domingo, 29 de diciembre de 2019

Agata Trzebuchowska

Agata Trzebuchowska

Agata Trzebuchowska is a Polish actress who is quickly garnering international accolades for her debut performance as the title character in Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida. Wide-eyed, but not necessarily naive, Trzebuchowska breathes life into the complex and troubled, young Ida.

Her performance gained her recognition from critics all over the world and award nominations from the European Film Awards and the Chicago Film Critics Association. The film itself secured an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and won "Best Film" at the European Film Award.

Ida has also won best film at the London Film Festival, the Telluride Film Festival, the Golden Lion winner at the Gdynia Film Festival, and the Critics Prize Winner at the Toronto Film Festival.


Pawlikowski has complained about critics who see the movie solely as a meditation on the Holocaust or Poland, and, of course, he’s partially right, since “Ida” is certainly a story of identity; it’s certainly a spiritual journey, too. His irritation may be caused by a certain hostility in Poland to an exiled filmmaker who returns bristling with ideas about the country. (Pawlikowski may want to work there again, and needs to sweeten the atmosphere.) Whatever he says, he’s made a movie that breathes history in every frame, and his annoyance reminds me of D. H. Lawrence’s remark, “Never trust the teller, trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.” All right, then: again and again, “Ida” asks the question, What do you do with the past once you’ve re-discovered it? Does it enable you, redeem you, kill you, leave you longing for life, longing for escape? The answers are startling.

David Denbe
Ida / A Film Masterpiece

lunes, 25 de noviembre de 2019

Edith Wharton


Edith Wharton

(1862 - 1937)

A Biography

Edith Wharton (1862-1937) was born into a tightly controlled society at a time when women were discouraged from achieving anything beyond a proper marriage. Wharton broke through these strictures to become one of America’s greatest writers. Author of The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, and The House of Mirth, she wrote over 40 books in 40 years, including authoritative works on architecture, gardens, interior design, and travel. She was the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University, and a full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


“No children of my own age…were as close to me as the great voices that spoke to me from books. Whenever I try to recall my childhood it is in my father’s library that it comes to life…”
Wharton was born Edith Newbold Jones into a wealthy New York family on January 24, 1862, at 14 West 23rd St. The third child and only daughter of George Frederic and Lucretia Rhinelander Jones, the young Edith spent much of her childhood in Europe, mainly France, Germany, Italy, developing both her gift for languages and a deep appreciation for beauty – in art, architecture and literature.
Returning to New York in 1872, Edith’s literary life began:  her parents engaged the talented Anna Catherine Bahlmann as her governess, she was allowed access to her father’s library, and at age 16, Verses, her volume of poems was published privately.

Society & Marriage

“..he was thirteen years older than myself, but the difference in age was lessened by his natural youthfulness, his good humor and gaiety, and the fact that he shared my love of animals and out-door life, and was soon to catch my travel-fever…” 
At age 17, Edith Jones “came out” into society, making the rounds of dances and parties in Newport and New York, observing the rituals of her privileged world, a world she would later gleefully skewer in her fiction. Her childhood ended with the death of her father in March of 1882, followed by two romantic disappointments. Still unmarried at the age of 23, Edith was rapidly approaching “old maid” status. In 1885 she married Edward Robbins (Teddy) Wharton. Though imperfectly suited for each other, the couple filled their early married years with travel, houses, and dogs.
While living in Newport, Wharton honed her design skills, co-authoring (with Ogden Codman, Jr.) her first major book, a surprisingly successful non-fiction work on design and architecture, The Decoration of Houses (1897).

The Mount

The supreme excellence is simplicity. Moderation, fitness, relevance – these are the qualities that give permanence to the work of the great architects…” 
In 1901, eager to escape Newport, Wharton bought 113-acres in Lenox, then designed and built The Mount, a home that would meet her needs as designer, gardener, hostess, and above all, writer. Every aspect of the estate—including its gardens, architecture, and interior design—evokes the spirit of its creator.
In a letter to her lover, Morton Fullerton, Wharton revealed how much of herself she put into The Mount:
“I am amazed at the success of my efforts. Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth… “
The Whartons would live at The Mount a short ten years. It was a transformational decade for Wharton, full of professional triumphs and emotional turmoil. Here she would write some of her greatest works, including The House of Mirth (1905) and Ethan Frome (1911). All while her marriage disintegrated under the weight of Teddy Wharton’s mental instability. The Whartons sold The Mount in 1911, they divorced in 1913. Edith Wharton moved permanently to France, Teddy returned to his sister’s home in Lenox.

