; movieschocolatebooks: 2015


Tuesday, December 22

About Elly or how the weather rules the heart

Happiness is contaminating. Or, at least in Asghar Farhadi's movie, transmitted like some exotic disease. Women, garrulous and chirping like sparrows, make the perfect medium. They are young, educated, modern in the way they dress, confident in marital matters. They make the world spin around with their lies. What's not to love when they come out the most beautiful pairs of lips?

The talented director of A Separation and The Past  is trying his hand at secrecy in a story tangled with little bends in the truth. We have three married couples, three small children and two single people. One of the wives, Sepideh plays the matchmaker for Elly, her daughter's nursery teacher. She wants to marry her off to Ahmed, recently divorced and returned from Germany. They go away for the weekend and end up by the seaside. After the first night -full of joyful remarks and innuendos at the potential couple- Elly wants to leave. Sepideh argues against her early departure and left to watch over the kids, Elly disappears. 

The story makes a good excuse to study guilt, blame and group crisis. The initial joy and easiness crumble and the friends turn against each other. A mere remark, a joke, an innocent avoiding of the truth lead to an escalating disaster. The story peels off like an onion of many layers under the eyes of the viewer and the skillful director who spins off both narrative and characters. We stand witness to the changing moods, confessions and events. We are taught the potential danger behind a white lie and how it can affect and alter reality and lives. As the tension grows, fissures are found in the people and their version of the truth. Cloudy weather, rain, wind, menacing water all contribute to the tension, building it against the initial state of happiness. 

What catches the eye is the idea of miscommunication and how we have a tendency to lose ourselves amid the crowds, may these be as familiar as possible. We fail to connect to others and wrap ourselves in comforting layers of lies or unearthed truths that cover the rawness of the selves. The movie is also depictive in the peculiar struggle of modern ways and Islam traditions: the unsaid truths, the status of women, the appearance versus truth dichotomy. It is a snippet of Iranian life as it unfolds between duplicity and uncertainty. The way we fabricate truth appears to be universal, inlaid inside our very human nature. As usual, the road to hell is paved with the very best intentions. 

Thursday, December 17

Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Cea mai frumoasa carte din lume, citita altfel de NICO

O carte de short stories. O carte usoara, atragatoare si cu mult lipici pe pagini, pune lipici pe degetele noastre, cu cuvinte si rasturnari de situatie atat de normal povestite incat socheaza. Povestirile acestea sunt viata, viata noastra. Momente ce ne fac sa spunem…''wow nu imi vine sa cred ca tocmai mi s-a intamplat asta'''sau ''mi se pare incredibila povestea ta,, sau ,,nu iti vine sa crezi ce tocmai am patit'' Ce poti sa patesti? ….viata.

Povestile lui Schmitt sunt viata mea, a ta, a oricui. Sunt povesti cu femei si vietile lor. Nu credeam ca un scriitor poate scrie atat de frumos si de adevarat despre o femeie, despre femeia din mine si nu numai. Scrie despre intamplari ce schimba viata, intamplari ce vin ca o palma de trezire, ca o satisfactie a unor greutati, ca un sentiment ce la un moment dat zguduie totul in noi…cartea acesta este viata insasi. Este usoara, lina, fluida…dar cu vartejuri inopinante. Este o carte cu si despre femei de tipuri diferite… sarace, bogate, triste,vesele, inversunate in lumea lor neinteleasa, femei ce se mint singure, femei ce spera la un dram de fericire, femei arogante, femei pozitive, luptatoare, dar si resemnate….femei. Femei mame, sotii, prietene, iubite, adorate, uitate…feme unice sunt adunate intr-o carte caleidoscop. Un caleidoscop de femei unite printr-un fir invizibil, un fir al indarjirii de a merge inainte, chiar si atunci cand acel mers devine chinuitor, somnambulic, aparent fara sens…. 

Image result for Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Cea mai frumoasa carte din lume,

Ideea este sa mergi inaitne, sa nu te opresti pentru ca la un moment dat totul capata sens. Poate ca tu nu vezi sensul, poate ca tie, personaj principal al cartii tale, al vietii tale sensul iti scapa, dar cineva, candva, va da sens vietii tale, va vedea ceea ce tie ti-a scapat, va declansa in tine o actiune, o reactie, un buton al sensului vietii tale. 

Cartea are opt povestiri: Wanda Wipping (aroganta cea temuta si de gheata), E o frumoasa zi cu ploaie (femeia nemultumita de sine, frumoasa invidiata…luptatoarea mea preferata), Intrusa (femeia organizata…durerea nevazuta, nesimtita, durerea fantoma), Falsul (femeia cinica), Totul pentru a fi fericita (femeia iubita), Printesa desculta (femeia misterioasa), Odette Toulemonde (femeia pozitiva si do right woman), Cea mai frumoasa carte din lume (Femeia mama si cea mai rascolitoare de suflete de mama si suflete de fiica scriitura). 

Tocmai am insiruit titlurile short story-urilor ce compun cartea. Nu e mare lucru… Sa nu credeti ca am povestit ceva din carte. Nu. Am spus doar ce tipuri de femei, sentimente, trairi si intamplari poti intalni. Cartea te lasa cu intrebari. Te face sa iti pui intrebari de genul: Eu as putea face asa ceva? …Ce as face in locul ei? Oare as reactiona la fel? Daca mi se intampla mie, as fi la fel de puternica, de intelegatoare, de pozitiva? As rezista oare? As putea sa merg mai departe? Carte te lasa cu intrebari…ceea ce cred ca este bine, pentru ca te scoate din paginile ei, devine parte din tine, din cotidianul tau si asa realizezi ca si tu esti o poveste, esti o carte cu viata, DA! tu, cel ce citesti aici esti o poveste. Depinde doar de tine sa fii o poveste ce merita citita, o poveste pe care altii sa fie bucurosi sa o citeasca sau o poveste ce urmeaza sa fie descoperita. Tu esti povestea ta, dar si a celor din jur. 

Parerea mea este ca scriitorul a reusit ceea ce orice scriitor isi doreste, sa il iei cu tine dincolo de starea materiala, fizica a cartii…sa il porti in realul tau de cititior. Sa te gandesti la povestile spuse de el. Ei bine, Eric- Emmanuel Schmitt a reusit asta. ‘-Of, ce vreme nesuferita exclama barbatul de alaturi Ea se mira singura cand se pomeni rostind: -Nu, va inselati. Nu trebuie sa spuneti ce vreme nesuferita, ci e o vreme frumoasa cu ploaie’ Vedeti? Este doar o chestiune de altenativa, un alt punct de vedere…o alta perspectiva. Poate ca la un moment dat nu vezi partea plina a paharului, de aceea trebuie sa mergi inainte….pentru ca in timp, cu rabdare…apare un alt punct de vedere. Chiar si timpul are nevoie de timp.

Saturday, December 12

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff or how people are made of myths

Fates and Furies is dissecting marriage, both sides of the coin: his and hers. The story's catch comes from the feast of language, the mythological references and the fluidity of the narrative. Lauren Groff has a certain nonchalance about seizing things with the eyes of her mind and then putting them on paper. Her easiness with language and the nuances of things she peels off both people and tales, make her writing layers softly addictive. Once your eyes grow accustomed to her dancing letters, words begin to haunt you in a repetitive manner. Her books makes by far, the best book of best lines there is. 

All you have to do is write the best sentence you've ever written. Then 10,000 more of the best. Then find a way to string them together into the story of something.

Lotto, the husband, has his story written under the auspices of Fates, whereas Mathilde's account of marriage comes to alter the reader's perception with her Furies. We shift angles and points of view in an attempt to answer some important question: Is this how we live along people, not truly knowing their innermost thoughts and feelings, their hidden paradoxes, their tormented inner monologues or does this stand for a peculiar marriage? The truth lies on both sides, mostly, in-between the commonalities. We make unbearable beings to ourselves and most of the times, impossible to tolerate by those close to us. It brings me back to Julian Barnes and his belief about the militant and the moderate in every marriage. Switching roles on a constant basis is the very essence of every relationship's liveliness. We either do it or bury ourselves under the treacherous founding of this institution. Add children to the mix and it is the perfect recipe for failure.

Lotto and Mathilde have no kids, few responsibilities and the freedom to make mistakes. In their close to perfect relationship, one remembers the good, the glamorous, the exciting side of life and marriage, whereas the other has a story of struggle, frustration and aching to match it all. It makes one wonder about the success of their relationship, at least in the eyes of the others. Would Lotto's egocentric nature have survived and thrived, had it not been for Mathilde to pick up the pieces and readjust, rewrite, reshape, redecorate the entire edifice of them? Is this the ultimate proof of love, the need to relinquish one's true self to build the other? It takes strength and resilience and much patience. It is not designed for everyone. Lotto's genius is meant to live on and weave its path with Mathilde one more time to deliver her from the dark and to reinforce the conviction that in our attempt to build others, we build ourselves.

