Tag: avant-garde

At The Theatre: Antigone

Posted April 24, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Culture / 0 Comments


Recently I had the good fortune to be able to see the play Antigone by a small indie playhouse in my city. Now the story of Antigone comes from Greek mythology, she is the daughter (and sister) of Oedipus. Antigone is best known from the Sophocles’ play where she is trying to secure a ritual burial of her brother Polynices. This is against the wishes of King Creon who wants Polynices to stay out unburied as an example to all those who seek to fight against the throne of Thebes.

The play I saw was not the one written by Sophocles but rather the French written by Jean Anouilh’s in 1944. I do not know the difference between the Greek mythology, the play by Sophocles or the one I saw but I was very impressed with the play. Now Anouilh wrote this tragedy during the Nazi occupation of France and he purposely made it ambiguous to get past the German censorship. However knowing this you can clearly see the parallels between the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation and the Greek tragedy.

This play is about war and standing against the authority in order to do what is right. Antigone was dressed in white to represent good while everyone was in black. This is a very speech heavy play that explores the themes mostly through dialogue. For the most part the actors preformed this play wonderfully with the exception of one person, who I thought was a little flat. I really enjoyed the use of lighting to create shadows that turned the stage into what could be considered a dystopian world.

While this is a Greek play, it appeared very much like a French production with some Avant-garde elements playing through while keeping a very minimalist approach. I was impressed with the play and would love to see more indie performances in the future. Antigone was translated from the French by Lewis Galantière and I highly recommend this interpretation of the Sophocles play, especially in relation to World War II and the Nazi occupation of France.

Belle de jour by Joseph Kessel

Posted September 4, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Erotica / 0 Comments

Belle de jour by Joseph KesselTitle: Belle de Jour (Goodreads)
Author: Joseph Kessel
Translator: Geoffrey Atheling Wagner
Published: Overlook Books, 1928
Pages: 188
My Copy: eBook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Belle de Jour is the story of Séverine Sérizy, a beautiful young housewife married to a successful doctor. Her life is pretty great, except she feels like she cannot fulfil her sexual affinity for masochistic desires with her husband. She gets a job as a prostitute under the pseudonym Belle de Jour, only working from two to five each week day, so she can return before her husband gets home. Her job gets her involved with a young gangster named Marcel who allows her to explore all her sexual fantasies. However this relationship of thrills becomes far too much and life gets complicated for Séverine.

Most people will know the story of Belle de Jour as it also a classic piece of French cinema from 1967. Directed by Luis Buñuel and staring Catherine Deneuve, the film explores the exact same story in a richer and interesting way. Buñuel is a Spanish director who has worked on movies in Spain, Mexico and France; he is also acclaimed for his avant-garde surrealist style. I was blown away by this movie and I only saw the movie recently. The concepts of the movie kept swimming through my mind that I needed to read the book to find out more.

What I have found is that the story in the novel is very similar but the surrealist nature of the movie was not there. I did however gain a few insights into the life of Séverine Sérizy that I never picked up on. There is some interesting observations to be made between the connection in literature and fetish, especially with sexual sadism and sexual abuse. This has been a common problem found in books like Fifty Shades of Grey and other novels that deal with BDSM. It is a little sad to think this trope steams all the way to 1928 and maybe further. I think French erotica is really interesting and it is weird to think this was written so long ago.

If you have seen the movie Belle de Jour, then reading the book is not really beneficial. Joseph Kessel does not offer anything interesting and I think everything that made the movie great was all original content from the mind of Luis Buñuel. I plan to re-watch the film sometime so I can write a review of it. As for French erotica, I plan to read more and I am not sure what to read.  I think might have to read The Story of O, but I am open to more suggestions.

The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

Posted November 16, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Teleportation Accident by Ned BeaumanTitle: The Teleportation Accident (Goodreads)
Author: Ned Beauman
Published: Sceptre, 2012
Pages: 357
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Egon Loeser is an avant garde theatre set designer on a quest to recreate the perfect stage trick. A trick the great Lavacini’s called the Almost Instantaneous Transport of Persons from Place to Place or to the masses, the Teleportation Device. Aside from his obsessive quest, there are his very dull friends and over course there is the girl who he is equally obsessed with.  This is a hard book to sum up in one paragraph so I think I’ll borrow the blurb on the back of the book;

A historical novel that doesn’t know what year it is; a noir novel that turns all the lights on; a romance novel that arrives drunk to dinner; a science fiction novel that can’t remember what ‘isotope’ means; a stunningly inventive, exceptionally funny, dangerously unsteady and (largely) coherent novel about sex, violence, space, time, and how the best way to deal with history is to ignore it.

Let’s face it; Egon Loeser is a complete obsessed prick who you are probably going to hate; you’ll most likely hate his friends as well. They are all obsessed with sex and feel like they are sex staved and spend most of them time talking about getting laid. Something most guys often do but something I’ve never really seen done to this degree in a book set in the 1930’s. I’m kind of reminded of the Picture of Dorian Gray; Lord Wotton in particular. They are extremely witty, but they are lustful, egotistical pricks.

But hating the characters is actually part of the enjoyment of this book; I wanted to rage so many times but that just added to the experience. You can’t help but feel invested in the story when you want to slap some sense into the main protagonist. I don’t know what was so special about Adele Hitler, sure she was beautiful but Loeser was really obsessed with sleeping with her.

This is not just a novel about lust and time travel; this is more a novel about the disconnection between imagination and reality. Part of the beauty with in the book is the way Ned Beauman takes you in one direction and then unexpectedly you find yourself somewhere else; reading historical fiction turns into realism, science fiction and some other genres.

This is a book you can’t really predict and this is why I didn’t focus on the plot too much. You are taken on a journey of the unexpected and I don’t want to ruin that trip for any of the people planning on reading this book. You will hate this book and you will adore this book; it will leave you with very mixed emotions but there is a certain elegance and beauty within this book that will stay with you well after you’ve finished hating the characters.

Finnegans Wake

Posted January 24, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 2 Comments

Because this book is known as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language, I thought I would explore the book a little more. No, I have not and probably never will read Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (Ok, I lie, I would probably try to read it, if my passion for modern culture continues) but I like to learn more of these types of books.

The thing I found interesting about what I’ve learnt is this book is that the entire thing is written in an idiosyncratic language, consisting of multilingual puns and portmanteau words. This to me would mean that there would never be a correct interpretation of this book; it’s just a twisted world full of no answers.

The book is a non linear story which attempts to recreate the experience of sleep and dreams. Which is interesting because back in the early 1900 Freud wrote a book called “The Occurrence in Dreams of Material from Fairy Tales”. In this he made mention of dreams been a coded message waiting to be cracked. So it seems Finnegans Wake was just James Joyce deciding to follow this idea and blend it with his obvious love of puns to create a completely unorthodox book.

For a book that took seventeen years to write, it’s hard to think what the point of it is. Is this just a social experiment that Joyce was doing? Maybe he was just setting out to defy all conventions of plot and character construction. What ever the reason was it remains on of the most interesting ideas I’ve seen so far.

Just a great example of avant-garde in modern literature that doesn’t get read. I think the only people that do read it are the people fascinated with this kind of topic and the people that read it to sound intellectual.

I would love to talk to someone who’s actually read this book.

EDIT: I read somewhere that the idea of all the puns is so essentially the book never ends.

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