Tag Archives: literature

Alice, L. Carroll and their land…

I’ve promised her a little post some time ago… Then I excused myself due to the flood of other ‘important’ things to do… Yet, she has been waiting patiently, the way kids do when their intelligence and understanding of human issues surpasses our own…

Alice and her Wonderland – not that long time ago I would adopt that name and – the entire worldview and life-view having a temptation to tease someone (including myself), who tended to cultivate rather his/her own world than to contribute  to the physical, objective reality in a ‘typically’ intense, engaged way.

Yet – Alice is an entity on her own — a timeless authority on the essence of childhood, dreams and imagination… and not a sort of a Barbie- toy our grandmothers would amuse themselves with. It’s enough to reach for Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece again and read it with a fresh mind, with enthusiasm and with a playful manner, as it was meant to be read. It is a compelling lecture and a fascinating adventure – all ages/stages in life allowed! What I find especially impressive and adorable is the writer’s ability to create the entire, nonsense-based world which is perfectly functioning – no character, event, even a sentence/expression is out of place. That powerful, seamless and convincing, if not enchanting integrity of a created/invented ‘reality’ is always a trademark of a great artwork, either literary or in visual/audio arts. It’s there to be believed in because it makes sense – it ‘sounds’, ‘looks’, have a ‘feeling’ of being sensible/born to exist – even if this ‘sense’ is as no-sense you know living day to day, here and now.

I like also the potential of very different, possible interpretations – the whole hermeneutic schools of reading the Alice compete and contradict each other with passion and inventiveness, which one might have thought to be impossible, when most of the contemporary more/less successful fiction was considered. Similarly to the Nutcracker‘s story, there are basically two versions circulating in the audience’s memory – the sugar-coated for 7 years old, which entertainment(money)makers have managed to exploit to a mind-numbing degree, and the original one – complex, slightly dark and sinister with multiple and always ambiguous layers of meaning. And ambiguity is a key-word here, especially when one is aware of the modern witch-haunt which sees Carroll – predominantly and without a trial – as a monster writing stories for little girls out of the ‘friendship’ and the general ‘affection’. It’s been always unreasonable and cowardly for me – to send a great artist/writer/thinker on a stake, post mortem and with a little regret – due to his/her ‘crimes’ against humanity committed few decades or hundreds years ago, accordingly to our contemporary – advanced, illuminated and never mistaken grasp of things…

When I look at Carroll’s beautiful photographs of children (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, as he was born, was an accomplished photographer as well as being a scientist – mathematician and logician) I see the great effort and tenderness to capture the solemnity and loneliness of the little individuals, facing the challenge of growing up in a reality programmed by adults and for adults. Yes, these children are ‘individuals’ – independent, intelligent and troubled,  little masters of their own world – just like Alice is… Seen as that, they stay in a radical opposition to the modern, popular portrayal of the youngest generation –

‘cute’-doll-like, carefree and subjected to a constant supervision and guidance.

Here are my favourite quotes from Alice in Wonderland:

I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?

An author doesn’t necessarily understand the meaning of his own story better than anyone else.

Photos above in an order of appearance:

Lewis Carroll, Alice Liddell,1858 (prototype of Alice)

Lewis Carroll, Fair Rosamond, 1863

Lewis Carroll, Mary White, 1864

“That Youth of Ours”…

pLegendary Polish cabaret “Piwnica Pod Baranami” (“The Cellar under Rams”) has his stage underground indeed – just under ‘the rams’ – under the very dignified part of Krakow’s main square. It used to be a truly magic place, in a cellar, lit by candles with an ‘extravagant’, improvised scene (that meant all sort of ‘found’ weird artifacts being put together without any rule, yet – it was brilliant). It happened that the most talented Polish poets, composers, signers had their “Piwnica” period – it was like a forge of genius – very often without any plan, scenario a group of artists would improvise in front of any public, often asking for a glass of vine in return… Beautiful women, charming gentlemen, gallons of wine, signing about freedom, passion, meaning of live… And all that ‘dissipation’ right in the middle of Communists’ concrete world – that was an immaculate miracle… “Piwnica”‘s creator and the ‘main magician’ – Piotr Skrzynecki (above) belonged (he died in 1997) to the one of the most unusual people one can come across. Quiet yet charismatic persona without a home and family, a poet and artist himself, a perfect dreamer and ‘father’ to all those performing on his request. His motto: If you can make people laugh that they will forget being sad and that the world is an alien place – you will be redeemed just because of that.

