We took the twelve-thirty train and got into the Biarritz station just after six. There was a bus schedule nailed to the wall, but the train ride had been smooth and I didn’t want to spoil our momentum, so I waved to the first in a row of taxis and offered the driver ten euros, which was quite a lot for me in those days. Probably there was a flat rate to the center of town, but the driver looked at the thin crowd coming off the train and at Katja, who was wearing espadrilles, and said ten would be okay, once he’d finished his cigarette.
On the drive in, Katja leaned against the window and didn’t say too much. The landscape was gray and battered. It was April, but winter still had a grip on everything: the low sun and the farms, with their lean cows, and the roads, which were scarred by fissures.
Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet is complete with The Story of the Lost Child,making it possible to see the whole structure, which reveals itself in layers like Naples itself, where former cityscapes are buried by time, political violence, and natural disasters. Reading this final volume, it’s easy to forget that the first book, My Brilliant Friend, frames the entire work as a mystery—aside from the much-discussed secrecy of Ferrante, who uses a pen name, allows no photographs, and, with few exceptions, will only be interviewed via email or telephone. With this volume, Ferrante reminds us again that a question of authorship is embedded into the narrative—who is telling this story? Lila or Elena?
By PAOLA PERONI
Last year, Antonio Greco committed suicide after attempting to kill his wife with a hammer. The doctors refused to speculate on the prognosis of his wife, hospitalized in critical condition. When we heard the news, I said I was only surprised Antonio had waited so long to try to kill Maria.
Lady Gaga says she truly cares about all her Little Monsters
and if you don’t believe her that is just because you don’t know her.
They send her fan videos, tell her about the bullying
and the beatings
and she takes it all in. One night a bulimic approached me
at KGB Bar.
Stoic faces, stiff poses, graceful envelope rhyme—this book is built on the difference between a caption and a title, between identifying an image and re-animating it. As Adam Kirsch writes in his introduction to Emblems of the Passing World, August Sander’s photographs reveal “what is ordinarily hidden from us—the way we ourselves appear, and will appear to posterity, as types, when we stubbornly insist on experiencing ourselves as individuals.”
The poems that follow are based on photographs of citizens from Germany’s Weimar Republic, a period of political upheaval between the first and second World Wars. Despite severe economic inequality during these years, many of Germany’s most famous artists and writers flourished, including August Sander, a photographer with the ambition of documenting people from all walks of life. Rather than using names, the portraits identify their sitters by social class or occupation, and the poems use their captions as titles. Kirsch, who is both critical and admiring of Sander, carves these subjects from the geological strata of their history and attempts to give them back a semblance of individuality.
Olivia ZhengReview: Emblems of the Passing World: Poems After Photographs by August Sander
In the cabinet in the atrium outside my office is a glass display case that holds, among other things, a beautiful kidney shaped vessel, its patina smoothed by use. Label: “Brass Pus Basin.” It is an object to stand and stare down at for a while, intentionally or idly, to move on from and return to, to see in passing. Nearby, as part of an exhibit on bloodletting and cupping, are 18th- and 19th-century thumb lancets with their sharp little blades and tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl handles. In the next case over, a collection of 40 or so calculi (“bladder stones”) of varied size and shape, all disturbingly large. This is the Warren Anatomical Museum, at Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library, where “the dead teach the living.”