what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Words ....and silences

I suppose I live an odd life – for the past 23 years in countries whose languages I don’t speak (although I had a good stab at Russian during the 7 years I spent in its old empire in Central Asia and the Caucasus). But the last 6 years I’ve been living alternately in Bulgaria and Romania and confess to have made no real effort to learn their languages - which are just so much musical background for me. I note the different intonations, stresses, voice and delivery pitches as if I was listening to a symphony….
I think, read and write in English – and am spoiled by having access to great English bookshops in Bucharest and Sofia (the latter the second-hand “Elephant” just a few minutes’ stroll from my flat). It was my first port of call the day of my arrival and I quickly picked up a couple of books - Dennis Healey’s Time of my Life (a 1989 hardback) and Dervla Murphy’s Silverland – a winter journey beyond  the Urals . Murphy has become a favourite of mine and I have always had a soft spot for Labour statesman Healey - he may have been a bruiser but he was (indeed is - going strong at 95 like his friend Helmut Schmidt) a highly cultured man with a real European perspective - working in the Socialist International in the 1930s - a taste of poetry and paintings and strong opinions. 
The next day I was back and left with three interesting books  - Tony Benn’s More Time for Politics- Diaries 2001-2007 ; Arthur Marwick’s British Society since 1945 (2003) ; and Roy Jenkins’ Gallery of 20th Century Portraits (1988)
Coincidentally I came across an excellent Bulgarian online bookstore which gives short resumes in English and actually has a short list of books in English on Bulgarian topics. The resumes give me precisely the glimpse of Bulgarian life I need.

I don’t mind not being able to read the newspapers (which contain noise in every country we are better off without) but I do miss not being part of other conversations on matters literary and artistic.

And, while on the subject of noise, let me draw your attention to a fascinating read - A Book of Silence by Sarah Maitland

The sculpture is one of the bronze ones which are in the grounds of the Sofia City Art Gallery.
The oil painting I got for 50 euros from my antique dealer Alexander Alesandriev and is by an unknown. The sketch (also from the AA gallery) is apparently by (or of?) Petr Chukovsky, a teacher of Ilyia Beshkov.

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