As for the book, Fates and Furies met right where I was. It is how such books come across and how they are bound to stay in your mind. It spoke my kind of language, revealed itself unexpected and raw, like a warm wound that grows into a limb, a necessary part of you. I live organically inside my books and then, as I move one, I leave myself there, only to reclaim me later. Later on, the book shall read differently as I am bound to be a different reader. Meanwhile, there is much drama in steady seas, as the author herself put it. 

Sunday, November 29

Required reading: Jesus'Son by Denis Johnson or how the drifter lives on

Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son is a labor of love. It is about how the reader ends up loving a dysfunctional, drifting man, promiscuous, abusive, with a strange sense of humor, always in search of illegal money. Denis Johnson has the boldness to ask the reader to validate such a character because there is so much love that resides at the very nature of him. If you put love into your craft, it shows in the language, the story, the people, and the cracks. In a word, beauty transcends the obvious flaws in the character's humane doings and mirrors back into the one holding the book:

This boat was pulling behind itself a tremendous triangular kite on a rope. From the kite, up in the air a hundred feet or so, a woman was suspended, belted in somehow, I would have guessed. She had long red hair. She was delicate and white, and naked except for her beautiful hair.

This is from Work, a short story where two men tear down an abandoned house, pulling at the wires, breaking the wooden walls, tired, sweaty and hungry for a quick buck. Outside the window, such vision works as a madeleine to the narrator, and later on, as Wayne admits it his house he is dismantling, they meet his former wife. It seems to be the same red-haired beauty gliding over the river but Wayne denies it so the narrator concludes he softly must have stepped into his friend's dream. One man's dreams are but another's trigger of nostalgia. All women who ever embraced, loved, hated or left him come queuing in his mind: ''Where are all my women now, with their sweet wet words and way, and the miraculous balls of hail popping a green translucence in the yards?''

The imagery of such a memory, the way it sneaks up on the narrator, soft as a summer breeze, aching like an old wound, then pours out into such vivid words, makes the world spins less in slow motion. The narrator stays on one side of it and then this snippet of life stretches way back to you, on the other side. into your very world. You have been touched.

Some writers stand poets in disguise and Denis Johnson is among them. His prose is unadorned, direct, undressed of any artifice or pretense, yet his very essence and ability to see the hidden face of things and people alike penetrate the bare accounts and glitters. His economy of words reminds one of Hemingway or Carver, Johnson’s teacher, yet there is a new layer added to every sequence, rendering it into a unique piece of poetry. These stories of the fallen reminded me of Lucia Berlin’s women who stand at the very end of society, flawed and disallowed, yet making significant human beings.

Denis Johnson called his work ‘a zoo of wild utterances’ thus pointing to the variety of human being walking the very perimeter of his mind. Such characters are bound to breathe in the very metaphor of life as it filters through the mind and heart of their maker. In Dundun, another remarkable little charm, the soy crop is depicted as ‘the failed, wilted cornstalks…laid out on the ground like rows of underthings’. In another, a country fair looks back at the world ‘with sad resignation…bare its breasts.’ It honestly makes you crave for the touch of such places, such a man, such words engulfing the very edge of your senses.

Palatul Puricilor, o carte de Elif Shafak, marturisita by NICO

Cat de ,,normal’’esti? 

Cred ca tocmai am citit o carte puzzle, prima mea carte puzzle. Sunt impresionata de felul in care m-a prins, m-a tinut langa bucatile de puzzle, m-a atras si m-a legat de ele. Elif Shafak este o scriitoare cameleon. Bastarda Istanbuluilui parca a fost scrisa de altcineva, alt stil, alta abordare. O abordare liniara, trecutul vine sa completeze prezentul, il explica…dar liniar. 

Palatal Puricilor este un mare bloc-poveste alcatuit din alte cuburi-povesti. Este o poveste a deckle-urilor, a momentelor cheie ce schimba oamenii. Palatul Bomboana, este un palat de poveste, o casa de raport, construita intr-un loc cu povesti…unele nedeslusite si misterioase, dar atragatoare si datatoare de efecte snowball, iar altele de o normalitate cutremuratoare. In ea, realul este insufletit de supraomenesc, obiectele, insectele, locurile si animalele devin personaje in lumea oamenilor. Palatul Puricilor are povesti multe, poate si daca nu s-ar fi numit asa, tot avea povesti. Am zis ca este o carte puzzle. Este cartea mai multor povesti, povesti ale oamenilor ce locuiesc in acel palat. Povesti pe care cred ca le au, de altfel, toti. Exista povesti ce se spun si povesti ce nu se spun. Toti avem o poveste pe care o stim doar noi, sau povesti pe care le spunem doar celor ce au rabdarea sa ne descopere. Locuitorii Palatului Bomboana sunt oameni normali…dar…toti par normali pana ajungi sa ii cunosti. Toti au o poveste ce i-a marcat…mai devreme sau mai tarziu in viata lor…si nu este prea tarziu sa ai o noua poveste. Povestile ce nu se spun sunt ceea ce transforma si fac oamenii unici, sunt acele povesti ce se vad in ochii care stiu sa citeasca, ceea ce privesc, povesti mute. 

Cartea este alcatuita din capitole ce descriu locatarii: apartamentele palatului de poveste. Apartamentele sunt inchiriate. Chiriasii sunt relativ singuratici, se ocolesc unii pe altii, analizand fiecare ciudatenia celorlalti…fie ca este vorba despre o tanara ce este tot timpul cocheta, dar cu o cicatrice pe fata, fie ca este vorba despreo batrana vaduva ingrijita, eleganta si mai mult decat miniona, fie ca este o doamna eleganta, dar care foarte rar paraseste apartamentul sau…fie ca este vorba despre o persoana ca tine sau ca mine, o persoana pe care o admiri sau o analizezi aleatoriu si superficial pe strada…dupa cum am spus oameni normali…

Dar ce este normal oare? Nu-i asa ca normalul este subiectiv? Nu-i asa ca normalul poate fi dat peste cap de o traire, la un moment dat? Nu-i asa ca ceea ce si tie ti se parea normal la un moment dat, devine istorie chiar si pentru tine? Normalul si obisnuitul sunt rasturnate de momente, fragmente, clipe de nebunie, sentimente de vinovatie, regret, trairi neexprimate, neintelegeri ascunse, frici… Si toate rastoarna normalul,devenind obsesiile noastre si numai ale noastre… dintre toate, sentimentul de vinovatie si dezamagirile devin praguri ale nebuniei. Normalul fiecaruia este ceea ce il deosebeste de ceilalti, dar toti incearca sa pastreze aparentele pentru a nu fi judecati, huliti, izolati, invinuiti. Exact aceste idei sunt prezentate aici- aparentele care inseala, aparentele care protejeaza si in acelasi timp indeparteaza.

Saturday, November 21

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin or how I fall in love every day

I dream in books and live inside them for a significant part of my days, unaware at times where reality and fiction cease to draw a defining line. Such habit turns into an unexpected pleasure whenever I pick the right book. All books are lovable and worth my time, but some of them are hard to part from- A manual for cleaning women by Lucia Berlin would stand out in any remarkable pile. It is close to perfection in style, simplicity, choice of words or genuineness.

Lucia Berlin is called one of America's best kept secrets. She spent her life writing and living, never acquiring much fame, doing menial jobs that inspired her to write wonderfully. She had to face health problems and she managed to do so elegantly, drawing upon each of her experiences to recreate a snippet of life in her stories. She loved, she mothered, she read, she lived. Looking at her in the sepia-toned photos, I find her coy, dainty, simple. Still, she had so much life inside that one cannot read her work and not feel alive. So many lives are captured and rendered beautifully worthy in her pages that after reading her work, I could add that she loved people. Tremendously.

A manual for cleaning women is a collection of stories that read like John Cheever, Raymond, Carver, or Grace Paley. There is such love for small people, living dangerously or in great simplicity, depending on how you choose to see their lives. She was one of them so there is a shred of personal sensitivity in every page. She was a mother of four, divorced, alcoholic, cleaning rich people's houses herself. She knows that behind failures and addictions, there is poetry revealed in a reckless manner. You get a peak into the lives filled with of alcohol, drug use, abortions, loneliness, disease, alienation. Still, you feel close to the characters because she feels so familiar with them, so intimate in depicting their lives or her own that every little aspect seems easy and natural. At times, the stories read like a memoir, a detailed accounting of a life spent in different places, alongside wounded people. Mining towns, coin laundries, hospitals, Mexico, hotels, emergency rooms all become unsurprising locations for her stories filled with compassion, wittiness and love.

