European studies blog

207 posts categorized "Romance languages"

20 October 2022

Annie Ernaux’s time in London

On 10 October 2022, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the French author Annie Ernaux “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.”

A major literary presence in contemporary France, and the author of more than 20 books, Ernaux has been writing since the 1970s, and is no stranger to literary recognition. Her autobiography Les années won both the Prix Marguerite Duras and the Prix Francois Mauriac in 2008 as well as the Italian Premio Strega in 2016; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2019 when it was translated into English by Alison L Strayer – on this occasion Ernaux gave an interview to the Institut Francais in London. She had also received the Prix Renaudot for La Place. In 2017, Ernaux was awarded the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize for her life’s work. The British Library holds her books both in French and in English translation, from the earliest, Les armoires vides (1974) to the latest, Le Jeune Homme (2022).

Cover of Annie Ernaux, Ecrire la vie with a portrait of the author

Cover of Annie Ernaux, Ecrire la vie (Paris, 2011). YF.2012.a.18786

As brilliantly demonstrated by Elise Hugueny-Leger in an article from 2018, Ernaux has been the subject of academic publications since the early 1990s, and notably, very early on, in the English-speaking world, via a chapter by Loren Day in Contemporary French Fiction by Women: Feminist Perspectives (1990) and Diana Holmes in French Women's writing 1848-1994 (1996). She has since become an academic subject of study in her own right, while slowly becoming more accessible to the general public, through her becoming more prominent in the media and, also, through a change in her style. She is now a figurehead of contemporary French Women writers, but one of Ernaux’ wishes is that her books “may be read and received by a great number of readers who don’t necessarily have a university background” (E Hugueny-Léger).

Melding the biographical and the sociological, deploying an array of autobiographical novels, illustrated photographic diaries, and biographical narratives, some of her publications are referred by Michel Tournier’s term “Journaux extimes,” because, despite being in the format of a personal journal, they focus on the external and on the observation of the author’s surroundings. Ernaux’s genre is difficult to define in one word, but it is based on and around her life, and her experiences, and what she observes, recounted in a deliberately pared down and at times clinical voice. “Her work is uncompromising and written in plain language, scraped clean,” said Anders Olsson of the Swedish Academy on Thursday as he announced her accolade.

Cover of Annie Ernaux, Le jeune homme

Cover of Annie Ernaux, Le jeune homme (Paris, 2022) YF.2022.a.24142

Annie Ernaux was born in 1940 to working-class parents in Normandy. In 1958, she spent a summer looking after children in a summer camp and her sexual awakening during that time is recounted in Memoire de fille (2016). In 1960, she left home to study in Rouen. In the following years she married, had two sons, and qualified as a secondary school teacher. In 1974 she published Les armoires vides, a fictionalised account of the illegal abortion she had undergone ten years earlier. Ernaux continued to teach until she retired in 2000, and now devotes herself to writing.

In 1960, Annie Ernaux had spent several months as an au pair in London looking after two boys, Jonathan and Brian Portner. During this stay, she started writing her first novel, which remains unpublished. In the anthology Ecrire la vie, a few pages are devoted to this period in Ernaux’s life, with photographs and extracts from her diary.

Annie Ernaux portrait

Annie Ernaux in the 1960s. Photo credit: L’Inventoire 

The following touching and surprising story, which is recounted on the website Annie Ernaux, focuses on the author and her work and, through its largely bilingual construction, attempts to bring her work to the attention of the anglophone world. The site is maintained by Elise Hugueny-Léger (University of St Andrews) and Lyn Thomas (University of Sussex).

I see a miraculous convergence of coincidences. First there is a writer and translator, Anthony Rudolf, who reads Mémoire de fille the year after its publication. He is struck by the mention of the Portners, in Finchley, as among his acquaintances there is a certain Jonathan Portner, a dentist located a few miles away. Informed by Anthony Rudolf, Jonathan Portner tells his daughter Hannah about this discovery. Now Hannah Portner is studying French with Elise Hugueny-Léger, a lecturer at the University of St. Andrews, whose thesis focuses on my work and who has participated in many conferences I have attended. Thanks to Elise Hugueny-Léger, Hannah has read and loved one of my books, Journal du dehors, which inspired her to create a beautiful text about Paris and Madrid: Journal de deux voyages. Observation et mise en mots du réel. Things could not have come full circle in a more wonderful way… From one woman’s writing – it was in the summer of 1960, au pair with the Portner family, that I started a novel – to another woman’s writing… 

