The Brazilian Kafka

 
 

The Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector was a riddle-some and strange personality. Strikingly beautiful, with catlike green eyes, she died in Rio de Janeiro in 1977 at the age of only 57. Some said she wrote like Virginia Woolf and resembled Marlene Dietrich. She was ‘very, very sexy’, remembered a friend. Yet she needed a great many cigarettes, painkillers, anti-depressants, as well as anti-psychotics and sleeping pills to get through her final years. Lispector had great fortitude over her illness, it was said, and suffered the ravages of ovarian cancer equably and without complaint. According to her biographer Benjamin Moser, Lispector’s was a life fraught with the shadow of past failures and past sorrows. Born in 1920 in what is now Ukraine, she emerged from the world of East European orthodox Jewry with its side-locks, kaftans and Talmudic mysticism. Dreadfully, her mother had been gang-raped by Russian soldiers during the pogroms that followed the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917; her grandfather had earlier been murdered. Even by the standards of Russian anti-Semitism, the family’s was an unusually wretched story of immigration.
In the winter of 1921, harried by thieving Jew-baiters and other opportunists, the Lispectors fled their home for the New World. On arrival in northeast Brazil, they scraped a pittance through teaching and odd jobs. Clarice (born Chaya) Lispector was barely one year old when she reached Brazil; in her adult years, not surprisingly, she liked to claim the country as her spiritual home and the place where the Portuguese-language writer in her was born.

Her fiction is haunted by her family history of uprooting and exile, says Moser. The atrocities and expulsions suffered by Ukrainian Jewry after the first world war had engendered a thoroughgoing skepticism and distrustfulness in Lispector. In coming to Brazil with her parents and two older sisters she knew she had escaped a great danger. Assimilation into Brazilian society promised an escape from the sorrows and derision of the past, so the Lispectors decided to change their names to sound less Yiddish and more Portuguese. Though Clarice would never again set foot in her native Ukraine, her writing gave covert expression to the displacement and wretchedness felt by emigrés everywhere, Moser suggests.

She published her first novel, Near to the Wildheart in 1943 when she was just twenty-three, and the next year was awarded the Graça Aranha Prize for the best first novel. Many felt she had given Brazilian literature a unique voice in the larger context of Portuguese literature. After living variously in Italy, the UK, Switzerland and the US, in 1959, Lispector with her children returned to Brazil where she wrote her most influential novels including The Passion According to G.H. She died in 1977, shortly after the publication of her final novel, The Hour of the Star.

A paixão segundo G.H. (The Passion According to G.H.) was written in a quick burst at the end of 1963, following a period of difficulty in Lispector’s life. “It’s strange,” she remembered, “because I was in the worst of situations, sentimentally as well as in my family, everything complicated, and I wrote The Passion, which has nothing to do with that.” The novel was published in the following year by Editora do Autor, which was run by Lispector’s friends Rubem Braga and Fernando Sabino.

The work takes the form of a monologue by a woman, identified only as G.H., telling of the crisis that ensued the previous day after she crushed a cockroach in the door of a wardrobe. Its canonical status was recognized in 1988 by its inclusion in the Arquivos Collection, the UNESCO series of critical editions of the greatest works of Latin American literature. It has been translated into English twice, the first time in 1988 by Ronald W. Sousa, and then by Idra Novey in 2012.

G.H., a well-to-do Rio sculptress, enters the room of her maid, which is as clear and white ‘as in an insane asylum from which dangerous objects have been removed’. There she sees a cockroach – black, dusty, prehistoric – crawling out of the wardrobe and, panicking, slams the door on it. Her irresistible fascination with the dying insect provokes a spiritual crisis, in which she questions her place in the universe and her very identity, propelling her towards an act of shocking transgression. Clarice Lispector’s spare, deeply disturbing yet luminous novel transforms language into something otherworldly, and is one of her most unsettling and compelling works. The Passion According to G.H, is brocaded with a range of literary influences from Franz Kafka to the Bible.

The American poet Elizabeth Bishop proclaimed Lispector ‘better’ even than the Argentine fabulist Jorge Luis Borges, and set about translating her into English. Since then, Lispector has been championed by, among others, Edmund White, Orhan Pamuk and Colm Tóibín. Yet she remains unknown to the general reader.

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Perfectly Satisfactory

Hunky Dory gave me a fabulous groundswell. I guess it provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience – I mean, people actually coming up to me and saying, ‘Good album, good songs.’ That hadn’t happened to me before. It was like, ‘Ah, I’m getting it, I’m finding my feet. I’m starting to communicate what I want to do. Now: what is it I want to do?’ There was always a double whammy there.”

