European studies blog

12 posts from April 2015

29 April 2015

No literature please, we’re British?

While we look forward to celebrating literature in translation at this year’s European Literature Night events, this post considers how we are not always as open to translations in the UK and wonders if attitudes have changed over the centuries...

When Yasmina Reza’s play Art came to the London stage, the posters  gave prominence to the three actors (largely well-known comedians) who starred in it on a rotating basis, but far less prominence was given to the of the author, and there was no mention of the fact that the play was translated from the French.

The New Horizons series of books, published by Thames & Hudson in the UK, are translations from the French Découvertes Gallimard.  However, the foreign author’s name doesn’t appear on the cover or spine, and isn’t revealed until the title page.

This authorial disguising of course has a long history, but I wonder if the motivation has changed.

When in 1589 the English publisher of Boccaccio’s Fiamettta gave him the name ‘John Boccace’ I don’t think he was hiding anything, any more than Gower was pulling the wool over his readers’ eyes when he cited ‘Dan Aristotle’ (CA, III, 86) or the Old Spanish Book of Alexander  when it similarly called the Stagirite ‘Don Aristatiles’ (stanza 33): these were authors of European stature, as much at home in England as in their countries of birth.

Amorous Fiammetta
Boccaccio, Giovanni, Amorous Fiammetta, translated by Bartholemew Young (London, 1587). British Library C.57.b.46. (Having anglicised Boccaccio’s name, in a curious reversal the translator italianises his own to  ‘B. Giovano’)

As a student I was struck by Spanish translations of the works of  ‘Carlos Dickens’.  So far as I can judge from the Spanish union catalogue, around the 1950s he started to appear under his own name.

La Niña Dorrit
Little Dorrit 
translated as La Niña Dorrit by ‘Carlos Dickens’ (Barcelona, 1885). 12613.dd.7.

I wonder: do the first two examples above speak of internationalism or nationalism?  Do we think English is the world language because it’s perfect, or just because it’s practical?

Mind you, my name doesn’t have a Spanish translation, but I’ve never been asked to go undercover by my saint’s day, and  I could have chosen from: Augustine, bishop, confessor, Doctor of the Church; Clarus, confessor; Hermes, martyr; Julian, martyr; Pelagius, martyr; Secundus and Alexander (and Abundus), martyrs.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance collections

27 April 2015

From governing a prison….to the Griffin Prize

In the first of a series of guest blog posts by translators, authors and others involved in this to European Literature Night 2015 on 13 May, Marek Kazmierski introduces us to his work as a publisher and translator and to the Polish poet Wioletta Grzegorzewska.

When I set up the publishing house OFF_PRESS a few years back, and started focusing on translations from Polish into English, I had zero experience, no qualifications and just enough time, money and stupidity to press on into publishing waters. I knew poetry didn't sell, though didn't yet no why. Nevertheless, I said to my editorial team – we don't want to lose any more money than is strictly necessary, hence – no poetry!

History, of course, runs its own course, regardless of our best-laid plans. I started translating and publishing dozens and dozens of Polish poets, both living at home and abroad, because I found it easy to contact and work with them, quickly put out books and anthologies and, most of all, I really enjoyed the challenge of confronting the problem poetry translations. Everyone I have ever met has always said “You translate poetry? That must be really hard!” and I always nod and smile and wonder to myself, in silence, at which point in evolutionary history it was we decided, as a species, that the easy way was the one to choose in life.

Truth is, when I started translating poetry, I had just stopped delivering creative writing in HMP Feltham in west London, and started working as a human rights governor in the same prison. Awful, complex, exciting work. Translating poetry, making hand-made books, organising events and festivals, was a great way to relieve work-place stress. Without training, without financial support, I went about reaching for the best the Polish poetry world had to offer – and, considering the history of Polish poetry, there is lots of greats to choose from, living and gone – Tuwim, Dehnel, Bargielska, Herbert, Amiel, Sosnowski, Fiedorczuk, Wojaczek – I have had a good go at most of them.

Kasmierski-Greg WIOLET~1 90px-CC_some_rights_reserved_svg
Wioletta Grzegorzewska. Picture by Sylwia Rogala from Wikimedia Commons

Of the hundred-plus poets I have worked with, Wioletta Grzegorzewska, based on the Isle of Wight, always held the greatest promise. Her poetry was always complex and linguistically rich, yet narratively accessible and easy to engage with. It was only much later, after I published her verse in several books, that she owned up to having also always written prose. This makes her an interesting proposition to translate. Her work tells a story, but the language is a work of art in itself. A quality now not only recognised by Arc Publications, who put out a selection of her poems and prose last year (Finite Formulae and Theories of Chance), but also by the European Literature Night team and most recently the jury of the Griffin Prize  in Canada, who have selected it for the four-strong shortlist of the best poetry published in the English language anywhere in the world last year.

Kasmierski-Greg finiteformulaeforweb Wioletta Grzegorzewska, Finite Formulae and Theories of Chance. (Todmorden, 2014) Awaiting shelfmark

Wioletta’s book tells the story of her family, from 1914 to 2014, and covers two World Wars, several births and deaths, many loves and moves about the map of the world. Her debut novel, Guguly [‘Unripened fruit’] (Wołowiec, 2014; YF.2015.a.415) is going to be published next year by Portobello Books, and covers similar ground – the challenges of growing up a woman, of being an outsider, of seeing the world through “gypsy” eyes. The credit for the success of her poetry in English goes not just to me, but to the wonderful Stephen Watts, who edited my translations, Marcelina Amelia, the artist who designed the cover for Arc, and Dr Urszula Chowaniec and Dr Ros Green, who regularly featured Wioletta’s work at various conferences and festivals, in the UK and abroad.

Literature has always been a team effort, and it saddens me that people still think of writers and translators as solitary creatures. The best of us adventure with the best of them – something which should resonate in our words.

Marek Kazmierski  

Marek Kazmierski is a writer, publisher and translator. He escaped communist Poland as a child and settled in the UK. Joint winner of the Decibel Penguin Prize and sole recipient of the BIKE Magazine Philosopher of the Year award, Marek is also the managing editor of a prison literary magazine Not Shut Up and founder of OFF_PRESS, an independent publishing house which has worked with English PEN, the South Bank Centre, the Polish Cultural Institute, the Mayor of London and various universities across Europe. His work has been published in numerous journals and titles, including The Guardian, 3AM Magazine and Poetry Wales.