Some might say that this observation of life as a wonderful circle might be uncharacteristic. But the impression, the mark left by London on Ernaux is also recorded in her usual clean, sharp and yet somewhat poetic style:

‘L’Angleterre, Londres anesthésiant et doux, eaux éternellement couleur d’étang, maison des Portner, feutrée. Si j’ai eu vingt ans là-bas, je ne m’en suis jamais vraiment aperçue.’ (Mai 1970)

“London, London soft and narcotic, waters eternally the colour of marshes, The Portners’ house, hushed and elegant. If I ever were twenty there, I never realised”. (May 1970)

Sophie Defrance, Curator Romance Collections

References/Further reading

Annie Ernaux, Les armoires vides (Paris, 1974) X.908/29849.

Annie Ernaux, La place (Paris, 1983) X.958/33342

Annie Ernaux & Marie, Marc, L’usage de la photo (Paris, 2005) YF.2006.a.37419

Annie Ernaux, Les années (Paris, 2008) YF.2008.a.14343

Annie Ernaux, Mémoire de fille (Paris, 2016) YF.2016.a.23982

Annie Ernaux, Le jeune homme (Paris, 2022) YF.2022.a.24142

Contemporary French fiction by women: Feminist perspectives, edited by Margaret Atack and Phil Powrie (Manchester, 1990) YC.1991.a.445

Elise Hugueny-Léger, ‘Annie Ernaux’, French Studies: a Quarterly Review, 72 (2018) 256-269. ELD Digital store, doi: 10.1093/fs/kny014 

D. Holmes, French Women’s Writing, 1848–1994 (London, 1996), pp. 246–65. DRT ELD.DS.419322

 

26 September 2022

Maylis de Kerangal and Shumona Sinha in conversation at the Institut francais

The Institut français regularly addresses issues and perspectives on women’s rights through events, film screenings and discussions.

On Tuesday 27 September, it will host a conversation between acclaimed writers Maylis de Kerangal and Shumona Sinha, together with translator and author Lauren Elkin, and Russell Williams, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the American University of Paris. Kerangal and Sinha will be discussing their newly translated short novels, Eastbound (translated by Jessica Moore) and Down with the Poor! (translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan).

Photo of Maylis de Kerangal and Shumona Sinha

Maylis de Kerangal by Francesca Mantovani © éditions Gallimard, and Shumona Sinha © Patrice Normand

Published in France one year after Kerangal’s award-winning novel Naissance d’un pont, (Birth of a Bridge), Eastbound (originally published as Tangente vers l’Est) tells the story of Aliocha, a very young and desperate Russian conscript bound for Vladivostok, who hopes that a chance encounter with a French woman on the train will offer him a chance to flee. The short novel was born as a radio story, ‘Lignes de fuites’, written for France Culture and broadcast in August 2010, which was inspired by a real-life trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Novosibirsk and Vladivostok.

Sinha, who was born and grew up in India, started learning French at the age of 22 and moved to Paris a few years later. She has translated and published several anthologies of contemporary French and Bengali poetry. Her first novel, Fenêtre sur l'abîme, was published in 2008. Down with the Poor! is Sinha’s second novel. Originally published as Assommons les pauvres! in 2011, it won the Prix du roman populiste 2011 and the Prix Valéry-Larbaud 2012. Sinha’s work addresses themes of immigration, exile, and identity, and poetry (‘Assommons les pauvres!’ was the title of a prose-poem in Charles Baudelaire’s Petits Poemes en prose. In very short chapters, Sinha’s Assommons les pauvres! describes the work of a translator working with migrants somewhere in a suburb of Paris:

‘Les mots s’ajoutaient aux mots. Les dossiers s’entassaient. Les hommes défilaient sans fin. On ne distinguait plus leur visage ou leur corps.’
Words were added to words. Files piled up. An endless procession of men. You could no longer distinguish their faces or bodies.

Both novels tell stories of separation, of exile, of fleeing by different means and of searching for one’s place in the world. They both touch upon the very act of translating – emotions into words, or without words (Eastbound is a novel without dialogues), of writing when one is not in one’s country (Sinha is an acclaimed exophonic writer, i.e. one who writes in a language that is not their own), or of the different ways that one can flee, physically or not, the infinite confinements and boundaries imposed by the world.

Join us for what promises to be a fascinating exploration tomorrow evening at 6:30 pm at the Institut français du Royaume-Uni

Sophie Defrance, Curator Romance Collections 

References

Maylis de Kerangal, Naissance d’un pont, (Paris, 2010) YF.2011.a.20739; English translation by Jessica Moore, Birth of a Bridge (London, 2010) H.2018/.7466

Maylis de Kerangal, Tangente vers l’Est (Paris, 2011) YF.2013.a.23272; English translation by Jessica Moore, Eastbound (London, 2022) [on order]

Shumona Sinha, Assommons les pauvres! (Paris, 2011) YF.2013.a.26285; English translation by Teresa Lavender Fagan, Down with the Poor! (London, 2022) [on order]

26 August 2022

Women in Translation Month 2022 (Part 1)

August is Women in Translation Month, a 2014 initiative aimed at celebrating and promoting women writers in translation, as well as their translators and publishers. As in previous years, we are highlighting a selection of books from across the European collections that we have recently enjoyed. We hope you enjoy them too.

Cover of Bianca Bellova's The Lake

Bianca Bellova, The Lake, translated by Alex Zucker (Cardigan: Parthian, 2022) ELD.DS.698424
Chosen by Olga Topol, Curator Czech, Slavonic and East European Collections

The Lake won the Czech Magnesia Litera Book of the Year Award and the EU Prize for Literature in 2017. It is a surreal coming of age story that questions the relationship between humans and nature. In a fictional world set somewhere in between a post-apocalyptic future and the post-USSR past, a boy is trying to uncover the mystery of his mother’s disappearance. It is a vivid tale about a devastated, cruel world in which a child is growing into a man while searching for his identity. Dark and beautiful.

Cover of Stefania Auci's The Florios of Sicily: a novel featuring a drawing of three people sitting by the sea

Stefania Auci, The Florios of Sicily: a novel, translated by Katherine Gregor (HarperCollins, 2020). Awaiting shelfmark
Chosen by Valentina Mirabella, Curator Romance Collections

Stefania Auci’s bestselling novel The Florios of Sicily tells the story of an entrepreneurial family that, starting from poverty in the early 19th century, built a fortune exporting Sicilian products such as Marsala wine and invented canned tuna as we know it. This is a well-documented saga, linking decades of Italian history to the Florio dynasty, which shook the feudal immobility and introduced industrialization in Sicily. Auci is particularly good at describing the places and underlining the role of women. We owe the English translation to Katherine Gregor who, impressively, is a literary translator from Italian, French and, on occasion, Russian.

Cover of Kiki Dimoula, The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems

Kiki Dimoula, The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems, translated by Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser (New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press, 2012), YC.2013.a.11561
Chosen by Lydia Georgiadou, Curator Modern Greek Collections

The Brazen Plagiarist is the first English translation of a wide selection of poems from across Kiki Dimoula’s oeuvre bringing together some of her most captivating and poignant works. The highly-praised and multi-award winning Greek poet embarks on a journey to a ‘magnificent’ though ‘unknown to her’ language, ‘filled with apprehension’ but grateful to be ‘accompanied by an excellent letter of introduction – their translation’. Award-winning translators Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser, whom Dimoula herself considers ‘heroic’, indeed rise to the challenge of recreating the poet’s mysteriously uncanny yet inexplicably familiar writing.

19 July 2022

Reporting Victory

As part of the events programme accompanying our current exhibition, ‘Breaking the News’, curators from the European, Americas and Oceania Collections department took part in an online 'Meet the Curators' event to introduce some stories about news media in the countries they cover. This blog post is based on one of the talks given at that event.

‘Breaking the News’ also means reporting events of historical importance. Battles often are. The Battle of Trafalgar was one of the most famous battles in British naval history, worth reporting internationally. On the 21st of October 1805 the victory of the British fleet, led by Admiral Lord Nelson, contained Napoleon’s ambitions to invade Britain. Lord Nelson was mortally wounded during the battle and the official despatch was written by his second, Admiral Collingwood.

How was this event reported in European news? How long it did it take for the ground-breaking news of the victory to circulate, in an age of slow-travelling information?

Cover of Relazione della battaglia navale seguita ne’ giorni 22 e 23 del passato Ottobre 1805

Cover of Relazione della battaglia navale seguita ne’ giorni 22 e 23 del passato Ottobre 1805 nanti Cadice, tra le squadre combinate Gallo-Ispana e l’Inglese (Genoa and Turin, 1805). Awaiting shelfmark

We have recently acquired a very rare Italian account of the battle, a bifolium published in Italy, by the Frugoni printing-house in Genoa and by Carlo Bocca in Turin, in 1805. It is titled Relazione della battaglia navale seguita ne’ giorni 22 e 23 del passato Ottobre 1805 nanti Cadice, tra le squadre combinate Gallo-Ispana e l’Inglese [...]. Not many other copies of this account are recorded in Italy, and this is the only one in the UK.

Trafalgar 3

Last page of the Relazione with a list of the English ships and the imprint details

The account opens with a description of the composition of the Royal Navy fleet against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish navies, followed by a report of the circumstances in which Lord Nelson lost his life. The description is in accordance with Admiral Collingwood’s despatch from the battle, published in the London Gazette on the 6th of November 1805. This proves that the author of this document read Collingwood’s despatch. Perhaps the news arrived by postal ship from Spain to Genoa and from there it was carried by horse to Turin, where it was translated to Italian and then printed. The only thing we know for sure is that this account was published in the same year 1805, so sometimes between November and December.

The age of the Napoleonic wars was the moment communication started to become global; transmitting information and news from various corners of the empires become essential for the European powers.

Trafalgar 2

I would like to draw your attention on my favourite element of this document, which you can see in the image above. This is an illustration showing, by means of typographic elements, the order of battle of the two sides, and their two successive changes of formation, for a total of three positions. I find this a rather clever use of typography, which visualizes Nelson’s strategy better than prints, or his manuscript memorandum that is held in our collections [https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/admiral-nelsons-trafalgar-memorandum].

Valentina Mirabella, Curator Romance Collections


Further reading
https://blogs.bl.uk/untoldlives/2015/10/trafalgar-and-the-death-of-nelson.html
https://www.qdl.qa/en/london-basra-twenty-two-days

Valentina Mirabella, Curator Romance Collections

01 July 2022

Your name here: five Spanish bullfighting posters from 1769

If you’re of a certain vintage you’ll remember the colourful bullfighting posters where you could have your name hand-printed, a souvenir of the modern period of Spanish tourism from the 1960s onwards.

There’s a plentiful literature in Spanish on bullfighting, as you might imagine, including bibliographies (there’s a sample below).

Lorca wrote about it (his lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejias) and Goya and Picasso painted it; and it’s supplied a vast range of metaphors. One might say of a politician: ‘Mr X has made a dextrous pass of the cape’. (In Britain he would have put the ball in the back of the net.) Bullfighters were among the celebrities fêted in Hola.

The BL has recently acquired five posters from 18th-century Madrid.

Bullfighting posters RB.37.c.85(1-5)

Bullfighting posters, RB.37.c.85(1-5)

The venue was the Plaza Extramuros de La Puerta de Alcalá, which opened in 1749 and closed in 1874. It was so called because it was outside the city limits.

The fights were in aid of the Reales Hospitales General and de la Pasión.

Each fight featured 18 bulls and the owners and of course bullfighters are named: Antonio Galeano, Juan de Escobar (both of Seville); Juan de Amisas and his son; Sebastián Vicente González, Severino Rodríguez, el famoso Juan Romero, Miguel Gálvez (alias El Lechero), Manuel Alonso (alias Mal Ojo), Bernardo Assensio (alias El Chavó), el indio Mariano Ceballos, ‘natural de Lima, en el reyno del Perú’, Joseph Romero (alias El Niño Bonito).

Some of the bulls will be ‘embolados’ (with mufflers on their horns).

Performances begin at 10 am and 4 pm.

Spectators sitting in the sun will have government permission to turn down one side of the brim of their hats to shade their eyes; this is not permitted to those seated in the shade. This may have been a reaction to the recent Esquilache riots of March 1766. Charles III’s minister Esquilache had wanted to ban garments which were effective as disguises and for concealing weapons: long capes and broad-brimmed hats. But these were typical Spanish wear, and the natives took against it.

Scene depicting the Esquilache Riots

The Esquilache Riots, from José Amador de los Ríos, Historia de la villa y corte de Madrid. (Madrid, 1861-64). 1852.c.20.

Equally interesting is the evidence of what we now call the custodial history of these posters. Posters are ephemera, material intended to be discarded when done with, and therefore rare (see Foster).

These posters are in excellent condition. There’s no glue, showing they were never pasted on a wall. They’ve been folded vertically down the middle, indicating they’ve been kept in an album. On the back are numbers: these I think contemporary with the posters. They’re at the top right nowadays but in the past when folded were on the first ‘page’. (You can see also that the continental 7 hasn’t always had a bar across it.)

On the fifth poster we also see the name ‘Dn Mariano Pizi’ (? or possibly Pizarro). (My thanks to BBM and FGB.) It’s probably not a signature as it lacks the flamboyant ‘rúbrica’ with which Spaniards scribbled over their names (and still do). Perhaps it’s the name of a customer.

