Thursday, 3 September 2009

Box 45.......

.......has unleashed a host of memories. Unpacking Box 45 (out of 82) yesterday left me 2 hours lighter. The contents were an eclectic mix of books that had lain quietly and patiently in the small box since October 6th 2006. There are too many books to mention in this short post so I have had to scale the list to 5 of the ones which caught my eye and which forced me to flick through them and thereby rekindled memories of yore.

The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness by Erich Fromm.
This book goes back to the 1980s when I first discovered Erich Fromm's work. I was fascinated by it because it delved deeply into the minds of people infamous in history due to their evil nature. What separates a person from good and evil? Is it genetic? Is it hereditary or is it just one second of madness which changes a person's life forever?

As an aside, I will also include the Art of Loving (in Greek!), written in 1956. It is not a self help guide book as the title may suggest, but rather a very complex analysis into the theories of love. In the front page I had written * Paco- the "hypothetical" Romance Gran Tarajal 1984. I vaguely remember having a big crush on a very handsome "Majorero" called Paco, who in fact introduced me to the works of Eric Fromm. Why I bought the book in Greek, though, I have no idea!! Well, maybe one idea is I went straight from teaching in Fuerteventura (the Canary Islands) to Greece and I got it to learn Greek and to remind me of my philosophical discussions relating to the meaning of the book? That is one theory, anyway!

A quote of Erich Fromm I particularly like is this one:

"Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love."

Le Deuxieme Sexe by Simone de Beauvoir
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir as it is known in English was one of my prescribed texts for my degree in French Literature. I remember being fascinated by it. The book (in two tomes) outlines the female condition, both biological and social. It was thought-provoking and I read it many times and dissected it for a few hours on one of my literature exam papers. I recall Simone de Beauvoir painted a rather grim view of marriage. The book focused on some aspects of the sad pre-ordained destiny of women (in the author's opinion), including the ritualistic cleaning of the household- "Jusqu'a la mort elles seront soumises a ces rites. Manger, dormir, nettoyer...". This translates roughly as "until death, they (women) will be subjected to these rites. Eat, sleep, clean..." This work was at the forefront of Feminist literature and had a major influence on my life.

Sir Bob by Salvador de Madariaga
The book is inscribed "To Janet Bianchini and personally autographed by Salvador de Madariaga, Oxford, August 1969. It is a 1930 George Routlidge and Sons hardback edition. I was 12 years old when I was given this book by the great man himself and until yesterday, it had lain hidden away for nearly 3 years. It is "a Tall (Though Not Grown-Up ) Story for Children from Nine to Ninety. It is a humorous book and I intend to re read it this week in order to refresh my memory!
I think I will relate my connection to Salvador Madariaga in another future post, so watch this space...

"Stasiland" by Anna Funder
This book was like taking a walk in the past and it brought back so many memories of my time in The German Democratic Republic, where I had the privilege of working for one academic year in 1981-82. "Stasiland" is a brilliant account of the passionate search for a brutal history in the process of being lost, forgotten and destroyed. Living in a state of constant surveillance was grim for the people who had no freedom to travel abroad to western countries. I recollect listening to DDR radio and listening to the dull droning of the announcers constantly denouncing the wicked Imperialistic West and proudly boasting about DDR productivity levels, surpassing output by the day, or so it seemed. Luckily, I wasn't brainwashed by all this inverted propaganda and I picked up a lot of useful German vocabulary from the broadcasts in the days before I had made any close friends.

Ein Rundgang durch die DRESDENER GEMALDE-GALLERIE Alte Meiste by Harald Marx
This book has a collection of the most famous paintings to be found in the Dresden Art Gallery (Old Masters) in 1981. I bought it in Dresden in October 1981. I used to spend all my 200DDR Marks per month salary on books and travelling around the GDR, as in those days, because it was forbidden to take currency out of the country I was obliged to spend ALL my money in one way or another! My Dresden Technical University students presented me with a fabulous gift of a brochure of big posters of the most famous paintings in the Museum and these are my favourites from the book above.

I love Jan Vermeer's "Brieflesendes Madchen am offnen Fenster" 1659. I have used this picture as a visual aid for story telling countless times in lessons. Who is the letter from? What does it say? How will it affect the young girl's life?

Pintoricchio's "Portrait of a Boy" is a fabulous painting. What is the boy thinking about? Why does he look so grumpy? What was happening just before the portrait was being painted? What can you imagine about the young boy's lifestyle?

Jan-Etienne Liotard's "The Chocolate Girl" 1744/45 is again one of my favoutites. According to my book, this painting is quoted as being "one of the most beautiful pastels ever seen". It is simple and elegant in design. This young maid is carrying a glass of water and a cup of chocolate on a tray. Who are these items for? Is she happy in her job?

A reproduction painting of Bellotto's/ Canaletto's "Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe above the Augustus Bridge" 1748 was given to me by my best friend Marion from the former GDR and it hung in the hallway for 17 years in Oxford until October 2006. I can't wait to unearth it from my "Pictures" Box Number 70 and place it somewhere in my Abruzzo home. What a coincidence! Marion has just sent me an email from Dresden!

Raphael's "Sistine Madonna" is a delightful painting and I have to admit I used to view this every weekend on my regular visits to the Art Gallery. I loved the two cherubs (or "putti") you see at the bottom of the painting. These two have spawned an amazing growth industry in Cherubanalia. I'm not sure if it is a well-known fact that they are part of this fabulous painting.

If you register, you can view the whole gallery of paintings from the Old Masters in Second Life, if you click here. What a fabulous idea!

Well, this concludes my summary of my walk in time relating to Box 45. There are still many more boxes of books to go through and unpack, but I will leave them alone for the time being while I get down to my addictive WikiEducator course, which I will tell you more about soon....


popps said...

I'm worried, i think you need some a little lighter i'm going to send you my copy of Tintin - destination Moon!

Janet Bianchini said...

Thank you for your kind concern re the choice of books I mentioned. Yes, on reflection,some of the books in Box 45 were a bit "heavy" to say the least. Last night I stayed up late re-reading chunks of the "Anatomy of Human Destructiveness" - it is still fascinating reading, I have to admit.

Anyway, I didn't mention the other books in the box, such as various Garfield paperbacks full of funny cartoons, "Red Dog" by Louis de Bernieres and so on. For a "small" box, it was able to contain a lot of books, too many to include in a short posting!

Many thanks for your kind offer to send me a copy of Tintin - destination moon. I promise I will read something lighter tonight. I have "A Farside Collection" by Gary Larson on the side as I write....

popps said...

Farside - excellent.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

Nice selection indeed! I have so many books stashed in my garage back in the UK it's come to resemble a library. Unboxing (and reboxing) them often releases a flood of memories, usually pleasant ones, too!

I do like the Stasi one - I must make a mental note to buy it. I only made a quick trip to East Berlin in 1986, but it left many impressions on my young mind.

Janet Bianchini said...

I think you will enjoy "Stasiland". It is a very accurate account of what life was like "Behind the Iron Curtain".