Lucia Berlin's stories carry more weight than you would expect, more spunk than one would hope for. They flow into the reader, fill in the crevasses and exult into the clear need to be read again. They get a grip on you and hold you inside with their realism, beauty and grace. They are stories meant to haunt you in good and bad times with their engrossing power. 

Tuesday, November 10

Spectre or The dancing kite

You are a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr Bond.’ 

And what a kite he is if I may add!! Spectre- 007 este un Bond clasic, un Bond ce s-a intors la daddy, la ceea ce il face si l-a facut pe Bond faimos: dialog putin si bine punctat, gadgets, masinile, femeile cu care interactioneaza si atitudinea, dedicate slujbei si dorintei de a se simti bine in orice situatie, de a avea o femeie frumoasa langa el... care sa-i usureze munca periculoasa si istovitoare.

Daca te astepti la gadgeturi de ultima ora si femei frumoase si puternice care sa ii faca viata amara lui Bond, nu vei gasi asa ceva. Vei gasi, in schimb, minimum de gadgeturi folosite de dansul, costume impecabil purtate, femei delicate, dar destepte, locatii uimitor de frumoase si o poveste ce reuneste toate cele trei filme anterior facute de Daniel Craig, in seria James Bond. Acest ultim film al seriei facute de el, este un closure, inchide cercul realizat de el, incheaga si inchide povestea sa cu James Bond, amintind bad guys intalniti de acesta pana acum in Skyfall, Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale.

In acest film pot spune ca luxul este dus la extrem, iar din punctul meu de vedere, luxul maxim este cel care ajunge la simplitate ce se vede prin linii si culori si calitate extrem de inalta. Totul participa la etalarea luxului si elegantei rafinate: personajele care nu sunt multe- nu se iroseste povestea prin oameni mici, prezenti doar pentru umplutura, femeile delicate si feminine- care contrar dorintelor zilelor noastre, nu vor sa fie egale barbatului, ci vor sa il ajute, pastrandu-si feminitatea si fragilitatea, locurile desfasurarii actiunilor- absolut uimitoare si hainele. Hainele lui Bond sunt o tema in sine, o capsula de discutii si dezbateri. Hainele sunt personaje in sine. Bineinteles ca omul care le poarta conteaza, dar pana la urma, o haina buna rafineaza omul sau in acest caz il ridica mult, mult de tot. Urmarind filmul, parca am participat la o prezentare de moda Tom Ford, Burberry sau Prada. Hainele sunt wow, iar ochelarii de soare sunt fenomenali. 

Daniel Craig este un Bond rafinat si zgarcit cu cuvintele. Femeile Spectre sunt diferite, total opuse si in acelasi timp asemanatoare. Monica Belluci si Lea Seydoux sunt feminitatea intruchipata, sexoase, voluptoase, frumoase prin varsta si calitatile lor. Monica Bellucci este un icon, este un brand de la care ai asteptari, dar sa nu astepti prea mult, parerea mea de femeie…barbatii probabil m-ar contrazice, de fapt...deja am fost contrazisa dar, dincolo de varsta ei, este inca o femeie frumoasa si rafinata, cu sex-appeal si capabila sa arate bine in corset, portjartier si tocuri absolut superbe. Este inca o femeie feminina si gratioasa. Este si va ramane un icon, un punct de reper al feminitatii si calitatilor pe care o femeie ar trebui sa le aiba. 

Lea este frantuzoaica. Nu stiu exact de ce, dar acest cuvant ar explica tot ce se poate spune despre ea. Este fragila, dar nu usor de calcat in picioare, puternica prin deciziile pe care le ia, feminina si reala. Stie care este limita lui Bond, stie unde se situeaza ea si mai stie ca este zona lui de confort si de relaxare si nu se multumeste cu jumatati de masura. Ea este femeie si vrea sa ramana asa, fragila, feminina si protejata de el- barbatul.

Christoph Waltz este the bad guy, joaca bine si evil, este Inglorious Basterds return. Are ochii, alura si mimica facute si lucrate special pentru aceste personaje bad, dar atragatoare prin exprimare, voce, gestica si mimica. Este un partener pe masura lui Bond. Bond. James Bond. Este in acest caz outcast, un pedepsit, un naughty boy rasfatat de sefi, dar rasfatat pentru ca merita si pedepsit, tot pentru ca merita…sau nu. Nu voi spune subiectul, nu se cade. 

Filmul trebuie vazut. Daniel Craig aduce un omagiu clasicismului personajului, nu abuzeaza de puterile lui de spion descurcaret, doar puncteaza si imbraca haine uimitoare. Mda..m-am intors iar la haine, caci sunt fenomenale si ii vin ca turnate, Englishman-ul din el da clasa acestor haine, le da viata. Nu se poate sa nu vorbim iar despre ACELE haine. Acest film este un return to the basics, este un return to absolute elegance. Parerea mea este ca s-a vrut un classic, si singurul lucru pe care l-as reprosa este o singura secventa de urmarire care a fost facuta in Italia, in stilul Italian…lent si al lui dolce far niente…dar doar atat, pentru ca apoi a aparut costumul si am uitat.

Saturday, October 31

Any Other Day

Marysela Zamora is a beautiful, talented woman whom I met last year during a mutual fellowship in US. She is a journalist, a movie maker, and a civil society supporter in her interest to connect social media and digital resources and the people. She also writes poetry and blogs here: http://elblogdemarama.ticoblogger.com. During the orientation week, 50 people or so from all over the world had to mingle and make friends. In the middle of such a lovely crowd, we had to find people of similar experience and interests. Without any explanation, we found each other sharing about our mutual passions: writing, reading, movies, blogging, among other things. Four months later, we got reunited on a night cruise down the Potomac River, full of stories and already missing Boise and San Antonio.

Any Other Day, directed by my friend Marysela Zamora, is a short movie that captures the very idea of innocence. In a world that grows chaotically apart, where genuine feelings and emotions are filtered through different media channels that amputate the human spirit, two children live for the excitement of being alive. In the middle of nature, surrounded by long lost sounds and sensations, Fabiana and Sebastian embark on a new adventure every day. On this day, as usual as any other, they go into the wilderness to find Tutti's mother. Tutti is a bird Fabiana keeps in her tree house and whom Sebastian sees as the orphan in need of a mother. By the river, Fabiana starts playing among the stones, while Sebastian goes looking for any sign of childless bird. Time flows slowly, rain comes after sun, earth breathes along life, children dwell in their silences. When the quiet becomes too intense, they turn into roaring wolf-children, shouting their lungs out at all surrounding things. Tired, they spend moments on a row on the porch and before parting, they decide upon the part they are to play on the following day. They might be taking turns or Sebastian simply wants to be graceful and has the girl pick the word of the day: Superheros!

Cualquier Dia flows like a breath of fresh air, softly getting you inside the story. You marvel at the scenery, at the slowness of such a simple and rewarding existence, as if taking a peek into some long-lost paradise. The children's faces and movements speak more than their own voices: they are pure, unaltered by outside perils and temptations. They live to play alongside nature and you get this feeling of balance and unspoiled heaven. Yet, at the back of pretty images, civilization slowly crawls into this least explored place - a piece of cardboard, a cap, a modern word. Fabiana nurtures Tutti and tells it stories -a Little Red Riding Hood innocent version of how the hunter chased way the wolf which ran and ran and never returned to grandma's house. No dark side, a nice tale for a nice birdie. Yet, there is a scene in the movie where Fabiana burries something- we are left to guess. Is it Tutti that left the secured space inside Sebastian's cap and flew into danger? Is simply a child's play in the mud? It might be a grown-up's way of seeing or assuming danger when it is not even visible. Experience or lack of blind faith make the viewer somehow wary about how things unfold.

The movie made me think of the mysterious vanishing of Pobby and Dingan, a novel by Ben Rice in terms of innocence and make believe, the ardent need to feel that there is hope and candor in people and places. Also, there is a trace of a Momo, character in the book Mr. Ibrahim and the flowers of the Coran, breaking free from the prison of different institutions and beliefs, of tales we are told and stories we build inside and outside ourselves to survive.  Fabiana and Sebastian make their own little world, following their own little rituals and habits, games and pretense. The movie is either to be seen as a rite of passage or as the unseen pressure and ugly breath of the outside world, the mighty civilization that is bound to flaw and sour both Fabiana and Sebastian and their secluded little paradise. It is perhaps our own inner struggle to preserve any shred of authenticity against the uniformity of an outsiderness that strives to turn us into conventional beings. It is our little way of making our own pretty happy thespian ending to a rather heartless, cruel Grimmslike version of life. Either way, Any Other Day will give you a suspended moment of pondering upon the two-sided beauty of life. As for Marysela Zamora, I am certain her name is bound to stay with us in the challenging, expressive display of her talent.

