‘Somewhere life is simple…’ (Anna Akhmatova)

April 13, 2017

Somewhere life is simple, the light does fall
Transparent, warm and cheering…
There a neighbour talks over the wall
At evening with a girl, only the bees are hearing
The tenderest talk of all.

Then we live grandly and with difficulty
And we see bitter meetings are rightly done
When the foolhardy wind abruptly
Breaks off utterance just begun.

But we will not exchange for anything the splendid
Granite city of glory and of doom
Ice resplendent on rivers’ wide room
Sunless gardens filled with gloom
And the Muse’s voice, scarce apprehended.

granitnyj_gorod

Picture from www.liveinternet.ru/users/romanovskaya_galina/

Ведь где-то есть простая жизнь и свет,
Прозрачный, тёплый и весёлый…
Там с девушкой через забор сосед
Под вечер говорит, и слышат только пчёлы
Нежнейшую из всех бесед.

А мы живём торжественно и трудно
И чтим обряды наших горьких встречь,
Когда с налёту ветер безрассудный
Чуть начатую обрывает речь, –

Но ни на что не променяем пышный
Гранитный город славы и беды,
Широких рек сияющие льды,
Бессолнечные, мрачные сады
И голос музы еле слышный.

А.Ахматова.

Immersive Ancient Languages In Jerusalem

April 12, 2017

polis

Etti Calderon writes (1 NIS = £ 0.22/$ 0.27):

Polis- The Jerusalem Institute of Languages and Humanities is based in Jerusalem, Israel and was established in 2011 by a group of academics with the goal of promoting the study of ancient and Semitic languages. The founders believe the best way to understand ancient or modern texts and cultures is to become immersed in the language through listening, speaking, writing, and reading. In order to access the ancient texts without the need for dictionaries and study aids, the Polis Method (a combination of acquisition techniques including total immersion, total physical response, and story building) was developed to teach ancient and modern languages as living languages in an immersive environment. From the first lesson only the target language is spoken, written, and read in the classroom. 

We have two sessions in Jerusalem during the summer months with intensive courses in Classical Syriac, Ancient Greek, and Biblical Hebrew. The courses in Jerusalem will take place at the Polis Institute, located at 8 HaAyin Het Street, in the neighborhood of Musrara, near the Old City of Jerusalem.

Classical Syriac (Level II)

  • Dates: Monday-Friday (July 3-21, 2017)
  • Hours: 9:00-12:30
  • Academic Hours: 60
  • Cost: 2,100 NIS
  • Location: Polis Institute
  • Level: Advanced Beginner

Ancient Greek (Levels I+II combined)

  • Dates: Monday-Friday (August 30-September 28, 2017)
  • Hours: 9:00-15:00
  • Academic Hours: 120
  • Cost: 3,750 NIS
  • Location: Polis Institute
  • Level: Absolute Beginner + Advanced Beginner (knowledge of the Greek alphabet is pre-requisite)

Biblical Hebrew (Level III)

  • Dates: Monday-Friday (August 30-September 28, 2017)
  • Hours: Monday-Thursday 15:00-19:30 and Friday 9:00-13:30
  • Academic Hours: 80
  • Cost: 2,800 NIS
  • Location: Polis Institute
  • Level: Intermediate

Students registering in levels above Absolute Beginner may be required to take a placement test to ensure placement into the correct level.

Please feel free to forward this information to your contacts or subscribers who you think may be interested. 

If you have any questions regarding Polis or our certificate and MA programs, please do not hesitate to contact us via email (info@polisjerusalem.org) or phone (+972-074-701-1048)!

 

 

Translate at City: 26-30 June 2017

April 9, 2017

Robert Chandler (Russian) writes:

This is a truly excellent summer school. I greatly admire ALL the other tutors, and the general atmosphere is always enthusiastic, intelligent and constructive. We are later than usual this year in advertising it, so I will be very grateful if you can forward the information to anyone who might be interested. This year we are running courses in translating from 11 different languages.
See details here.

We give some advice on mental illness…

March 29, 2017

I was asked whether my own experience provided any guidance for a friend whose daughter, a student, had returned home from university apparently suffering from depression:

I did indeed suffer from severe depression (accompanied by anxiety) 30 or so years ago when you used to kindly come and visit me in the hospital in [a place] whose name I’ve forgotten. Since then, I’ve suffered from it  more mildly on a few occasions.  (I think I the most serious episode was when I had five days off work while waiting for the pills to take effect.)

I personally find that antidepressants have always worked for me.   Apart from that, a lot of the process of getting through mental illness (indeed illness generally) is finding someone who you can talk to, who will listen to you and take you seriously.  I had a very nice lady doctor in [a place] who managed to sell me me on various things by saying that especially if you were clever you could convince yourself that depression was all kind of terrible things but it was just depression.