Here artists of “Piwnica” with Halina Wyrodek as a soloist sign one of the cabaret’s unofficial hymns. Hymn of being always young… Lyrics adapted from Tadeusz Sliwiak poem of the same title. Music by Z. Konieczny. Great video by a youtube user: jurek46pink – Thank you.

This song is redeeming truly… It makes me think of people like Skrzynecki that angels exist, sadly – they  live too short…

That Youth of Ours

She can be found among pebbles,
In a brook rapid light,
She whisks along trees
And branches as squirrels,

She is a spark in a stone,
She is milk in a nut,
She is curious about the world
Like a copper coin in a money bag…

That youth of ours,
Of bones and blood,
That youth of ours,
Mocking at time,
That is always on a move…
She that happens for the first,
And then the second time…

That youth of ours,
That joyful time,
That pair of wings,
Folded inside us…

She is a flower in hair,
The first vinegar in apples,
And the bitter beer – head,
In a bustling inn of the world,

She is an unfulfilled rebellion,
That dies on a heart-attack,
She gives you only that,
What she takes away from others…

That youth of ours,
Of bones and blood…

Blame me, if you have never been melancholic…

Yes, do blame me… If only words and expressions like ‘blue is my favourite colour’, ‘hey, all of you, just leave me alone (and I mean it)’, ‘every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence (Beckett)’ etc. – do not ring any bell, and never did – it’s OK… Just leave now and enjoy yourself somewhere else (there are thousands of places!) where sanguine, talkative, easy-going guys entertain visitors with fascinating stories about Obama, how to save this planet or how a baby can be born with two faces… Here is a sophomoric, flamboyant, esoteric and just sooo boring space of a pathetic, self-absorbed little bastard with artistic ambitions. Whatever I do, I do it for myself and you are a senseless, petty prick if you think otherwise. You are coming here thinking that you’ve just made me jumping up to the stars by your silent, ignorant, shallow presence… That I should treat you like a half-god grabbing your attention with attractively-written, stimulating posts and flirting with you by colourful images and stupidly smiling little yellow fellows… Just forget, this is an abuse post and it’s you who should be grateful that I devote my priceless time, energy and a skill to you – you anonymous, spongy, wooden-headed brat.

Here is Ewa Demarczyk (‘eva demartchik’, called ‘Polish Piaf’) signing a poignant to insanity poem by Julian Tuwim (‘tuvim) to the music by Z. Konieczny, translation mine (sorry master Tuwim):

Julian Tuwim ‘At the round table’

Would you consider, my darling
To go to Tomaszow for a day?
Maybe that very same September silence,
Still can be found there, in the golden dusk…
In that white house, in that room,
Which strangers filled up with their furniture,
We have to finish our conversation,
That from the past, sadly uncompleted…

It’s there where at the round table, still
We are sitting very still, like bewitched!
Who will rescue us from that spell?
Who will shake us awake out of cruel oblivion?

The salty little drop is still flowing
To my lips from my fair eyes,
And you answering me nothing
And you are eating white grapes…

And yet, my eyes are signing to you:
‘Du holde Kunst…’, and my heart is cracking!
And I have to go, so you are saying goodbye,
But your hand doesn’t tremble in mine…

And I went, I left
That conversation broke like a dream,
And I blessed and cursed you:
‘Du holde Kunst! So – without a word?’

That white house, that dead room
Even today is surprised, doesn’t believe…
The strangers had put their furniture there,
And they were leaving it in thoughtful sadness…

But – everything has been left there!
Even that very same September silence…
So, would you consider, my dearest,
To go to Tomaszow for a day again?


Uploaded to Youtube by abudab – thank you.

Marek Grechuta – Kantata

This is one of these almost-impossible-to-translate poems, when all the charm and even meaning of the text is being jeopardised by an attempt to find the proper expressions in a different language. And a translator (doomed to clumsiness and frustration) has to choose between being literally ‘loyal’ to the original (which will result in a terrible mess-in-writing) or trying a daunting task of ‘playing’ a poet him/herself – just in order to catch the essence of ‘what I think the author tried to say”… And if I am about to suicidally apply the second option I am doing it out of my deep regret that there is much too much forgotten or unaccessible art – that the artists’ names and their vision of the world, which should stir souls of international crowds remain, at best, national curiosities merely…

Marek Grechuta (‘grehuta’) – a poet, composer and a signer (died in 2006) was originally trained as an architect, but quite quickly and fortunately he allowed himself to become what he seemed to be born for. His artistic style was unique – an elegant, playful yet full of mystery; his sensitive yet intense, charismatic presence on a stage (one may say the he looked like ‘the poetry personified’) was bringing in mind artistic performances. Then his distinctive voice, perfectly controlled and full of expression, and the sublime lyrics (his own or adopted from Polish poets) arranged with always clever music into a one piece, which one can call ‘the synthesis of arts’.