Sunday, October 11

Third person or the butterfly effect in reserve

Paul Haggis's Third person is a movie that purposefully intends to reveal nothing by pointing to everything. White roses, a flying note, a bike, a painting, a line are recurring liaison moments that puncture the multi-stranded narrative. It is leading the viewer towards some great denouement only to leave him puzzled.

Third person feels as if Paul Haggis had three movie ideas in his mind but got too lazy to spin off each separately so he went for this unfortunate melange. It remotely reminded me of other films of the same structure and similar stories that had the same hard time selling, talking, walking themselves into the minds of the viewer: 360, Hereafter or Movie 43. It has some clear ideas in mind about fate, betrayal, loss or pain, yet it fails to render the stories fluid as if they wanted to keep rewriting themselves constantly.

The writer, rich and a Pulitzer winner (Liam Neeson) leaves his wife (Kim Basinger) to go to Paris and write his next book. His protégé and lover, young journalist Anna (Olivia Wilde) joins him for a passionate and chaotic affair. In the next story set in Rome, a sleazy business man named Sean (Adrien Brody) falls for a Romanian gypsy girl with an agenda to rip him off the money she needs to save her eight-year-old daughter from the hands of a trafficker. Back in New York, an instable former actress (Mila Kunis) is fighting her artist ex-husband (James Franco) for the custody of their eight-year-old boy. Children or parents are the objects of aching in this movie, rather in their absence, death or alleged existence or in the way they inflict pain on their offsprings. White roses are a pledge of beauty rather than a sign of trust. They fail to express the sincerity of the sender and mirror back on his own lack of trust in his own abilities and the people in his life, There are also some lines in the movie that synthesize some of the main ideas of the movie: “It’s supposed to be about a man who can only feel through the characters he creates.” (the writer tells his editor), “You have random characters making various excuses for your life,” (the latter complains to the former) “Women have the gift of being able to deny any reality.”

It is interesting how the movie suggests that writers are not only disturbed but also vain and lacking any principles. The writer in this movie copies down every bit of conversation he has, gets inspired by his girlfriend's misery and makes his latest novel a hit by revealing the raw, painful truths in his life and the life of others. Is this a way of unfolding bad emotions and shaking off trauma? Does the attire of writing make the writer invisible or grant him the right to stand above others? It makes you wonder about the price one pays to win at all costs or about the fact that every act of creation merely relies on destruction. It is also frustrating how all the men in this movie crave to be in control and how all female characters lack drive and strength.

In Havana, Robert Redford, the gambler, tells Lena Olin, "A butterfly can flutter its wings over a flower in China and cause a hurricane in the Caribbean. They can even calculate the odds." This comes out as an attractive piece of truths on the lips of the seductive man, yet it bears little scientific proof. The idea of the butterfly effect as it is perceived by the pop culture -a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever - insinuates itself in the layers of the movie, suggesting a kind of boomerang effect in the way relationships get shattered. Every time a third person comes along, the initial balance is disrupted, suggesting a kind of fatalistic approach to the misfortunes and accidents of life. Nevertheless, despite the range of actors and some good performances, Third person reads itself like the 50 cent coin that the writer drops in the sparkling water glass -it stirs a bubble or two but it never rises above water, rather ebb flowing in its little glass-like universe.

Friday, September 25

Eleganta ariciului de Muriel Barbery sau curajul parantezelor By NICO

Cum este ariciul? ‘’… pe dinafara e plin de tepi, o adevarata fortareata, dar am senzatia ca pe dinauntru este la fel de rafinata ca si aricii, care sunt niste fapturi in chip inselator indolente, cumplit de singuratice si teribil de elegante.’’

V-ati gandit vreodata la asa ceva, la o asa schimbare de perceptiva si reprezentare a ariciului? Eu nu, pana acum...pana la citirea acestei mici comori. Cartea nu este pentru toata lumea, nu este o carte pe care sa o citesti pentru ca vrei actiune sau aventura. Este o carte pe care sa o citesti daca esti adeptul pasilor mici, plini de insemnatate, daca esti genul boem si modest, genul care intr-o oarecare zi de primavara, observi si te opresti sa admiri un boboc de floare ce este pe cale sa infloreasca, daca apreciezi o conversatie exprimata corect, daca esti plin de frumos si frumuseti, fara a simti nevoia sa arati tuturor ceea ce ai in posesie…daca esti genul ce se lasa descoperit…si pentru fiecare descoperire, rasplata unui zambet este o umplere de bucurie.

Eleganta ariciului este o carte delicata si eleganta, plina de cuvinte, virgule, gramatica, muzica, arta, idei, concepte,priviri, simboluri si mai presus de toate, de trecut si idei preconcepute. Este o carte de suflet… care te ridica si te face sa te desfasori si sa nu te mai simti singurul iubitor de cuvinte corecte, de virgule scrise correct, de dialoguri marcate de politele...de ceea ce azi, toti numesc ,,old school,,. Cartea te duce in lumea bogatilor si diferentelor de clasa... Cine ar fi crezut ca acestea inca exista? Cine ar fi crezut ca in secolul nostru, diferenta de clasa sociala poate fi atat de pregnanta, evidentiata si sustinuta de anumite persoane?! Acele persoane care isi insusesc cuvantul ’valoare’’si ii schimba conotatiile si incarcatura valorica, transforma valorile in non-valori, ducand la extrem, disecand si decorticand insemnatatea acestui cuvant. Este greu sa iesi din cercul non-valorilor si sa fii corect gramatical, sa te exprimi frumos si placut auzului si vazului, sa fii agreabil prin folosirea cuvintelor, sa exprimi ce stii- nu ceea ce ai auzit sau rasauzit din gura prietenei prietenului prietenei nu stiu cui, sa ai idei proprii si originale sustinute de experienta proprie, sa nu te iei dupa altcineva si sa copiezi doar pentru ca acea persoana pe care o ai in minte a fost apreciata pentru ceva anume si tu copiezi acel ceva, chiar daca nu ti se potriveste ca personalitate... Este greu sa ramai tu intr-o avalansa de apreciatori de non-valori si oameni superficiali ce se multumesc cu ,,acum,,. Este greu sa gasesti linistea sufleteasca intr-o galagie bruianta si intr-o lume in care cei care se exprima o fac doar de dragul de a se auzi, de a atrage atentia, de a soca, de a fi primul, de a fi un ‚’si eu’’ sau ‚’un eu am patit mai mult’’ sau’’ fara mine nu exista lucrul despre care vorbeati’’etc.

Dar mai exista astfel de oameni care se ascund de galagie, de evident, de spectacolul si iuresul sclipiciului... Iar acesti oameni sunt comori, sunt aricii, sunt cei care te fac sa te opresti si sa spui ‚’nu sunt singur’’si te fac sa zambesti cand ii vezi, sa simti ca nu esti un ratacit printre galagiosi. Acesti oameni sunt liniste, culoare si idei. Sunt hrana pentru suflet. Cartea are cateva personaje ce se lasa descoperite in timp, personaje care se ascund si se protejeaza de ceilalti, se considera paria si excentrici izolati...dar asta pana se descopera unii pe ceilalti, pana descopera ce exista dincolo de tepii ariciului...ei descopera ‚’un intotdeauna in niciodata’’...descopera parantezele pline de frumos din lumea nonvalorilor... e ca atunci cand ai puterea sa pui pauza in timpul unei petreceri simandicoase si lipsite de haz, iar in timpul acelei pauze, cand toti stau nemiscati in timp si spatiu, tu te poti misca in voie, iti poti scoate pantofii care te strangeau, poti merge desculta prin camera si poti manca folosind mana, nu furculita si cutitul. Aceste sentiment il da cartea... este hrana pentru ceea ce, din politete, suntem nevoiti sa ascundem pentru curajul de a ramane neschimbati in timp ce ceilalti iti cer sa te schimbi pentru a fi la fel.

Wednesday, September 16

Written on the body by Jeanette Winterson- an anatomy of lost love

Both question and answer come right away at the beginning of this novel -What is the measure of love? We come to appreciate both love and the one we love when it is gone. And the best way to exorcise these demons is to write about it -in detailed, microscopic thoroughness about the story, the outcome, the turmoil and the redemption. Actually the book leaves an open ending so you could pick a side or choose a battle: give the love story a second chance or help the two protagonists come to terms with themselves and move on.