24 April 2015

“As though everyone were alive…”

Type the word “Chernobyl” into our online catalogue, and a few thousand results will come for your attention. Unsurprisingly most of them will be scientific articles in academic journals and papers from international conferences as in the 29 years since the Chernobyl disaster a lot has been done by the world scientific community to assess the tragic event on 26 April 1986 and its consequences in all aspects. Articles and books have been published in many countries in various languages.  At the moment 13 theses about Chernobyl from universities in the United Kingdom are listed in our catalogue.

In addition our Belarusian and Ukrainian Collections offer researchers  ethnographical studies of the region of Polesia which was most severely affected by the catastrophe, as well as valuable albums of photographs by intrepid journalists who regularly visit the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In the Zone they take pictures of the rich wildlife there and of people who refused to leave their ancestral land and continued living in the contaminated places (they are called samosely).

CHERNOBYLALBUMSDSC_3048 Albums from our Collections

For the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the catastrophe Ukrainian photographers published the album Imennia zori Chornobyl (‘The star is called Chornobyl’; Kyiv, 1996; YA.2001.b.4323) and five years later the bilingual album Chornobyl: chas podolannia = Chornobyl: time of overcoming (Kyiv, 2001; LB.31.a.9541). British independent photographer John Darwell  travelled to the Exclusion Zone and produced a memorable album entitled Legacy. Photographs inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Stockport, 2001; LB.31.a.10507).

One of the most impressive albums was published in 2006 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the catastrophe by the well-known Belarusian photographer, ethnographer and publisher Dzianis Ramaniuk  with the title and text in three languages: Charnobyl / Chernobyl / Tschernobyl (Minsk, 2006; LF.37.b.78) It contains outstanding colour and black-and-white photographs by Ihar Byshniou, Anatol Kliashchuk and Dzianis Ramaniuk. The album gives a comprehensive overview of the nature and history of the region and its inhabitants. The German photographer Rüdiger Lubricht took pictures of abandoned villages and of samosely and of people who were involved in dealing with the immediate results of the catastrophe (Verlorene Orte. Gebrochene Biografien (Dortmund, 2012) LF.31.a.4052). The most recent photographic album by German photographer Gerd Ludwig (he visited the Chernobyl area nine times in recent 20 years), The long shadow of Chernobyl/Der lange Schatten von Tschernobyl/L'Ombre de Tchernobyl (Baden, 2014 [Awaiting shelfmark]) with an essay by Mikhail Gorbachev has already been acquired for the British Library.  

This great catastrophe on an apocalyptic scale inspired poets from various countries – from Belarus to Wales and Venezuela – to reflect about it and the future of the nuclear energy.

ChernobylPoetryDSC_3046Books of poetry from our Collections

A poet from Venezuela, Lucila Velasquez (1928-2009), was one of the first to write a long poem El Arbol de Chernobyl = Tree of Chernobyl (Caracas, 1989; YA.1993.a.6858) based on her meditation about the catastrophe and the future of humankind. Poems by Belarusian authors were collected in the anthology Zorka Palyn (Minsk, 1993; YA.2000.a.14105). In Britain, poet and environmentalist Mario Petrucci published two poetry books: Half life: Poems for Chernobyl (Coventry, 2004; YK.2006.a.9836) dedicated to the prominent Belarusian writer and investigative journalist Svetlana Alexievich) and Heavy water: A poem for Chernobyl (London, 2004; YK.2005.a.16818). Some of these poems can be found here. Later two versions of a documentary film were made based on Petrucci’s poem: Heavy Water: A film for Chernobyl and a shorter version called Half Life: A journey to Chernobyl. They were shown at various festivals (one of reviews is available  here).

The Ukrainian poet, translator and journalist Liubov Sirota, who is a native of Pripyat and witnessed the catastrophe with her own eyes, writes extensively on the subject. Some of her poems are accessible online. The title of my blog which just touches on our vast collection about Chernobyl derives from Sirota’s poem “To an Angel of Pripyat”. The poem is dedicated to the talented young pianist Olenka Chemezova, who died from cancer in the summer of 1995. It was published in a photo album of the same name.  The poet imagines that the ghost city of Pripyat is returning to life through the magic touch of the young pianist:

The darkened eye sockets of dead buildings
will once again be filled with the heat of human beings…
The city will hold its breath for a moment
while you descend into your house…

And again a thousand voices from the street
will begin to sound the former daily happenings…
as though everyone were alive, and all had returned,
as though the city were still alive….

(Translated from the Russian by Liubov Sirota and Debra Romanick Baldwin)

Liubov Sirota worked together with Rolland Sergienko to create the film Porog (‘Threshhold’) about Chernobyl. The British Library does not hold many DVDs from Eastern Europe, but it has a DVD of the Belarusian film-maker Viktor Korzun’s, Verytsʹ tolʹki vetru: Charnobylʹ 20 hadoŭ paslia (Minsk, 2007; EF.2013.x.26)

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Names of Lost villages, in the  Ukrainian National Chornobyl Museum (Photo by Volodymyr Levchuk from Wikimedia Commons)

Music is another powerful vehicle to express the human pain and horror caused by the Chernobyl catastrophe. Some specimens of musical works about Chernobyl are available in our Sound collections: from Chernobyl by Blanck Mass and Chernobyl Rain by Hibbs (Gong) to orchestral music (Chernobyl by Nancy van de Vate, performed by the Polish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra). New musical works about Chernobyl are created every year. It is heart-warming to find out that on Sunday 26 April 2015 the London-based Ukrainian composer Alla Sirenko will present the premiere of her own work in London dedicated to the victims of Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Olga Kerziouk, Curator Belarusian and Ukrainian studies


Aleksievich, Svetlana. Voices from Chernobyl: chronicle of the future. Normall, Il., 2005. m05/30342

Medvedev, Zhores A. The legacy of Chernobyl.   Nottingham, 2011. YC.2012.a.15740

Mycio, Mary. Wormwood Forest: a natural history of Chernobyl. Washington, D.C., 2005. YC.2006.a.10733

Park, Chris C. Chernobyl. The Long Shadow. London, 1989. YC.1989.a.6423

Read, Piers Paul. Ablaze: the story of Chernobyl. London,1993. YK.1995.a.2707

Shcherbak, Iurii.  Chernobyl: a documentary story (translated from the Ukrainian by Ian Press; foreword by David R. Morples). Basingstoke,1989.  YC.1989.a.8562 and 89/12279.

