to travel. Even though the ferry was spartan in its accommodations, it felt spacious (except for the usual closet-sized sleeping cabin). In the evening at the large cafeteria with panoramic windows, time passes slowly. One can order a coffee or something stronger and gaze at the grayish Baltic Sea and the semi-circular, unending horizon, where the distant water edge never seems to get any closer.

After about 19 hours, we arrived at the port city of Ninanshamn. From there, it’s a short rail ride on a comfortable train to Stockholm. Stockholm consists of interconnected islands; its many bridges and water taxis efficiently transport passengers on its clean waterways and canals. The historic old town (Gamla Stan) with the narrow cobbled streets and shops, restaurants, and cafés, dates back to 13th century. The neoclassical Nobel Museum, home of the Swedish Academy that nominates the literature award, is pretty much in the center of it.

Nobel Ice Cream at Bistro Nobel, Nobel Museum. Stockholm. 8/2015

Nobel ice cream at Bistro Nobel (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

I took advantage of a guided tour offered in English. As a young man, Alfred Nobel wanted to be a poet. Inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, he wrote all his poems in English. His father dissuaded him, saying that it was not a real job, so Alfred Nobel is remembered for inventing dynamite instead.

He also wrote several plays, but his family destroyed most of these papers, since they wanted him to be remembered for chemistry and inventions. He lived most of his adult life in Paris, never married, and had no children. His last will and testament gave away most of his fortune as annual prize. According to the museum, “Nobel was against inherited fortunes that he believed contributed to the laziness of humanity. The will was an ingenuous way of solving this dilemma. The inheritance, in the form of a prize, would reward those who have made themselves worthy by way of their work.”

Nobel had over 350 patents and made a fortune, but his idea of ideas was establishing the Nobel award in five categories: physics, chemistry, physiology and medicine, literature, and peace (later a prize for economy was added). The peace prize is awarded in Norway. Nobel met Victor Hugo in Paris, and throughout his life corresponded with Countess Bertha Von Sutter, founder of Austrian peace movement and author of Lay Down Your Arms. The latter influenced the formation of a peace prize, which she won in 1905.

The Nobel nominating process begins in September of the previous year, when the Swedish Academy committee responsible for the literature award sends out hundreds of letters to universities, institutions, and individuals qualified to nominate Nobel laureates. By the following April, the list that’s been gathered is whittled down to about 20 candidates. In May, the selection is narrowed to five candidates. The Academy becomes familiar with the proposed authors and their work. In September, the Academy finally makes a decision and the winner is announced in October. On December 10, laureates receive their prizes. The decision process remains a secret for fifty years – only now can we learn who nominated the winner from 1965.

6 © Zygmunt Malinowski

Would you sign my chair, please? (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

The ceremony takes place in three separate locations. The laureates are invited to the Academy for lunch, on December 9, and afterwards a rehearsal. On December 10, during a ceremony at the Concert Hall they receive an elaborate calligraphy diploma and medal from the King of Sweden, in addition to a check. Attendance is by invitation only. Limos line up to take the 1,300 guests to City Hall for the banquet, first walking through the Golden Hall down marble staircase to the spacious Blue Room. In Sweden, the event is almost a holiday; it’s followed closely on TV throughout the day.

One of the highlights while visiting the museum is having lunch and Nobel ice cream with chocolate Nobel medal at the Vienna-style ‘Bistro Nobel.’ Yes, the ice cream tastes as good as it looks, and it’s actually the same dessert that was served for many years at the Nobel Banquet. Another tradition started in recent years is signing the back seat of bistro chairs. One can turn over a chair to see which laureate signed it. Signatures started after Miłosz’s visit, but I located Mario Vargas Llosa on chair #26 and Seamus Heaney, chair #23.

So where was Miłosz? See the photo below, from the central area of the museum. Also, all Nobel winners are featured on a ceiling display (also pictured below), but it would take hours to find a specific person since they are not in any particular order. I know, I waited as Samuel Beckett, Wisława Szymborska, and Madame Curie-Sklodowska, the first woman to receive Nobel Prize and first to receive it twice, rolled past, before heading for the ice cream.