As she once confessed, Jeanette Winterson is in love with language above all. The story, the plot, the narrative are merely a pretext to play with words and ignite a striking imagery of the feelings, emotions, thoughts and gestures. I believe she is more infatuated with words and their mechanics rather than a person, with the way words shine upon the loved one and spins around the story to become an immortal one. This woman is drunk on love as it paints itself in and out of the words. Her character falls in love with a married woman, Louise, breaks the heart of another, then leaves the red-haired spouse because she has cancer and Elgin, her husband, seems to hold the right key and answers to curing her. So far, this sounds terribly romantic but we often end up doing the wrong things in the name of love. Louise is left heart-broken once the main character flees the grounds and exiles herself into a place of coldness. In the middle of nowhere, she bleeds love through her pores and turns her heart inside out in search for answers and a solution to put Louise out of her mind. The agonizing process is beautifully worded, brushing an aching painting of love lost and the way we torture ourselves in the name of love. It turns Louise and the love affair into a unique thing, a passion that makes the narrator recollect past affairs only to point at the greatness of this one and to aggrandize both suffering and romance.

The most interesting and devastating part of the book is when she dismantles Louise into body parts and organs, singing them all and stating her love for each little inch of this woman. It is passionate, sexual, frenetic, almost making your mouth water at the richness of the depiction. It keeps the reader wondering whether such detail is specific to women writers or whether men have the patience to observe such intricate pattern in love and the person next to them. It brings into my mind Orhan Pamuk's novel The Museum of innocence where the writer mourns lost love and spends the rest of his life gathering proofs of his unique love and chasing the woman he loved, yet never managed to keep, all over the world. Still Pamuk does not analyze and split hairs in four, rather has a more evocative, nostalgic approach to his suffering. Men seem to be more inclined to quantify the meaning of love in parts and bits, measuring it against very palpable proofs, whereas women dwelve on the things left hanging, the unspoken, the uttered questions, the impossible answers, the touches, the geography of the loved body and the smell of familiar territory.

This book is also about jealousy and cruelty, rejection and despise. Love is easily turned into a multitude of other feelings, embracing the shades of other stances. In every great or minor affair, feelings reach a peak then slowly descend into a linear status quo or degenerate into other negative emotions. Elgin goes from comfort love to an acute sense of possession and then to malice; whether his new relationship is meant to bring him acceptance of the previous and a new start remains a mystery. On the other hand, our narrator climbs the peaks of insanity and despair only to come back a wounded, broken being. Louise returns and time takes a halt. The story that was, closes its circle and we are left to choose a new beginning or a lesson learnt at the expense of some broken hearts. It is up to us to decide. As in love, choice stands written in our bodies. Anatomically speaking, we are bound to live past the skin!

Thursday, August 27

Karate Chop by Dorthe Nors or how stories suit your voice

I love The Paris Review, the feeling of immersion into good interviews, where writers are peeled off their layers until raw essence is verbalized. I peruse it for the language, the titles, the revealing dialogues, the inspiration for reading, which equals, most of the times, the unexpectedly pleasant discovery of new writers. Dorthe Nors is one of such moments of serendipity and Karate Chop is among the best borrowed books I read in US.

A karate chop slices the sealed air and delivers a slanting stroke of the hand against an object, a person, a limb, a heart, a row of words, a life, some accumulating fear or the invisible face of the reader. This is how it feels when you read Dorthe Nors- hard-hitting, condensed sequences of ordinary life captured in a volume of 15 stories that hits you hard. They have inducing titles and unexpected endings, snippets of random existences shadowed by fear. Fifteen stories in 82 pages may be short, yet they are vivid and dark-humored, dainty and ripe with life resurrected, life reinvented, life mocked at and life full with more life. There is no inertia, yet there is not sparkling wit. They keep the reader balanced, hardly ever pushed to the limits or challenged to utter harsh truths.

In one story, Female Killers, the writer tells us about one of her female characters: Maybe that's why she opens doors in the mind. Doors, stairwells, pantries. This is how reading feels to the familiar eye, as well- as if opening endless doors into lives and dreams, into yourself and the author alike. The unique sensation is that of touching the inner fibers of the narrative and intruding into the very details that make the human heart. Building and unmaking characters, the intricacy of their inner motions in and out of themselves is trans-lucid in Dorthe Nors' writing as if a magnifying glass were attached to the reader's eyes. Violence, cruelty, compassion, self-doubt, randomness all pile up in-between the pages of a miniature string of stories.

Dorthe Nors is a Danish, promising, introspective writer, author of three novels and two novellas and a welcoming presence in Karate Chop, where sometimes almost nothing happens, yet in such a descriptive manner that gives it more substance than one should find in the fullness of everything.

Saturday, August 15

Bastarda Istanbulului- Elif Shafak by NICO

Un titlu de carte puternic, te loveste si te face sa te pregatesti pentru ce este mai rau. Dar avem o carte frumoasa, calda si aromata am putea spune…Avem de-a face cu o poveste ciclica, o magie a vietii ce te loveste cu ceea ce i-ai dat si cu cee ace ai tinut ascuns in tine, doar pentru tine. Eu i-as fi spus ‘Povestea unei fete’ sau ‘Istanbulul si povestile lui’ sau si mai bine ar fi mers ‘Furia’..dar cred ca ar fi fost un titlu prea fad pentru diferitele povesti si fatete povestii ce sunt mai apoi unite intr-un fir principal. 

Bastarda Istanbulului’ este povestea mai multor personaje feminine, este lumea familiala a femeilor unei familii istanbuleze cu toate implicatiile si dedesubturile trecutului unei familii. Este o poveste ce porneste din acelasi punct temporal trecut, se desparte, pentru ca mai apoi sa se regaseasca si uneasca. Este poveste unor femei caractere, diferite, luptatoare si normale pana la urma. Parerea mea este ca femeile sunt luptatoare prin natura lor, prin instinctele materne cu care se nasc. Este o putere pe care nu o poti controla, doar o simti sau o manifesti fara sa te gandesti, instinctual. Cu ea treci prin multe. Femeile din acest roman nu sunt toate mame, dar sunt feminine, puternice, armonioase si frumoase prin diferentele dintre ele..dar mai presus de toate sunt misterioase, chiar magice. Frumusetea romanului este data de aceste personaje feminine care sunt motiv de expunere a unor evenimente istorice uimitoare, a istoriei Imperiului Otoman, istoriei armenilor ce au fost ucisi, torturati, mintiti, haituiti in timpul genocidului de la 1915 din Turcia, a istoriei republicii si per total, a istoriei universale...suntem un tot unitar pe acest pamant. Si de aici, din aceste conflicte trecute vedem repercursiunile si sechelele lasate de trecut asupra oamenilor, vedem fragilitatea si puterea omului, calitatea lui de a fi sau nu uman…

Fapt: in 1915, 250 de intelectuali armeni au fost omorati sub diferite pretexte inchipuite, de catre turci. Pentru a putea sa dezbine si domine comunitatea armeana din Turcia, le-au omorat capetele destepte, intelectualii… restul au fugit, dar niciun om important nu a scapat. Se numeste genocid. De atunci, exista ura dintre turci si armeni. Dar partile si parerile sunt impartite, sechele si trairile, cosmarurile si tristetile sunt de ambele parti, iar autoarea ajunge la o concluzie pentru fiecare participant al istoriei: Turcii sufera de ura de sine. Armenii sufera de autocompatimire. Ce impresioneaza in povestea familiilor prezentate aici, a coincidentelor si povestilor ce despart si unesc aceste familii, sunt mancarurile, bucataria. 

Mancarea este subiect si personaj in acest roman. Mancarea si servitul mesei este cimentarea relatiilor familiale, regasire, acceptare si revolta. Trecut, prezent si viitor. Mancarea este ceea ce pastreaza unitatea unei familii. Mancarea traditionala, specificul fiecarei comunitati, tari si familii se invart toate in jurul mancarii, Membrii unei familii participa la prepararea mancarii si isi pun amprenta asupra ei, dezvaluindu-si personalitatea, secretetele, care altminteri sunt ascunse ochiului liber. Mancarea aduna familia si creaza amintiri, un trecut comun, o mostenire sufleteasca, un dans al aromelor. Este confirmarea timpului si spatiului in familia traditionala. Mancarea este personaj...dovada acestui fapt este ca fiecare capitol poarta denumirea unui element comestibil...mai putin unul, surprinzator si inchizator de drumuri. 

In Bastarda Istanbului descoperim lumi fantastice, colorate, imbietoare, intortochiate, pline de viata si de povesti. Imi plac povestile, chiar si obiectele cu povesti...poate de aceea mi-a placut cartea, Este despre un oras de poveste, un oras viu si schimbator, puternic si slab, frumos dar labirintizat, un oras cu suisuri si coborasuri... Istanbul. Orasul-barca, Umbrela atator etnii care vin si pleca…istoria o dovedeste. Orasul-umbrela. Orasul care se hraneste din Bosfor si care atrage locuitorii sai, tinandu-i prizonierii frumusetii lui. Orasul viu, Orasul lui Aysa, Zeliha, Banu, Feride, Cevriye, Gulsum, Petit-Ma, Shushan, Armanoush si nu numai… Orasul colorat de femeile ce il populeaza. Istanbul.