22 April 2015

The feckless fabulist who took on the Sun King: Jean de La Fontaine

For generations of governesses throughout Europe, seeking to impart to their pupils not only a knowledge of the French language but a sense of right and wrong, the fables of Jean de La Fontaine must have appeared as a godsend. Brief and entertaining, with their depiction of human foibles  wittily embodied in a cast of animals and birds, they neatly pointed out the consequences of vanity, idleness and extravagance and the rewards of honesty, kindness and hard work. Had they known a little more, however, about the author, his life and some his other works, the good ladies might have thought twice about selecting him as a moral exemplar for their young charges.

La Fontaine vignette
Title vignette with portrait of La Fontaine from The Fables of La Fontaine translated into English verse by Walter Thornbury (London, 1873). British Library 12305.m.1.

Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) was born in Château-Thierry on the western border of the province of Champagne, a small town surrounded by the woods and fields which provide the setting for many of his fables in a landscape traversed by the River Marne. His father and   grandfather had  both held a minor government post involving the supervision of waterways and forests, and after a brief flirtation with the Church the young Jean also assumed this office. His attitude to his duties was somewhat lackadaisical; although he held his position until the 1670s, he was castigated, years after his appointment, for his ignorance of basic forestry terms. While trees provided the matter for many of his fables, he had small interest in them for practical purposes.

His pliability in his choice of career extended to his marriage, in which he once more followed his father’s directives. The bride whom he took in 1647, Marie Héricart, came of a wealthy and well-connected family, and the difference in age (she was 14 years old) was not uncommon at that time. However, the marriage, which produced a single child, Charles, was not entirely successful; as his literary career developed La Fontaine spent most of his time in Paris, returning so infrequently that when he expressed a warm liking for a young man whom he met at a social gathering, he was startled to learn that this was his son. Though there was never a direct break between the couple, in 1658 Marie petitioned successfully for a séparation des biens which allowed her control of her own fortune, perhaps at the instigation of her relatives, who were concerned about La Fontaine’s improvident nature, allegations of gambling, and failure to draw a regular salary. Throughout his life, indeed, he frequently had recourse to the generosity of friends, rather more successfully than the cicada in his fable La cigale et la fourmi, who, appealing to the ant for help after spending the summer singing rather than gathering stores for the harsh times ahead, is rebuffed with the terse brush-off Eh bien! Dansez maintenant.

La Fontaine 12304cc23 An early edition of the fables (Amsterdam, 1687)

The lasting popularity of the Fables could not have been gauged from their initial reception. The publishers were initially reluctant to accept verses full of archaic vocabulary in irregular metres far removed from Louis XIV’s favourite alexandrines and later dismissed by Lamartine as  ‘vers boîteux disloqués’. For La Fontaine, however, his use of old French words was not mere pedantry but the natural consequence of his love of a much earlier tradition of beast fables represented by the old French Le Roman de Renart in which animals (notably the fox hero) behave in all-too-human ways. The frequently bawdy quality of these stories appealed to La Fontaine as much as the Italian sources which he adapted for his Contes (1665), which he defended against the criticism of king and court by claiming that they could not represent a moral danger because of their gaiety. He had, however, enjoyed a classical education, and when in 1660 Nevelet’s edition of Aesop appeared, this stimulated him in a new direction.

Although not intended for children (whom La Fontaine is said to have disliked), the first volume was dedicated to the six-year-old Dauphin and won the author an invitation to court, where he was wined and dined by Louis XIV and presented with a well-filled purse which, with characteristic carelessness, he left in the cab which took him home.

The animal fable provided a useful means of expressing the poet’s views on human folly in a period which had seen the two Frondes causing devastation in France, causing him to reflect on the cruelties inflicted in the name of religion and the pursuit of power. A lion is brought low by a mosquito who in turn falls victim to a cunning spider; the death of a rabbit in the claws of an eagle leads to a train of calamities involving Jupiter himself; a mighty oak’s inflexibility literally proves his downfall while the humble reed survives by bowing to the wind. The universal quality of these fables soon won them many translators and illustrators, including Gustave Doré (1866-68; British Library 1870.a.3). They inspired numerous adaptations and imitations, including the much-loved Russian fables of Ivan Krylov (1769-1844), Ukrainian fables by Leonid Hlibov (1827-1893) and those by Antonín Jaroslav Puchmayer (1769-1820), one of the notable works of the Czech National Revival.

La Fontaine Lion and GnatThe Lion and the Gnat, illustration by Gustave Doré, from 12305.m.1.

The British Library holds translations of the Fables into many languages including Catalan, Esperanto, Hindi, Afrikaans and Welsh. Readers may also see an autograph manuscript of Le loup et le renard (Egerton MS 3780: 1690-1691) bearing La Fontaine’s signature, and another  manuscript of five poems in the Stefan Zweig collection  (Zweig MS 165: 1660). Recalling Louis XIV’s distaste for La Fontaine’s writings (not least for his criticism of the king’s love of la gloire and all things warlike), we may speculate on the pleasure that the poet who portrayed the least of his country-folk so sympathetically  would have derived from seeing his writings among the treasures of a library freely available to all.

Susan Halstead, Content Specialist Research Engagement


20 April 2015

Educating Italians in 19th-century London

The recently acquired journal Il Pellegrino: giornale istruttivo, morale e piacevole ad uso della Scuola Italiana Gratuita di Greville Street, Hatton Garden, represents a remarkable and unique addition to the British Library’s Italian collections. Launched on 4 June 1842 with a clear pedagogical intent, the journal was an initiative of the Italian exile Giuseppe Mazzini. It became the official publication of the Free Italian School set up by Mazzini in the previous year in the heart of London’s Little Italy.

Il Pellegrino - numero 1                         The first issue of Il Pellegrino, London, 4 June 1842. British Library RB.23.b.7515.

Mazzini first arrived in London on 12 January 1837. To the Italian patriot, England offered the opportunity to leave behind a life spent in hiding and on the run, whilst still remaining actively involved in revolutionary and conspiratorial activities. Although he died in Pisa, Mazzini spent most of his adult life in London, moving from one cheap boarding house to another. In England he acquired several eminent admirers who appreciated his moral principles and unfaltering dedication to the cause of Italian unity. Dickens, George Meredith and Swinburne openly declared their esteem. Mazzini became a personal acquaintance of the Carlyles and was welcomed as a honoured guest by John Stuart Mill.

