Wednesday, July 27, 2011


My dear readers, I have neglected you for too long now! (I still cannot believe my last post dates back from April 2011!). This doesn't mean I haven't done anything in between... Those who follow me on twitter will know.

This summer comes with a major change in my life: that I have finally decided to start working independently on my literature, film and comics projects. I will also continue blogging, in English, in French and sometimes in Turkish.

You can find all about my new plans and continue following my work on my brand new website which will also host a blog section.

Thank you all for reading me so far and I hope to see you in my new web home!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Translating Literature, Reviewing Translated Literature

The online magazine for international literature, Words Without Borders, has launched a series to explore the ways that book reviews handle translation. As it is explained on the WWB website:

Reviewers and translators each have varied opinions on how translations should be discussed, and on who should be doing the discussing. At a recent panel on the future of book reviewing, review editors stressed the importance of translation coverage, though one admitted that he would rather pass on a translated book than assign it to a reviewer who might not “get it right.”  (Getting it right, according to him, means finding a reviewer with the ability to determine whether the translator has been faithful to the original language, and whether or not the translation “sounds” anything like the original text.) The issue came up again the following week, at a subsequent panel of book review editors. One made the point that there are essentially two kinds of reviews for translations, one for books that are appearing in the language for the first time, and another for books that have been translated before. Another editor said he expects an overall level of expertise from his reviewers on both the writer and the language, and a third said that a reviewer does not need to be a specialist in the language the book was written in, in fact she encouraged people to cover works from languages outside of their knowledge to follow their interest in contemporary literature.  
So far, Word Without Borders has published five articles from literary translators such as Edith Grossman, Daniel Hahn, Lorraine Adams and more. You can find a list of the published articles here.

One major problem, especially in the English speaking book market, is the ridiculously small amount of translations (only 3%!). Edith Grossman also tackles this issue in her essay Why Translation Matters (you can read a review of her book in the New York Times Sunday Book Review of 8 April 2010).

I met one editor at a major UK publishing house who mentioned the ignorance and laziness of anglo-saxon editors (including himself) on the matter. It is good that they are aware of the issue, but it is really bothering that not much is done from their side about changing attitudes towards literary translation.

Another interesting publication that came out recently is the Diversity Report 2010: Literary Translation in Current European Book Markets. An analysis of authors, languages, and flows, written by market researcher and consultants Rüdiger Wischenbart. The report looks into who gets translated in European fiction and who is not through a survey of 200 well renowned authors of contemporary fiction across 12 European languages.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Call for Entries: Sarajevo Talent Campus 2011

You may remember that I had the wonderful opportunity to participate as a screenwriter to last year's Sarajevo Talent Campus, and that I posted articles about some of the lectures and sessions we had, like ones with Semih KaplanogluSamuel MaozGaspar Noé ... On top of these great filmmakers, we also had the chance to have a full session with Morgan Freeman (that was an unforgettable experience!).  The whole week was extremely productive and useful, a very rich professional and personal experience. I haven't been as productive as I would have wished to since I got back home and to my day job, but I did work on - and still am developing- some projects. And the Talent Campus definitely boosted me to have faith in my writing and my ideas. 

If you are a filmmaker, producer, screenwriter or actor from Southeast Europe, check out the Sarajevo Talent Campus website to apply for the 5th Sarajevo Talent Campus. The theme this year is Our Time, My Point of View. For more info visit the STC 2011 website.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Readers, Authors, Librarians, Publishers... All Against DRM!

If you're against DRM's (Digital Restrictions Management), there is a way to show it. Check the Readers Bill of Rights for digital books and gather the logo's from their website. I have to say I'm extremely tired of restrictions that are forced upon digital books. One recent example of misusing the digital medium to apply absolutely ridiculous restrictions - that aren't even relevant for the print version of a book! - is the 26 check-out policy on digital books HarperCollins has suggested to libraries. Cory Doctorow makes a very good criticism of this in his Guardian article Ebooks: durability is a feature not a bug
A French version of the logo's and the Reader's Bill of Rights exist on the e-bouquin website. Thanks to Clément Monjou for spreading the news on twitter.

Logo's in English on
Logo's in French on

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Au Rendez-vous des poètes" Picasso's Art and Literary Contacts

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is currently showing Picasso in Paris (1900-1907), an exhibition tracing Picasso's artistic development while in Paris in the beginning of the 20th century. As part of this really nice exhibition and the Museum's Sunday Lectures, Peter Read (professor of modern French literature and visual arts at the University of Kent, Canterbury) gave a talk about Picasso's Art and Literary contacts: "Au Rendez-vous des poètes".