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2 © Zygmunt Malinowski

Miłosz at last. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

9 © Zygmunt Malinowski

After the feast, the ball – and it takes place at the gorgeous Golden Hall. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

3 © Zygmunt Malinowski

Previous winner Wisława Szymborska in a rotating ceiling display at the museum. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

1 © Zygmunt Malinowski

The august Nobel Museum and the Swedish Academy. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

4 © Zygmunt Malinowski (1)

In my end is my beginning. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

“I tricked myself to write”: Philip Glass discusses his new book on home turf

Saturday, April 18th, 2015
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Philip Glass with Ira Glass at Barnes & Noble, Uniion Square, NYC. 3/6/2015

Cousins: Ira Glass interviews Philip Glass at Barnes and Noble in NYC. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

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The latest word from the big city on the Atlantic, from our roving reporter/photographer Zygmunt Malinowski (he’s written for us before here and here and here and here, and lots of other places):

Philip Glass, considered to be one of the best contemporary composers, is part of the New York City fabric. He is a quintessential New Yorker who had his start in the New York downtown scene of the 1970s.

So I was pleased when I picked up a local paper for a subway ride recently, and learned he would be appearing locally, at Barnes & Noble on April 6, to discuss his new autobiography, Words Without Music. I had photographed Czeslaw Milosz for his book launch of Roadside Dog, the same sort of event at the same venue.

Philip Glass at Barnes & Noble, Uniion Square, NYC. 3/6/2015

Time for a close-up. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

Glass’s first opera, Einstein on the Beach, a collaboration with Robert Wilson, catapulted him to fame in 1976. He had honed his craft in Paris, where he was inspired by avant-garde theater and Samuel Beckett plays. He went to India in 1966, and encountered refugee Tibetans and Buddhism. Eventually, he would write the score for Martin Scorsese’s 1997 film about Dalai Lama, Kundun, using the repetitive Tibetan cymbals and horns as a motif.

At Barnes & Noble, the 78-year-old composer was accompanied by his cousin Ira Glass, who was also his interlocutor for the event, as well as the host and producer of NPR’s “This American Life.” The organizers warned me that the photo-op would be short, but I still had enough time to get a good close-up as he posed in front of bookstore’s logo. The overflow event, on the bookstore’s top floor, featured a large panel of Moby Dick graphic and Gulliver’s Travels. The green panel behind the center table blocked the large windows and view of city buildings, a photographer’s minor disappointment at a great event.

“Before age 41 I had a day job, I was moving furniture and things like that,” Glass told his cousin. “This is very common in our country, artists, dancers …have a day job … I thought I was successful. I had an ensemble, I went on tours. I was traveling in Europe and America.” However, even after the Einstein on the Beach triumph at the Metropolitan, he returned to his day job, driving a taxi. Soon afterwards he received a lucrative commission from Netherlands.

He claimed that it is still hard to write and sometimes he has to throw away what he started and start over. One of the ways he described it is that writing music is like “looking out the window at buildings on a foggy morning, and after a while you can see a [an outline of] a window.” Then he has to figure out a way to describe it in music. Rather like writing, in fact.

Nowadays, he particularly likes “offbeat music, especially music from other countries and music from 30s and 40s.” His tastes are omnivorous, he likes all music, and said that he has heard “some awful playing but young people are doing wonderful things.”

The written questions from the audience were randomly selected at the end of the session.

Q: Is it best to write music when you are heartbroken?

Glass: No. To me music is continuous like an underground flow…

Q: What music do you listen on a subway?

Glass: The other day, symphony music … that I composed. When we have a Tibet concert I listen to everybody. [Glass is the artistic director of annual Tibet House benefit concert at Carnegie Hall.]

Q: It’s hard to sell music.

Glass: The question should be who wants music [i.e., dancers and others need music.] Find someone your age…theatre needs music. One of the things that goes on today is collaborative. No one says you will make money; you do it because you love it. This is what we call vocation, from Latin word ‘vocare’ [to call, to name, to invoke]

Glass recalled that when he was young he set aside a period of time to compose. “I sat at the piano between 10:00 and 1 in the morning waiting for what would happen. I tricked myself to write. At first it was difficult and finally I wrote music to pass the time. Now I write anytime I want to. Now there is a feeling of anticipation, of satisfaction to come. Writing now has become joyful, but it was not like this when I was younger.”

 

Philip Glass books; Barnes & Noble; Uniion Square; NYC. 3/6/2015

In prose, not music. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)