Blixa Bargeld, the lead singer and guitarist of the German experimental noise band Einstürzende Neubauten published a “semi-fictional” account of his bands 2008 tour a year after the tour’s completion. That book, Europe Crosswise: A Litany is now available in English translation by Mark Kanak from Contra Mundum. Their blurb:
In this semi-fictional account, Blixa Bargeld recounts life on tour in 2008 with Einstürzende Neubauten — from Lisbon to Moscow, Oslo to Naples, criss-crossing Europe. Along the way we encounter mind numbing routines, interesting restaurants (good and bad), colorful museums, rocky bus rides, mundane hotels, odd characters and old friends — they’re all there. Along with the structure holding it all together, namely, a recurring setlist that is invoked as a litany. In the end the book proves to be a declaration of love for Europe, and in the current dark times we are presently living through, more immediate than ever.
The book, first published in German in 2009 and something of a semi-fictional travel journal from the “Alles Wieder Offen” Tour, will be published soon by Contra Mundum Press in an English translation by author, translator, and radioplay artist Mark Kanak.
The situation in my country is this. Our poor love our rich, and our wives adore our wife-beaters.
It’s sad, yes, but let’s not talk about it. Even the subject of sadness will make us sad.
Here’s something else we do. In my country, when we’re waiting for someone who is very late, we stand at the meeting spot and smoke cigarette after cigarette. Then, when we die, we blame everybody who kept us waiting.
Paula Rego was one of the great figurative painters of the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Born in Portugal, Rego lived and worked most of her life in England. She first began exhibiting her work in the early 1960s with The London Group, and over the decades, her paintings were recognized for their haunting power in a series of career retrospectives at major museums, including the Tate Britain. She was also the first Associate Artist of the National Gallery in London.
Rego’s paintings are strange and disturbing, evoking the psychosexual tumult that underwrites Western myths and fairy tales. Obliquely feminist, Rego’s images conjure a counternarrative to patriarchal domination. As Whitney Chadwick put it in her book Women, Art, and Society, Rego’s paintings were part of “the figurative tradition of history painting but used heroic scale, harsh lighting, and theatrical compositions to present a pantheon of female figures traditionally suppressed in accounts of male exploits . . .[her] works propose a new iconography for the female heroine.”
I’m pretty sure it was in Chadwick’s Women, Art, And Society that I first saw a reproduction of The Family, a painting that shocked me, and reminded me of the work of one of my favorite painters at the time, Balthus, as well as the films of David Lynch.
There’s an uncanny mix of humor and paranoid terror in much of Rego’s work, and her feminist reimagining of folk tales and myths has much in common with the work of writers like Angela Carter and Anne Sexton.
A strong advocate of women’s rights, in 2019 Rego called out the increasingly-draconian anti-choice laws being acted in America, telling The Guardian, “It seems unbelievable that these battles have to be fought all over again. It’s grotesque.”
In 1998, Rego, who spoke publicly about her own abortions, created a series called The Abortion Pastels. The series depicted the reality of unsafe illegal abortions, and was a response to a failed referendum to legalize abortion in her native Portugal.
Rego’s work also addressed human trafficking, so-called “honor killings,” and war in an oblique, surreal-tinged style that transcends the limits of social realist figurative art.
And while Rego’s art addressed sociocultural ills, and in doing so was often shocking and disturbing, it is nevertheless beautiful—she was a fantastic painter and left a strong, large body of work that will, I suspect, feel even more relevant as the twenty-first century careens into fascism and fear.
Cake cast in went to be and needles wine needles are such.
This is today. A can experiment is that which makes a town, makes a town dirty, it is little please. We came back. Two bore, bore what, a mussed ash, ash when there is tin. This meant cake. It was a sign.
Another time there was extra a hat pin sought long and this dark made a display. The result was yellow. A caution, not a caution to be.
It is no use to cause a foolish number. A blanket stretch a cloud, a shame, all that bakery can tease, all that is beginning and yesterday yesterday we had it met. It means some change. No some day.
A little leaf upon a scene an ocean any where there, a bland and likely in the stream a recollection green land. Why white.
I had a full 90 minutes to browse the second, downtown location of my favorite bookshop today, while my daughter completed onboarding at City Hall for her summer job. I picked up assigned summer reading for both of my kids, and came across a Vintage Contemporaries edition I’d never seen before: Trey Ellis’s debut novel Platitudes. The blurb on the back by Ishmael Reed sold me on Platitudes:
I was zapped by Trey Ellis’s humongous talent. His book, Platitudes, is delightfully rad. He dares to have the gumption to write comically about American literary politics.
I also managed to avoid leaving with a bunch of massmarket paperbacks by Philip K. Dick—but here’s a pic of all their covers:
—which I think are so much more interesting than these handsome, respectable, uniform contemporaries:
Marina Warner’s “unreliable memoir” of her parents’ early life as a couple came to Biblioklept World Headquarters a few days ago. While I haven’t read much, the form (and content, to a certain degree), remind me of a post-Sebaldian mode. NYRB’s blurb:
Marina Warner’s father, Esmond, met her mother, Ilia, while serving as an officer in the British Army during the Second World War. As Allied forces fought their way north through Italy, Esmond found himself in the southern town of Bari, where Ilia had grown up, one of four girls of a widowed mother. The Englishman approaching middle age and the twenty-one-year-old Italian were soon married. Before the war had come to an end, Ilia was on her way alone to London to wait for her husband’s return and to learn how to be Mrs. Esmond Warner, an Englishwoman.
Ilia begins to learn the world of cricket, riding, canned food, and distant relations she has landed in, while Esmond, in spite of his connections, struggles to support his wife and young daughter. He comes up with the idea of opening a bookshop, a branch of W.H. Smith’s, in Cairo, where he had spent happy times during the North African campaign. In Egypt, however, nationalists are challenging foreign influences, especially British ones, and before long Cairo is on fire.
Deeply felt, closely observed, rich with strange lore, Esmond and Ilia is a picture of vanished worlds, a portrait of two people struggling to know each other and themselves, a daughter’s story of trying to come to terms with a past that is both hers and unknowable to her. It is an “unreliable memoir”—what memoir isn’t?—and a lasting work of literature, lyrical, sorrowful, shaped by love and wonder.