It’s important to reach the stage of understanding that this is it, which means that it’s not going to go away but also it’s not going to turn into something fantastically worse.  I think it’s useful to have contact with people in the same kind of situation as yourself, but I believe (this may be a London thing) that nowadays inpatient mental health facilities are often occupied largely by dual diagnosis cases (drug use and mental illness) and so aren’t particularly pleasant.  Actually, that’s not only London but also NHS, so probably beside the point. In my day, a lot of the clientele were nice young women suffering from bipolar disorder and as long as they were taking their lithium they were perfectly charming.

I have no real experience of either talking therapies or ECT, so can’t say much about therapeutic possibilities outside pills. It’s certainly the case that whatever the  underlying mechanism is, severe episodes are initiated by stress of some kind, so it’s worthwhile avoiding that.  I think that something like a rest cure in a simplified, predictable environment ought to do some good–it did some good in the days when there were no effective specific treatments.  One should avoid alcohol and other recreational chemicals–at best they impede the process of things getting better naturally.

I hope this answers your questions, as far as my experience is relevant.  What strikes me from re-reading your letter is that you say [your daughter] had been self-harming for years as of a year ago.  That suggests something starting in adolescence, which is a different mechanism from the one I am well acquainted with of having a severe initial episode as a young adult and less severe recurrences through adult life.

Jane Austen’s estate

March 5, 2017
austen

There’s more going on here than agreement of verb with subject

A visit to the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton raised some interesting questions, and not only about English grammar.

If there is a valid point being made in the picture above, I think it’s the corollary of the one stated: Due to her writings, she had some money of her own at a time when women generally didn’t. I wonder what Cassandra did with it? How much it was in today’s terms is an almost completely meaningless question–between £ 50,000 and £ 3,000,000 perhaps according to measuringworth.com.

In Capital in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Piketty states:  In Great Britain, the average income was on [sic] the order of 30 pounds a year in the early 1800s, when Jane Austen wrote her novels….She knew that to live comfortably and elegantly, secure proper transportation and clothing, eat well, and find amusement and a necessary minimum of domestic servants, one needed–by her lights–at least twenty to thirty times that much. The characters in her novels consider themselves free from need only if they dispose of incomes from 500 to 1,000 pounds a year.

So on that basis Jane Austen’s lifetime earnings of £ 800 wouldn’t have got her very far.  If she had bought land with the normal rental yield of 4-5% that would have given her the average and deeply insufficient annual income of £ 30-£ 40.  But the question is what the marginal cost of an unmarried sister or maiden aunt would have been–once you had the house, carriage, servants etc the marginal cost of an extra household member may have been comparatively small.

While it is true that nowadays many of us would be penniless without our jobs, Piketty’s point is that in Jane Austen’s day you might make 5x average income from a job or profession or even writing novels if the French didn’t pirate them, but it wasn’t enough–you needed to own lots of land or seize bling from the French like her brothers Charles and Francis, both of whom became admirals.

In Brief March 2017

March 1, 2017

The Tale of Januarie  GSMD 27 February

I was interested by the libretto in Middle English and it did not disappoint, being rather similar to Northumbrian dialect.  I bought a programme at the interval and so found out that we were supposed to regard the characters distantly, before that I had been quite sympathetic to may.  I thought the music in the ensemble passages worked best, there was nothing particularly striking in the individual declamations and I had the feeling that composer Julian Philips was trying to find a safe place between Machaut on one side and Benjamin Britten on the other.  Set, costumes and performance were all first class.  I don’t think the audience actually laughed at any point…

Cost:  £ 25  Rating: ****

The Importance of Being Earnest  Bridewell Theatre 28 February

It was interesting to see this finally, and there was more than sporadic laughter from the audience as the action progressed, interspersed with two intervals.  It all seemed to be played fairly straight, and Jack Worthing emerged as more human than I expected.  But what I enjoyed was Cicely producing to biscuit-tin of the letters to herself she had been forced to write on behalf of Algernon and showing him the diary entries reflecting the course of their engagement.  That was quite mad and also the kind of thing a young woman living in the country with her governess and strict guardian might well do.  This one must have more famous quotes per scene than anything else outside Shakespeare…

Cost:  £ 12   Rating:  ***

 

Crime and Punishment, Brockley Jack 8 February

February 8, 2017

****

At the end of this second preview, which played to a full house, the actor playing Raskolnikov (Christopher Tester) asked audience members to say something nice about the show on social media, or indeed in real life.

We are happy to oblige.  As a text, this was an excellent adaptation, which embodied the bright idea of getting to the basics of the characters and their story and the author’s intentions and reconstructing that from the ground up as a play.

