Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The eight mountains, Paolo Cognetti

According to a Nepalese legend there is a high mountain, Sumeru. Surrounding it are eight seas and eight mountains. Some people travel to all eight mountains, others only reach the top of Sumeru.

Pietro's parents live in the city, but they really love the mountains. So each Summer they rent a cabin in the mountains. Here his mother finds a simpler life and his father, who is not a happy man, can walk around in his beloved mountains, the only place he feels well.

Pietro becomes friends with Bruno, a boy from the village and although their lives will differ when they grow up, their friendship is still there.
For Pietro's father Bruno is the son he never had, because Pietro and he are so different they end up not talking to eachother for years.

When his father dies, alone in his car on the highway, Pietro must find a way to deal with this, and the friendship he has with Bruno helps him.

For Bruno life in the mountains is the beginning and the end, for Pietro it is something to come home to every now and then. But of course, the mountains also shaped his life.

The eight mountains is a beautiful story about family, friendship and dealing with loss. You get a sense of the mountains and how these will always be there, when we people will have gone. Our problems seem very small compared to those huge blocks of rock.

I read this book in Oktober of last year in Dutch translation, and there is now also an English translation. Paolo Cognetti makes documentaries, and this was his first novel. I hope it will not be his last.

Italian title: Le otte montagne (2016)

Friday, 25 May 2018

Caravaggio, third work in Napels

On the third day I went to see to the last painting of Caravaggio in Napels. This was also the last painting he did before he died in 1610, under mysterious circumstances on his way back to Rome.

Third day, third painting

The martyrdom of Saint Ursula (1610)

Saint Ursula was said to be on her way to Cologne in Germany with 11.000 virgins, but the Huns caught them and slaughtered all the virgins. The king of the Huns wanted to marry Ursula, but she refused, so he killed her with an arrow.

Caravaggio painted the moment she is hit by the arrow, and the people around her are in shock. Ursula herself is also not believing what just happened to her.

This painting was commissioned by a nobleman Marcantonio Doria, but it ended up in the hands of the Duke Zervellos, a Spanish nobleman who had a palazzo in Napels. This palazzo and the art collection were finally bought by an Italian bank, but you are still allowed to see the artcollection.

The painting is not preserved in a great condition, perhaps something went wrong with the varnish, but it is also possible a restoration attempt went a bit wrong.

But still it is a powerful and wonderful painting to see. Especially since Caravaggio painted himself as one of the soldiers behind St. Ursula, shocked by the events. This somehow seems to forbode his own death just a short time after he finished this painting.

Palazzo Zavallos Stigliano, Via Toledo 185, Admission 5 euro's (May 2018)

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Caravaggio, second work in Napels

On the same day I visited the first Caravaggio, I went to the museum where the second painting is hanging. This is in the museum Capodimonte which is in the north of Napels. There is a bus going, I believe, but I took a taxi there and walked back.

Second day, second painting.

The flagellation of Christ (1607)

This work was commissioned by the di Franco Family, for their chapel in the San Domenico Maggiore. Since 1972 it hangs in the museum.

Caravaggio painted the moment Christ is bound to a pillar and he is tortured. A man grabs him by the hair and another kicks him in the knee, making Christ fall over.

This painting is very moving. It hangs in the museum at the end of a corridor, so you can see it from the other side of the building. And the moment you see it, even from that far, you know this is the painting you need to see. It is that powerful and that beautiful.

I actually had tears in my eyes when I finally stood in front of this painting.

Museo Capodimonte, Admission 12 euro's (May 2018)

Monday, 21 May 2018

Caravaggio: first work in Napels

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is for me one of the greatest painters who ever lived. He lived in Rome, but in 1606 he had to leave and went to Napels. Here he was asked to paint new works, and three of these paintings are still in Napels.
When I was in Napels a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to see all three of them. So this week I will show you which paintings I saw.

Day 2, first painting
On my second day in Napels I first set out to find this painting, which was not far from my hotel.

The seven works of mercy (1606-1607)

The charity foundation Pio Monte della Misericordia commissioned this painting. The first idea was of seven different paintings, but Caravaggio combined all the works of mercy in one painting.
The seven works of mercy are:

  • To feed the hunry
  • To give water to the thirsty
  • To clothe the naked
  • To shelter the homeless
  • To care for the sick
  • To visit the imprisoned
  • To bury the dead.

A lot is happening in this painting. On the right you see a woman who breatfeeds a man in prison. This may seem a bit strange, but it is based on a story of a young woman who helped her imprisoned father in this way and saved him from starvation. On the right you also see a dead man being caried away. On the left you see Saint Martin of Tour cutting his coat in half to help a naked man on the street, Samson who gives water to a man and a stranger asking for shelter, combining all the works of mercy.

The angel above inspires all the mercy and good works.

The work is absolutely magnificent. Caravaggio is a master of scenery and light. I love how this work is still hanging in the same place as it was commissioned for; the chapel of the foundation.

There is also a lovely museum with other artwork and the best part here is a view from the balcony above on the painting in the chapel.

