Saturday, April 27, 2013

A girl reading in a storm

Who can stop reading?
 "That girl stand firm in the 'storm', When confronting challenges, she will never give up. (Hoang Hiep Nguyen, Vietnam, Open Photographer of the Year, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards)" From

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The great story of the Timbuktu´s manuscripts salvation

Haidara with his manuscripts in 2009.Brent Stirton/Getty Images

I´m sharing an excerpt of the great article by Yochi Dreazen that tells us the story of the old Timbuktu´s manuscripts salvation from Al Qaeda´s linked Islamist group, Ansar Dine, which for most part of last year ruled Timbuktu through terror.

¨When Abdel Kader Haidara was 17 years old, he took a vow. Among the families of Timbuktu with manuscript collections (and the Haidaras had one of the largest), it’s traditional for one family member from each generation to swear publicly that he will protect the library for as long as he lives. The families revere their manuscripts, even honoring them once a year through a holiday called Maouloud, on which imams and family elders perform a reading from the ancient prayer books to mark the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. 
 “Those manuscripts were my father’s life,” Haidara told me. “They became my life as well.” That life came under serious threat last year, when a military coup ousted Mali’s democratically elected leader just as a loose alliance of Tuareg separatists and three Islamist militias began conquering broad swaths of the north. The rebels quickly routed the Malian army, and Timbuktu fell in April 2012. As the militias poured into his city, Haidara knew he had to do something to protect the approximately 300,000 manuscripts in different libraries and homes in and around Timbuktu.
Haidara had spent years traveling around the country negotiating with Mali’s ancient families to assemble thousands of texts for the Ahmed Baba Institute, which was founded in 1973 as the city’s first official preservation organization. “When I thought of something happening to the manuscripts, I couldn’t sleep,” he told me later. 
 The initial wave of invaders were secular Tuareg, but quickly the Islamist militia Ansar Dine asserted control, imposing a harsh regime of sharia in Timbuktu and other northern cities. The Islamists didn’t know, at first, about the manuscripts. But their indiscriminate cruelty and their tight-fisted control over the city meant that the texts had to be hidden—and fast. Haidara thought the manuscripts would be most secure in the homes of Timbuktu’s old families, where, after all, they had been protected for centuries. He assembled a small army of custodians, archivists, tour guides, secretaries, and other library employees, as well as his own brothers and cousins and other men from the manuscript-holding families, and began organizing an evacuation plan.
Starting in early May, every morning before sunrise, while the militants were still asleep, Haidara and his men would walk to the city’s libraries and lock themselves inside. Until the heat cleared the streets in the afternoon, the men would find their way through the darkened buildings and wrap the fragile manuscripts in soft cloths. They would then pack them into metal lockers roughly the size of large suitcases, as many as 300 in each. 
At night, they’d sneak back to the libraries, traveling by foot to avoid checkpoints on the road, pick up the lockers, and carry them, swathed in blankets, to the homes of dozens of the city’s old families. The entire operation took nearly two months, but by July, they had stowed 1,700 lockers in basements and hideaways around the city. And they did it just in time, because not long after, the militants moved into the Ahmed Baba Institute, using its elegant rooms to store canned vegetables and bags of white rice. Haidara fled to Bamako, hoping the Islamists’ ignorance about the texts would keep them safe.¨

Read the article in full:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spanish words in the ¨pure¨ English

These sculpted words are designed by Stephan Sagmeister. Google images

Here´s an excerpt from the great article by Korey Stamper at The Guardian, who reflects about the Spanish words that are contained in the English language. The text is mocking the tendency of the immigration debate to keep ¨only¨ English. Besides, this is enlightening, by force of habit, I haven´t noticed our words intermingled in the everyday language.

¨Take Spanish, a frequent target of American lexical jingoism: English has been borrowing words from Spanish – or its ancestor language, Old Spanish – since the 14th century. It's not surprising when you consider that Spain was one of the reigning world powers in the Middle Ages. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Spanish managed to circumnavigate the globe, conquer half of the New World, and claim thePacific Ocean. They gave the world Henry VIII's first (and most long-lived) wife, Catherine of Aragon. And they coughed up two Popes and an Antipope.
Our oldest Spanish "loanwords" give you a sense of just how much of the world Spain was conquering. "Armadillo", "iguana", "sarsaparilla", and "tobacco" describe new flora and fauna Spanish explorers found in North and South America. "Canary" flitted into English from the Spanish name for a group of islands off the coast of Africa. "Eskimo", while ultimately from an Algonquian language of western Canada, likely was introduced into English via Spanish.
Spanish influence doesn't end with the Renaissance: almost a quarter of the US was under Mexican or Spanish rule until the mid 1800s. If you grew up watching spaghetti Westerns or idolizing the Wild West as presented by Johns Wayne and Ford, then you are steeped in Spanish loanwords. Renegade caballeros on broncos, riding through the canyons of Colorado – if you dump the Spanish loanwords, you're left with "on, riding through the of".
Over the last 400 years, there have been movements to make English a "pure" language, and these movements have generally targeted foreign loanwords. Even lexicographers were not immune from lexical nationalism: Samuel Johnson, in writing his 1755 Dictionary of the English Language, omitted foreign words (like "skunk" and "hickory") that had gained currency in the English-speaking American colonies.
But such movements ignore a basic fact: English has been borrowing words from other languages since its infancy. The names for the days of the week are some of our oldest English words, and they honor the sun, the moon, and a handful of northern Germanic gods the Anglo-Saxons worshipped. But "Saturday", the beginning of our weekend, honors a Roman god in Saxon clothes: the Anglo-Saxon "sætern" means "Saturn" and was stolen outright from Latin.
And so it goes, throughout history. English takes Latin words and Old Norse words, then dips into French, Spanish, Arabic, Dutch, Bantu, Wolof – and that doesn't even bring us into the modern era of immigration, where loanwords from Yiddish, Modern Greek, Italian, German, Japanese, Farsi, Irish Gaelic, and other languages arrive.¨

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dos películas para comprender bien The turn of the screw (Otra vuelta de tuerca)

The Turn of the Screw (1898), traducida al español como Otra Vuelta de Tuerca, es una novela escrita por Henry James (Nueva York15 de abril de 1843 – Londres28 de febrero de 1916) , quien fuera crítico y literario estadounidense, naturalizado británico, hermano del famoso psicólogo William James. 
He leído la novela con algunos altibajos por cuestiones personales, generalmente yo no soy de interrumpir las lecturas. Empecé con la película británica de 1992, con Patsy Kentsi como la niñera, luego seguí con el libro bajado de project Gutenberg, compré el libro en la biblioteca, continué con Nightcomers (en español Los Últimos Juegos Prohibidos), de Marlon Brando y finalmente terminé de leerlo, con gran placer, porque la historia es entretenida y nos permite cuestionarnos sobre los hechos una y otra vez.
Ahí está la clave, es un texto ambiguo, hay quienes dicen que es una novela clásica de fantasmas (que no son los habituales sanguinolentos con chillidos), otros críticos dirían que es psicológica, ya que los sucesos se dan en ámbitos cotidianos y en ningún momento las apariciones son reconocidas por todos los personajes a la vez, -quizás la palabra ¨apariciones¨ sería más adecuada que fantasmas-. Tal es el caso que hay una cantidad de películas basadas en ella, con distintos ¨giros¨ en base a un plot principal.
La película del año ´92 es bien fiel al libro; la de Marlon Brando, es una interpretación de lo que habría  sucedido antes que la niñera se hiciera cargo de los niños.
Pero, me estoy adelantando y no digo aún de qué se trata.
El título ¨The turn of the screw¨ se menciona dos veces: al principio, cuando en rueda de amigos se propone contar una historia ¨real¨ en la que los protagonistas son niños, lo cual hace que los hechos sean más importantes aún, en este aspecto es, una vuelta de rosca al argumento; y al final, cuando la niñera presiona al niño a contarle porqué lo habrían expulsado de la escuela.
Se trata de una joven cándida que es contratada para cuidar dos hermanitos huérfanos que residen en una mansión, dado que la anterior niñera se ha ido (así lo justifican). Los niños, Miles y Flora (edades aproximadas de 8 y diez años respectivamente, un dato corregido por el autor), parecen absolutamente adorables. Lo curioso, es que no discuten entre ellos, llevan entre sí un gran entendimiento, tanto que parece siniestro.

¨They were extraordinarily at one, and to say that they never either quarreled or complained is to make the note of praise coarse for their quality of sweetness. Sometimes, indeed, when I dropped into coarseness, I perhaps came across traces of little understandings between them by which one of them should keep me occupied while the other slipped away.¨

La niñera nota la presencia de los fantasmas de la otra niñera desaparecida y del mayordomo Quint, muerto en extrañas circunstancias. Cómo mueren, no queda claro, como jamás nos será confirmado si estos fantasmas son reales o si son imaginación de la niñera. No nos cabe duda que Quint ha mantenido relaciones sexuales con la primera niñera, y sabemos que ambos han influenciado a los niños, tal vez hasta el extremo del acoso sexual (o del abuso?) y sus espíritus malignos aparecen para poseer, discretamente, los actos de los niños. Nightcomers va más allá aún, ya que nos muestra al personaje Quint, vedado en la película del ´92, imaginen a Marlon Brando como un gran actor en este papel, que va seduciendo e influyendo a Flora y a Miles, de a poco, con sus conversaciones, sus metáforas. Los niños espían a sus guardianes, intentan emularlos, y por distintas razones, ellos mismos les provocan la muerte. Estos acontecimientos no son explícitos en el libro, pero son muy probables. En definitiva, es una novela que despierta nuestra imaginación y con un lenguaje absolutamente impecable, formal sin modismos exagerados, si leen inglés, recomiendo altamente que la lean en su lengua original. 

Acá les dejo el link de projectgutenberg y recuerden que al principio del post tienen el link para leerla en español: 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Biografías. Instalaciones con libros de Alicia Martín

Alicia Martín es la artista española que ha montado estas instalaciones. La serie se llama Biografías, y  cada muestra lleva aproximadamente unos 5000 libros, que caen desde ventanas, como un tornado. Lo más interesante es que las hojas se mueven al viento, dándole vida al conglomerado de libros.
Este post está compartido desde 
donde pueden ver más fotos y leer más sobre el tema.

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