“The sunflower is mine, in a way.”
Vincent Van Gogh
“The sunflower is mine, in a way.”
Vincent Van Gogh
Kafka’s Soup is a literary pastiche in the form of a cookbook. It contains 14 recipes each written in the style of a famous author from history. As of 2007 it had been translated into 18 languages and published in 27 countries. Excerpts from the book have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and the New York Times. Theatrical performances of the recipes have taken place in France and Canada. Kafka’s Soup is Mark Crick‘s first book. He has subsequently written two other books with similar themes; Sartre’s Sink and Machiavelli’s Lawn which are literary pastiches in the form of a DIY handbook and a gardening book respectively. Anybody who prefers their recipes to be a simple list of foolproof instructions should stay away.
Recipes include: tiramisu as made by Marcel Proust, cheese on toast by Harold Pinter, clafoutis grandmere by Virginia Woolf, chocolate cake prepared by Irvine Welsh, lamb with dill sauce by Raymond Chandler, onion tart by Geoffrey Chaucer, fenkata (rabbit stew) by Homer, boned stuffed poussins by the Marquis de Sade, mushroom risotto by John Steinbeck, tarragon eggs by Jane Austen, Vietnamese chicken by Graham Greene and Franz Kafka‘s Miso soup. Also included are recipes in the style of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.
Among the recipes that did not make the original edition of the book was “plum pudding à la Charles Dickens” which was written but rejected by Mark Crick for being “too long-winded”. It was, however, included in a subsequent paperback edition of the book along with two recipes, Rösti à la Thomas Mann and moules marinieres à la Italo Calvino, originally created for the German and Italian translations respectively.
Kafka’s Soup has become a cult hit. Andy Miller of The Telegraph called the recipes “note-perfect parodies of literary greats”. Emily Stokes of The Observer called it an “illustrated masterpiece of pastiche” citing the lamb with dill sauce as “particularly good”. C J Schüler wrote that Virginia Woolf’s clafoutis grandmere is the “pièce de resistance” and called the collection “irresistibly moreish”. He later called the book “a little gem of literary impersonation”. Schüler believes that “part of the book’s appeal lies in the fact that the recipes…actually work.”
Kafka’s Soup is illustrated with paintings by the author in the style of a number of famous artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, William Hogarth, Giorgio De Chirico, Henry Moore, Egon Schiele and Andy Warhol.
The idea for Kafka’s Soup arose during a conversation between Crick and a publisher. Crick noted his dislike for cookbooks saying that he enjoyed looking at the pictures but found the accompanying text dull. When asked what would it take for him to read beyond the ingredients list he replied “if [the text] was written by the world’s greatest authors.” The publisher liked the idea and, in Crick’s words, “she said that if I wrote it she’d publish it.”
Most of the recipes in the book are Crick’s own, although some, such as the chocolate cake, came from his friends. Crick notes the implausibility of some of his authors cooking their stated dishes (for example he states that John Steinbeck “would never have eaten [mushroom risotto]” and “I certainly accept any challenge that Kafka would not have eaten miso soup”). He says that he selected the recipes based on the ability of each dish to allow him to use the language he wished to use. Chocolate cake was selected for Irvine Welsh because “people become terribly selfish when there’s chocolate cake around, just as they do with drugs. It’s the closest many get to taking heroin.”
Crick says that he found Virginia Woolf the most difficult of the authors to write while Raymond Chandler was the easiest.
Another example of translations problem to English: Kafka’s use of the German noun Verkehr in the final sentence of Das Urteil (The Judgment). Literally, Verkehr means intercourse and, as in English, can have either a sexual or non-sexual meaning; in addition, it is used to mean transport or traffic. The sentence can be translated as: “At that moment an unending stream of traffic crossed over the bridge”. The double meaning of Verkehr is given added weight by Kafka’s confession to Max Brod that when he wrote that final line, he was thinking of “a violent ejaculation”.
Bedroom in Arles (La Chambre à Arles) is the title given to each of three similar paintings by 19th-century Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.
Van Gogh’s own title for this composition was simply The Bedroom (La Chambre à coucher). There are three authentic versions described in his letters, easily discernible from one another by the pictures on the wall to the right.
