Showing posts from January, 2018

Childhood exposed. The Battle of the Villa Fiorito

Rumer Godden described the genesis of her novel, 'The Battle of the Villa Fiorito', in wondering what if the children of a divorce, rather than always being seen as passive victims, strike back, wage war, seek to reverse the unfolding events (even after the fact)?

Thus did the novel come to pass.

Fanny has fallen in love with Robert Quillet, a film director, when he comes to direct a film in her very beautiful but socially confining village in Wiltshire. The first move was his but the passionate  engagement that unfolds leads to Fanny divorcing her husband, Darrell, leaving her three children in his custody (as was the default position in the 1950s). Phillipa, the eldest child, off to be 'finished' in Paris makes her peace given that she is on the threshold of her own adulthood. Hugh, fourteen, and Caddie, 12, do not and abscond from their father's flat in London (itself a consequence of the divorce) to visit Rob and Fanny, not yet married, at their beautiful rent…

Kahlil Gibran's journey beyond borders

Jean Gibran and Kahlil G. Gibran (namesake and cousin to the poet-painter) have written a comprehensive, detailed and engaging study of Gibran Kahlil Gibran (to give his full name) that is too beautifully illustrated with the paintings, drawings and book designs. It is a worthy addition to Gibran's biographical record.

They give voice to his complexity - the boy brought up in a Lebanese village clustered under Mount Lebanon and its majestic cedars, the poor immigrant into a slum district of Boston, the gifted youth who was taken up precociously by key figures in the Boston avant-garde, returning to Lebanon to complete his education, he returns, and apart from a year in Paris studying art, becomes an exile, betwixt two worlds - Arab and Western - an important voice to both yet often misconceived by both. In the former as an exotic product of the Orient and in the latter as a protagonist of the new (and the Western) spu…

A deeper conversion with David Jones

I recall going to an Orthodox service in Oxford where the tradition is followed by acquiring prosphora bread, shaped like a miniature cottage loaf, that is sent to the priest for blessing (not consecration) accompanied by small notes listing people (under a red cross for the living, under a black for the dead) for intercession. Adding my offering, I noticed one note, under a red cross, having a list of people after which, in brackets, it read Anglican! I was suitably shocked for what did it matter in the patterns of prayer and concern what denomination (if any) the prayed for person was?

I was happy reading in Thomas Dilworth's exemplary biography of the painter-poet, David Jones, that Jones was similarly shocked when, asking a Catholic priest to intercede for a friend crippled by arthritis, he was asked whether the friend was a Catholic!

Jones was a devout convert to the Catholic Church but as Dilworth shows, consistently, it was, and is, Catholic for a reason, because, for Jone…

The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner


The veteran documentary filmmaker, Jonathan Stedall, made this documentary to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Steiner's birth; and, it is an accomplished introduction to the life, work and, most importantly, the influence of this undoubtedly remarkable man.

Wisely perhaps Jonathan begins with Steiner's influence on the practical - on bio-dynamic agriculture; communities for the learning disabled and education - rather than the philosophical and esoteric indeed the completely esoteric  - the evolution and destruction of civilizations read from the Akashic record, for example, are not mentioned at all - except possibly very allusively. This is probably wise because in spite of the happy support of respectable talking head academics, this aspect of Steiner's oeuvre is hard to swallow - even when you are not schooled in the harder lines of contemporary materialism!

We visit man…

Coleridge and his Ancient Mariner as our companions

What if during your creative 'annus mirabilis', you wrote a poem that became prophetic of the trajectory of your own life? Looking backward could you use that very poem to structure your life within a deepening, meaningful frame, fruitfully illuminating it? Can we, wanting to understand the poet better, do likewise?

This is the guiding conceit of Malcolm Guite's wonderful book on the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the poem, as illustrated here by David Jones, is 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'.

The Mariner, as will be recalled, went on a journey that takes him to the very edge of alienation, the very bottom of despair where he confronts Death and the yet more disturbing Death in Life; and, yet, through unmerited grace, is drawn back to a life of continuous 'penance' of offering his story to those who are, in being ripe to hear it and in need of hearing it, turned themselves to a new path. The wedding guest whose path he deliberately crosses to recoun…