Annie Ernaux wins Nobel Prize for Literature.

Ernaux in the 1960s. Photo by L’Inventoire.

The 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Annie Ernaux, the author of Happening, and The Years, among more than twenty other books. Born in 1940, in Normandy, she published her first book, Cleaned Out, in 1974. Several of her works have been made into movies.

The Swedish Academy said this about her writing, in announcing the prize:

“Her work is uncompromising and written in plain language, scraped clean. And when she with great courage and clinical acuity reveals the agony of the experience of class, describing shame, humiliation, jealousy or inability to see who you are, she has achieved something admirable and enduring.”

Daniel Mendelsohn’s Three Rings

Rings. Circles. Endless ripples in time — as metaphor. structure, or ways of life. For those seeking a kind of closure, if not final justice, digression, circumnavigation, and repetition aid and abet our journey. We end up where we started, perhaps. Perhaps not. But these divine ruses can help us remember, and remember to write it all down, and compose it and ourselves in the swirl of life. The swirl that is history — theirs and our own.

Daniel Mendelsohn has written a very short, wonderful essay-memoir about those rings, and practices what he preaches by structuring his book about rings using rings.…

God: an Anatomy, and Other Recent Readings

Francesca Stavrakopoulou, in her most recent book, God: an Anatomy, presents a vivid portrait of Yahweh, primarily as seen by his ancient devotees. She takes us on a journey throughout the Levant and Mesopotamia, covering thousands of years, multiple empires, and dozens of gods and goddesses. It’s rigorously researched throughout, and she (literally) gives us chapter and verse for each point along the way, using Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, and Jewish texts and art to support her portrait.

The Yahweh of her book evolves over time, his body changes, his focus and activities shift. Starting out as a Canaanite storm god and fearsome warrior, a deity among many other deities, he’s usually depicted as a young god, but morphs over the centuries into a supreme being in his own right — from the son of El to the father god himself.…

The Sibyl, Bound, by S.R. Brown

THE SIBYL

(Lagerkvist, P. The Sibyl. Translated by Walford, N. Vol. V-240. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1958)

I – P 1

(pinioned within
the (ancient
(sibyl (god’s
(her son’s unchanging (smile))
touched)) rocks)
heights)
Sun:

II – P 3-5

gazes ((below,
(maelstrom (of rocks.
(serene (white (the bridal)):
temple)) above)
the city)
son).

III – P 7-10

Threading the path
(mirrored, mazed,(
(the sibylline focus)
raveling unfocused intent,)
reflecting an intricate silence)
uncreating prophecy:

IV – P 10-14

thorn and blood:
(stumbling toward
(the cross; (offered
) pausing,
unblessed,)
a gray immortality,)
a clamorous ascension.

V – P 14-23

And (within: (the despair,
(directionless, (cursed) echoing)
empty;) without (the stilled
landscape (:cindered, (silent)
chill)))

VI – P 24-27

wandering the ashen earth (
(an uncaring (eternally
resounding): love?…

New poetry, paintings, Coda, and Camus

Spinozablue welcomes new poetry by John Grey, Nanette Avery, and D.R. James.

Rereading some good books about Camus and his times, which strike me as highly relevant again. Robert Zaretsky’s Elements of a Life, and Alice Kaplan’s Looking for the Stranger, with more on my To Be Read shelf, including The Plague. His refusal to follow the prevailing winds, his courage under direct and indirect fire, his impassioned moral compass — we could use all of that right now.

Perhaps it was growing up poor, in Algiers, with a mother who was near-deaf and rarely spoke.…

New Year Paintings and Poetry

So, another year, another variant, and we trudge on across the tundra. Courage, creativity, and, yes, peace, love, and understanding are needed now more than . . . Well, they’re needed. In that spirit of hopeful trudging, Spinozablue offers new literature, literary criticism, and home-brewed paintings.

Robert Mueller brings us his unique take on Petrarch, and David Groulx gets obliquely iambic. It looks like we’re off to a solid start.

I had a stretch there with at least two kinds of artistic blockage: writing and imaging. A dearth of imagination, perhaps, inhibiting both. But recent days have seen the breaking up of the dam — at least this is how I choose to see it.…

Lauren Groff’s Wondrous Matrix

Mother, womb, mater, matrix. An environment for growing, developing, thriving. A special place, an original story, a lasting vision in which evolution is still possible, even likely. In this case, an abbey in medieval England, or an abbess in that ancient home, or the mind that creates the character with surreal visions of new worlds.

Lauren Groff’s Matrix is all these things and more.

Her heroine, Marie de France, was real, but we know little about her beyond her poetry and translations of classical fables. This gives the author ample room to play with sacred and profane elements to her heart’s content, buttressed by extensive knowledge of medieval England and France.…

Lean Fall Stand, by Jon McGregor

Aphasia. The Antarctic. The mystery of speech and the mind and the white noise between us, and how we recover from trauma, and how we never do. The hit and miss essence of working together to recover, or not. The small family dramas, the miscommunications between those with and without aphasia. The white noise and shattered ice thousands of miles away that never leaves us.

Sudden storms. Unbridgeable distances. The worst possible moment for things to go terribly wrong, and they do. Too far away from centers of rescue. Too far away, given their almost ancient conditions, even with modern technologies in place.…

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