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Category Archive for 'Eth – F'

However many surprises the artwork of Felix Vallotton (1865 – 1925) may provide for the viewer, this book, a record of two art shows in 2019 and 2020, will provide even more. Five critics, including novelist Patrick McGuinness, give important general information about why Vallotton, a Swiss, may not have received the attention of artists like the impressionists and post-impressionists who were purveyors of new styles. Vallotton,. too, provides new views of the world, but his are unique, not part of a movement. In addition to his insightful, often personal, and sometimes even amusing, paintings, Vallotton revived the whole concept of the wood block print, creating dozens of commentaries on daily life from his perspective as an anarchist, used in newspapers, often in place of cartoons. One picture of one painting by Vallotton, sent to me by a friend this past year, was all it took to unleash weeks of pleasure for me through the study of Vallotton’s work. This book, filled with many pages of color photographs and block prints, will lead, I hope, to similar discoveries among others who read and view it and celebrate the new worlds it opens.

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Giving birth alone in Guadeloupe after her lover, Lansana Diarra, returned to his home in Mali, Simone Némélé waited in vain for the ticket he had promised to send her so that she and their newborn twins, Ivan and Ivana, could join him in Mali. Simone worked in the sugarcane fields, but she tried hard to ensure that her children would have an education and be able to pursue their own interests during their lives. Though they were very different in personality, Ivan and Ivana dearly loved each other, but as they grew up, responding to the political and philosophical movements to which they were exposed, they began to move in different directions. As author Maryse Conde tells their stories, she creates two young people and their friends who feel real to the reader – characters who have many unique personal characteristics – but she clearly wants to tell a bigger story than a simple family saga set in exotic parts of the world. Here Ivan and Ivana ultimately become examples of a broader population of twenty-first century youth who must deal with displacement, racial and gender issues, and political and social issues. Some disaffected youth, as we see here, are often open to radicalization to solve social problems, while some others remain open to change and are willing to help bring it about through more peaceful means.

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When author Marc Petitjean was contacted in Paris by a Mexican writer named Oscar, who wanted to meet him to talk about Marc Petitjean’s father Michel, the author’s interest was piqued. His father, a “left-wing militant” journalist, and associate of avant-garde artists and writers in Paris, had been dead for twenty years. When they met, Oscar pulled out a short manuscript he had written with information acquired from the archives of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, indicating that she had had an affair with Michel Petitjean during the three months she had been in Paris from early January to late March, 1939. An affair between the author’s father and Kahlo was new information to son Marc Petitjohn, who almost dismissed it as “overblown.” Still, Frida Kahlo had given his father one of her best paintings when she returned to Mexico after that three-month visit in 1939. Ultimately, “Oscar’s curiosity kindled my own, and I in turn embarked on researching the lovers’ lives.” The developing love story of Frida Kahlo and Michel Petitjean is inextricably connected with the fraught pre-war political atmosphere of Paris in 1939, the boiling artistic and philosophical ferment of the period, and the close, interconnected friendships among Joan Miro, Kadinsky, Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and “other big cacas of Surrealism.” When she finally departs from France after three months, Michel Petitjean has thought ahead to have letters and notes delivered to her along the way.

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Sonia Purnell’s biography of Virginia Hall honors an American woman whose war-time exploits from 1940 – 1945 were so well planned, so well executed, and so successful in saving lives that she was honored by three countries for her efforts. When she received the US Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. William Joseph “Wild Bill” Donovan, she refused to have a formal ceremony at which President Truman would have presented the award to her publicly, for fear of endangering people who worked for her, and jeopardizing any future work she might be assigned for new, secret projects. Hall’s work in France for the British SOE (Special Operations Executive) and the American OSS (Office of Strategic Services), had put her in touch with organizations and spies from two countries as they fought the Nazis and the French Vichy government, and she had managed to remain almost anonymous because she “operated in the shadows, and that was where she was happiest.” This is her amazing story.

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While I cannot speak to the experiences of others, I found SCHRÖDINGER’S DOG to be one of the best and most insightful debut novels I have read in years. Reading it in two sittings, I was completely engaged both emotionally and intellectually, and I still cannot stop thinking about it, coming to new realizations each time I reflect on its themes of perception, reality, time, and death and their interrelationships. Except for the novel’s title, in which a dog is substituted for “Schrödinger’s cat,” a “thought experiment devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935, the physics principles that make this story so hypnotic and its conclusion so satisfyingly elusive are hidden within, just as Schrödinger’s cat or dog, hidden within its box, is both alive and dead. Although this may seem like an odd and highly esoteric principle around which to mold such a sensitive and emotion-filled novel about a man and his dying son, debut novelist Martin Dumont uses it as the unobtrusive crux of his story and part of its dramatic conclusion. In doing so, he achieves a kind of originality I myself have never before encountered in literary fiction.

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