Sunday, 19 February 2017

El piano oriental

by Zeina Abirached
Un piano oriental... Esa extraña yuxtaposición de dos visiones del mundo que nada parece poder unir, su música doble, el sonido ligero del contoneo imperceptible de una nota en medio de una frase, los llevo dentro de mí. Ser un piano oriental es abrir una ventana en París y esperar ver el mar tras los edificios haussmanianos más allá, incluso.

It called to me from the very same comic book stand in the library that is responsible for all of my graphic novel reading. Drawn in bold black and white, it reminded me of Persepolis although even a quick leaf through was enough to reveal the stylistic differences.

There are two intertwined storylines in El piano oriental. One is the story of Abdallah Kamanja, inspired by the real-life Abdallah Chahine, a Lebanese musician and inventor of the titular “oriental piano”. Another is the autobiographical one, of a girl growing between Beirut and Paris. The leitmotif, underpinned by the author’s ingenious use of text as a graphical device, is that of bilinguality: East meets West, quarter-tones meet semitones, Arabic meets French... A beautiful book.

As far as I know, Le piano oriental was also published in Spanish, German and Italian but not English (yet).
Here you can see some pages of the book in English translation by Edward Gauvin.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Batman: La Lego Película

a film by Chris McKay

Here in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, we have our own Lego Batman ad, designed to promote the local public transport. It shows Batman saying “Solo cojo la guagua cuando Alfred está lavando el batmóvil”.

Yesterday, Timur and I went to see the movie. (Naturally, we took the bus.) It is fast-paced and roaringly funny. Also, quite inventive. I mean, Godzilla accidentally destroying Barad-dûr — why didn’t Peter Jackson think of anything as brilliant?

I prefer watching films in their original language whenever possible, but I have to admit that I loved this particular Spanish dub. (Spanish Spanish, that is. As far as I can see from the trailers, it is very different from the Latin American version.) But now I am curious. For instance, Batman addresses Robin as “my son”, then explains that it means “‘mi hijoen inglés”. How did that go in English, I wonder.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Racine carrée

by Stromae

I first heard (about) Stromae just a few weeks ago, thanks to this web article. I bought Racine carrée on the strength of three videos: quite literally formidable Formidable; Papaoutai, with its fantastic (break)dance routine; and Carmen, an animation directed by Sylvain Chomet (Les Triplettes de Belleville, L’Illusionniste). I have to warn you that, after watching this latter clip, you’ll never listen to Habanera with the same ears again and most probably will delete your Twitter account. The rest of the album is not bad either. I discovered to my surprise that the kora player on Bâtard is none other than Noumoucounda Cissoko. C’est formidable.

Monday, 6 February 2017


a film by Paul Verhoeven

Raving reviews notwithstanding, I didn’t watch Black Book when it was first screened in England. All these (ten) years, it remained on my “to watch” list — in other words, every time I saw it in the library, I’d always find some excuse not to borrow it. A few days ago, they were showing it on Spanish TV, and I sat down and watched it from start to finish, without ever falling asleep.

Not exactly my first choice to watch after The Big Bang Theory, but man, what a film. Not only has it got everything the good war movie should have (and I don’t even like war movies that much), it’s got it all perfect: tight plot, attention to detail, life, death, sex, love, betrayal, a sympathetic Hauptsturmführer, a traitorous Resistance member, subdued colours, rather overdramatic 1950s-style music, plus some very 21st-century acting, and not only by Carice van Houten. By the end of the movie, I thought my Dutch and German have improved to the level I didn’t need Spanish subtitles any longer, until I realised they switched to English for a while.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


by King Crimson

Yes, musicians are also people. They die every year. 2016 though seemed to be especially brutal in this respect. Among many others, it claimed the lives of both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, leaving Carl Palmer the only surviving member of ELP. Another prog-rock hero, John Wetton, passed away yesterday.

I was lucky to see both Wetton and Palmer performing with Asia in Moscow, in what still was called Soviet Union. It was a fantastic show throughout but the most beautiful part had nothing to do with Asia. Half-way through the concert, the fellow musicians left Wetton alone on stage to sing Book of Saturday and Starless.