The painting depicts Van Gogh’s bedroom at 2, Place Lamartine in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, known as his Yellow House. The door to the right was opening to the upper floor and the staircase; the door to the left served the guest room he held prepared for Gauguin. The window in the front wall was looking to Place Lamartine and its public gardens. This room was not rectangular but trapezoid with an obtuse angle in the left hand corner of the front wall and an acute angle at the right. Van Gogh evidently did not spend much time on this problem, he simply indicated that there was a corner, somehow.
Van Gogh started the first version during mid October 1888 while staying in Arles, and explained his aims and means to his brother Theo:
This time it simply reproduces my bedroom; but colour must be abundant in this part, its simplification adding a rank of grandee to the style applied to the objects, getting to suggest a certain rest or dream. Well, I have thought that on watching the composition we stop thinking and imagining. I have painted the walls pale violet. The ground with checked material. The wooden bed and the chairs, yellow like fresh butter; the sheet and the pillows, lemon light green. The bedspread, scarlet coloured. The window, green. The washbasin, orangey; the tank, blue. The doors, lilac. And, that is all. There is not anything else in this room with closed shutters. The square pieces of furniture must express unswerving rest; also the portraits on the wall, the mirror, the bottle, and some costumes. The white colour has not been applied to the picture, so its frame will be white, aimed to get me even with the compulsory rest recommended for me. I have depicted no type of shade or shadow; I have only applied simple plain colours, like those in crêpes.
Van Gogh included sketches of the composition in this letter as well as in a letter to Gauguin, written slightly later. In the letter, Van Gogh explained that the painting had come out of a sickness that left him bedridden for days. This version has on the wall to the right miniatures of Van Gogh’s portraits of his friends Eugène Boch and Paul-Eugène Milliet. The portrait of Eugène Boch is called The Poet and the portrait of Paul Eugène Milliet is called The Lover.
In April 1889, Van Gogh sent the initial version to his brother regretting that it was damaged by the flood of the Rhône while he was interned at the Old Hospital in Arles. Theo proposed to have it relined and sent back to him in order to copy it. This “repetition” in original scale (Van Gogh’s term was “répetition”) was executed in September 1889. Both paintings were then sent back to Theo.
In his early years, Egon Schiele was strongly influenced by Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka. Although imitations of their styles, particularly with the former, are noticeably visible in Schiele’s first works, he soon evolved into his own distinctive style. He also painted tributes to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers as well as landscapes and still lifes.
Saint Sebastian is commonly depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. This is the most common artistic depiction of Sebastian; however, according to legend, he was rescued and healed by Irene of Rome. Sometimes Sebastian is known as the saint who was martyred twice.
The earliest representation of Sebastian is a mosaic in the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (Ravenna, Italy) dated between 527 and 565. The right lateral wall of the basilica contains large mosaics representing a procession of 26 martyrs, led by Saint Martin and including Sebastian. The martyrs are represented in Byzantine style, lacking any individuality, and have all identical expressions.
As protector of potential plague victims (a connection popularized by the Golden Legend) and soldiers, Sebastian occupied an important place in the popular medieval mind. He was among the most frequently depicted of all saints by Late Gothic and Renaissance artists, in the period after the Black Death. The opportunity to show a semi-nude male, often in a contorted pose, also made Sebastian a favourite subject.
It has been suggested that the first picture was made after Mantegna had recovered from the plague in Padua (1456–1457). Probably commissioned by the city’s podestà to celebrate the end of the pestilence, it was finished before the artist left the city for Mantua. According to Battisti, the theme refers to the Book of Revelation. A rider is present in the clouds at the upper left corner (pic. 1). As specified in John’s work, the cloud is white and the rider has a scythe, which he is using to cut the cloud. The rider has been interpreted as Saturn, the Roman-Greek god: in ancient times Saturn was identified with the Time that passed by and all left destroyed behind him.
Giovanni Antonio Bazzi “Il Sodoma” (1525)
The saint is ordinarily depicted as a handsome youth pierced by arrows. Predella scenes when required, often depicted his arrest, confrontation with the Emperor, and final beheading. The illustration in the infobox is the Saint Sebastian of Il Sodoma, at the Pitti Palace, Florence.
San Sebastiano curato da un angelo (St Sebastian Healed by an Angel), Giovanni Baglione, c. 1603
José de Ribera (1651)
A mainly 17th-century subject, though found in predella scenes as early as the 15th century, was St Sebastian tended by St Irene, painted by Georges de La Tour, Trophime Bigot (four times), José de Ribera, Hendrick ter Brugghen and others.