Mazzini Portrait               Giuseppe Mazzini, portrait from vol. XVI of Scritti editi ed inediti di Giuseppe Mazzini (Imola, 1913). 012226.d.1.

Mazzini first mentioned his idea of setting up a school for the many illiterate Italian immigrants in London in a letter to his mother, dated 3 September 1841. The school would be free and open to “workers, young organ-grinders, those selling plaster figurines, etc.” The daily classes would be held in the evening to encourage attendance. Subjects taught included Italian grammar, history, geography, arithmetic, geometry, mechanics and, at the students’ request, English, with general lectures on moral principles or Italian history every Sunday. Students would be provided with all necessary materials, including paper and ink.

Mazzini at first remained prudently in the shadows to avoid any possible association between the School and the revolutionary political organisation of which he was the leader. The teachers were unpaid volunteers. Among them were such prominent figures as Antonio Gallega, Carlo Pepoli, Gabriele Rossetti, and Joseph and George Toynbee. The famous American writer and journalist Margaret Fuller addressed the students on more than one occasion. Mazzini himself did a share of teaching, primarily history and geography, which he considered vital in cementing and reinforcing the students’ feeling of being Italian.

Mazzini School
 Mazzini teaching at the Free Italian School, image from Jessie White Mario, Della vita di Giuseppe Mazzini. (Milan, 1886) 10630.i.5.

The popularity and success of the school surpassed all expectations. 51 students enrolled on the first evening, rising to 65 on the second. Mazzini was struck by this enthusiasm; he acknowledged that for “[these] poor souls [who] work or carry street-organs about all day  … it cost a lot to devote two hours to studying”, adding that “if they come of their own will, this shows their typically good Italian character”. The number of students increased to 230 in the following year, including a few female pupils. Following the example of the Free Italian School, similar institutes were established by Italian exiles in Boston, New York and Montevideo.

The School in London, however, had many opponents and detractors too. Antonio Panizzi expressed his disapproval and grave concern. Thomas Carlyle cautioned his wife not to get involved with what he called “a nest of young conspirators”. Many saw the School and the courses it provided as an excuse to teach children the ‘four Rs’: reading,’riting,’rithmetic, and revolution. Even stronger opposition came, as Mazzini had foreseen, from the students’ employers,  the Piedmontese authorities in London and the Catholic Church. In Mazzini’s mind, however, the School never had a political agenda. Its primary purpose was to educate and ameliorate the conditions of Italian immigrants in London.

Edited and published by Luigi Bucalossi at 5 Greville Street, Hatton Garden, Il Pellegrino (‘The Pilgrim’) was printed by H. Court of 14 Brooke Street, in Holborn, and appeared every Saturday. The price was set at ‘three half pennies’, but the journal was distributed free of charge to pupils attending the school. Each issue consisted of four pages, printed in double columns; the pagination was continuous from issue to issue. The journal survived for just over a year, with the last issue, no. 52, published on 17 June 1843.

Il Pellegrino - numero 24                                                   Issue 24 of Il Pellegrino (10 November 1842)
The content of Il Pellegrino – the title refers both to the journey of learning and to the exiled condition of many Italian émigrés – is inspired by pedagogical motives. Various subjects are covered, including scientific ones, but the emphasis is on Italian history and literature. The paucity of details relating to the journal’s administration makes it difficult to establish how many copies were printed of each issue and how widely they were distributed. It is, however, probable that just enough copies were printed to cover the number of students in the school. This would explain the extreme rarity of the British Library’s copy, so far the only one known to have survived.

Il Pellegrino and the other journals that Mazzini published in London, the Italian School, and the Union of Italian Working Men (which he set up in 1840), were all part of a single moral, educational and philanthropic project. Though not a systematic thinker, Mazzini, was a brilliant and acute interpreter of his times and of the political passions which eventually led to a unified Italy, although as a monarchy rather than the republic he had fought for. He saw education for the lower classes as an inalienable right and a way – perhaps the only way – to achieve emancipation and acquire full consciousness of belonging to a spiritual community, transcending geographical borders – a Nation.

The discovery of this apparently unique run of Il Pellegrino casts additional light on Mazzini’s ideas about schooling and education for the ‘prezioso elemento’ (‘precious element’), as he described the Italian working classes, who were to be the cornerstone of a future nation. Now available for consultation at the British Library, it should prove of singular importance to scholars and historians and to anyone interested in Victorian newspapers and foreign-language or foreign-edited journalism in London.

Andrea Del Cornò, The London Library

Further reading

Andrea Del Cornò, ‘Un ritrovato giornale mazziniano: “Il Pellegrino”’, in Le fusa del gatto: libri, librai e molto altro (Torrita di Siena, 2013)

Franco Della Peruta, Il giornalismo italiano del Risorgimento (Milan, 2011) YF.2011.a.12906

Michele Finelli, Il prezioso elemento: Giuseppe Mazzini e gli emigrati italiani nell’esperienza della Scuola italiana di Londra (Verrucchio, 1999) YA.2000.a.10829

Denis Mack Smith , Mazzini (New Haven, 1994) YC.1994.b.4150

Lucio Sponza, Italian Immigrants in Nineteenth-century Britain: Realities and Images (Leicester, 1988) YC.1988.b.8035

Margaret Campbell Walker Wicks, The Italian Exiles in London, 1816-1848 (Manchester, 1937) Ac.2671/35.

Mazzini plaque
The blue plaque commemorating Mazzini at 183 Gower Street, London

17 April 2015

Sonia Delaunay and Tristan Tzara

The Sonia Delaunay exhibition which opened this week at Tate Modern shows her prodigious output over some seven decades. Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) worked in a variety of media – paintings, drawings, prints, fashion and fabric designs, posters, mosaics, bookbindings, and book illustrations. She is best known as the creator, with Blaise Cendrars, of one of the greatest livres d’artiste, La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France, for which she provided pochoir illustrations to Cendrars’ poem.

This famous book, published in 1913, has tended, however, to overshadow similar collaborations with other poets, especially the two books she produced with Tristan Tzara, the founder of Dadaism.

