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Showing posts from April, 2019

Creating out of nothing - the art and life of a remarkable artist

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I remember having dinner in Oxford with a young, enthusiastic Pole, who was completing his Masters in Art History before progressing to greater things, who asked me, "What do people in England think about Poland"? This was prior to its entry to the EU.  Thinking honesty was called for I suggested: The start of the Second World War, Solidarity and the Pope being Polish as three possibilities if you were 'lucky'. He looked appropriately crestfallen and I was sorry.

Czapski was moved similarly to realise that in spite of its historic importance and its cultural depth, Poland was often simply an absence in people's cultural cartography. Sad to say, I think, this continues to be true, to which my own unfamiliarity with Czapski himself attests.

I cannot remember how I came to recently acquire Eric Karpeles' 'Almost Nothing: The Twentieth Century Art and Life of Jozef Czapski' but I am deeply delighted that I did. Czapski's life virtually spanned the wh…

Searching for paradise in the hidden Himalayas

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At moments of dislocation and intense social uncertainty people will appear offering the possibility of another land where people will be blessed, liberated and genuinely at home. In this case, it was not 'Brexit' but a hidden land of actual immortality, enfolded within the mountain ranges around Mt Kanchenjunga on the Nepalese/Sikkim border. Unlike Shangri-la, Beyul Demoshong was not simply a physical space, carefully hidden (as imagined in Hilton's Lost Horizon) but an occulted place spiritually hidden.

The person offering this journey and opening the way to it was the 'crazy lama', Tulshuk Lingpa. Lingpa was a 'terton' a finder of 'terma' which were texts magically hidden until discovered at the right moment for them to be of maximum usefulness to people's spiritual development. They were often hidden by Padmasambhava, the robust wonder-working bringer of Buddhism to Tibet; and, Tibetan Buddhism is alive with such discoveries (though undoubt…

Good Companionship

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The novel's author, J.B. Priestley, was ambivalent about, 'The Good Companions'. Whilst it was the novel that made his name and secured his livelihood as a writer, it was the novel that threatened to overwhelm and encircle his name as the author of 'The Good Companions'.

It was as if Dickens found himself seen as the author of 'The Pickwick Papers', that everything he did was seen through that lens alone or, to use an appropriate theatrical analogy, Priestley found himself typecast. Like, say, the great Richard Briers always being seen through the lens of having 'been in' the exemplary BBC television comedy, 'The Good Life' but never being seen for his performances, say, in Shakespeare.

It is an apt comparison because, as with 'The Good Life', 'The Good Companions' is an exemplary novel of its kind. In this case, a picaresque tour de force that takes three disparate 'amateurs' and plunges them by coordinated accident…