This may have been a deliberate attempt by the Church to get away from the single nude subject, which is already recorded in Vasari as sometimes arousing inappropriate thoughts among female churchgoers. The Baroque artists usually treated it as a nocturnal chiaroscuro scene, illuminated by a single candle, torch or lantern, in the style fashionable in the first half of the 17th century. There exist several cycles depicting the life of Saint Sebastian. Among them are the frescos in the “Basilica di San Sebastiano” of Acireale (Italy) with paintings by Pietro Paolo Vasta.
While Lorca was not a practicing Catholic, he was fascinated by Catholic liturgy and ritual, leading him to seek inspiration from religious themes such as the lives of saints which he would have studied while reading The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Vorgine. Sebastian relate to Lorca’s poetics as well as his relationship to Salvador Dalí.
The American composer Gian Carlo Menotti composed a ballet score for a Ballets Russes production which was first given in 1944. In his novella Death in Venice, Thomas Mann hails the “Sebastian-Figure” as the supreme emblem of Apollonian beauty, that is, the artistry of differentiated forms; beauty as measured by discipline, proportion, and luminous distinctions. This allusion to Saint Sebastian’s suffering, associated with the writerly professionalism of the novella’s protagonist, Gustav Aschenbach, provides a model for the “heroism born of weakness”, which characterizes poise amidst agonizing torment and plain acceptance of one’s fate as, beyond mere patience and passivity, a stylized achievement and artistic triumph.
Sebastian’s death was depicted in the 1949 film Fabiola, in which he was played by Massimo Girotti.
In 1976, the British director Derek Jarman made his debut film, Sebastiane, which caused controversy in its treatment of the martyr as a homosexual icon. However, as several critics have noted, this has been a subtext of the imagery since the Renaissance.
Also in 1976, a figure of Saint Sebastian appeared throughout the American horror film Carrie, directed by Brian de Palma
Pietro Vannucci Perugino’s painting (c. 1495) of Saint Sebastian is featured in the movie Wit (Mike Nichols, 2001) starring Emma Thompson. Thompson’s character, as a college student, visits her professor’s office, where an almost life-size painting of Saint Sebastian hangs on the wall. Later, when the main character is a professor herself, diagnosed with cancer, she keeps a small print of this same painting of Saint Sebastian next to her hospital bed. The allusion appears to be to Sebastian’s stoic martyrdom – a role the Thompson character has willingly accepted for the betterment of all mankind. There may be a touch of authorial (or directorial) cynicism in making this “saintly” connection.
*I will be posting more artistic representations of St Sebastian on The Genealogy of Style´s new Facebook page
Sitzende Frau mit hochgezogenem linken Bein (Seated Woman With Bent Knee), Egon Schiele, 1917
In 1917, Egon Schiele painted his wife Edith Harms, and titled his creation Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up. The portrait displays Edith sitting on the floor, resting her cheek on her left knee. The fiery red tones of her carefree hair produce a striking contrast with the vibrant greens of her loosely fitted shirt. Her look is bold and intense as she appears to be staring directly at the viewer. Her casual pose and attire create an intimate moment with onlookers.
The suggestive nature of this portrait was not an uncommon trait in Egon Schiele’s work, as he admired the controversial artistic manner of his mentor, Gustav Klimt. However, making eroticism the major theme in most of his artwork got Schiele in trouble with the law. He was imprisoned in 1912 for obscenity in his paintings, an incident that did not deter him from his erotic artwork, (although it may have motivated him to put clothes on Edith in Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up). Schiele created approximately 300 paintings and more than 3000 works on paper during his career. His life was cut short when he died of the Spanish Influenza at just 28 years old; his pregnant wife died of the same illness a mere three days later.
In a review of a 1997 Schiele Exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art in New York wrote: “Egon Schiele invested his art with an emotional intensity that, coupled with his radical formal innovations, characterized the Austrian contribution to Expressionism.” The review further added: “His preoccupation with sexuality and existential explorations of the human condition convey him both as a product of his time and an artist who achieved aesthetic maturation when he was barely post-adolescent. The very aspects of Schiele’s art that precluded its popularity during much of his lifetime–ugly distortion in place of accepted notions of beauty, unveiled eroticism, and personal angst–are those for which it is considered most compelling today.”
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