Red was the first KC album I ever heard. It happened at the relatively late stage of my development, in the mid-1980s. Although I love all KC albums of the 1970s, I still regard Red as their finest. Frankly, after Starless, there was — there is — nothing left to say. So to disband after releasing Red probably was the only option at the time.

While Fripp & Co. continue to remix, remaster and repackage their material, I am quite happy with my 30th Anniversary Edition, which is a huge improvement on that noisy cassette tape I first heard it.

(Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Palmer-James)
Sundown dazzling day
Gold through my eyes
But my eyes turned within only see
Starless and bible black

Old friend charity
Cruel twisted smile
And the smile signals emptiness for me
Starless and bible black

Ice blue silver sky
Fades into grey
To a grey hope that all yearns to be
Starless and bible black

Sunday, 29 January 2017

La Tortue Rouge

a film by Michaël Dudok de Wit

Every ten years or so, Mr de Wit creates a masterpiece. Needless to say, we were looking forward to his first feature film. The problem is to find where to see it.

This morning, Timur discovered that the one and only screening of La tortuga roja on this island takes place today in Monopol at 16:30. Naturally, we had to go there. There were 5 (five) spectators altogether, imagine that. What a crying shame. On the plus side, there were no trailers and nobody was eating popcorn.

Although not as heartbreaking as Father and Daughter, this film still can make you cry. Also, it is impossibly beautiful.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Честная бедность

by Robert Burns and Samuil Marshak
a song by Alexander Gradsky

Burns wrote Is There for Honest Poverty in 1795 and it must have been a revolutionary song at the time. It still is. Nowadays it is used by the Scots in various patriotic contexts but the song says nothing about Scotland and that, dare I say, adds to its universal appeal.

As I mentioned before, Marshak made Burns’ poetry a phenomenon of Russian literature, and Честная бедность is one of the best examples. His translation of “an’ a’ that” as “и всё такое прочее” was a stroke of genius. In the 1970s, the verse “Король лакея своего назначит генералом...” inspired another gem of Russian poetry, Песенка короля by Leonid Filatov. But what about “Бревно останется бревном” (literally, “a log will stay a log”, meaning “the stupid will stay stupid”), one of the most quoted lines of Russian Burns? Actually, Burns did not say anything of the sort. This is pure Marshak.

Alexander Gradsky recorded a song utilising a fragment of Честная бедность on his 1987 album Утопия АГ.

Robert Burns
Is There for Honest Poverty
Роберт Бёрнс, перевод С.Я. Маршака
Честная бедность
Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that?
The coward-slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that.
Кто честной бедности своей
Стыдится и всё прочее,
Тот самый жалкий из людей,
Трусливый раб и прочее.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Our toils obscure, an’ a’ that;
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The man’s the gowd for a’ that!
При всём при том,
При всём при том,
Пускай бедны мы с вами,
Богатство — штамп на золотом,
А золотой — мы сами!
What tho’ on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey an’ a’ that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A man’s a man for a’ that!
Мы хлеб едим и воду пьём,
Мы укрываемся тряпьём
И всё такое прочее,
А между тем дурак и плут
Одеты в шёлк и вина пьют
И всё такое прочее.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that!
При всём при том,
При всём при том,
Судите не по платью.
Кто честным кормится трудом, —
Таких зову я знатью!
Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
Вот этот шут — придворный лорд,
Ему должны мы кланяться,
Но пусть он чопорен и горд,
Бревно бревном останется!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that:
His riband, star, an’ a’ that,
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that!
При всём при том,
При всём при том,
Хоть весь он в позументах, —
Бревно останется бревном
И в орденах, и в лентах!
A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that,
But an honest man’s aboon his might,
Guid faith he mauna fa’ that!
Король лакея своего
Назначит генералом,
Но он не может никого
Назначить честным малым.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities, an’ a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher ranks than a’ that.
При всём при том,
При всём при том,
Награды, лесть и прочее
Не заменяют ум и честь
И все такое прочее!
Then let us pray that come it may —
As come it will for a’ that —
That sense and worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that;
Настанет день и час пробьёт,
Когда уму и чести
На всей земле придет черёд
Стоять на первом месте.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin’ yet for a’ that,
That man to man, the world o’er,
Shall brithers be for a’ that!
При всём при том,
При всём при том,
Могу вам предсказать я,
Что будет день,
Когда кругом
Все люди станут братья!