Here, he sings “Kantata” (the ‘almost-impossible-to translate’) – a poem by Jan Zych (barely known, what a shame!), music by excellent Jan Kanty Pawluskiewicz (borowka7 has originally uploaded it to the Youtube service, thank you). I admire this piece for its ability to portray the extremes – dark and light, icy cold and golden warm, drama and perfect harmony…


I’ve dreamed about birds without the sky…
I’ve dreamed about horses without the land…

There is no other season here, only winter,
Here is the place heavy like a stone and confusing like a labyrinth,
Here a wall meets a wall, both are alien to each other,
And a fair flower of the sky dies on a stalk of a yard.

But somewhere there, they are sowing their land with seeds,
And drowsy hay is being carried into wide open barns,
Summer is ruling there with its golden sceptre.

And the last apple on the apple tree
Shines at the distance in that Kingdom.

Here is the place heavy like a stone and confusing like a labyrinth,
Here nobody will care if I fall among all this mechanical jungle,
And they will sweep me up, the alien man, like old snow before spring,
Four sides of the world and four seasons will unite in that one moment.

And everything I’ve experienced will rush to my heart,
And my memories will fight which one of them I belong to,
And let it be a sort of a confession, but without the absolution,
I don’t want to be robbed of anything I went through in my life.

Few words on poetry…

I just couldn’t help myself with that… I had to share my amazement with you… Quite recently I’ve came across Damien’s Rice ‘9 Crimes’ hugely popular song, which – being nicely performed with some sublime moments (especially the original video does have a visual impact) – is nothing more than one more piece about love. What stunned me was the ‘buzz’ around the lyrics – people launching discussions (on e-forums) and struggling to interpret one simple metaphor from that song (metaphor of a gun ‘being loaded’ and ‘shoot’). What had happened to us – ‘modern people’ – that we appear to be so analphabetic when it comes to digesting language only a little bit more ‘sophisticated’ that that informal one?… That we hit the wall and get excited when someone uses popular, mass-poetry – diluted and bleached in order to not to intimidate us too much by some ‘snobby’ messages?… O, yes… We tend to label as ‘snobby’ and ‘pretentious’ anything that reaches even few inches above the average. And the ‘beautiful’ word evokes the most repulsing reactions (I have them myself when someone refers to my art) – no, no, just don’t call it ‘beautiful’, it’s so old-fashioned and ‘cliche’ that sounds like a degradation rather than appreciation… call it ‘cynical’, call it ‘modern’, call it ‘difficult’… Don’t call it ‘poetic’, don’t you dare to call it ‘artisitc’ and never ever call it ‘beautiful’…

Right, something went in the wrong direction then… But, there is the light in a tunnel, there seems to be a great starvation for a meaningful (or, at least, ambiguous) message, we know that we are in a great need of that ‘metaphysical thrill’ which only true art – true beauty can deliver. To start with a simple metaphor from a hit song it’s OK, but we have to go further, much further… There are undiscovered worlds of written messages so astonishing that you are likely to fall of your chair if you perceptive enough…

So there my story goes on… Being provoked by the above-mentioned social observation I ended up immersing myself for hours in Polish poetry being sung by some outstanding artists… And I must say, I feel of my chair… Not only because (please, absolve me if it sounds too narcissistic for you) Polish seems to be perfect to convey sublime yet powerful – with all its whispering yet brisk sounds and not only due my native land’s innate love and a gift of poetic expression (before 2004 when Czeslaw Milosz sadly passed away, Poland was blessed by two living poets-Nobelists and dozens of those excellent, yet unknown broader abroad)… Simply, I’ve experienced anew how profoundly BEAUTIFUL is to be a man, a human being – to able to create and perform, to perceive and appreciate the pure transcendence caught in words and sounds.

I don’t mind being called the most ‘snobby’ creature on this planet – just try it yourself, just help yourself to BE, to be more…

In my next post – one of my favourite pieces I can listen to endlessly…

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