I thought that both Christopher Tester and Stephen MacNeice (who played Pofiry Petrovich, Marmeladov, and a couple of other characters) were excellent.  We had a harried, ratty, unEnglish Raskolnikov and a Porfiry Petrovich who for once did not bore me to death.  His Marmeladov was impressive in letting you find the degradation, not drowning you with it.  I also thought that Christina Bastion was just too posh as Sonya-we are given to understand that she can read only with some difficulty and she looks up to Raskolnikov as an educated man–and as the pawnbroker Alyona, who also turned out to be Scottish.

But the production moved forward vigorously with clearly-delineated characterisations and a few well-chosen props.  And the well-worn scene where Sonya and Raskilnikov read the Bible together really got to me…

There is a video trailer here, but I’d say the show is better than it suggests.

 

 

 

 

 

Prometheus Bound, Greenwood Theatre 1430 8 February

February 8, 2017

**

prometheus

At the end:  chorus–Prometheus–Io

Prometheus Bound certainly made an interesting choice for this year’s KCL Greek Play in Greek.  One question is whether it actually is a play or merely a scene-setting for following parts of a trilogy.  Nothing much happens apart from various characters coming to sympathise with or talk sense into Prometheus and him referring to the injustices he has suffered and the dark secret he knows.

I remember a production at the Soho Theatre where the clientele were expected to be satisfied by a combination of the manly heaving of the hero’s bare breast and chains.  Lots of chains.  But here it wasn’t quite like that.  We had a female Prometheus, and Oceanus, and whichever it is of Force and Violence that doesn’t actually say anything.

More generally, I’m afraid that there was no sign of a solution to the severe problems posed by staging this piece.  It started off with projections of various modern figures, especially Donald Trump, and you could see how Prometheus might be a kind of Nelson Mandela in captivity, but his captors needed him more than he needed them.  Or Trotsky perhaps, who thought he had the earth-shaking prophecy and was a prisoner to his own well-founded fears. But nothing came of this possible line of thought.

Rather than being chained to a cliff with a wedge through her chest, our Prometheus had to top of a table to call her own.  For some reason sound effects and lianas suggested that this was in the jungle somewhere.  Loud sound effects meant you couldn’t hear what was being said, though the Greek verse sounded to be spoken competently enough.  At the end, Prometheus’s final defiance got lost in underwhelming stroboscopic effects..

On the positive side, the entrance of the chorus was effective, as were some of their choreographed moves.  Likewise for Io’s entry and exit, though I’m afraid she did rather remind me of the domovoy from Morphine.  And indeed there were similar surtitling issues, with lots of text appearing some time after the event.

If you ask what I would have done–well, have a much larger chorus and have them sing and dance.  In fact, have them on stage the whole time and have them  hold up the surtitles on placards, to give the idea of a debate of some importance not people  coming on stage and exchanging words about mouldy mythology…But making something out of Prometheus Bound would be difficult with the best performers and technical resources in the world…

 

 

 

 

 

Morphine, Etcetera Theatre 7 February

February 8, 2017

**

morphine

Picture from Anna Denshina’s Twitter feed

So let’s think–what problems might there be with staging Bulgakov’s ‘Morphine’, about a country doctor who falls victim to…err…morphine? Well, putting a non-dramatic work on the stage is always problematic–if the author had wanted to write a play he’d have done things differently. And especially in a case like the present, where the original text is in the first person and reflects the hero’s diseased apprehension of reality more than actual happenings between people. The latter is where you need to have things in a play. Here we also have some more objective narration from ‘Notes of a young doctor’ brought in to set the scene as well.

That said, the show combined the Russian tradition of having music in lots of places where you don’t want it with the English one of having characters shuffle on, deliver their lines through a mask of embarrassment, and then shuffle of again. The cast members showed various levels of comfort with appearing on stage and the Russian language…that said, I thought that Anna Danshina put in a good and affecting performance as the love interest called Anna.

There were also sutitling issues–the surtitles contained a lot of text at one go and tended to catch up after the event.  But I suspect the proportion of the audience who neither knew Russian nor the storyline of ‘Morphine’ was rather small…

Too few and too many–I outsmart myself

February 8, 2017

tyneside

The quiz questions about this street somewhere around Heaton were:

So can you see why this street has to be:

i) in the North generally?

ii) not on Merseyside?

iii) specifically on Tyneside?

with the intended answers:

i) many burglar alarms

ii) not enough burglar alarms

iii) two front doors per ‘house’–these look like terrace houses but were built as upstairs and downstairs flats (rather than being converted) and are known as ‘Tynesiders’.

But I may have outsmarted myself there–this also looks like what’s called an ‘avenue’ locally, which means that there’s just pavement (perhaps some flowerbeds too) out the front and vehicle access is up the back alley…