Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rebels and Tyrants: Notes from a literary underground

A gathering place for adventurous writers like Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, William Burroughs and Lawrence Durrell among many others, Shakespeare and Company was far more than just a business, it was a breeding ground and spiritual center for literary pioneers who were drawn to the shop by its enigmatic American owner George Whitman who opened the English-language bookstore in 1951,
Whitman passed away last Wednesday at the age of 98.

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen is Finland's best kept literary secret...
In the early 70’s, when he was five, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen lived in a block of flats by the Jyväskylä’s (a city in Central Finland) old cemetery and believed in vampires.
In the early 80's he still had vampire dreams and fell in love with Jeanne Moreau in Truffaut’s Jules et Jim.
Ten years later Pasi wrote his first short stories. He wan the writing competition of SciFi and fantasy stories four times and then decided to become a writer. 
Now he is an author, but he is also a Finnish and literature teacher in upper secondary school and the father of three sons.
He hasn’t stopped loving vampires, Jeanne Moreau and old film classics.

Where the Trains turn (Missä junat kääntyvät) - Short stories, Portti-kirjat 2000
Lumikko and Nine Others (Lumikko ja yhdeksän muuta) – Novel, Atena 2006
The Zoo That Fell From the Sky (Taivaalta pudonnut eläintarha) -  Short stories, reedition, Atena 2008
The Cinematic Life – a novel (Harjukaupungin salakäytävät) - Atena 2010

Hester Prynne, The Scarlet Letter
Though Hester Prynne, who is condemned by her Puritan neighbors for having a child out of wedlock, is sometimes seen as a victim, she manages to survive with dignity and faith throughout, which we think makes her pretty darn powerful. NPR has described her as being “among the first and most important female protagonists in American literature. She’s the embodiment of deep contradictions: bad and beautiful, holy and sinful, conventional and radical… [she] can be seen as Hawthorne’s literary contemplation of what happens when women break cultural bounds and gain personal power.”

“The relation between literature and liberation runs very deep. From Blake to Ginsberg, Shelley to Sartre, literature has often enough served as an image of creativity from which any authentic politics has to learn. In this sense, all artistic work has an implicit utopian dimension; but the pieces in this splendid anthology are unique in explicitly highlighting this concealed underside of literary art, showing us how to hope and desire otherwise. In a darkening political world, this book deserves a wide readership, as it sheds a light on the present from a possible future.”

– Terry Eagleton

The publication of Portrait in book form in 1916 coincided with one of the most important events in modern Irish history: the Easter Rising (also called the Easter Rebellion), which initiated a bloody war of independence followed by several months of civil war in Ireland. By 1922, in the wake of these conflicts, Ireland had thrown off British rule and transformed itself into the Irish Free State-a body comprising all but the six counties of Ulster (the modern-day British province of Northern Ireland); in 1949 the Free State became Eire, the Republic of Ireland. The Rising began when a citizen army of around 1,000 people occupied Dublin’s General Post Office and several other key sites around the city, read aloud a proclamation of an Irish Republic, and raised republican flags. Britain’s response was swift, violent, and apparently effective: thousands of troops were brought into Dublin; a gunboat was deployed in the river Liffey; bullets, shells and incendiary bombs destroyed much of the city and resulted in approximately 1,500 casualties. Within five days, the rebels surrendered. In the weeks that followed, the leaders of the Rising were executed by a firing squad. These highly-publicized executions sent waves of revulsion across Ireland, made martyrs of the rebels, and solidified public opinion in Ireland against British rule. In the words of Joyce’s contemporary, the playwright Sean O’Casey, “1916 became the Year One in Irish history and Irish life.”

Dylan Thomas, 

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog
Dylan Thomas
Last updated: 06 November 2008
Dylan Thomas' collection of short stories was published in 1940.
The title refers to James Joyce's first novel, the semi-autobiographical A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man.
Thomas, like Joyce, fictionalises events from his own life. In terms of style, the collection marks a transition period between the obscure, dream inspired prose found in Adventures In The Skin Trade and the comic realism of Under Milk Wood.
Several of the stories explore the developing sexuality of the adolescent poet. In Extraordinary Little Cough there is some humour in the story of a girl he loves, even though he claims to not "like anything she said or did". It is a light-hearted look at young love and the trivial nature of these relationships.
A bleaker vision of sexuality is revealed in One Warm Saturday, when he falls in love with a girl and then loses her in a nightmare world of stairs and doors. In these stories love is a frustrating and unsatisfying experience.
For Thomas, the most important relationships are masculine friendships. The Fight details the odd development of a friendship that begins with a fight between two boys, and results in the decision that they will, for fun, edit a paper.
Similarly, in Where Tawe Flows he attends a meeting of men who plan to collaborate in the writing of "a Novel of Provincial Life". Friendship and the creative process are closely linked with each one aiding the development of the other.
As Thomas developed as a writer he also developed as a drinker. Old Garbo sees him revelling in the taste of beer with "its live, white lather, its brass-bright depths". He then goes on to describe a night of legendary and comic indulgence. The events of which are material for his writing and he promises to "put them all in a story by and by". The story shows how careful he was to cultivate his persona as a bohemian alcoholic and a writer.
The Portrait stories, unlike his earlier ones, follow more closely the rules about narrative structure, but he retains the familiar themes of love, death and religion. His approach is a more humorous one and there is a move away from the intense introspection of his poems. Eventually, in Under Milk Wood he will go on to examine the interactions of a whole community.

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