Tzara moved to Paris from Zurich in 1919 and it was apparently one of his manifestos that made Sonia and Robert Delaunay, who had lived in Spain and then Portugal since 1914, aware of the renewed artistic vitality of Paris after the end of the war and determined their return to France. Tzara first met the Delaunays soon after their return to Paris in 1921. Their apartment at 19 Boulevard Malesherbes quickly became a fashionable gathering point for the literary and artistic avant garde, its walls covered with multi-coloured poems and other works of art by Philippe Soupault, Vladimir Mayakovsky, André Breton, Louis Aragon, Jean  Cocteau, and René Crevel. As well as embroidering waistcoats for her friends, Sonia also decorated the interior of Au Sans Pareil, the Dadaist and Surrealist bookshop.

Tzara soon became a close friend of the couple and in 1923 Robert painted his portrait in which he is wearing a scarf designed by Sonia A monocled Tzara also features in one of Robert Delaunay’s best-known paintings, Le Manège aux cochons, painted in 1922. 

Portrait of Tristan TzaraRobert Delaunay, Portrait of Tristan Tzara (1923). Madrid, Museo nacional centro de arte Reina Sofia (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The collaboration between Sonia Delaunay and Tzara took various forms. It included robes poèmes, dresses with texts from Tzara’s poems woven into their fabric, all made in 1922, and Sonia’s bookbinding for Tzara’s De nos oiseaux in 1923. Sonia had by then become well known for her textile designs, the main focus of her work over the next 15 years, and it was in that year that Tzara asked her to design the costumes for his play Le Cœur à gaz, a three-act absurdist provocation described by its author as “la plus grande escroquerie en trois actes” (“the biggest swindle in three acts”).

The play had already had a single, disastrous performance during a soirée dada in 1921 with a cast that included Louis Aragon, Benjamin Péret, Philippe Soupault, and Tzara himself. It gained lasting notoriety, however, by the circumstances of this 1923 revival, when it was included in Le Cœur à barbe (“The Bearded Heart”), another soirée dada organised by Tzara and Iliadz. The evening marked the culmination of the ongoing conflict between Tzara and Breton and finally split the Dadaists and led to the foundation of Surrealism by Breton and his followers. It also included first performances of new compositions by Georges Auric, Darius Milhaud, Erik Satie, and Igor Stravinsky, as well as films by Charles Sheeler and Hans Richter. The two groups came to blows during the performance of the play. Several people were injured and the actors, encased in Sonia’s heavy cardboard costumes, found themselves unable to move. A photograph showing René Crevel (Oeil) and Jacqueline Chaumont (Bouche) has survived, and their costumes can be compared to Sonia’s original designs.

Costume design for a woman's dress in red, white and green  Costume design for a man's black jacket, striped trousers and top hat
Sonia Delaunay, Costume designs for Le Cœur à barbe, 1923: Left, Bouche; right, Oeil (British Library  C.108 aaa.14.). A copy of the photograph can be seen here.

The text of the play had been first published in Der Sturm on 5 March 1922 but did not appear together with Sonia’s costume designs until 1977, when they were published in association with the exhibition La Rencontre: Sonia Delaunay, Tristan Tzara at the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris  by the art critic and publisher Jacques Damase, a close friend of Sonia who promoted her work in the last 16 years of her life. The volume includes ten lithographs, seven of which are full-page, colour reproductions of the gouaches of the 1923 costume designs; the others comprise an additional title-page and two decorations in the text. 125 copies were printed, all signed by the artist. An additional set of the full-page lithographs, individually signed by the artist, was issued with each of the first 25 copies.

Title of 'La coeur à gaz' with a heart representing the word 'coeur'
Additional title page of  Tristan Tzara Le Cœur à barbe (Paris, 1977)

The friendship between Sonia Delaunay and Tzara lasted until Tzara’s death in 1963, although they grew apart in the 1930s, when Tzara joined the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and Sonia was for several years busy with the mural paintings commission for the 1937 International Exhibition. They were next brought together, with other ‘undesirables’, in Toulouse in 1944, three years after the death of Robert Delaunay. After the war Tzara once again became an habitué of Sonia’s studio, now at Rue Saint-Simon on the Left Bank.

Like Sonia, Tzara had a strong interest in illustrated books and worked with numerous artists – including Matisse, Kandinsky, Léger, Mirò, Arp, Giacometti, Villon, Klee and Ernst – on illustrated editions of his poems. There were two collaborations with Sonia: for Le Fruit permis (1956), her first book since La Prose du Transsibérien, Sonia contributed four pochoir compositions, and for Juste présent (1961), a collection of 11 poems written between 1947 and 1950, she made eight full-page colour etchings  and an additional colour etching for the slipcase, printed in the right sense on the front and upside down on the back cover.

Abstract image of circles, arches and rectangles

Abstract image of squares and circles

Above: Two of Sonia Delaunay’s etchings for  Juste présent ([Paris], 1961).; Below: etching for slipcase cover of Juste présent

Abstract image of curves and shading 

140 copies of Juste présent  were printed, all signed by the poet and the artist. The British Library’s copy is no. 124. In both publications Sonia’s colours are strong and pure, with a predominance of vermilion, indigo and black. The compositions, with their interplay between flat colour and black, hatched areas, are typical of her post-1945 output (for example, her various Rythme-couleur paintings).

Jacques Damase, who did so much to promote Sonia Delaunay’s art, did not live to see her final consecration: he was tragically killed in an accident in July 2014, just three months before the opening in Paris of this major exhibition of her work, now at Tate Modern. Perhaps the exhibition should be dedicated to his memory? 

Chris Michaelides, Curator Romance collections


Tristan Tzara, Juste présent  [Poèmes]. Eaux-fortes de Sonia Delaunay. ([Paris], 1961).

Tristan Tzara, Le cœur à gaz; costumes de Sonia Delaunay. ([Paris], 1977). C.108 aaa.14

La Rencontre: Sonia Delaunay, Tristan Tzara. Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, avril-juin 1977 / [commissaire: Danielle Molinari].  (Paris, [1977]).  YV.1987.a.344

Annabelle Melzer, Dada and Surrealist Performance. (Baltimore & London, 1994) YC.1994.a.3134 & 98/01171

Sonia & Robert Delaunay [the catalogue of the Delaunay donation to the Bibliothèque nationalede France]. (Paris, 1977). j/X.415/2418. 

Sonia Delaunay, Nous irons jusqu’au soleil.  (Paris, 1977).  X.429/7809

Sherry A. Buckberrough, Susan Krane, Sonia Delaunay: a retrospective. (Buffalo, NY, 1980) f80/8227.

Sonia Delaunay [the catalogue of the exhibition at Tate Modern].  London, 2015.