David Bowie

 
 

Hunky Dory is the fourth album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1971. It was his first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Hunky Dory has been described by Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine as having “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles, tied together only by Bowie’s sense of vision: a sweeping, cinematic mélange of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class.” The slang hunky dory (of uncertain origin), would mean perfectly satisfactory, about as well as one could wish or expect; fine

 
 

The style of the album cover was influenced by a Marlene Dietrich photo book that Bowie brought with him to the photo session, which was taken by Brian Ward. Terry Pastor achieved the silk-screen printing appearance in the manner of Andy Warhol, using an airbrush. However,  the album’s sleeve would bear the credit “Produced by Ken Scott (assisted by the actor)”. The “actor” was Bowie himself, whose “pet conceit”, in the words of NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, was “to think of himself as an actor”. George Underwood was also involved in the creative process of the album cover design.

 
 

The opening track, Changes, focused on the compulsive nature of artistic reinvention (“Strange fascination, fascinating me/Changes are taking the pace I’m going through”) and distancing oneself from the rock mainstream (“Look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers”). However, the composer also took time to pay tribute to his influences with the tracks Song for Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground inspired Queen Bitch.

Following the hard rock of Bowie’s previous album The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of Space Oddity, with light fare such as Kooks (dedicated to his young son, known to the world as Zowie Bowie but legally named Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones) and the cover “Fill Your Heart” sitting alongside heavier material like the occult-tinged Quicksand and the semi-autobiographical The Bewlay Brothers. Between the two extremes was Oh! You Pretty Things, whose pop tune hid lyrics, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, predicting the imminent replacement of modern man by “the Homo Superior”, and which has been cited as a direct precursor to Starman from Bowie’s next album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

The Face of Legends

 “There are very few people that have escaped my eye. It was only when I finished my career did I realize what I’d done. I’ve done the best people ever. And there will never be people to match them. Ever.”

Terry O’Neill

 
 

Self-portrait

 
 

Terry O’Neill began his career working in a photographic unit for an airline at London’s Heathrow Airport. During this time, he photographed a sleeping figure in a waiting area whom, by happenstance, was revealed to be Britain’s Home Secretary. O’Neill thereafter found further employment on Fleet Street with The Daily Sketch in 1959. His first professional job was photographing Laurence Olivier.

 
 

Laurence Olivier, Back Stage, London, 1962

 
 

His reputation grew during the 1960s. In addition to photographing the decade’s show-business elite such as Judy Garland, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, he also photographed members of the British Royal Family and prominent politicians, showing a more natural and human side to these subjects than had usually been portrayed before. O’Neill had a longtime relationship with Faye Dunaway. They were married from 1983 until 1986.

 
 

Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minnelli, 1963

 
 

beatles_abbey_rdTerry O’Neill rose to fame in the 1960’s in London, where he snapped this photo of the Beatles at Abbey Road, during the year they released their three classic albums, Please, Please… Me, Introducing the Beatles and With the Beatles. This image hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London

 
 

The Rolling Stones outside St. George’s Church in Hanover Square, London, 17th January 1964

 
 

“Because I used to be a jazz musician, people at the paper asked me, ‘You know about music, who’s going to be the next pop group?’ I said, ‘I’ve been watching a group called The Rolling Stones. They’re a blues group but they’re good’. I went to photograph them and they [the newspaper editors] were horrified. They thought they looked like five prehistoric monsters. They said, ‘There’s got to be some good-looking ones!’”

 
 

This stunning portrait of Marianne Faithful was taken the year she was discovered at a Rolling Stones record release party by manager Andrew Loog Oldham

 
 

a_hepburn_poolActress Audrey Hepburn, swimming in the South of France during the filming of Two For The Road (Stanley Donen, 1967)

 
 

Frank Sinatra arrives at Miami beach with his entourage (including his stand-in, dressed in an identical suit and less well-dressed beefy minders) while filming Lady In Cement  (Gordon Douglas, 1968)

 
 

American actor Steve McQueen looking thoughtful in his Hollywood office, 1968

 
 

Scottish actor Sean Connery and French actress Brigitte Bardot meet for the first time in Deauville, before the filming of Shalako (Edward Dmytryk, 1968)

 
 

French actress and sex symbol Brigitte Bardot on the set of The Ballad Of Frenchie King (Christian-Jaque, 1971), a comedy western, filmed in Almeria, Spain