Je pense à toi
au riz de
l'autre soir à te lignes logiques
Moïse et Stendhal
(Picasso, poem to Max Jacob, 1905)

When he came to Paris, Picasso was 19, had no money and no contact in the Parisian art world other than his Spanish friends, artists and anarchists closely watched by the police at the time. By the age of 26, Picasso established himself as a leading avant-garde artist in France and internationally, as explains Peter Read "He was a man with a plan". Picasso showed his determinism and professionalism by working with art dealer and collector Ambroise Vollard for his first parisian solo show. 

Literature and theatre affected Picasso's work. Through his first exhibition in Paris, he met French poet Max Jacob, with whom he later shared a room on the Boulevard Voltaire. Max Jacob was Picasso's first French friend. Jacob used to take him to the theatre - they saw La Boheme twice - and also became Picasso's language tutor. Picasso didn't know French and Max Jacob didn't know Spanish but Jacob would read 19th century French poetry to his friend: Alfred de Vigny would "move them both to tears" writes Jacob in his memoirs. One can see de Vigny's impact on Picasso's work through mentions the painter would make on his painting or drawings. Picasso's first poem in French, explains Read, was to thank Max Jacob "pour te remercier pour ton dessin", and in which he mentions de Vigny's poem "Moïse". In de Vigny's poem, Moses is presented as tragically aware he may not reach his destination. Picasso could identify with this sentiment of exile, explains Read, "he knew his genius but could also identify with the romantic visionary outsider". Max Jacob would also read him Verlaine; the poem Cortège appears in one of Picasso's sketchbooks in which he made drawings inspired by the poem. 

In 1904, Picasso moves to the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre where he would receive more and more artist friends like Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon, Max Jacob and others. Picasso had painted "Au rendez-vous des poètes" on his door. He had fully integrated Parisian cultural life. "The studio became a poetic laboratory and had a really theatrical atmosphere" explains Read. 

In Paris, Picasso has been moving from painting the poor and the beggar from the Blue Period, to artistic achievement as seen in many paintings depicting theatre figures like Arlequin, Pierrot and more. His life in the Bateau Lavoir has also influenced his work showing a new sense of group identity and community. He has also produced hundreds of caricatures which, according to Read "contributed to the cubism period". Guillaume Apollinaire also said that caricatures were key to the development of modern art; Picasso has produced many caricatures of his friend Apollinaire (more about Picasso and Apollinaire on this blog post on the Art Blog by Bob). 

Peter Read concluded his lecture by saying that Picasso's progress from the Blue to the Pink period and to Cubism was definitely influenced by his literary sensibility, his interest in theatre, in Iberian and African sculptures, his talent as a cartoonist, and by his artistic and poetically rich entourage. 

The exhibition, Picasso in Paris is on show at the Van Gogh Museum until 29 May 2011, then at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona from 1 July to 16 October 2011.   

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Letters and Manuscripts

There's a hidden gem in Paris, well, not so hidden as it is since April 2010 located in a beautiful Haussmannian building on the Bd Saint-Germain: the Musée des Lettres et des Manuscrits.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Autograph manuscript illustrated with aquarelle from the author, April 1943-May 1944
I still cannot believe I never heard of this beautiful museum until very recently. The Museum was established in 2004 in a townhouse rue de Nesle and moved to its current location last April. It was founded by Gérard Lhéritier, a collector, investor, writer passionate about history and manuscripts. Lhéritier explains in an interview for the newsletter of the Aidac how it all started: "Very early, I've grown an interest in the arts in general and more particularly in old documents. But my encounter with Autographed Letter Signed has been by chance. My son used to collect stamps and I wanted to offer him the first French stamp, the 20 cents black stamp from 1849, for his birthday. While looking for it, I saw in a window at rue Drouot a small letter with the inscription "par Ballon Monté" and I asked the owner of the shop what it meant." It referred to Balloon Mail, used to transport mail during the Siege of Paris of 1870. "A nice Jules Verne like story that seduced me" says Lhéritier, explaining that he bought this letter and that's how his passion started. Within the 'History' section of the Museum, there is a whole window dedicated to the Paris Siege including letters from Victor Hugo to a journalist of Courrier de l'Europe in London and from Edouard Manet to young artist and Manet's student Eva Gonzales, both letters including information about the Siege. Lhéritier's interest in the Paris Siege grew into a passion of letters and manuscripts and the founding of this museum in 2004.

Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, Edition of the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences; des arts et des métiers, Genève, Pellet, 1777-1779, in 39 volumes.   

The museum has some 70,000 pieces in its collection, from which around 250 are on display in its permanent collection, and other pieces are shown in various temporary exhibition (one about Romain Gary is currently on show until 3 April 2011). 
Jacques Brel's Cahier a spirales vert, 1964

The permanent collection is divided into thematic sections: History, Sciences and Discoveries, Music, Arts, and Literature. By clicking on each of the thematic sections' links, you can explore some of the pieces of the collection. Going from section to section the visitor will have the chance to discover a wide range of original letters and manuscripts, like documents from the Second World War -including letters from Charles de the Gaulle or the cease-fire order signed by Eisenhower, Einstein's notes on the Theory of Relativity, a letter from Charles Darwin, an original partition by Beethoven, notes and letters by Chanson Francaise artists Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg, and last but not least, letters by the greatest writers of French literature including Balzac, Zola, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Hugo, and many many more. One of my personal highlights was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's window including a letter he wrote to a young female officer he met in Algeria and was in love with, and the movingly beautiful drawings with words of Le Petit Prince. 
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Autograph manuscripts illustrated with aquarelles from the author, April 1943-May 1944
Although this museum is of high interest to French and non French visitors alike, there is absolutely no information available in any other language than French, even on the website. This is of course a pity as the heritage shown here isn't just relevant to the French of French speaking people and I hope that the museum is working on a multilingual communication for the near future. However, this shouldn't stop you from visiting, especially if you manage to do a little preparation before. Also, you won't need to understand every single word to be moved by Edith Piaf's writing, Saint-Exupery's drawings of Le Petit Prince, or by the formulas of Einstein. 

A catalogue of the permanent exhibition is also available (in French); Lettres et manuscrits. Petits et grands secrets. Edited by the Museum and Flammarion (2010).

Photos without flash are allowed in the museum. The museum website has much better pictures than the one I took with my iPhone (and are of poor quality I admit but still useful to illustrate this post). 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Juggling on Bach

Last Sunday was Bach Day at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, organized by the wonderful Early Music Festival I mentioned a few months earlier on this blog. One of the events was "Le Chant des Balles", a magical show by Eric Bellocq and Vincent de Lavenère, both musicians and jugglers.

Le Chant des Balles (c)Philippe Cibille
de Lavenère explains his artistic commitment at lenght on his website. "The roots of my universe stand in the heart of our cultural and musical heritage" says the artist, explaining that his interest for traditional arts has a central place in his work. Each of the performances are inspired by various traditions, the inspiration for "Le Chant des Balles" was medieval and baroque, including Middle Ages jugglers and poetry. "Tradition isn't only a source of inspiration" explains de Lavenère, "but a real actor in the performance enabling to nurture, enrich but also to develop this very particular language that is jonglerie musicale".  
Le Chant des Balles (c)Philippe Cibille
"Le Chant des Balles" was the first such performance they developed with lutenist Eric Bellocq, therefore being at the very origin of this "jonglerie musicale" concept. After receiving many questions about this particular language using juggling and music, they have decided to publish a book that not only translates the various gestures and language of their show but also explains their artistic commitment. In "Le Chant de Balles", de Lavenère and Bellocq present an Early Music repertoire. The programme at the Muziekgebouw included Lute suites by J.S. Bach, a prelude from the Chants d'Espagne by Isaac Albéniz and traditional German and Japanese folk songs.  

Le Chant des Balles (c)Philippe Cibille
I really enjoyed the way both artists mastered their art, juggling and playing the lute, and were able to share their passion for "jonglerie musicale". There was a great energy between the two, and the show was very well balanced between comical and more sober scenes. There were a few kids in the audience but I believe all the adults were even more mesmerized by the music and the jonglerie, dancing in a beautiful mise-en-scene.

The duo is now touring the Netherlands with "Le Chant des Balles" and will end in Belgium this weekend. They will perform other shows starting from March in France, Spain and Italy. Check their calendar for more information. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Catching up with some pictures

This blog has been awfully quiet for the last couple of months. It isn't out of laziness, I promise. On the contrary, I have been busy working on various projects (documentary film, literature and comics mainly) and have learned many interesting things I will share at great length with you on this blog.

In the meantime, I'll start by sharing some pictures from last week's trip to Portugal, hoping you'll forgive my silence!

Cats in a bin, Lisbon
A friendly sign in Lisbon
Faculty of Letters, Coimbra
Club Fluvial Portuense, Porto
Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra