Web #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

armour

 

Reaching this corridor had taken time, and my companion and I were exhausted. When was the last time human beings had visited these walls? We had to decipher puzzles, and pick complicated locks. We had lost our way many times, fearing to fall through some traps, and crash down to deep and horrific dungeons.

The surface of the armour was a dull grey, a thin dust covering those parts not hidden behind the cobwebs. Was this a sentinel? Or a witness, to the horrors that had closed the house to posterity? We thought of the Commendatore, the victim of a terrible crime. The man, or should we say the creature, who had worn the armour, was tall, and rich. The exquisite finish of the metalwork, the still luxurious leather of the joints, all showed this was a work of art, brutal, signalling the strength and power of its owner.

The corridor was dark, only faintly lit by a distant window. The same thin dust covered walls and the carpeted floor. The solicitor had not not known the details of ownership, merely that the property was for sale. For a fortune. There was a large park around the house, century-old trees. And many works of art inside, he’d said. The owner, whoever, or whatever that was, had not yet allowed visitors. We’d taken on ourselves to have a look.

There was very little furniture, but some ancient prints on the walls. The air was dry, not stale, as if, somehow, fresh air was sometime allowed to penetrate the house. We decided to take a look at the prints. A few steps away we were looking at a delicate drawing… of the same armour, with a text we could not read. We heard a faint noise, a light friction sound. There was now way this was possible…

The high helm, which must have covered the skull of the knight, was now turned toward us.

Of a broken box and a small town

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In the past two weeks my writing output (I did not want to say “literary”) was badly affected by the collapse of my old Mac, bought in 2009. This was the tool for my writing before and after a first (disk) failure, back in 2018. I was then lucky enough to find a local expert (in Gesundbrunnen) to fix it, without loss of anything. So its life was extended by about a year. Ha! the anxiety, those precious manuscripts! I have now bitten the bullet, and got a so-called refurbished recent version of the same, so that I can now, for a while, avoid the usual trap of “too old to be updated etc.” Hence new MacOs and new virus protection. Even an updated version of Scrivener. Sigh… The “migration”, although assisted courtesy Apple™, was an experience… It’s all there as far as I have been able to ascertain, so far. I am now full of enthusiasm, and I am even considering a major reconstruction of my first novel, still languishing on the Cloud (more about this for another post).

In the meantime, on a beautiful and cool Sonntag we have discovered another treasure of Brandenburg, the town of Eberswalde. Treasure because of the location (slightly north-east of the city of Bernau by Berlin, and easily accessible with the regional train, well designed for carrying lots of bicycles), along two beautiful canals, the Finowkanal and the main Oder to Havel canal. Superb riding country, much loved by cycling enthusiasts all year round. The Finowkanal is on its length the site of magnificent industrial buildings in ruins, notably a paper mill dating back to the XVIIth century (and still working in 1991 when the vultures came in), and an electricity generation plant. This inspired me to write about it, and seek its history.

Now let’s go back to work!

Image: old paper mill in Eberswalde, source: Technikdenkmal in Eberswalde

Eberswalde bei Wikipedia.de

Between absence and presence

A reading of Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Jean_Siméon_Chardin_-_Draughtsman_-_WGA04754

 

This is Mr Murakami’s latest work, published in Japan in 2017, and translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen (I guess: a tour de force). First of all, I must say that, in my view, this is Mr Murakami’s most accomplished work thus far, a fascinating, troubling and at time challenging novel. To be sure, long haul readers will find there a familiar atmosphere, but also the unknown. I will not spoil anything, but mention some ideas and metaphors.

There is a young artist, a portrait painter, and his beautiful, estranged wife. There is a, now dead, beloved little sister. There is  a lone timber house, high up in the mountains, which belongs to a famous old painter. There is an owl in the attic. Across the valley, there is a big, strange house, with a stranger owner.

The young artist teaches drawing at a local school. He lives on his own, in the timber house, with the owl in the attic, visits the attic, walks in the woods. Behind a little shrine he discovers a pit, the pit in the woods. There is the start of the quest, with a surprising painting, and a bell.

There is Vienna, at the time of the Anschluss, there is the war in China, but this is the past, with deep consequences for the present. The old painter is famous for his classical formal Japanese paintings, but this one painting…

The novel oscillates between dream and an even more unfathomable reality. There is a lovely, pubescent young girl, her beautiful aunt, and two portraits, or is it three?

Once started this, as with all of Mr Murakami’s work, the book becomes desperately addictive: one dreads the prospect of finishing the book.

Yet the quest has to be completed, through sacrifice and ordeal.

I must add a warning: if readers wish to cross the river, between absence and presence, they must pay the ferryman. So, have your penguin ready!

That’s about the size of it.