So the evidence suggests that someone – Don Mariano? – was collecting bullfighting posters new and keeping them in an album.

And who was Don Mariano? Mariano Pizzi y Frangeschi was professor of Arabic at the Reales Colegios de Madrid. There are various of his works – including an Arabic grammar in verse (Add. MS. 10436, 10437) – in our Manuscript Collections, dated 1764, 1776 and 1782. So we can place him in Madrid around 1769.

He published Tratado de las aguas medicinales de Salam-Bir, que comunmente llaman de Sacedon, escrito en lengua arabe por Agmer-Ben-Ab-Dala, medico en Toledo, en el año de mil cinquenta y quatro ; traducido al idioma castellano e ilustrado con varias notas. This however turned out to be not a translation from the Arabic but a fake written by Pizzi himself (see Bravo).

Title page of Tratado de las aguas medicinales de Salam-Bir

Title page of Tratado de las aguas medicinales de Salam-Bir (Madrid, 1761) 14535.b.23. (Image shown from a copy in the Wellcome Collection Library)

Furthermore, I was delighted to read in Dowling:

[The famous author] Don Nicolás Fernández de Moratín presided over a group [tertulia] which included the most stimulating intellectuals of the reign of Carlos III, and his son Leandro tells us that the only statute which governed the informal gathering limited conversation to four vital subjects, namely, the theater, bull-fighting, love, and poetry.

Moratín père wrote a poem on the bullfight, Fiesta de toros en Madrid. Dowling again:

The story that went around literary circles in Madrid was that the professor of Arabic in the Estudios Reales, that picturesque fraud Don Mariano Pizzi, had given Don Nicolás a translation from the Arabic on which the poet based his poem.

Further proof that these posters belonged to Pizzi, a man with tastes high and low.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

References/Further reading:

On Bullfighting:

Graciano Díaz Arquer, Libros y folletos de toros (Madrid, 1931) 011899.d.35

Biblioteca Nacional (Spain), La fiesta nacional: ensayo de bibliografía taurina (Madrid, 1973) 2725.e.1742

José Sánchez de Neira, El toreo: gran diccionario tauromáquico nueva ed. corregida por el autor (Madrid, 1896-97) 7906.i.27

Luis Carmena y Millán, Bibliografía de la tauromaquia (Madrid, 1883)
2330.d.21.

Luis Carmena y Millán, Tauromaquia: apuntes bibliográficos (Madrid, 1888)
011902.h.20.(2.)

Luis Carmena y Millán, Catálogo de la biblioteca taurina de L. Carmena y Millán (Madrid, 1903)
011907.f.15

Biblioteca Nacional (Lisboa), Bibliografia tauromáquica : impressos e manuscritos (Lisbon, 1927; reprinted [1982?]) YA.1986.b.1293

Anales taurinos (Madrid, 1900-). Includes portraits and advertisements. Discontinued. P.P.1863

Manuel Fernández y González,. Las glorias del toreo ... Cuadros biográficos, lances y desgracias de los diestros más célebres ... Artículos sobre costumbres de los pueblos aficionados á esta clase de espectáculos. (Madrid, 1879). Our copy was destroyed in WWII (D-7911.c/11), but there is a digitised copy at the Biblioteca Digital de Castilla y León.

On ephemera in the BL:

Ann-Marie Foster, ‘‘I am sending herewith’ – First World War Ephemera at the British Library’, Electronic British Library Journal 2017 article 3

Other:

Julián Bravo, ‘El apócrifo manuscrito árabe sobre Sacedon’

John C. Dowling, ‘The Taurine Works of Nicolás Ferndez de Moratín’, The South Central Bulletin, 22 (1962), 31-34. 8350.250000

15 June 2022

Ceramics and the Avant-Garde: the life of Tullio d’Albisola

During the interwar years, the focus of Italian Futurism expanded from the fine arts into a variety of media and mass media that were easily accessible to the wider public. On the one hand, the Futurists were attracted by new forms of communication intended for a wide audience, like the radio and advertising; on the other, they engaged with the large market of commercial items, such as furniture and household objects, that entered the majority of the Italian dwellings. Their intent was a real union between art and everyday life, a total rejection of traditional art hierarchies going beyond the move by the fine artist into the decorative arts, which would become increasingly popular in postwar Italy with artists like Fausto Melotti, Lucio Fontana, and Giacomo Manzù, to mention just a few.

