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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

RITSOS Poem on Paper Napkin

I don't know if any of the poems that Jacques Prévert is supposed to have written on paper tablecloths have been preserved, but here is a poem written by Yannis Ritsos on a paper napkin (serviette), which I've tried to preserve since he gave it to me. I hope it has appeared in print somewhere.


In Thessaloniki

Camus on Happiness, Encounter, March 1965; Other Writers Views of Happiness

But then you get to 31! (Cue to listen).

I was always impressed by these lines from Albert Camus' "Carnets", published in Encounter magazine in March 1965, as translated by Anthony Hartley under the title "A Writer's Notebook".

In 1954, Camus wrote (Cahiers III): "Pièce. Un homme heureux. Et personne ne peut le supporter".

Albert Camus et le bonheur (YouTube video)

Albert Camus - Une tragédie du bonheur

After his death, Charles Poncet wrote, "He spoke too much about happiness to have been really happy" (Olivier Todd, Albert Camus, A Life, translated by Benjamin Ivry, p.417).

Whatever happened to Encounter? It was very popular in the Sixth Form...

Postscript (The Dalai Lama):

"The happiness we experience while we are still wandering in the cycle of existence is undoubtedly a kind of happiness, but it is not stable. What we really desire is lasting happiness. Total separation from suffering is a stable and reliable form of happiness. That is the object we wish to achieve, and what will help us achieve it is the path".


"On n'est jamais si heureux ni si malheureux qu'on s'imagine".

"We are never so happy, or so unhappy, as we imagine".

"The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings"

Happy Thought, Robert Louis Stevenson.

"Is it not absurd that we cannot be happy in our little life that is so soon over? Yet who can regulate the lone cry of the curlew or the cry of the eagle in the clouds!"

Llewelyn Powys, Letter to H. Rivers Pollock, 1930

"Happiness is in the absence of the striving for happiness", Chuang Tzu/Zhunag Zhou

"She did not understand hat there was no such thing as happiness, that the only victory lay in the far future, long after you were dead, that from the moment of declaring war on the Party it was better to think of yourself as a corpse", George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

From Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe (pdf)

Handel, from Alexander's Feast

Don't worry, be happy

Update on Happiness

D.H. Lawrence, The Man Who Loved Islands

The Great Disruption, Melvyn Bragg, Francis Fukuyama and Amos Oz, on happiness, social change and other topics, BBC Radio 4, June 1999.

Aristotle on Happiness

William Barnes on happiness in his garden:

A Garden

A sweet secluded garden! charming sound
To those who seldom seek the world, like me.
Secluded be it, so that none may see
Within the woody boundaries around.
And while the songs of warbling birds resound,
And while I hear the humming of the bee
Around the glowing fruit upon the tree,
And flow'rs of ev'ry colour on the ground,

There, blithely busied, I will toil to store
My ripen'd crops, until the chilly days
Of early darkness, and of glowing fires.

And when the hollow winds of winter roar,
I'll sit me down beside the cheerful blaze
In happiness. To this my soul aspires.

Diamantina Roma

On the subject of Diamantina Roma (Lady Diamantina Bowen), The Governor-General of Australia, Ms.Quentin Bryce, AC, formerly Governor of Queensland once quoted in a speech from a poem of mine.

Here is the full version of the poem:

Diamantina Roma and the Postings of Governor Bowen

That selfish brute Bowen
Got Corfu, then Brisbane,
New Zealand and Melbourne !
Missed out on New South Wales !
Twenty years down under,
Sir Gorgeous Figginson Blowing+,
Too long for Diamantina,
A lady of  delicate health.
Ill on the day of the Ball.
Men of the toga, from Oxford
(Consolidate ! Assimilate!) 
Cared little, if at all.
Diamantina of the isles of Greece,
Hosting endless boring dinners
And receptions great and small,
You always yearned for perfect peace
Amongst the Corfu olive groves.
I know when  it  began to pall. 

+Note. Bowen was hated by Edward Lear, who referred to him in letters as "brute", "beast" and as "Sir Gorgeous Figginson Blowing" (see Susan Hyman, "Edward Lear in the Levant", note p.20)

More information on Contessa Diamantina Roma, Lady Bowen

Postcript on Lear and Bowen in A Blog of Bosh 

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Venetians or British? Which 'protectors' suited the Corfiot psyche?

Joe Brown kills the Corfu blues

Joe Brown played a great set at the Agiot Festival last night, demonstrating what a professional performer he still is, with an impressive audience rapport and enviable instrumental skills. He has a tight band, with his son Pete  carrying on the Brown tradition with similar displays of versatility and virtuosity.

It's strange to catch up with a performer around 50 years after their first big hit, and it's even more extraordinary to see someone so seemingly ageless and full of vitality and good humour.

Whether singing his hit "A Picture of You", a Dylan composition or Carl Perkins' "Honey Don't", this wasn't just a night for nostalgia but for a community celebration. And if there were quite a few oldies in the audience, there was an outstanding performance by a very youthful folk-fusion band, 4Square, to balance the evening and to satisfy the youngsters (and all age-groups) too.

Congratulations again to the AgiotFest organisers, who must have been exhausted, especially after the technical problems experienced on the first night, probably because of the August heat and humidity.

Here's another view of the second night

Friday, 27 August 2010

More of Lear's Corfu

British Books on Greece, in Greece

It's high time there was a new touring exhibition on this topic.

It's also the right time for foreign publishers and the relevant publishers' associations to get their acts together as far as distribution of their books in Greece is concerned.

Suntouched, by Theresa Nicholas, a new Corfu classic?

Keep your eyes open towards Christmas-time for a marvelous new book, Suntouched, by Theresa Nicholas. I first read the unedited manuscript about 4 years ago, and I predict that Suntouched, once published, will come to be considered one of the great Corfu classics.

The Greek Slave: The Most Popular Work of the mid 19th Century?

(photographs by Jim Potts, at The Phillips Collection, DuPont Circle, Washington, DC).

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Sonnet, "Hiram Power's Greek Slave"

They say Ideal beauty cannot enter
The house of anguish. On the threshold stands
An alien Image with enshackled hands,
Called the Greek Slave! as if the artist meant her
(That passionless perfection which he lent her,
Shadowed not darkened where the sill expands)
To so confront man's crimes in different lands
With man's ideal sense. Pierce to the centre,
Art's fiery finger! - and break up ere long
The serfdom of this world. Appeal, fair stone,
From God's pure heights of beauty against man's wrong!
Catch up in thy divine face, not alone
East griefs but west,- and strike and shame the strong,
By thunders of white silence, overthrown

National Portrait Gallery, DC:

Old Corfu, with Jimmie and Chester

"When we had nothing
We had everything;
Now we have everything
We have nothing".
Attributed to a Corfiot.

Watch a British Pathe Newsreel from 1962 (thanks to Corfu Chronicles Blog)


If Ali Pasha had conquered Corfu...

For more on this topic, read "The Ionian Islands and Epirus, A Cultural History"!

Mandouki in 1963, and at Easter 1968

The top photo was taken in 1963 by Theresa Nicholas, the second by me, Easter 1968