Image: der Zeichner (the young draughtsman) by Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)

Toteninsel

Inspired by an evening, roaming through the second floor of the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin

 

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In the morning I went to the gym and trained as usual, carefully.  I felt relaxed, the dizziness was gone. Back home, the most important person had gone to her own class. We would meet later, and I had time to prepare breakfast. First I sorted the gym clothes, making sure the wet towel and T-shirt were hung out to dry. The air was still cold but the sun was shining. The clear new bright sun of February. I closed the door of the balcony. Suddenly the dizziness had come back, like a small cloud out of nowhere. I laid out the breakfast table, poured a cup of coffee. The pain in my left arm was now sharper. I was used to it. The price for keeping fit was to be in permanent pain, or so I had told myself, long ago. I sat down, breathed deeply. The apartment was silent, I could only hear the deep growl of traffic, down on the avenue, and the crows exchanging gossips, up there on the roof. I had time. The most important person would not be back for another hour. I decided to write a short note: “Feeling a little tired, if I am asleep when you come back, just wake me up, softly! Xx”

I decided to lie down on the sofa, pulled the light blanket over the pain, smiling. The crows had gone silent. The traffic noise seemed to recede. The pain had moved from the arm to somewhere  between the shoulder and the middle of the chest. All at once it grew even sharper. There was no surprise, I had long expected this: not a question of if, merely when. My vision had gone vague, all sounds had receded. I felt a great calm, just the pain, invasive, and I knew I was going. Soon it was dark. A last thought was how simple this was.

The separation came later. How much time had gone by then, I could not even imagine. The pain had gone, only remained utter lightness. The light was dimmed. The room and the surface where I had rested were gone. Moving felt easy. Was it really moving? Exploring without motion, rather. Was this still me? These questions felt unimportant. I sensed, rather than looked, around. There was a shore, an expanse of water. No sound.

Then I saw him. I knew immediately who he was, although he looked much younger than I had expected. Charon’s eyes betrayed his apparent youthfulness. He was deaf, but his benevolent words came clear to my mind. “I was expecting you earlier, and I am pleased to see you.” Then a little later – but what did that mean now? – “Take place when you are ready, there is plenty of time.”

I stood at the front of the boat, exactly as in the painting. Standing, I was aware of the long white robe, of the hood. I felt somehow very dignified, at peace. Charon sat at the back, his muscular arms in evidence under the medieval shirt. Without moving I could see his calm face, the kindness of his eyes, and yet the absence of smile. The boat was now moving effortlessly, or rather gliding on the surface of the water. I could see the rudders cutting through in silence. The light was now brighter, under a cloudless but rather dark sky. I had the feeling we were immobile and that it was  the water that was flowing under our boat. 

Then the island was there, at first a small icon, and then the cypresses came into view. The sight of them was a sheer pleasure, a feeling of fulfilment. The dark green contrasted with the pale face of the high walls and rocks at the water edge. A faint mist surrounded the vision. “We have arrived,” said Charon without a word, “don’t worry about your luggage, it will be taken care of.” I only then notice the ancient coffer at my feet. I looked up, saw the small windows on the face of the cliff. Scents: the trees, sea water, salt in the air. I knew there was a cell for me, somewhere deep in the immensity of the island. Lightheaded I turned to the sea: Charon and his boat had gone. Small waves were crushing on the narrow shore. Did I hear sea birds in the sky?

“Wake up lazy bones!” said the most important person, her crystal laugh resonating in the room. The crows were back, and so was the traffic. Why did those legs feel so heavy?

Photo: Arnold Böcklin, die Toteninsel, Alte Nationalgalerie

Die Toteninsel, in Deutsche Wikipedia

Arnold Böcklin, Artikel in Deutsche Wikipedia

Das Gästebuch ist noch immer ein beliebter Weg für Museumsbesucher, sich selbst zu Ausstellungen oder Werken zu äußern.”

Imagination #writephoto

Imagination

art

 

“It’s a puzzle,” I said as we looked up the victorian wall. “There was something there, before, and the artist…” But I realised my companion was not listening, rather he was looking closely at the colours, and delicately taking small samples of the paint he carefully saved in an envelop. “I wish I could take a picture…” Holmes said finally. “I am sure this has been copied from somewhere.”

Later, at no 221B, as we lit our pipes after dinner, Holmes suddenly declared:

“You were right, Watson, it’s an allegory, and of course you have recognised the pavots, your “artist” is a drug dealer, who advertises his ware locally, and the allegory is about the Nirvana of the opium smoker…”

I sat back, and reflected.

Arch #writephoto

Arch

arch

 

For centuries the great abbaye had stood, in its majesty and glory, in the peaceful landscape. It was then a centre of faith and science, where wise men worked, and kept the flame of civilisation burning. They were frugal, up in the frosty mornings before dawn, ploughing the fields and teaching the children; their chants filled the vales and forests, rising to the sky.

Then the heretics had come, plundering, burning, torturing the faithful. A dark veil had fallen on the earth, the Dark Lord’s reign had begun.

But today, in the faint light of dawn, I can hear the monks’s voices, the soft footsteps of their sandals. I sense their presence, their curiosity, even, about this strange creature, this human being who survived the fall. Their anthem is but a light breeze through the icy air.