Coppa amatoria, Tullio d’Albisola, 1930

Coppa amatoria, Tullio d’Albisola, 1930, from Enrico Crispolti, La ceramica futurista da Balla a Tullio d’Albisola (Florence: Centro Di, 1982) 3113.170350 v 151

It is within this background that Tullio Spartaco Mazzotti, an artist and entrepreneur from Albissola, a small community on the Ligurian coast, invited the Futurists to design ceramic objects that he could produce in his father’s factory, the Ceramiche Giuseppe Mazzotti Albissola. In his project he involved the founder of Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who coined his Futurist pseudonym Tullio d’Albisola, and many artists, architects, and poets, like Benedetta Cappa, Bruno Munari, Farfa (Vittorio Osvaldo Tommasini), Fortunato Depero), and Enrico Prampolini. As described in the Manifesto Ceramica e aeroceramica (Ceramics and Aeroceramics) that he co-wrote with Marinetti in 1938:

‘[…] Tullio d’Albisola brings into ceramic the aesthetic of the machine […] speed […] cosmic forces […] simultaneities of contrasting or harmonizing emotional states […]’

Photograph showing (left to right) Farfa, Tullio d’Albisola and Marinetti in front of ceramics by Farfa

Photograph showing (left to right) Farfa, Tullio d’Albisola and Marinetti in front of ceramics by Farfa, 1930, from La ceramica futurista da Balla a Tullio d’Albisola.

Despite the number of Futurist tiles and ceramics manufactured in Italy during this time, d'Albisola was the only one who reached a wider public. With their unusual shapes and abstract decorations, his ceramics openly challenged the more conventional pottery of Sevrès, France, the fine porcelains from Vienna, and the contemporary ceramic production in Italy that was largely based on classical ideals.

During his adhesion to Futurism, d’Albisola applied his creativity and experimental personality to a variety of media, besides ceramic design, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the ideas and projects of his Futurist fellows. For example, he convinced his old father to entrust a young Futurist architect, Nicolaj Diulgheroff, with the project of a new location for the factory, which was completed in 1934 and is today one of the remaining examples of Futurist architecture in Italy. He made sculptures, wrote poems, designed the factory’s graphic identity (from the letterhead, to the advertising), and engaged at different rates with photography, cinema and painting. The genuineness and delicacy of his poetry is in apparent contrast with his most vanguard outputs, like the famous Futurist tin-books (‘Lito-latte’), which he financed entirely, although the project was eventually a flop.

Litolatta logo

Litolatta logo, from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti/Tullio d’Albisola Parole In Libertà Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (Rome, 1932). HS.74/2143, Courtesy of Archivio Tullio d’Albissola

Thanks to the success of their Futurist ceramics, the popularity of the Mazzotti factory increased exponentially, and the name of d’Albisola began circulating within the artistic circuits in Italy and abroad. New avant-garde movements could be found in Albissola in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Spatialism, the Arte Nucleare, and Co.Br.A (the latter developed in Albissola the M.I.B.I., ‘Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus’). Although Futurism was long gone, the Mazzotti factory continued to be one of the favorite workshops of the international Avant-Garde, where artists like Fontana, Manzù, Aligi Sassu, Agenore Fabbri, Sandro Cherchi, Asger Jorn, and Karel Appel, realized the striking post-modernist sculptures that we all know. ‘The modern ceramic art was born in Albisola’, Italian architect and critic Gio Ponti wrote.

Casa Mazzotti

Casa Mazzotti, designed by Bulgarian Futurist Architect Nicolay Diulgheroff in the years 1930 to 1932 for Tullio d'Albisola, who lived and worked here until his demise. It is a rare example of original futurist architecture. © UrbanItaly

On divergent but parallel paths, both d’Albisola and Ponti supported, for their entire life, the resurgence of ceramic practice, and assisted and guided in their careers worldwide renowned artists like Fontana and Melotti. Ceramics, however, continued to be largely seen as unsuitable for making art: as Melotti admitted in an interview in 1984, asking a sculptor to make ceramics was like ‘asking a poet to write advertisements’. (Tre ore con Fausto Melotti, television interview conducted by Antonia Mulas for RAI Italy)

Eleonora Traversa, Royal Holloway University of London

References:

Enrico Crispolti, La ceramica futurista da Balla a Tullio d’Albisola (Florence: Centro Di, 1982) 3113.170350 v 151

Danilo Presotto (ed.), Quaderni di Tullio d’Albisola, vol. I-IV (Savona: Editrice Liguria, 1981-87) P.421/871

Ursula Lehmann-Brockhaus, ‘Incontro Internazionale della Ceramica’ Albisola, Sommer 1954 (Rome: Campisano Editore, 2013)

The event Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future will take place on Friday 17 June at the British Library. This event is now sold out.

