Back in action

For various reasons, the blog fell by the wayside this year. Whatever, things are looking up now and here are a couple of useful resources you might want to catch up on in the near future:

Arte pulled a very strong programme last night, with first a preview of Raoul Peck’s film about James Baldwin and then a 4-parts documentary on Barack Obama’s presidency. I confess that I went to bed around 11 p.m. (into part 1) but I really recommend it : it’s like watching an episode of The West Wing but it’s real. And you get to hear President Obama again….

James Baldwin

Barack Obama


I also recommend François Busnel & Eric Fottorino’s latest venture, America, a magazine devoted to the US in the age of Trump. It’s really good, albeit mostly in French….

Sam Lee

Rio Loco had embraced a Celtic theme this year. Whilst not a desperate fan of bagpipes and the like, I stumbled across a hidden gem who will be performing on Thursday June 16. His name is Sam Lee, he’s British, with a very unusual background : Jewish middle-class North London boy turned survival expert after an arts degree from the Chelsea School of Design and now one-man repository of British and travelers’ folk-songs, he is making a name for himself and putting traditional folk songs back on the map.

It helps that he’s rather dishy and delightful in a self-deprecating way (see his interventions in the video of the tiny desk concert posted on his website, where you can sample his wonderful English accent as an added bonus).

So, should you be unable to join Sam at a secret location to listen to nightingales sing, here’s a taste of his output:

I think it’s well worth listening to, especially considering Hardy’s poetry has been set for next year.


April and May have been busy months away from the site : the real world beckoned in so many ways that the urge to post waned somewhat…

Highlights of this hiatus were the reading by Claire Keegan from her short stories at Ombres Blanches in early April. Her reading was actually much more sympathetic than her rather stern demeanor at first suggested. She was very compelling on her reasons for writing, and remarkably gracious in the way she put up with a seriously lack-luster host!

Multi award winning Irish Claire Keegan author of "Foster". Claire Keegan at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. UK 25/08/2010 © COPYRIGHT PHOTO BY MURDO MACLEOD All Rights Reserved Tel + 44 131 669 9659 Mobile +44 7831 504 531 Email:
Claire Keegan at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. UK

Another gem was the new Turner exhibition at the Hôtel de Caumont in Aix-en-Provence : well worth seeing should you go there.

As a bonus, there’s a wonderful foreign language bookshop / tearoom literally across the street where I stocked up, needless to ask!

Irish Literature Ahead

Next week, the Marathon d’avril will celebrate Irish literature. I know you will be in the home stretch of the revision period, but 2 events drew my attention, and I think it might be worth your while attending at least one of them :
Une bibliothèque irlandaise, mercredi 6 avril 2016, à 16h30
Médiathèque José Cabanis – 1 allée Chaban-Delmas à Toulouse
(métro A : Marengo SNCF) Entrée libre et gratuite – dans la limite des places disponibles

Writer Joseph O’Connor will discuss some of the greats of contemporary Irish literature, with readings by Didier Sandre. FYI, O’Connor is the brother of singer Sinead O’Connor and his latest novel literally rocks since it is about a rock star!
Claire Keegan, who is, to my mind, the most striking voice to have come out of Ireland in recent years, will be the guest of a presentation & reading
jeudi 7 avril 2016, à 18h
Librairie Ombres Blanches – 3 rue Mirepoix à Toulouse
(Métro A : Capitole) Entrée libre et gratuite – dans la limite des places disponibles

Her Walk the Blue Fields is one of the most emotionally challenging and poetic reads, you could do worse than go and meet this extraordinarily gifted writer.

A whale of a project

Facebook does have its uses, as it is through this means that I was alerted about the completion of a whale of a project : the audio recording of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick by a roster of big names in the Anglo-American cultural sphere, starting with Tilda Swinton for chapter one.
The beauty of this project is that it’s free. You can listen to it online, download it as a podcast…
The easiest option is probably the latter, but do check out the website for the project because each chapter is illustrated with an original work of art, and some of them are truly inspiring.

Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party and Other Stories


Portrait by Anne Estelle Rice, painted in Cornwall in 1918: offered to the National Portrait Gallery in 1932, the trustees rejected it and it was bought by the National Art Gallery of New Zealand in 1940. In 1999 a photograph of KM was hung in the NPG.

Katherine Mansfield said to an old friend, sadly, at the end of her life, that all she had produced were « little stories like birds bred in cages ».
She was a colonial and her banker father was a self-made man, so that she fitted all too well into a certain ready-made stereotype « provincial », « trade ». She felt very close to Virginia Woolf,who had influenced her writing. She was inspired by the world she had left behind, the New Zealand of her childhood and adolescence : nearly half of the stories have a New Zealand setting, including « The Garden Party ». Her brother, Leslie, «Chummie» was killed in a grenade accident during the war. He was one of the reasons why she turned more and more to New Zealand memories, and he is also a character in some of those stories : a new-born baby in « At the Bay ». Mansfield seems to have felt that her own vocation as a writer was vindicated in Leslie’s death, she could immortalize their shared childhood world somehow, carry on the family « line » in the way only an artist can.

Claire Tomalin describes Mansfield’s writing very well : « The particular stamp of her fiction is the isolation in which each character dwells… there is no story in these stories, and no exploration of motive. The most brilliant of them are post-impressionist…grotesquely people and alight with colour and movement ». Indeed, it is obvious at the very beginning of « Bank Holiday » : « A stout man with a pink face wears dingy white flannel trousers, a blue coat with a pink handkerchief showing, and a straw hat much too small for him, perched at the back of his head. He plays the guitar. A little chap in white canvas shoes, his face hidden under a felt hat like a broken wing, breathes into a flute; and a tall thin fellow, with bursting over-ripe button boots, draws ribbons–long, twisted, streaming ribbons–of tune out of a fiddle. They stand, unsmiling, but not serious, in the broad sunlight opposite the fruit-shop; the pink spider of a hand beats the guitar, the little squat hand, with a brass-and-turquoise ring, forces the reluctant flute, and the fiddler’s arm tries to saw the fiddle in two. ». What is not said is frequently as vital as what is said : she takes possession of their silences. Death is more or less openly a theme in the Garden Party stories (in The Stranger, The Garden Party, The Daughters of the Late Colonel etc.). She created a kind of continuity between her short stories, with some allusions, created the unreal process of reading and re-reading. I really love « the Garden Party » which is, I think, her masterpiece : story, style, autobiographical echoes… All is gathered to make a master-piece. I also recommend « Mr and Mrs Dove » , where she examines the idea of marriage and gender relations through the male and female perspectives, an uncommon point of view for the time period.

« All that I write -all that I am – is on the borders of the sea. It is a kind of playing » Katherine Mansfield.