The arch stands, witness to a millennium of folly. And there, on the cold stones, I kneel, praying to the true God, in submission and piety, the last, shivering survivor of the war, that ended the evil empire.

Dedicated to the builders of the great abbayes of Yorkshire, and their defenders.

Looking back… #Iamwriting

Berlin_Kunstbunker

 

Last winter, there was ice on the windows… Perhaps, now, we miss that cold edge to the air?

The long walks along the river, the parcs, the lakes. A cold Sekt on a bench, long rides in the vibrating forests, the discovery of ancient sites, the monuments to deep history…

The storm. Each day counted, a boat trip on the lake, an hour in the museum, Luther, Sans Souci… Ruinenberg…

Yes, some short stories, but the novel is still beached, going nowhere. Does it matter?

No, it was a good year. Each day counted, 1937, a look into a recent past, and, wrapped in mist, a further away time: what ghosts roam in those older streets?

Discoveries: characters to make alive, tales to tell, dreams to repeat.

Inspiration: each new dawn, nature fighting back, art… The dark Muse.

Books? Turing, Wittgenstein, The Plot Against America, Silk Roads, Musil…

We are grateful for every morning, in the City of Faust: a Moveable Feast…

Photo: Air-raid shelter in Berlin at the Reinhardtstraße. At the present it is used as a private museum for contemporary art of art collector Christian Boros. On the top of the shelter is a reproduction of the Barcelona-Pavillion.

By Times – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3950214

 

Enchantment

Weekly Writing Prompt #100

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He found her story enchanting, and the way she was telling it to him a real treat. The fire in his mind was a mere flicker, for the predator within him had long given up: his life was now just about beauty, art, and good stories. So he would write, what he heard, and what had inspired him.

She, in turn, was playing with his mind, yet another victim of the wicked witch.

Picture: Fisherwoman, Odilon Redon, via fleurdulysfleurdulys.tumblr.com

Le grand homme de la nuit

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The park is immense: we leave the car near the house on the lake, where the couple lived, and where, we can imagine, Hélène planned her acquisitions. We walk around the house, a structure that inspires solid wealth, and a longing for a bygone age. The sombre bricks reflect in the water, children have left their bikes against the steps that lead to the wide terrace. We follow a narrow path that serpents on what must be, in winter, a very wet land. The ground is soft but almost dry, despite the recent torrential rain. The path takes us to a square building, in the style of the house, which encloses a well. Nearby we leave the main track to circle around a small pond covered with lilies: a beautiful toad meditates on one of the larger leaves, impassible. But we want to see the museum and the famed arboretum. Most visitors are cycling and we feel somewhat ashamed of driving.
The sculpture garden closes at four thirty, so we decide to go and see the Van Gogh gallery first, then visit the garden – a museum of modern sculptures and installations. Hélène had good taste, and a large (they say “unlimited”) budget. She bought Van Gogh both before the painter had achieved fame, and later. His early work is astounding: Van Gogh painted peasants in his native land. The Potatoes Eaters show the rugged faces and hands of a poor family, lunching under the light of a small petrol lamp. The beautiful Dutch white coiffes contrast with the dark garments. The profiles are almost medieval. The collection is an amazing treasure trove. We recognise some the best known paintings, the postman and his wife, the village main square at night – the stars in the Mediterranean sky! – the light of Provence. Hélène bought many avant-garde paintings, Seurat, Picasso, Monet, Mondrian… An hour goes by and we haven’t seen more than a third of the museum. You say that we ought to visit the garden, and then come back to see as much as we can before closure.
This is an enchanted place: the sunlight bounces across the green lawns, and lits the sculptures scattered over open spaces, reflecting in small basins, or part hidden in the trees. You guide us through the maze, and we watch, mesmerised, the variety of inspirations and forms. There is la femme accroupie de Rodin, there the columns of the Sacred Grove

Later, you walk back to the museum, as I continue to explore the garden.
I retrace our steps, and discover more hidden treasures. It is there, a little away from the main path, that I sense him. He stands, in the shade of a large tree, on a block of stone so that his small size is not immediately evident. As I look up the reptilian face, taking in the short arms, terminated into powerful triangular wings, and the cruel hooves, the sun disappears behind a dark cloud. The face is inscrutable, the enormous penis, half erect, exudes menace. I dare take a first picture that turns out blank, then try again, this time more successfully. I read the legend, “Le grand homme de la nuit”, and the name of the artist, Germaine Richier (1904-1959). I can no longer hear voices, nor the laughter of children playing on the grass. I feel the malevolent presence, and ask myself, was Germaine his victim? Suddenly I feel the need to move away from le grand homme.

I walk back to the museum, and look for you. “Did you see anything interesting?” you ask. “It’s a delightful place, and we must come back for another visit…” I reply cheerfully.

Inspired by a visit to the Kröller-Müller park and museum, near Arnheim, Netherlands

Germaine Richier (en français)