10 June 2022

Meet the Curators: A News-themed Session – 23 June 2022

Exploring five centuries of UK news through broadsheets, blogs and objects, the British Library’s current exhibition, Breaking the News, challenges and seeks to change the way we think about news.

Poster with a drawing of a person sitting on a TV and reading a newspaper

A poster advertising the University of Poznań Solidarity journal Serwis Informacyjny Komisji Zakładowej NSZZ «Solidarność» przy UAM w Poznaniu. BL shelf mark Sol. 764

Looking beyond the UK focus of Breaking the News, on Thursday 23 June curators from the European, Americas and Oceania collections will be in conversation about items from their collection areas that speak to the themes of the exhibition and that they think deserve a spotlight. Join us for a friendly look behind the curating scenes as we discover unique collection items that illuminate news and the role it plays in our lives.

This free, online event will take place on Thursday 23 June 2022, 12.30 – 1.30pm. To register, please visit the Library’s event page. Bookers will be sent a Zoom link in advance giving access.

This session is run in partnership with the Library’s Asia and Africa department, whose parallel event takes place on Thursday 16th June 2022.

Breaking The News exhibition advert

07 June 2022

Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future

We are delighted to bring to you a day-long exploration of the amazing diversity of 600 years of collecting Italian books in the UK. The Study Day, organized by the Italian Studies Library Group (ISLG), will be in person at the British Library Knowledge Centre, (Eliot Room), on Friday 17th June 2022. Booking essential, on the BL website

Portraits of Italian writers

Portraits of Italian writers

The programme is as follows:

09:30: Registration
10:00: Welcome: Janet Zmroczek (Head of European and American Collections, The British Library)
10:05: Welcome: Andrea Del Corno' (Italian Specialist, The London Library, ISLG Chair)

Past
10:10: Abigail Brundin (Director, British School at Rome) and Dunstan Roberts (University of
Cambridge), ‘The Italian collections in National Trust and English Heritage Libraries’

10:40: Tudor Allen (Senior Archivist for Camden Council), ‘Sources for the Study of London's
Italian Quarter: Archives of the Mazzini-Garibaldi Club and the Italian Hospital’

11:00: Stephen Parkin (Curator Printed Heritage Collections, The British Library), ‘The Colt
Hoare collection of Italian topographical books in the British Library’

11:20: Discussion
11:30: Tea and coffee

Keynote Speaker
11:45: Giuliana Pieri (Professor of Italian and the Visual Arts, Head of the School of
Humanities, Royal Holloway University), ‘Beyond Words and Images: Re-thinking twentieth-century
Italian Books’

Present
12:15: Julianne Simpson (Rare Books and Maps Manager, John Rylands Library) and Stephen
Milner (Serena Professor of Italian Studies, University of Manchester) ‘Le Tre Corone: Italian
collections at the John Rylands Library – projects and promotion’

12:45: Tabitha Tuckett (Rare Books Librarian, UCL) ‘Italian rare books and archives in UCL
Special Collections’

13:05: Cristina Dondi (Professor of Early European Book Heritage, University of Oxford)
‘Mapping the early Italian book heritage around the UK: From distribution to dispersal‘

13:35: Discussion
13:45: Buffet lunch

Keynote speaker
14:45: Michele Casalini (CEO, Casalini Libri) ‘Collections aren't built in a day: Changes and
trends in Italian collecting’

Future
15:15: Round table chaired by Andrea Del Corno', with Prof Cristina Dondi, Andrea Mazzocchi
(Bernard Quaritch Rare Books and Manuscripts), Valentina Mirabella (Curator, Romance Collections,
The British Library), Prof Giuliana Pieri, and Maria Riccobono (Librarian, Italian Cultural Institute).

16:30: Katia Pizzi (Director, Italian Cultural Institute)

23 May 2022

Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages

After a two-year hiatus, we are pleased to announce that the annual Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages will resume on Monday 13 June 2022 in the Bronte Room of the British Library's Knowledge Centre. The programme is as follows: 

11.00 Registration

11.30  CHRISTIAN ALGAR (London)
            The incunabula of J. B. Inglis in the British Library

12.15 Lunch (Own arrangements).

1.30  JOHN DUNKLEY
            Editing Destouches’s Le Philosophe marié (1727)

2.15  JOHN D. MCINALLY (Liverpool)
            Conflicting and Connected Messages in the Margins: (Para)textual Dynamics in Rwandan Testimonies of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

3.00 Tea

3.30  SHANTI GRAHELI (Glasgow)
            Foreign readers of Ariosto’s Orlando furioso between language acquisition and collecting practices, 16th and early 17th century

4.15  LLUÍS AGUSTÍ (Barcelona)
            Spanish Republican Exile Printing in Mexico

The Seminar will end at 5.00 pm.

The Seminar is a free event and all are welcome, but please let the organisers, Barry Taylor and Susan Reed (contact details below), know if you wish to attend. 

Barry Taylor (barry.taylor@bl.uk; tel 020 7412 7576)
Susan Reed (susan.reed@bl.uk; tel 020 7412 7572)

Two men working a printing press

11 May 2022

The Art of Noises

“In antiquity, life was nothing but silence. Noise was really not born before the 19th century, with the advent of machinery. Today noise reigns supreme over human sensibility.” Luigi Russolo

Photograph showing Luigi Russolo and his collaborator Ugo Piatti with their intonarumori

Photograph showing Luigi Russolo and his collaborator Ugo Piatti with their intonarumori, from Luigi Russolo, L’arte dei rumori (Milan, 1916). X.629/13035.

Futurism was a multidisciplinary artistic and social movement. Futurists wanted to reinvent all art forms: painting, sculpture, literature, photography, architecture, book production, dance, even cuisine... Futurist ideals were very radical, both artistically and politically.

Italian futurists, led by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, had a huge impact on the avant-garde of the twentieth century and gave popularity to art manifestos. Of the many futurist manifestos, the 11 March 1913 one titled L’arte dei rumori. Manifesto futurista (The Art of Noises. Futurist Manifesto), by Luigi Russolo, had a very long-lasting influence.

Portrait of Luigi Russolo

Portrait of Luigi Russolo, L’arte dei rumori.

L’arte dei rumori is a manifesto of futurist music. It was subsequently published as a monograph in 1916 in Milan by Edizioni Futuriste di “Poesia”, Marinetti’s own publishing house and official publisher of Italian futurists since 1905. The monograph, also titled L’arte dei rumori, expands on the 1913 manifesto and includes pictures and musical scores.

This book is the first to introduce the notions of noise as sound and sound-art. Noise was a product of the industrial revolution and therefore, for Russolo, futuristic. Onomatopoeic and cacophonic ‘words in freedom’ were already linked to the concept of noise as poetry in the early productions of futurist literature, so noise as sound appears a natural evolution of Marinetti’s Parole in Libertà.

The author of this book, painter turned musician Luigi Russolo, categorizes various types of noises and also created 21 rudimentary experimental noise making machines able to reproduce some noises for the futurist orchestra: intonarumori, including ‘howlers’, ‘bursters’, 'cracklers', ‘hummers’. These Leonardesque magic boxes with levers and trumpets were used for a composition, which reproduces the noise of the urban industrial soundscape: Risveglio di una città (Awakening of a city).

Concerts with intonarumori were organized in 1913 in Modena, and in 1914 in Milan and London, with 10 shows in the Coliseum. Most of Russolo’s instruments were destroyed during WWII and there is only one surviving phonograph recording of the instruments playing together with an orchestra. The full score of Risveglio di una città is also missing, apart from the two pages of notation reproduced below. Nevertheless, attempts to rebuild Russolo’s instruments and reproduce his musical performances happened in the course of the last century.

Score for Risveglio di una città

Score for Risveglio di una città, from L’arte dei rumori.

Russolo’s efforts to emancipate noises and to broaden the definition of music were truly revolutionary, but futurist music was not well received by the audience. The public was not ready at the time. However, the use of synthesizers, the invention of noise music, concrete music, soundscape art, sound-art, electroacoustic and electronic music, are all linked to Russolo’s production of writings, music, and instruments. Musicians who were directly influenced by his work include Pierre Schaeffer, Edgard Varèse and John Cage.

Valentina Mirabella, Curator, Romance Collections

Further reading

Claudia Salaris, Marinetti Editore, (Bologna 1990) YF.2009.a.20485

Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noise (futurist manifesto, 1913), translated by Robert Filliou, Originally published in 1967 as a Great Bear Pamphlet by Something Else Press, 2004 

Barclay Brown, ‘The Noise Instruments of Luigi Russolo’ Perspectives of New Music, vol. 20, no. 1/2, 1981, pp. 31–48 PP.8000.mn 

If you are interested in finding out more about our Italian collections, join us at the upcoming event: Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future, on Friday 17 June, in person at the British Library. Bookings are open on the BL website

 

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