Pio Monte della Misericordia, Via dei Tribunali 253, Napels. Admission 7 euro's (May 2018)

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

My father's war, Adriaan van Dis

Adriaan van Dis is one of my favorite Dutch authors.
His family came from Indonesia, which is a former Dutch colony. It was called Dutch Indie (Nederlands-Indie) in those days. During the Second World War Indie was occupied by the Japanese, who imprisoned all Dutch people in camps.

In this story, Adriaan van Dis tells the story about his childhood and the difficult relationship he had with his father.

His mother had been married before and had three daughters with her first huband, who was half Indonesian. During the war she and her three little girls were in a Japanese camp and they suffered very much. Her husband was killed by the Japanese.

Shortly after the war she met another man, and left for The Netherlands with him. This man was Adriaan's father.

Indonesia declared independance and there was no place left for the Dutch. The people from Indie came back to The Netherlands, but were not given a warm welcome. The Netherlands had suffered under the nazi's and did not want to hear the trauma's the people suffered under the Japanese. There was also a shortage in houses and these new people needed homes, so there was a lot of friction.

For people like Adriaans father it was very difficult. There was no sympathy for what he endured, he was not considered a warhero and on the whole his health was in such bad condition he could not work.

Adriaan grew up in a household where he was the only one who did not have memories of Indie, or the war. His sisters resent him because what does he know of hunger or pain and he resents them for their unity he has no part in.

His father wanted to make sure his son is prepared for the next war and did this with strict discipline.

Later, when his father has died, the family never talks. The war is never talked about, the camp is never talked about and the harsh beatings by their father are also never talked about. Only when one of his sisters dies, Adriaan finds the courage to look into the family history and find out what happend to his father and how this influenced them all.

This is of course a novel, but a very autobiographical one. Adriaan van Dis knows how to make heavy situations lighter without mocking them, he does not spare himself and it is the mixture of bitterness and humour, detesting your famiy and knowing you are stuck with them that makes this book so very beautiful.

Published in 1994

Friday, 11 May 2018

Impressions of Napels

In the last few days I was in Napels and I absolutely loved it. The city is vibrant and loud, has crazy traffic, beautiful churches, friendly people and layers and layers of history and art. I will definately come back here one day, but first, a few impressions of Napels!.

Mount Vesuvius. Nobody knows when it will burst out again, but one thing is sure,
when it happens, Napels is doomed. 

These red 'peppers' give protection against the evil eye and help with fertility. 

The convent of Santa Chiara had the most amazing garden.


View of Napels

Friday, 4 May 2018

Sing, unburied, sing, Jesmyn Ward

Not a lot has changed for the poor black people in Mississippi, it seems. In Sing, unburied, sing, we learn the story of Jojo and his family.

Jojo is 13 years old and lives with his little sister with their grandparents. His grandfather is Jojo's rolemodel and one day he hopes to become just like Pop.

A big problem is their mother, Leonie, who is not around much, spends her time getting high and when she is around it is clear the children do not mean much to her.

When her white boyfriend and the father of the children, Michael, gets out of prison, Leonie wants to pick him up. She is determined the children should come with her and so they begin on a terrible roadtrip that we all know will not bring any comfort.

A large role in this book is set apart for the Parchman prison in Mississippi. This was founded in 1901 and often black people were sentenced to go there and live and work in harsh and terrible circumstances.

Pop was sentenced to go there in the forties, and now Michael also spend time here.

Another large role is for the ghosts in this story. It took me a while to get used to the very active role these ghosts play, but on the other hand if there is so much injustice, it is no wonder the dead are restless and demand answers from the living.

Jojo has seen more than he should have, but he has his grandfather and we know he has a good chance in life. For Leonie and Michael there are no chances left and although we do understand Leonie has her demons, it is hard to find any sympathy for them.

Sing, unburied, sing is a beautiful book that tells you a little more about the life of black people in Mississippi and also a fascinating part of history. I also have Jesmyn Wards other novel, Salvage the bones on my shelves and I think I will read it very soon.

Published in 2017

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Visiting Ecomare

On Texel you can visit the visitationcentre of the foundation Ecomare. This foundation educates people about sealife, specially the seas of the Waddenzee and the Noordzee. There are some great exhibitions and a large sea-aquarium.

But they also have programmes to help seals and other animals from the sea, they nurse sick animals back to health and if nesessary they shelter young animals who lost their mothers and who cannot return to the wild for the rest of their lives.
You can visit the seals and see them really upclose.
Snoozing seal

This little one was in quarantine

Swimming around

There are also two little whales at Ecomare, porpoises. These two lost their mothers when they were only a few weeks old, and this means they do not have the survivalskills to get back into the wild.

At Ecomare they take good care of these porpoises, called Dennis and Michael. Each day there is a public feeding and the public gets information about them. The training is not for the benefit of the public, although it is very cute to watch, but to provide Dennis and Michael with stimulation and entertainment.

It is difficult to get a good photograph of them, because they swim very quickly and they only come up for a moment to take a breath!

One important warning, if you see a whale or a porpoise on the beach, do not push it back to the sea. It is probably hurt or ill and it will not have the strength anymore to swim, so it will probably drown. Better to phone the emergency services and aks for their help.

More about Ecomare can be found HERE
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