Recent links of note:
“‘An Inventory of Losses’ Review: Only a Memory”
Anna Mundow, The Wall Street Journal
“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life,” writes George Eliot in Middlemarch, “it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” I think it is so with human history as well—history is one long tale of loss, unless we pick our stories and cultivate a certain blindness in order to stay sane. But the historian’s lot doesn’t need to be a harrowing one—there are those who are skilled at hopping back and forth over the fence to that other side of silence, those who can bring back delightful reflections on lost things, bygone times, and even death itself. To a list of such time-rummagers included in Anna Mundow’s review of Judith Schalansky’s Inventory of Losses, I would have to add the masterful prose of Sir Thomas Browne (1605–82), whose meditation on several excavated urns of Anglo-Saxon bones culminates in that eternal phrase, “Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us.”
“Giya Kancheli: Poetry of Silence”
Norman Lebrecht, The Critic
I was pleased to see Norman Lebrecht give this four-star review to a new recording of piano miniatures by the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli (1935–2019), whose music, like the art of so many of his countrymen, barely registers on Western radars. This album is arresting indeed, and one recent chapter in a musical history in the Caucasus that stretches back thousands of years. If I could pick a respectful bone with Lebrecht, I’d encourage him to give a look at “the instantly forgettable [Communist] Party films” he mentions, for which Kancheli composed soundtracks. At least two of these—Mimino (1977) and Blue Mountains (1983) (the themes of which feature on this album)—are among the best comedies I know and offer touching (and daringly satirical) insight into the lives of minority Georgians and Armenians in the last decades of the Soviet Union.
Isaac Sligh & James Panero discuss Russia & beyond. On travels in the Russian Arctic and in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia.
“The immortal forty-eight (or ninety-six),’” by Jay Nordlinger. Jay Nordlinger on Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, again.