Cartea aceasta este o poveste cu tot ce ar putea atrage. Este o poveste de familie, pentru familii si pentru cititori ce iubesc cutitul, hraneste suflete insetate de povesti frumoase. Ea cuprinde povesti trecute, povesti prezente si povesti cu sperante....

Tuesday, August 4

The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti or cheese my way

A story is time itself, boxed and compressed. It is the briefest entertainment and simulacrum of real life, which is big and messy and requires a strange kind of endurance. The story is stylized for that flash of laughter and pain, thwarted desire and odd consummation, while life waterfalls with it - all of it- every day: prodigious, cloying, in decay. And when the story is finally over - even if the protagonist survives a spray of gunfire and goes on living - it's over. Meanwhile, life carries on, river-swift. 

I did some reading, took a test, read some more, asked a professional and it was crystal clear: I have an addictive personality. I shelter my own reward system at the back of my mind. I attach myself to the receptors in my mind where chocolate, for instance, fits like a golden key to the right lock. I used to be a slave to the mighty god of chocolate for years. Always imagined him to be a brown, chocolaty chubby version of Buddha, always ready to gulp some more and save nothing. Once I had three tablets in one day- Lindt was my religion, dopamine my favorite attire. I might be done with it now or simply taking a break. I may be growing out of this addiction into another or simply in the middle of a readjustment period. Either way, I can still appreciate the addiction in some readings, people, or state of minds. The Telling Room reminded me of my dependence on such things as well-flown words, simple, yet intense stories, food at large and as the binder between ancestral energies and the untamed side of us, people. Some books see through you for the weakness there is inside and then you instantly click at the way you mirror back at them.

Part travelogue, part meditation on the meaning of life, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese is a journey into the realm of the senses. If you are a foodie or a cheese-monger, make sure you have a plate to nibble on, close to you, so as to deepen the experience. You are bound to take a pause from the munching every now and then to occasionally sigh, frown, melt, dramatize, marvel at. Should you find yourself awkward and restraint, unwilling to exercise all addictive demons, indulge into the feast. This is a book that promises to make you fall for Spain, history, reconnecting with the traditions, simple life and the sacred relation between our food and our bodies. Cheese made with love, recapturing family history, conquers all traveling hearts and bears undying stories. Everything that comes from passion is meant to be immortal, transcending hearts, geography, and roofs of mouths. You are bound to taste the Paramo de Guzman cheese as if it were next to you, in your own bodega, spinning its tale in the telling room of told and untold trials to reach perfection in a bite. It will leave its trace in your mouth as the plot thickens and you will get a glimpse not only at the living clips of the writer who crossed the world because he wanted to believe, but also into a land that breathes history and beauty.

To me, this book speaks of addiction. The way you can grow on a dream and never let it go, regardless of place, time or nature. The simpler the life you lead, the more chance the feeling is inlaid into you, running the veins like the worst of drugs. Alfonso, the cheese maker, has a dream- to show respect to values, tradition and his way of life. He makes cheese to celebrate his father and to help people grasp the meaning of a rustic, unadorned, unpretentious existence. This books sings life in its simplicity. 

Even for a city boy, may he be a writer, father, husband and Italian proud bearer of his elders' name - Paterniti, the making of dreams knows no boundary or religion, no size, color, or logic. Ambrosio's cheese is soulful because his heart is poured into the making of such queso that swept the world off its feet. Food tells a story, his cheese speaks of his family. Technology constantly kills the dream by processing the love. It raises a wall between the eater and its food. No such sin should come out of a creator's hands. Yet, Ambrosio falls for the trick in the name of love and friendship and technology equals betrayal. In the bigger picture, technology with all its gadgets, keeps us distanced from the authenticity of life. Modern man has forgotten how to take a dump properly and it shows. Ambrosio knows. It takes art and practice.

Image result for the telling room book

Addiction also lies in the way the writer becomes mesmerized with a cheese he has never tasted, yet felt drawn to, in a magical way. Layers and layers of narrative pour into the story and the reader becomes actively tangled into this tale of love and treachery in the name of food. The reader is free to take sides and decide what fills his heart. Lessons of friendship, wine, food, silent fields of sunflowers, ruins into the heart and against a blue patch of sky, all bustle into the story and resonate into the reader. Are you accumulating every word into the heart, mind, senses? Are you starting to grow a craving for the mighty cheese, to meet its maker, to walk its lands and share some wine in his telling room? If you do, you are addictive by nature. To beautiful things and to something larger than life that flows through your veins, food memories merely an excuse to give in. To cheese mainly.

Monday, August 3

Splendida cetate a celor o mie de sori de Khaled Hosseini by NICO

Cartea femeii si a puterii femeilor.

''Nici c-ai putea sa socotesti acele luni ce-i stralucesc pe acoperisuri. Sau miile de sori splenzizi ce i se ascund dupa ziduri'' O femeie, doua femei, multe femei, toate femeile- femeia...

Ce este ea? Femeia? Ce o face atragatoare, frumoasa? Ce o face sa fie dorita? Sa fie oare mersul, felul de a misca mainile cand gesticuleaza sau felul in care mainile i sa odihnesc in poala in rastimpuri? Sa fie felul in care isi misca gatul sau capul cand priveste sau cand este intesata de ceva? Sau sa fie oare zambetul cateodata timid, cateodata jucaus sau rasul din toata inima? Sau sa fie privirea? Cea mai frumoasa privire apare cand ii place ceva anume, cand apare interesul pentru ceva, indiferent de natura lui. Sau sa fie felul in care se fastaceste cand se rusineaza, sau felul in care isi pleaca privirea imediat cand parea ca este puternica si stapana pe ea? Sau fie oare fata care se lumineaza cand gaseste o solutie sau cand gandurile i se leaga in idei? Sa fie liniile corpului? Frumosului corp de femeie cu adanciturile,bscobiturile, gropitele si ascunzisurile lui,  ce asteapta sa fie descoperite, mangaiate, sarutatate si laudate? Sa fie oare parul lung sau scurt, drept sau cret care imbraca un chip iubit de cineva, cel mai frumos chip pentru cineva anume? Sau sa fie ceea ce se ascunde dincolo de fata si ochii ei... creierul ei plin de idei, de creativitate, de maturitate si copilarie in acelasi timp, de alinturi si mustrarari, de griji pentru alti oameni, de sperante si planuri, de trecut, prezent si viitor, de putere si slabiciuni, de tot ce o doare si o slabeste, dar si de ceea ce o intareste si revitalizeaza continuu? Eu cred ca mai presus de toate este frumusetea ce apare pe chip cand se simte utila, laudata, apreciata, sustinuta, corectata, daca este cazul si iubita. Eu cred ca o femeie infloreste cand sperantele si asteptarile ii sunt hranite frumos si drept.

Dar cartea aceasta nu este despre astfel de femei. Nu... nu este. Este despre femei ce traiesc intr-o alta lume. Intr-o lume paralela celei in care noi ne facem dansul zilnic. Intr-o lume unde sa razi pe strada este interzis, unde sa apreciezi culorile este interzis, unde fluiditatea frumoasa a corpului unei femei este interzisa, unde aratarea chipului este interzisa...unde cuvantul 'femeie' este la limita dintre om si animal. In Afganistanul talibanilor. In cultura care pune barbatul pe primul loc, cuvantul barbatului are intaietate sau anuleaza cuvantul femeii.

Aceasta carte este despre doua femei puternice, dar incoltite si doborate de societatea in care s-au nascut si in care au crescut...doborate, dar nu invinse. Despre doua femei care dovedesc ca dincolo de tot si toate, dincolo de toate bogatiile materiale, conteaza invatarea si cartea, conteaza sa ai cunostinte generale, conteaza sa stii sa citesti, sa vorbesti si sa te adaptezi, conteaza sa te hranesti intelectual...pentru ca de acolo izvoraste speranta. De acolo ele si-au hranit umanitatea si puterea de a isi inchipui un viitor, de a spera, de a putea privi in fata un barbat-animal, un barbat- calau, un barbat nebarbat. Chiar si puterea de a fi mame, sotii, prietene, fiice, surori...oameni. Mariam si Laila sunt doua femei frumoase. Frumoase pentru puterea lor de a se supune si in acelasi timp impotrivi, pentru puterea lor de a se ridica si rezista, de a se cadea si de a continua sa cada fara a fi invinse...chiar de a accepta imposibilul si de a forta limitele lui.

''Splendida cetate a celor o mie de sori'' este ravasitoare, este zguduitoare si dureroasa pentru femeia din mine, pentru tot ceea ce cred eu ca face o femeie sa fie frumoasa, pentru ceea ce eu cred despre cuvantul ''femeie'', pentru creativitatea si salbaticiunea atragatoare si imbietoarea unei femei. Te face sa te intrebi daca ai putea sa rezisti unei astfel de lumi, daca superficialitatea ce ne inconjoara merita acceptata, daca alegerile tale sunt importante, daca esti o femeie destul de libera si independenta sa te exprimi si sa te manifesti cum simti, daca esti destul de educata sa accepti ceea ce uneori nu poate fi acceptat, daca ai curajul si libertatea s apui inrebari dar sa si primesti raspunsuri pertinente si respectuoase, daca balanta ta interioara te ajuta sa te dezvolti, daca ai voie sa gresesti si sa ti se ierte greseala, tu asumandu-ti-o si cantaridu-i valoarea pentru tine si cei din jur. Daca respectul tau se intoarce la tine.

Este o carte frumoasa si trista, dar plina de speranta, in care intunericul te face sa apreciezi lumina, amplifica lumina, o face stralucitoare si orbitoare chiar... Am simtit praful, nisipul si pamantul Kabulului in gura, mi-au scrasnit dintii si am plans pentru nedreptatile si spenatele lor, pentru fiecare bataie si pentru fiecare admonestare administrata ''corespunzatot''... pentru fiecare actiune facuta cu scopul de a le micsora, de a le stirbi frumusetea si lumina.

Femeile sunt atat de frumoase...in felul lor fiecare. Dar cele mai frumoase femei sunt cele independente, pentru ca ele au primit de la omul de langa ele- tata, mama, sot sau prieten- increderea lor ca pot sa faca ce doresc si pot sa fie cum doresc. Acelea sunt cele mai frumoase femei. Cele care merg drept, privesc ce le place si cum le place... si daca un barbat isi doreste o femeie, are datoria sa ii fie egal si sa isi folosesca puterea pentru a o proteja, nu a o face mica, pentru a o stirbi, ascunde sau uniformiza. Barbatul trebuie sa o infloreasca prin puterea lui. De obicei nu imi plac cartile in care barbatii scriu despre femei -personaj principal, ca si cum le-ar cunoaste, le-ar fi alter-egou-ul. Dar exista si exceptii... Aceasta este una dintre ele. Cred totusi ca Khaled Hosseini a facut si din istoria Afganistanului un personaj.

Friday, July 24

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi or the choice unmade

This is some elegant, crafted writing. This is a woman I would like to meet and have coffee with, while listening to her spin her stories around my heart and mind for hours on end. Azar Nafisi is an Iranian writer and professor, though I am curious which hat she would choose first. My personal view to the matter is that there is a budding writer in disguise inside every serial reader and Mrs. Nafisi is but among the best examples of how love for books met teaching and then, naturally, led to beautifully mastering the written words.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is written as a memoir that reflects upon the teaching years in the university of Tehran between the revolution of 1978-1981 and the following years, until 1997. The author is sacked because she refuses to wear the veil and starts teaching literature to her secret book club, right before the moment of her emigration to USA.

All four chapters of the book - Lolita, Gastby, James, Austen- are but a pretext to share a mutual interest in reading and books, but, most of all, to reflect upon how history, religion, oppression, and totalitarian mindsets touch the very lives of the Iranian people. Students Mahshid, Yassi, Mitra, Nassrin, Azin, Sanaz and Manna help her read between the lines of such incredible stories and discuss the true colors of a villain versus a hero and the thin line between the very two antagonistic concepts. According to the author, villains can easily be blinded by their own lack of empathy towards different manifestations of oppression and dreams we are fed while looking through another's eye. I particularly like how she chooses to describe Nabokov's villain: 

 "Humbert was a villain," she writes, "because he lacked curiosity about other people and their lives, even about the person he loved most."

Freedom comes at some very high price and Nafisi has to either follow the rules of a regime she does not identify with or flee the profession and country that she loves, taking turns in playing the hero and the villain.

I liked the story for the way history and reality became one narrative in the book and how people took turns at identifying with or disapproving of all characters, putting them and their choices to test and trial, in an attempt to verbalize their fears and values. It is authentic and vibrant in its invitation to enter the two worlds that inhabit the book: that of university life under the political regime of the time and into the imaginative realm of such acclaimed writers as Austen, Nabokov, Scott Fitzgerald or James. Also, the idea of shared intimacy among members of the book club who are basically nothing but strangers of the same tastes, is extremely attractive to me. It requires a certain abandonment of the self in search of mirroring otherness through empathy. The seven women of the club enter a magical world revealing their hidden beauty to the eyes of such fortunate authors, whose books come to life in their hands. The reader in the circle and outside, holding this very book, is required to be familiar with the works of the four authors and indulge himself/herself into some criticism of their worlds that live parallel existences beyond geographical boundaries. The personal lives of the seven women find echoes in the books and weave around the core idea idea in the story: we are the choices we make. Reading Lolita in Tehran is the kind of book that wraps the idea of change/choice into the literary foil of an excellent story.

I have been trying a new kind of artistic cocktail lately -mixing books with chocolate flavors and music or associating movies and the feelings they ignite with certain ideas. The reading of this book reminds me of my American days when I would spent my quiet afternoons listening to Tom Waits. Or spending Thursdays at The Flicks, always watching Indies, eating Baked Brie and French Bread at Rick's Cafe. I know, of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, I walked into his...

Friday, July 10

Mr Ibrahim and the flowers of the Qur'an

What you give, Momo, is yours for good. What you keep is lost forever.
The unlamented heroes lie at the pit of skin-deep, soft veins running the complicated bodies of everyday mortals. Either this or the other way around, depending on the goggles we choose to wear to look through the very hourglass that measures our greatness. Every now and then, I am caught off guard by the simplicity of a book that reads as if a life of its own were running its pages. It leaves me breathless, all raw, somehow bowing to the whimsical muses.

Mr Ibrahim and the flowers of the Qur'an by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is a book about the unexpected friendship between a 16-year-old Jewish boy, named Moses aka Momo and a 70-year-old Muslim shopkeeper. Even in the Paris of the 1960s, such a story of non-discrimination would be very unlikely to exist. Yet, real life is sometimes much too boring; instead, imagine having Brigitte Bardot coming to your little shop to buy a bottle of water. Rather than asking her for an autograph or taking a selfie with her at your back - thank God selfie sticks are a recent fad- Monsieur Ibrahim overcharges her for the water to make up for the little things Momo, the boy, has stolen from his shop. This is how the friendship is sealed and boy and old man start spending time together until the boy's father suddenly disappears and later on, is found dead. Momo's mother apparently preferred the other son, Popol, a very likeable character that not only won over the mother, but the father as well. Turns out excellent sons are merely a product of a sick imagination.

The Turkish Muslim and the French Jew embark on a journey to Anatolia to help Monsieur Ibrahim reunite with a long-lost friend. It is a time to celebrate his adoption by Monsieur Ibrahim and to be taught essential life lessons. Ce que tu gardes, c'est perdu a jamais! Even love, regardless of its shape and response, must be shared and never buried inside. For once, there is this male version of Cinderella and a godmother that is circumcised and appreciates the hookers. Drunk on parenthood, Monsieur Ibrahim helps Momo live a dream he is not supposed to, out of misery and loneliness into a world that reveals to be tolerant and beautiful. From the red-convertible car to the Dervish ceremony, down the Bosporus ferry and up the little village, where trees are hard to hit against, Momo comes to experience lively hours in the company of his new father and learns much more than any collection of books or the Koran itself could reveal.

It is a book meant to give a softer, kinder image of religious battles and discrimination, almost an idealized version of a harsher truth. It could be a light in a sea of despair or a much too naive manner of rhapsodizing a different, darker reality. I believe you can read it any way you like it- above all, it renders the idea that people can change perceptions and heal other people.  Closeness, love, friendship are the medium through which human beings reach a higher level of acceptance and empathy. Contrary to what is expected, this book lacks melodrama and the humor of the story and the way the characters are sketched, make it a crafted tale.

Sunday, July 5

The wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz or the book of love

“Like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker.”
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

The horror!The horror! are the final words of Kurtz, Joseph Conrad's character, as he breathes his last breath and then, without much apparent connection, except for the exclamation, there are Yunior's words as he quotes Oscar: The beauty! The beauty! One man's terror is another man's praise of the beauty of life, despite the curse hanging over his head and that of an entire family and nation.

The wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is a book about love. Every now and then, as a reader and a human being, you need to be retaught the lesson of undying love. The perseverance that lies at the pit bottom of our smallness is the driving force that pushes us to fight for the survival of love at all costs.

Oscar de León is a nerd. He lives in a New Jersey suburb with his mother and fabulous sister. He is passionate about science fiction books, dying to know love, ready to conquer a world that eludes him. The narrator Yunior is  the opposite -a ladies' man who makes the most of his college years, loves Oscar's sister and struggles to be a writer. The rest of the book is a melange of history, side stories, the mighty fuku - the curse that defines all actions and shapes the fates of all- love tribulations, funky language, humor disguised as seriousness, and then some. It reads very conversational and vivid, a kind of narrative that flows into the reader and buzzes like a neon bulb. Aliveness and authenticity are the key words to the story.

I put a smile on my face while reading and then, made me immerse into the multiple layers of both characters and story lines, only to swim across the interplay in the clash of worlds and personae. Oscar is tricky to define and I got all these mixed emotions about him: pity, tenderness, admiration, hope, frustration. I could hardly make up my mind and keeping me alert is what the book was good at. Beside the story itself, you get a bit of everything: a history lesson on the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican Republic, Spanglish, movies, books, love interrupted, love as a fine cutting blade, love unrequited, love at last - The Beauty! The Beauty!.

It is rich beyond words and the Curse and the Doom of the New World haunts not only characters in this Dominican-American story, but the reader alike. The book is solid funny and there are echoes of other humorous characters in literature like Ignatius Reilly or Samwise Gamgee. It is remarkable how the eternal quest for love and happiness is given a comical, modern attire, family folklore and a shred of magical realism. It is a literary cocktail for the warm-hearted readers that will, at least, get a tingle of sadness at the end of the book. Beauty and ideals are still worth fighting for and heroes are those rising from the mundane and comfortable to escalate their own limitations in their pursuit of happiness. Which according to a lovely French woman in the Hector and the pursuit of happiness movie, it is worth trying to hold!

Monday, June 8

Istanbul de Orhan Pamuk by NICO

Istanbul sau melancolia la puterea absoluta sau orasul suflet.

Ai fost vreodata in Istanbul? Eu, da si de aceea am sa iti povestesc ceea ce m-a facut sa ma indragostesc de orasul lui Pamuk, o sa povestesc despre uimirea descoperirilor calatorului amator si redescoperirilor prin ochii scriitorului.

Romanul scris de Pamuk este o biografie a Istanbului vazut prin ochii copilului, adolescentului si mai apoi adultului Orhan Pamuk, este o declaratie de dragoste adresata acestui oras. Cand spun oras, cuvantul este prea mic si prea lapidar pentru a descrie Istanbulul, este sarac in intelesuri...asa ca ii voi spune 'metropola'- avand intelesul sau de dictionar numai bun pentru a-l zugravi. metropola- oras sau stat antic, considerat in raport cu coloniile sale, nume dat marilor orase ale lumii. Oras antic, este o descriere manusa acestei entitati, am putea spune.

Am fost in Istanbul de doua ori. O data, turist necunoscator si grijuliu, dar curios si pe fuga. A doua oara, turist avid de a se pierde pe stradutele intortochiate si parca desprinse dintr-un teatru ale Istanbulului, cu oameni ocupati, colorati, veseli, galagiosi si muncitori...dar saraci. In istanbul, luand la pas orasul si pierzandu-te pe stradutele intortochiate si multe, foarte multe, te loveste nu saracia, ci modestia oamenilor. Ii vezi peste tot, furnicar de oameni, multi, peste tot. Sunt oameni pe care comparandu-i cu europenii cunoscuti tuturor par modesti, sa nu zic saraci. Dar in toata aceasta forfota, observi mandria lor, le vezi dorinta de a isi face treaba veseli si cu capul ridicat, in acelasi timp fiind serviabili (daca reusesc sa te pacalesca este strict vina ta, ei isi fac treaba si fac ceea ce au in sange de mici, comertul...de orice fel). Apreciaza un client interesat si doritor, un cunoscator, respecta corectitudinea clientului (fapt aproape absurd, de vreme ce ei se tocmesc cu tine si te forteaza sa le faci pe plac), dar asa este. Vizitand Istanbulul am descoperit multa istorie, am apreciat pastrarea ei si prezentarea ei noua, celor interesati de partea turistica... apoi am citit cartea.

A fost ca un val ce mi-a fost ridicat de pe ochi, am descoperit ca tot ceea ce am vazut era adevarat si mi-a fost explicat atat de subtil, plin de patima si de frumos, din mai multe puncte de vedere, din unghiuri diferite, cu exemple, cu istorie si suflet de istambulez atipic, istanbulez cu suflet melancolic si nelinistit... Un paria printre ai sai, un razvratit al orasului, dar in acelasi timp o voce a sa, as putea spune... Daca pana acum Istanbulul avea suflet si seva si corp...prin Pamuk are voce, exprimare si fond. Prin Pamuk are recunoastere si acceptare, are recapatarea mandriei a ceea ce a fost candva.
Citind aceasta carte, este ca si cum esti invitat sa iubesti, esti invitat sa simti si sa intelegi ceea ce istanbulezii au trait si traiesc in fiecare zi. Esti invitat sa fii o parte a sa. Istanbulul este un organism, ca o mare caracatita, ce a crescut si si-a pus amprenta asupra locuitorilor sai, i-a facut parte a sa, sunt un tot unitar, sunt un intreg, nu pot trai unii fara ceilalti, nu pot exista unii fara ceilalti; locuitorii sunt seva orasului. Este o carte testament, declaratie de dragoste, bibliografie, dar si anatomie si antropologie. Este romanul ce explica evolutia sau mai bine zis transformarea orasului o data cu transformarea omului Orhan Pamuk. Ajungi sa crezi ca au aceleasi destine, ca sunt entitati paralele ce isi reflecata transformarile unul prin celalalt. 

Ce am aflat citind acest roman? Am aflat ca istoricul Constantinopole a ocupat teritoriul grecesc. (fapte istorice inca sensibile in discutii) si a incercat sa il turcizeze, reusind pentru o perioada, dar apoi ca un blestem ... si-a pierdut identitatea. A incercat sa devina ceea ce nu este si nu va fi niciodata. Un oras european, a incercat sa isi ascunda si sa isi transforme originalitatea, ciudateniile si traditiile, imitand europenii si Occidentul. Nu ai cum sa transformi un oras istoric, o splendoare a istoriei, o monstru sacru, fara sa il hidosesti, stirbesti, fara sa il micsorezi... nu poti pune un cerc intr-un patrat si si sa te astepti sa se potriveasca perfect... Raman goluri, raman spatii fara continut... nu poti tranforma ceva maret in ceva mic si obisnuit si sa te astepti sa isi pastreze stralucirea, nu poti... raman amintiri, obiceiuri, sechele, vise, ruine... multe ruine... 

Si cum transformi ceva vechi, inceva nou, fara a darama tot si fara a o lua de la zero?

Imitand si aplicand ceea ce altii au aplicat si deja folosit. Asa s-a intamplat cu Constantinopole, transformat intr-un oras european. Numai ca golurile, amintirile, obisnuintele, visele si maretia, au fost transformate in melancolie. Orasul respira, traieste si perpetueaza melancolia. Intreaga carte este o declaratie de dragoste trista, o explicatie a aerului melancolic al Istanbului. Este o pictura de explicatie, o analiza a ciudateniei acestui oras, candva maret si care acum isi prezinta frumusetea melancolica, zambetul trist, dar inca frumos. Exact ca orasul, Pamuk se explica si pe sine, se arata pe sine si pentru sine, dar si pentru noi. Cred ca avea nevoie de aceasta carte pentru a se linisti si impaca si indeparta de durerile trecutului. Se dezvaluie noua, se dezbraca de tot ceea ce il face artist, scriitor si ne duce in sfera omului, in interiorul sau, in ceea ce fiecare ascunde lumii, in zona pe care fiecare dintre noi o protejeaza si o ascunde de cei din jur, de lume. Ne duce in zona pe care fiecare si-o protejeaza...de teama. De teama de a nu mai fi ranit, de a nu mai fi lovit, de teama de a nu mai lupta pentru sine, dar si de teama de a nu mai fi fugar, ratacit, debusolat, slab. Este zona pe care toti o au. Este nucleul pe care se construieste taria si caracterul fiecaruia. Suntem tari pentru ca vrem sa protejam ceva, pentru ca vrem sa ne protejam...asa si el. Si-a transformat slabiciunile in putere, s-a transformat prin durere si ratacire. A devenit mai puternic si mai mare prin durere si pentru a se proteja de durere...A transformat durerea in arta. Si a facut-o sublim, a tinut capul sus si si-a recunoscut slabiciunile, le-a transformat in arme... iar armele sale au fost si sunt CUVINTELE. 

Cartea este mai mult decat am reusit eu sa cuprind, este mult mai mult. Dar ma voi opri aici, pentru ca o carte trebuie traita si descoperita, nu pusa pe tava...