 
 

Rod Stewart, Windsor, 1971

 
 

Actor Paul Newman resting his head on an actress Ava Gardner during a break from filming John Huston’s 1972 comedy western The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean

 
 

Director John Huston and Ava Gardner, 1972

 
 

elton_dodger_stadium_batting_stanceelton_john_backbendEnglish pop star and pianist Elton John performs at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, October 1975

 
 

Singer David Bowie sharing a cigarette with actress Elizabeth Taylor in Beverly Hills, 1975. It was the first occasion that the pair had met

 
 

Singer Bruce Springsteen walking down Sunset Strip with his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, 1975

 
 

German actress Marlene Dietrich walking on stage for a curtain call, 1975

 
 

Actress Faye Dunaway resting by the Beverly Hills Hotel swimming pool the morning after she recieved the 1976 Best Actress Academy Award. There are newspapers on the floor and her Oscar is on the table, 29th March 1977

 
 

Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin outside the famous Paris cafe, Aux Deux Magots. The pair have collaborated on more than 30 albums over a 40 year partnership, 1980

 
 

Anjelica Huston, promotional picture for Witches (Nicholas Roeg, 1990), a fantasy film based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl

 
 

British actor and musician Sting, lead singer and bassist with pop group The Police, 1985

 
 

Amy Winehouse

 
 

“I was working on a present for Nelson Mandela, when he came here for his 90th birthday and there was a concert for him in Hyde Park. Amy was due to sing but she was in hospital. She actually got out of bed to come and perform. I only took two frames but I’m so glad I did because she was a really talented lady.”

 
 

More Terry O’Neill photographs:

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Poetic Seduction

Vespertine (2011)

 
 

Björk‘s artistic incarnations seem very intentional, well thought out. Vespertine, her fifth studio album was released on August 27, 2001. The initial title for the album was Domestika. A song titled Domestica (originally titled Lost Keys) was included as a B-side on the Pagan Poetry single. Björk has stated that she decided to call the album Vespertine instead of Domestika because the new title dealt with the prayer aspect of the album, which she wanted to note, while she felt that calling the album Domestika would have been “too much”, because Björk felt that the songs on the album were already “domestic” enough. She felt the need to call the album after another aspect of itself. The word Vespertine also relates to nighttime, for example things that come out at night, and the title was also partly inspired by that.

Although one of Vespertine’s themes is the night time, the frontal artwork designed by studio M/M Paris and photographed by Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin highlights a sunny time. It might be because the song, Sun in my Mouth, was a single from that album. Björk adapted the lyrics of Sun in My Mouth from the poem I Will Wade Out by E. E. Cummings. The word “sea-girls” is changed to “seagulls”, and the last few lines of the poem are omitted.

The recipe for success was ready to be mixed: ornithology, poetry and Greek mythology. Björk used metaphors taken from nature to describe Vespertine: “is little insects rising from the ashes.”

The ancient Greeks thought that ποίησις (poiesis), with a broad meaning of a “making”, was also the “joint of everything”, the amalgamating element of the world. So, maybe that was the ideal concept for Björk.

On the cover of Vespertine she can be seen wearing the swan dress designed by Marjan Pejoski that caused a stir at the 2001 Academy Awards.

Марјан Пејоски (Маrjan Pejoski) is a Macedonian fashion designer who lives and works in Great Britain. That infamous swan dress put him on fashion’s map. Some people thought Alexander McQueen was the author of that dress due to his previous collaborations with Björk.

 
 

Promotional pictures by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin

 
 

Björk in Oscar 2001 red carpet

 
 

Still from Pagan Poetry (Nick Knight, 2001) music video. She’s wearing a dress designed by Alexander McQueen. The music video “is about a woman preparing herself for marriage and for her lover”, Knight said.

 
 

Clifton Webb, Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Allen

 
 

Morocco (Josef von Sternberg, 1930) Promotional pictures

 
 

Pejoski’s swan dress has a precedent. In 1935 Marlene Dietrich attended a Halloween party hosted by South African actor Basil Rathbone and his wife Ouida Bergère. It was a party to entertain movie stars. The Person You Admire The Most was the theme. Dietrich chose Leda, the mytological figure seduced by Zeus, and asked Travis Banton, a Paramount iconic costume designer, to make her dress. Elizabeth Allen was going to accompany Dietrich. Allen’s choice was out of her reach. She wore an androgynous outfit, actually a copycat from Morocco’s costumes. And Clifton Webb was disguised as Fu Manchú.