Chris Michaelides, ‘Robert and Sonia Delaunay’, review of the exhibition at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, The Burlington Magazine,  February 2015.  P.P.1931.pcs.    

 Cécile Godefroy, Sonia Delaunay : sa mode, ses tableaux, ses tissus (Paris, 2014) YF.2015.a.8284.

15 April 2015

Günter Grass (1927-2015)

Günter Grass, who died this week aged 87, is best known for his first novel Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), published in 1959, never out of print since, and memorably filmed by Volker Schlöndorff in 1979. When Grass was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, the Nobel Foundation described the novel’s narrator and chief protagonist Oskar Matzerath as “an intellectual whose critical approach is childishness, a one-man carnival, dadaism in action.”

Günter Grass in 2006 90px-CC_some_rights_reserved_svg
Günter Grass in 2006. (Picture from Blaues Sofa on Wikimedia Commons) 

Much of the action of Die Blechtrommel takes place in Grass’s native Danzig, then part of Germany, now Gdansk in Poland. The city remained central to his imagination: two further novels Katz und Maus (Cat and Mouse) and Hundejahre (Dog Years) make up what is known as the ‘Danzig Trilogy’, while his 1992 novel Unkenrufe (The Call of the Toad) revisits the city after the fall of Communism. Visitors to Gdansk today can follow guided tours around sites from his life and work.

Although he was best known as a novelist, Grass was a man of many parts: poet, playwright, artist, political activist and occasional jazz musician. He initially studied sculpture and graphic arts, and his work in these genres continued throughout his life, alongside his writing. A catalogue rasionné of his etchings and lithographs, published in 2007, runs to two hefty volumes and lists nearly 40 exhibitions of his work. His pictures often reflect themes and symbols from his literary works, and certain subjects and images recur over the years (most enduringly fish, especially the flounder that gives its name to his novel Der Butt).

Grass Butt Göttingen
Sculpture by Grass in Göttingen, showing a hand holding a flounder (photo: Susan Reed)

Grass always drew the cover illustrations for his novels, and also produced illustrated collections of  poetry. His poetry is less well-known (and more uneven) than his novels, but his first published work was a collection of poems and pictures, Die Vorzüge der Windhühner (‘The advantages of the weathercocks’) and he continued to write poetry throughout his life, in particular causing controversy in 2012 with the long poem ‘Was gesagt werden muß’ (‘What must be said’) which was highly critical of the Israeli government.

The title of the poem also reflects an earlier controversy over politics in Grass’s work. In 1995 the magazine Der Spiegel published a highly critical review by the influential critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki of Grass’s novel Ein weites Feld (Too Far Afield), entitled ‘... und es muß gesagt werden’ (‘... and it must be said’). The novel voiced Grass’s criticism of German reunification, which he thought had been entirely driven by the agenda of a West Germany keen to grab what he called ‘ein Schnäppchen namens DDR’  (‘a bargain called the GDR’). The magazine’s cover fuelled the controversy by showing Reich-Ranicki apparently tearing apart a copy of the book.

Some of Grass’s works, includng his cover illustrations, from the British Library's collection

Controversy was in fact another constant in Grass’s life, most notoriously in 2006 when he admitted in his memoir Beim häuten der Zwiebel (Peeling the Onion) that he had been a teenage volunteer in the Waffen-SS rather than a conscript as he had previously implied. This belated confession from an author considered by many as the conscience of the nation, renowned for confronting the past and encouraging others to do so, struck many as hypocritical, and there were even calls for him to be stripped of his Nobel Prize and his honorary citizenship of Gdansk.

But, as many obituarists have pointed out, it is in the end for his novels rather than his political stance or personal failings (or indeed for his poetry or art) that Grass will be remembered. His often exuberant style and his fertile and original imagination were a rich addition to German letters and have impressed readers and influenced authors all over the world. In Die Blechtrommel he created what the Nobel Committee rightly predicted would be “one of the enduring literary works of the 20th century.”

To finish, an odd, and perhaps rather trivial, example of Grass’s cultural reach: I believe that he is the only German novelist (or Nobel laureate) ever to be affectionately plagiarised in the long running BBC Radio serial The Archers. In a 2002 episode, a visiting Eastern European agriculture student told the story of how his grandparents met – in fact a version of the first encounter between Oskar’s grandparents in Die Blechtrommel where Agnes  hides Joseph from the police under her voluminous skirts.  Archers fans who knew their German literature were no doubt relieved when, in a later episode, the student gave Grass his due and admitted that he had borrowed the story to amuse one of the Archer children.

Perhaps not quite what the Nobel Foundation had in mind, but nonetheless it may have won Grass a few more English readers.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic collections

Works by Grass referred to in the text:

Die Blechtrommel (Darmstadt, 1959) British Library 011421.p.86. (English translation by Ralph Mannheim, The Tin Drum (London, 1962) X.909/2060.)

Katz und Maus (Neuwied am Rhein, 1961) 12520.pp.14.  (English translation by Ralph Mannheim, Cat and Mouse (London, 1963) 11769.w.5.)

Hundejahre (Neuwied am Rhein, 1963) 12521.m.12. (English translation by Ralph Mannheim, Dog Years (London, 1965) X.909/5610.)

Unkenrufe (Göttingen, 1992) YA.1994.a.4374. (English translation by Ralph Mannheim, The Call of the Toad (London, 1992) Nov.1992/1350.)

Günter Grass : catalogue raisonné / herausgegeben von Hilke Ohsoling (Göttingen, 2007). LF.31.b.6661.

Der Butt (Darmstadt, 1977) X.989/71159. (English translation by Ralph Mannheim, The Flounder (London, 1978) X.989/76027.)

Die Vorzüge der Windhühner (Berlin, 1956) X.909/1713.

Ein weites Feld (Göttingen, 1995) YA.2000.a.1568 (English translation by Krishna Winston, Too Far Afield (London, 2000) Nov.2001/1203.)

Beim häuten der Zwiebel (Göttingen, 2006) YF.2007.a.1517. (English translation by Michael Henry Heim, Peeling the Onion (London, 2007) YC.2007.a.14122.)

14 April 2015

“I want to go on living even after my death!” Anne Frank and her Diary

15 April marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen by British forces. Today the British Library commemorates this event, in collaboration with The Anne Frank Trust’s #notsilent campaign, with public readings from Anne Frank’s diary. Anne and her sister Margot had died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen, only a few weeks before the camp was liberated.

Annelies Marie Frank (12 June 1929 - March 1945), known as Anne, became world famous for the wartime diary she kept while living in hiding from the rampant Nazi persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands.  From July 1942 until August 1944 the Frank family, the van Pels family and Dr. Pfeffer lived in the annex behind Otto Frank’s offices on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, now the Anne Frank House.

Photograph of Anne Frank
Photograph of Anne Frank in May 1942. Image from Wikimedia Commons

On her 13th birthday Anne had been given a diary, which she filled with her thoughts and musings over a period of two years, from 12 June 1942 up to 1 August 1944.  Three days after the last diary entry the annex was stormed and those living there were arrested and deported. Only Otto Frank survived the war.

The diary reveals a strange normality within the horrific world Anne inhabited. Her observations on events ‘outside’ and the treatment of her community, as well as on events ‘inside’ - the people that surround her and her own emotions and feelings, her hopes for peace and her ambition to become a writer and publish her diary after the war are of a remarkable depth for a teenager.

Two secretaries at Otto Frank’s business, Hermine Santruschitz, better known as Miep Gies as she is called in Anne’s diary, and Elisabeth (Bep) Voskuijl saved the diary and most of Anne’s other papers  from the Germans and handed them to Otto Frank on the day he received the news that Anne and Margot were not coming back. The papers reveal that Anne had started writing a second version and Otto used both to compile Het Achterhuis: Dagboekbrieven 14 June 1942 -1 Augustus 1944 [‘The Annex: Diary notes 14 June 1942-1 August 1944’], published in 1947 in a run of only 1,500 copies. The British Library’s copy of this first editi0n is even more special, because of the inserted newspaper clippings relating to the people around Anne Frank.

Cover of the first edition of 'Het Achterhuis'
Above: Dustjacket of the first edition of Het Achterhuis (Amsterdam, 1957) British Library Cup.408.pp.29; below: some of the newspaper cuttings inserted in the book

Dutch-language newspaper cuttings relating to Anne Frank's diary

Anne Frank’s diary remains one of the most widely-read books in the world; to-date more than 30 million copies in 73 languages have been sold.  It has been adapted for theatre, television and cinema and has maintained its status as an international best-seller and the most famous diary of modern times. 

The British Library holds copies of Anne Frank’s diary in various editions and languages, as well as scholarly material about the diary and its compiler, dramatizations, journal articles and musical scores.  The first English language edition, in the translation of Barbara Mooyaart-Doubleday appeared in 1952 (012584.o.11),  followed by a second in 1954.  One of the British Library’s two copies of this (12585.a.47)  was conserved under the ‘Adopt a Book Appeal’  by Lakenheath Middle School in May 2009 (see below).

  Bookplate commemorating Lakenheath Middle School's adoption of a copy of an English edition of Anne Frank's Diary

Translated from the Dutch by Shmuel Schnitzer, the first Hebrew edition of Anne’s diary, Yomanah shel ne’arah [Diary of a young girl], was published in Jerusalem in 1953, whereas the first Yiddish translation titled Tagbukh fon a Meidel [Diary of a young girl] appeared in 1958  in Tel Aviv  in the translation of Yehoshua HaShiloni.  No copies of these editions are held in our collections, but we do hold a copy of a 1961 Yiddish edition which was  published in Bucharest  under the title Dos Togbukh fun Ana Frank (17108.b.43; below).

Cover of 'Dos Togbukh fun Ana Frank' (Bucharest, 1961)

Cover of a German translation of the dramatisation of Anne Frank's Diary

One of the early dramatizations, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, was first published in 1956 (11791.t.1/1355). In a German edition of 1958, entitled Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank  (F10/1197; above) the play is supplemented by photographs of performances in Berlin, New York, Rome, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, and elsewhere.

Allegations that the diary was a hoax started in the early 1950s and continued until the early 80s, when the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation  commissioned a thorough forensic study of the original manuscripts. The resulting 250-page report concluded with ‘high probability, bordering on certainty’ that the diary was genuine. This research formed the basis for the Critical Edition, compiling all known writings by Anne and an extract from the report. The Library holds the English translation from 1989, published by Penguin. (YC.1989.b.6954)

One of the latest scholarly  studies to appear is Anne Frank’s Diary of Anne Frank, edited by Harold Bloom, Professor at Yale University and published in 2010 (YC.2011.a.7024 ), proof of the unwavering interest in this talented young writer and her diary. 

Apart from the nearly 400 books, magazine articles, music scores and websites about Anne Frank in the British Library’s collections, there is the bust of Anne. Commissioned by Mr and Mrs Sherrington on the occasion of Anne’s 70th birthday and sculpted by Doreen Kern, it is a tribute to a remarkable Jewish girl and her diary. When you visit the British Library’s site at St. Pancras in London you will find her at the entrance to our Learning Centre.

Marja Kingma, Curator Low Countries Collections & Ilana Tahan, Curator Hebrew  Collections


Anne Frank Bust
Doreen Kern’s bust of Anne Frank in the British Library

09 April 2015

The Eyes Have It

Some of the most disturbing scenes in literature have been evoked through imagery of the eyes. They mirror the soul, they express love and loathing, joy and sadness, courage and fear, and encompass so much of what is human in us. Yet with their precious complexity comes a dreadful vulnerability. King Lear has one of the most shocking scenes in drama when Gloucester’s eyes are gouged out by Cornwall. In the Japanese ghost story, The Eyes! The Eyes! a young man dares to stay the night in a derelict temple with a decaying Shoji screen believed to be impregnated with the eyes of evil spirits. The next morning only his eyes are found wrapped in a dirty rag. The blue eyes of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel flame red with a horrible vindictive look, and in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre Rochester’s violently insane wife Bertha is “like a foul German spectre, a vampire, with fiery red eyes”.

I recently came across a short story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, the German writer, composer and painter, who was an early exponent of this kind of imagery. In Der Sandmann of 1816 he portrayed a folkloric figure who sprinkled sand in the eyes of mischievous children to make them sleep when they wouldn’t go to bed. Nathanael, a child and the main protagonist, associates the Sandman with a mysterious character called Coppelius who regularly visits his father to conduct alchemical experiments. The essence of the story is Nathanael’s progression into mental illness, born of a naturally unstable mind and exacerbated by the stories of the Sandman as a child.

