Friday, 30 December 2011

Finn Family Moomintroll

by Tove Jansson

This was the very first Moomin book I ever read, originally in Russian. Imprinting or not, I consider the Russian translation of this book superior to the English version (which I just finished reading). To start with the title: Finn Family Moomintroll — any book featuring Moomins could be named like that, right? The Russian title Шляпа волшебника is the correct translation of Swedish Trollkarlens hatt — literally, “The Magician’s Hat” (not “Hobgoblin’s Hat”). Снусмумрик sounds almost exactly as Snusmumriken (why Snufkin?), just as the names Тофсла и Вифсла are almost identical to Swedish “Tofslan och Vifslan” (in English, they are named Thingumy and Bob). The language these two latter creatures speak is translated to Russian more consistently. Or take this sentence:
О, какое счастье быть муми-троллем, который только проснулся и уже пляшет среди зеленых волн на восходе солнца!
Oh, to be a Moomin and to dance in the waves while the sun gets up!
And so on.

Never mind that, even in this translation it is still a magical book.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

by John Julius Norwich, illustrated by Quentin Blake

Whether or not you are still looking for that belated Christmas present... look no further. I imagine this one-way correspondence read by Hattie Hayridge (as female Holly in Red Dwarf).

2nd January

Look here Edward, this has gone far enough. You say you’re sending me nine ladies dancing; all I can say is that judging from the way they dance, they’re certainly not ladies. The village just isn’t accustomed to seeing a regiment of shameless hussies with nothing on but their lipstick cavorting round the green — and it’s Mummy and I who get blamed. If you value our friendship — which I do less and less — kindly stop this ridiculous behaviour at once.


Sunday, 25 December 2011


a film by Jason Reitman

After reading a review of this film in The Big Issue at the time, I fully intended to watch it... that never happened. Until now, that is. They were showing it on Spanish telly in the small hours of Saturday. Ellen Page shines in the title role, with some exceptionally good (I mean it) support of the fellow actors. The soundtrack features several songs by anti-folk singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson — what a treat.

Saturday, 24 December 2011


by Debski’s String Connection

Slowly, slowly, the best of Polish jazz and rock start to appear on CDs. String Connection was the greatest Polish jazz band in 1980s. I was lucky enough to see them live in Moscow Olympic Village in mid-’80s. (Incidentally, it was the first “foreign” band I ever seen live. Those were the days.)

Now Bizzaramente was recorded by a rather different band. The two original String Connection members, Krzesimir Dębski (violin, keyboards) and Krzysztof Przybyłowicz (drums), are joined here by Dom Um Romão (percussion) and Peter Szalay (tabla). Frankly, I was expecting a more interesting result from this collaboration. There’s not much of string connection — the sound is dominated by Dębski’s keyboards (rather than violin), and it must have sounded dated even back in 1988. The absence of a real bass player is pretty obvious. I wouldn’t call it jazz either. At best, it could be a movie soundtrack. The music is well-crafted and pleasant but there’s nothing, really, bizzarramente about it — except, perhaps, Paysage à la Balthüs 2, which is my favourite song on the album.

Friday, 23 December 2011


a film by Makoto Shinkai

As beautifully crafted as The Place Promised in Our Early Days but shorter (which is always a plus), this anime consists of three episodes. The first one, Cherry Blossom, is really the best, what with all the snow and trains. Cosmonaut reminded me of Yoko Ogawa’s The Diving Pool. The final episode, 5 Centimeters Per Second, is rather weak, although could be vastly improved by cutting out that song.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Torres De Casta Rosado 2010

It is the shortest day of the year, nearly Christmas, and still warm enough to enjoy some rosé outdoors! De Casta is a very decent bottle of wine and, at under €4, an absolute bargain. Life is good.

More photos of rosé wine @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Beauty and The Sea

by Mor Karbasi

Four months after it was packed, our stuff finally arrived to Fuerteventura. The stuff includes books, CDs and DVDs. Now I started unearthing the music that I did not listen to for a while. The Beauty and The Sea was among them.

As it was explained a while ago, back in 2008 I missed Mor Karbasi’s Cambridge gig because Uriah Heep were playing next door. That won’t happen next time, I promise, but nobody knows when this next time will be. According to her website, she plays two dates in Spain next week, 21st December in Malaga and 22nd in Madrid. I hope some of my Spanish friends can catch her!

Back to the album: it is a beauty. The songs are all beautiful. (Do I use this word too much? Unavoidable here.) My favourite is Fuego, with guest musicians Kai Eckhardt and Trilok Gurtu. And then the story by Shoshana Karbasi, which links the songs together. I only wish it had the original Ladino or Spanish lyrics there.

“Tell me kind old lady, what is the name of this street?”
“This street has no name, my child.”
“Does this street lead to the sea?” I ask.
“All of the streets around here lead to the sea, my child.”
“Have you seen my beloved?” I ask.
“Is she pretty, my child?” she replies.
“Yes, very pretty.”
“A red flower in her hair?” she asks.
“Yes! Oh yes!” I answer, “Have you seen her?”
“Your beautiful has gone to the sea... She has gone to the sea.”
“And how would you know kind lady?” I ask, “How do you know?”
“All lost loves go to the sea”, she says with great sadness. “This is how it is with loves.”

Saturday, 10 December 2011

José Pariente, Rueda DO 2009

Finally, a bottle of decent Spanish Sauvignon Blanc, even though on a pricey side (about €9). It comes from Valladolid; now I know what to ask our friends to bring here when they come to visit.

More photos of white wine @ Shutterstock.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Beautiful Losers

by Leonard Cohen

According to Wikipedia, “Beautiful Losers is considered a masterpiece of Canadian literature”. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Canadian literature must be dead boring. I spent more than two months wading through this murky stream of (un)consciousness and it is a little miracle that I actually finished the book, mostly out of respect to the author (who surely is doing much better as a singer-songwriter than a novelist). I didn’t enjoy it.

To be fair, there are some lovely poetic passages, and the strange story of Catherine Tekakwitha on its own would make a decent novella. Then there are some other passages that are positively disgusting. But even if they were not there, I doubt that as a whole the novel would ever work.

Is All The World A Prayer To Some Star? Are All The Years Of The World A Catalogue Of The Events Of Some Holiday? Do All Things Happen At Once? Is There A Needle In The Haystack? Do We Perform In The Twilight Before A Vast Theatre Of Empty Stone Benches? ... ..... ... May I Unfasten My Loneliness And Collide Once Again With A Beautiful Greedy Body? May I Fall Asleep After A Soft Happy Kiss? May I Have A Dog For A Pet? May I Teach Myself To Be Handsome? May I Pray At All?