World War I

“Hasn’t it shaken all the foundations of reality for you?”
In 1914, when World War I broke out, Edith Wharton was wealthy, famous, recently divorced, and living in her favorite city, Paris. Instead of withdrawing to the safety of England or returning to the United States, Wharton chose to stay and devote herself to creating a complex network of charitable and humanitarian organizations.
Wharton established workrooms for unemployed seamstresses, convalescent homes for tuberculosis sufferers, hostels for refugees, and schools for children fleeing war-torn Belgium. As a writer, Wharton was intent on witnessing the realities of war and was one of a handful of journalists and writers allowed on the front lines. In 1916, Wharton received the French Legion of Honor for her war work.

EW in France WWI wtih soldiers and Walter Berry
EW in France WWI with soldiers and Walter Berry

Later Life

I am an incorrigible life-lover & life-wonderer & adventurer.”
At the end of the war, Wharton moved out of Paris to Pavillon Colombe, a suburban villa in the village of St.Brice-sous-Forêt. In 1921, her novel of old New York, The Age of Innocence, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In 1920 she acquired Château Ste.-Claire, a restored convent in the south of France. For the rest of her life, she divided her time between these two homes, devoted to her friends and dogs, writing prolifically, traveling, and gardening. She only returned to the United States twice after her move to France, the final time in 1923 to receive her Honorary Doctorate from Yale.
She died on August 11, 1937, age 75 at Pavillon Colombe. She is buried, in the Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles, close to her good friend Walter Berry.

Additional Reading:

Edith Wharton in France by Claudine Lesage (2018)
Edith Wharton at Home: Life at The Mount by Richard Guy Wilson (2012)
The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge (2010)
Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee (2008)
Edith Wharton: A Biography by R.W.B. Lewis (1993)

Grass Steps

The Gardens

An Image of Wharton's Spirit

…In the blending of different elements, the subtle transition from the fixed and formal lines of art to the shifting and irregular lines of nature, and lastly in the essential convenience and livableness of the garden, lies the fundamental secret of the old garden-magic…”
Gardens, as Wharton elaborated in Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904), should be architectural compositions just like houses. She envisioned her gardens as an elegant series of outdoor rooms, in harmony with the house and the surrounding natural landscape. Today, you can experience much of Wharton’s original design for the gardens.
Wharton’s niece, Beatrix Jones Farrand, was just starting her illustrious career as a garden designer when Edith Wharton created The Mount’s gardens and contributed drawings of an extensive kitchen garden.
The sunken Italian Garden uses serene tones of greens and whites which, combined with porticos and alcoves in the stone walls, creates a cool, shady respite from summer sun. The centerpiece of this garden is a rustic rock-pile fountain surrounded by white begonias.
The Mount Italian Garden by John Seakwood (2)
A gravel promenade of pleached linden trees, known as a Lime Walk, connects the Italian Garden to the more formal French Flower Garden. The French Flower Garden’s rectangular pool is surrounded by beds of annuals, perennials and shrubs creating vivid but orderly burst of colors. Wharton loved phlox, stocks, lilies, hydrangea, dianthus, delphinium, and dahlias, all of which still grace the flower beds.
The gardens also include a Rock Garden complete with molded Grass Steps cut into a sloping hill, a landscape feature rarely seen in America.

Novels & Novellas

Sanctuary, 1903
The Reef, 1912
Summer, 1917
The Marne, 1918
The Age of Innocence, 1920 (Pulitzer Prize winner)
Fast and Loose, (first novel, written in 1876-1877)

Short Story Collections

Ghosts, 1937


In Morocco, 1920
A Backward Glance, 1934 (autobiography)


Verses, 1878
Twelve Poems, 1926

As Editor

jueves, 24 de octubre de 2019

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath
October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963

US poet and novelist whose powerful, highly personal poems, often expressing a sense of desolation, are distinguished by their intensity and sharp imagery. Her Collected Poems 1981 was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Other collections of her poems include The Colossus 1960 and Ariel 1965, published after her death. Her autobiographical novel The Bell Jar 1961 deals with the events surrounding a young woman’s emotional breakdown.
         Plath was born during the Great Depression on October 27, 1932 at the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. In April 1935, Plath's brother Warren was born] and in 1936 the family moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts. Her Father Otto Plath died on November 5, 1940, a week and a half after Plath's eighth birthday, of complications following the amputation of a foot due to untreated diabetes. In 1950, Plath attended Smith College and excelled academically. She edited The Smith Review and during the summer after her third year of college Plath was awarded a coveted position as guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine, during which she spent a month in New York City.The experience was not what she had hoped it would be, and it began a downward spiral. Many of the events that took place during that summer were later used as inspiration for her novel The Bell Jar. Plath was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study at Cambridge University, England. She married fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and they lived together first in the United States and then England, having two children together: Frieda and Nicholas.  She committed suicide while living in London.
         The nurse was due to arrive at nine o'clock the morning of 11 February 1963 to help Plath with the care of her children. Upon arrival, she could not get into the flat, but eventually gained access with the help of a workman, Charles Langridge. They found Plath dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in the kitchen, with her head in the oven, having sealed the rooms between herself and her sleeping children with wet towels and cloths. At approximately 4:30 am, Plath had placed her head in the oven, with the gas turned on. She was 30.

Dictionary of the Arts
New York, Gramercy Books, 1994

Sylvia Plath

On October 27, 1932, Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother, Aurelia Schober, was a master’s student at Boston University when she met Plath’s father, Otto Plath, who was her professor. They were married in January of 1932. Otto taught both German and biology, with a focus on apiology, the study of bees.

        In 1940, when Sylvia was eight years old, her father died as a result of complications from diabetes. He had been a strict father, and both his authoritarian attitudes and his death drastically defined her relationships and her poems—most notably in her elegaic and infamous poem, "Daddy".

           Even in her youth, Plath was ambitiously driven to succeed. She kept a journal from the age of 11 and published her poems in regional magazines and newspapers. Her first national publication was in the Christian Science Monitor in 1950, just after graduating from high school.

          In 1950, Plath matriculated at Smith College. She was an exceptional student, and despite a deep depression she went through in 1953 and a subsequent suicide attempt, she managed to graduate summa cum laude in 1955.

        After graduation, Plath moved to Cambridge, England, on a Fulbright Scholarship. In early 1956, she attended a party and met the English poet, Ted Hughes. Shortly thereafter, Plath and Hughes were married, on June 16, 1956.

        Plath returned to Massachusetts in 1957, and began studying with Robert Lowell. Her first collection of poems, Colossus, was published in 1960 in England, and two years later in the United States. She returned to England where she gave birth to the couple's two children, Frieda and Nicholas Hughes, in 1960 and 1962, respectively.

        In 1962, Ted Hughes left Plath for Assia Gutmann Wevill. That winter, in a deep depression, Plath wrote most of the poems that would comprise her most famous book, Ariel.
         In 1963, Plath published a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Then, on February 11, 1963, during one of the worst English winters on record, Plath wrote a note to her downstairs neighbor instructing him to call the doctor, then she committed suicide using her gas oven.

      Plath’s poetry is often associated with the Confessional movement, and compared to poets such as her teacher, Robert Lowell, and fellow student Anne Sexton. Often, her work is singled out for the intense coupling of its violent or disturbed imagery and its playful use of alliteration and rhyme.

          Although only Colossus was published while she was alive, Plath was a prolific poet, and in addition to Ariel, Hughes published three other volumes of her work posthumously, including The Collected Poems, which was the recipient of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize. She was the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize after death.

The Colossus (1960)
Ariel (1965) 
Crossing the Water (1971) 
Winter Trees (1972) 
The Collected Poems (1981)

The Bell Jar (1963)
Letters Home (1975, to and edited by her mother)
Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (1977)
The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982) 
The Magic Mirror (1989, Plath's Smith College senior thesis)
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (2000, edited by Karen V. Kukil)

Books for Young Readers
The Bed Book (1976) 
The It-Doesn't-Matter-Suit (1996) 
Collected Children's Stories (UK, 2001) 
Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen (2001)