Hoffmann portraitE.T.A. Hoffmann, based on a self-portrait reproduced in Ludwig Zacharias Werner, Aus Hoffmann’s Leben und Nachlass (Berlin, 1823). British Library 10706.b.41.

While the other examples I have given relied on graphic scenes for their effect, apart from one such description at the start of the story the threat to the eyes is maintained by Hoffmann more obliquely, and competes with other strong motifs such as mechanical devices and laughing. For example, when Nathanael is discovered hiding in the room where Coppelius is carrying out an experiment, he is referred to by Coppelius as ‘eyes’ rather than a boy: “‘Augen her, Augen her!’ rief Coppelius mit dumpfer dröhnender Stimme … ‘Nun haben wir Augen – Augen – ein schön Paar Kinderaugen’.” (‘”Eyes here! Eyes here!” cried Coppelius with dark roaring voice … “Now we have eyes – eyes – a beautiful pair of children’s eyes.”’)

Nathanael hiding during Coppelius’s experiment; drawing by Hoffmann, reproduced in Ludwig Zacharias Werner, Aus Hoffmann’s Leben und Nachlass

But his one explicit example is strikingly frightening, particularly as it involves children, whose only half-formed minds struggle to rationalise the fear they experience. Their nanny tells them that if they won't go to bed the Sandman will come and throw sand in their eyes. Their eyes will bulge, drip blood and fall out. They will be taken away to the Sandman’s own children who live in a nest and have curved beaks like owls which they use to peck at and eat children's eyes. The hard vowels in German reinforce the image – “damit picken sie der unartigen Menschenkindlein Augen auf”.

The eyes motif is sustained throughout the story. Clara, Nathanael’s fiancée, has eyes that “springen in Nathanaels Brust wie blutige Funken sengend und brennend” (“spring into Nathanael’s breast, burning and sizzling like bloody sparks”) and, when their love fails and Nathanael becomes infatuated with Olimpia, whom he has only seen at a distance through a telescope, she is finally revealed as merely a mechanical doll which ends up shattered on the floor, its eyes lying randomly amongst the remnants of the wooden corpse: “Nun sah Nathanael, wie ein Paar blutige Augen auf dem Boden liegend ihn anstarrten, die ergriff Spalanzi … und warf sie nach ihm, daß sie seine Brust trafen”. (“Now Nathanael saw a pair of bloody eyes lying on the floor staring at him, which Spalanzi seized and threw at him, hitting him in the chest.”)

Hoffmann’s use of eye imagery creates powerful pictures in the reader’s mind and helps to sustain the brooding menace of the Sandman throughout the story. Sigmund Freud was so impressed by it that he wrote an essay, Das Unheimliche (‘The Uncanny’), wherein he interpreted it as a fear of castration. The story has become an important work as an early 19th century example of the horror short story genre.

Trevor Willimott, former Cataloguer, West European Languages


07 April 2015

Speaking truth to power

We live in an age of increasing demagogery and gesture politics; but like most features of our over-excited media culture this too has its predecessors.

Antonio de Guevara is a forgotten best-seller.  His Libro aureo del emperador Marco Aurelio / Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius (1528), rewritten by him as Relox de principes / Diall of princes  (1529) is a fictionalised life of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161 to 180 AD), best known nowadays for his Meditations, written in Greek and rediscovered in 1558: thus Guevara’s work predates by thirty years the princeps of the Meditations, edited by Xylander in Greek and Latin.

Libro Aureo 1532 (BT Vilano)Title-page of an early edition of Guevara’s Libro aureo del emperador Marco Aurelio (Venice, 1532). British Library C.53.b.9.

So speaks the true Marcus:

The art of true living in this world is more like a wrestler’s than a dancer’s practice.  For in this they both agree, to teach a man whatsoever falls on him, that he may be ready for it, and that nothing may cast him down.  (Meditations VII.33)

The historical Marcus was responsible for fighting a campaign on the Danube. In Guevara’s account he is visited by a ‘Villayn of the Danube’, who tells the Emperor like it is:

The first year that I was consul, [Marcus recalls] there came a poor villayn from the river of Danubie, to ask justice of the senate, against a censure, who did divers extortions to the people.  And he had a small face, and great lips, and hollow eyes, his hair curled, bare headed, his shoes of a porkepes [hedgehog] skin, his coat of goat’s hair, his girdle of bullrushes, and a wild eglantine in his hand.  It was a strange thing to see him so monstrous, and marvel to hear his purpose [speech].  Ceratainly, when I saw him come into the senate, I wende it had been some beast in the figure of a man and after I had herad him, I judged him one of the gods, if there be gods among men. [...]

Paysan du Danube (BT Vilano)The peasant of the Danube addresses Marcus Aurelius. Illustration by Gustave Doré from Jean de La Fontaine, Fables … (Paris, 1867) 1872.b.29.

The Villayn’s oration runs as follows:

“An infallible rule it is that he that taketh wrongfully another man’s good shall lese the right of his own.  Regard ye romans, though I be a villain, yet I know who is just and right wise, in holding his own; and who a tyrant in possessing others’.  There is a rule, that whatsoever they that be ill have gathered in any days, the gods taketh from them in one day [...]

All ye Romans in your devices about your arms bear these words: Romanorum est debellare superbos, et parcere subjectis.  That is it pertaineth to Romans to subdue them that be proud and to forgive subjects.  But certainly ye may better say: it pertaineth to Romans to expel innocents and to trouble and vex wrongfully peaceable people for ye Romans are but destroyers of peaceable people and thieves to rob from other that they sweat for.

If my tongue hath offended you in any thing, I am here ready to make recompense with my throat.  [the Spanish says: he aqui me tiendo en este suelo para que lo pague mi garganta: see I prostern myself here on the ground so that my throat may pay the price] for in good sooth, I had rather to win honour, offering myself to the death than ye should have it in taking my life from me [...]”

The Villayn wins the day: he is made  a patrician and given a government pension.

Carlo Pincin has revealed the villayn’s debt to Marcolfus: both are unbowed in the face of authority and empire.

The Golden Boke of Marcus Aurelius, tr. Lord Berners (London, 1546), chapters xxxi-xxxii, sigs N5v-O4r.  C.71.a.31.

Carlo Pincin, ‘Due note su temi spagnoli: Guevara lettore di Salomon et Marcolfus’, in Studi in onore di Remo Martini (Milan, 2008-2009), III, 153-66. Awaiting shelfmark; part of the article is available here

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies