; movieschocolatebooks: March 2015


Tuesday, March 17

The days of abandonment or the uncovering of Elena Ferrante

I am bound to come across the most unexpected readings and unearth writers that elude the hasty eyes. At least, this is what I like to believe. In this particular case, I was also drawn by Elena Ferrante's shyness of going public. Once again, this comes to reinforce the belief that writing chooses you regardless of how prepared you feel to face the crowds and have them readers look into you with more inquisitive eyes.

Her work is published by Europa Editions and deciding not to take the trodden path of printed writers, fetishizing privacy, her identity is being questioned to the point of either having her impersonated by another writer or wearing the attire of a male in disguise. Should she be a man, chapeau bas - her unadorned, unaffected style and sensitive pen that clearly point to the responsiveness of a woman, would grace even more the likes of such character.

Olga is mother of two, 38, wife of Mario. She is a writer, yet she has put her ambitions second to her husband's professional career and needs. To what avail? She is told he has higher needs to fulfil and as it turns out, most of them are shaped by Carla, in her early twenties. Now, this comes as no surprise in terms of a plot; on the contrary literature bears a long line of abandoned women, from Medea, Dante, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Flaubert to Kate Chopin, Fay Weldon, just to mention a few. What makes Olga exceptional in her portrayal of a forsaken, jilted wife, is the intensity of her contradictory feelings. It is the untamed account of her emotions, encounters, motherhood, wicked ways that troubles the reader and pulls him out of his monotony.

For when one is a compulsive reader, he simply thrives on the pleasure of books, on the hidden hope that every now and then, there comes a story meant to shake his entrails. The days of abandonment is such a book, and Elena Ferrante is that kind of a writer. She is fearless in her insanity and yet, the book exults of warmth and expressiveness. Olga hits rock bottom in her pain and goes through all stages of grief and acceptance, losing herself into her own pit of values, mentality and conventional truths. She gives a voice to exhaustion, pain, absence of sense and ultimately, strength.

The book feels hard to digest, it takes a lot of commitment to Olga. It forces you to walk along her, to stay close enough to smell her fear and despair, to watch her give herself to a man that throws her away, to face life on her own and come bruised and wounded out of all trials. At most times, this feels like your own battle; if you, the woman reader, have never tasted the bitterness of being spiraled out of control, at least you'll get a good look at how it smell, feels, crawls down your skin and burns. It is a lesson that comes outside the frames of the written pages and slaps you hard into the face. If Nora's Woman Upstairs wore the American ring of conventionalism around its middle finger, Olga's The days of abandonment gives you the finger. It is about the hunger, rebellion and fury that cannot be contained and burst into being.

"Mario entered loaded with packages. I hadn't seen him for exactly thirty-four days. He seemed younger, better cared for in his appearance, even more rested, and my stomach contracted so painfully that I felt I was about to faint. In his body, in his face, there was no trace of our absence. While I bore - as soon as his startled gaze touched me I was certain of it - all the signs of suffering, he could not hide those of well-being, perhaps of happiness."(p.38)

I had to make this introduction for Mario. All Marios out there thrive on abandonment, they are little pupas flowering into delicate butterflies, under the very eyes of the warming sun that sheltered their blossoming. All Marios start flying their new pair of wings into other delicate butterflies, little, young Carlas, They are the ones who draw the line between those who leave and those who stay. They get to come out young, reinvigorated, appealing, responsibility-free, ready to face the world with the younger version of the forsaken wife, coiled at their feet. I like how this outburst of liveliness is short-lived and how their spur at life written all over again is doomed to become flat-lined in no time. I stand by Olga, out of love for Elena's writing and because it is her doing: she pulled me in, made me witness and experience her writing in a deep manner. Great writers will do that no matter what and leave you richer that before. Her richness lies in the intensity of the character's voyage into herself and out and the ability to engage the reader into the story, the text, the narrative and the semantics of abandonment.

Sunday, March 8

Still Alice by NICO

Lydia Howland: Mom... Can you tell me what the story was about?
Dr. Alice Howland: ...Love!
Lydia Howland: That's right mom... It was about love.
The end
''What if I see you and I don't know you're my daughter, and I don't know that you love me?''

Alice descopera ca are Alzheimer. Alice este o femeie desteapta, profesor universitar, indragostita de comunicare, organizata si tot timpul pregatita pentru nou si provocari, mama a trei copii crescuti frumos. Alice are 50 de ani. Este tanara si cu multe inca de realizat...dar descopera ca are Alzheimer genetic si fara cale de intoarcere. Filmul are patru momente clare: Alice in viata ei de zi cu zi- profesor apreciat si mama exemplara, constientizarea bolii, transformarea cu momentele de luciditate din ce in ce mai rare, ''mutenia''.

Alice: I miss myself.

Cum ar fi sa te trezesti pierdut in propria casa? Sa nu iti mai recunosti copiii, sa uiti ce ai iubit, sa uiti ce iti place, sa uiti amintirile care te-au format si care te-au marcat, sa uiti oamenii pe care ii iubesti si i-ai iubit? Cum ar fi sa fii strain in casa ta... sa nu mai stii unde este baia? Sa nu poti avea grija de tine? Sa realizezi ca vei fi o povara si ca vei depinde tot timpul de cineva, tu... tu care ai avut lumea la picioare? Tu, care ai iubit sa cunosti oameni noi, sa comunici si sa te dezvolti continuu ca om social? Cum ar fi sa iti fi dorit sa fi avut cancer in loc de Alzheimer, ca sa mori mai repede si sa ii spui fiicei tale ca vei uita cine este, ca vei vorbi cu ea precum unui strain? Ce ai face? Cum ai reactiona?

...eu... as innebuni. As innebuni la ideea inevitabilului, la ideea ca nu voi mai fi eu si ca nu voi mai sti ce imi place, cum imi place si ce am iubit. As innebuni la ideea ca nu as mai putea sa ma bucur de oamenii dragi, de hobby-urile mele, de frumos, de bine, de judecata lucrurilor, de ordinea mintala care imi da o stare de relaxare si de beatitudine. As innebuni sa stiu ca ma intorc si ca as regresa la stadiul de copil, de mani legate, de inocenta infantila impusa, de mic si micime intr-o lume a adultilor responsabili si independeti, ce se bucura de alegeri si de iertarea greselilor, de optiuni si oameni...pentru ca ajungi sa te bazezi pe instincte si sa te lasi in voia lor, sa te lasi in voia si la discretia celor din jur. Ajungi o marioneta...pentru ca tu, adult, nu mai ai cuvinte si nici intelesuri, esti gol si in deriva...

Alice se transforma intr-un nou nascut, incapabil sa comunice, incapabil sa se comparte varstei fizice si mintale data de societate si de sine... si realizeaza ce i se intampla, iar asta face tortura mai profunda ...Cu toate acestea, comunica pana nu mai poate comunica, se adapteaza pana nu se mai poate adapta. Este o luptatoare pana la sfarsit, dar ce rost mai are...cand tu nu mai esti tu... cand nu mai are niciun rost?!?

''My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I'll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I'll forget it some tomorrow doesn't mean that I didn't live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn't mean that today doesn't matter.”

Thursday, March 5

The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak or let me build you beautifully

The grand design behind architecture is mirrored in the way we build ourselves and our lives, crafting the foundations only to witness them tumble down at the very core. People are buildings and their architecture erects flawed or tall, yet it is behind the little cracks that light finds a way to glitter. The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak is an epic novel commemorating the architecture of the Ottoman Empire across a century. The life span of the characters reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Buendias that built and crumbled themselves during One hundred years of solitude. Yet, the outcome of this novel is about closing a circle of solitude into a round, full life, though the same weaving of magical and reality oozes in the various layers of the novel -where real life starts fading away, magic breathes in softly, unraveling miracles as people and people as miraculous pieces within a greater plan.

A white elephant named Chota and an Indian boy, Jahan, are bound to live together at the court of Suleiman, the Great Sultan and his offsprings. The boy is half mahout -the elephant's tamer- half apprentice to the great Mimar Sinan, architect of over 300 constructions under 3 sultans. When he is not caught in his daily attire, he dreams of jewels to steal for his savior at sea, Captain Gareth, and of Suleiman's beloved daughter, Princess Mihrimah. During his life, he comes to meet people from all over the world, take part in wars, travel to Europe, meet Michelangelo, slipping easily from the royal gardens into taverns, whore houses, dungeons and gypsy camps. Above all, he is taught about love and the way it shapes his heart: for the master he could never outwit, for the architecture that builds out of himself and for a woman he can never have. 
Architecture is a mirror that reflects the harmony and balance present in the world. Architecture is a conversation with God.
So he learns to build against the arbor of the sky and is also taught the sad lesson of breaking down from bridges to observatories, on the whim of people in charge of lives and destinies. Lessons come painfully and carve deep into his simple nature. Jahan's heart is large and welcoming, yet love is something he is denied and brings into him a yearning that shall stay with him till the end of time. Sliding through the thick layers of plot, characters like Jahan seem little pieces within the large puzzle that is the great city of Istanbul. Elif Shafak draws an appealing image of a place that stands in between worlds, a spicy mixture of religions, races, and colors. The novel gives you a sense of place, a taste against the roof of your mouth, a scent in the nostrils, a soft breeze in the ears, as the great city of Istanbul paints itself against times. It easily brings to mind Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red which focuses on the miniaturist painters in Istanbul over nine days in 1591. Still, the flavour and the richness of descriptions, the historical frame and the love for both places and people that exults from the pages, reminded me of Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence ,

There is a deep sense of humanity behind the fictional possibilities of Elif Shafak's novel that reads in between the lines. It is a journey as every good novel should be that promises to deliver not only a soft understanding of Jahan's learnings of yearning, unattainable love, or self-fulfilment, but to stir a certain shred of emotion inside the reader. Whether it is the salad bowl of cultures and faiths, the plottings ,the gossipy, the visuals of this world's menagerie, the unexpectedness, the love story, the historical shade, it is that and much more. It is a refreshing reading experience that conveys the spirit of an exotic world at the end of our fingertips.