Romain Slocombe — Prisoner of the Red Army

August 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Prisoner of the Red Army is the debut output of a scandalous 25 year old illustrator who signs his name only, Romain. A re-edition of the original book which was published in 1978 by Humanoïdes Associés.


This clever punk spirit, very close to the band Bazooka, captured the dark side of Japan and invented a new genre of SM, the “bondage surgery”. Since Romain Slocombe digs an obsessional and single rail, embodying his monomaniacal fantasy world in various art forms with talent.

Prisoner of the Red Army made the generational leap, many monsters have been killed by the uncontrolled flow of daily images.

One can finally read these redrawn photographs of Japanese women bound, wounded, tumefied, bandaged like real life, revealing the tragicomic atmosphere of the late ’70s, the spirit icy detachment of the chemical eye, with much as the talent as an artist in the middle of the world and already completely singular.


A Virtual Wunderkammer: Early Twentieth Century Erotica in Spain

August 16, 2014 § Leave a comment


This Website is a companion to the book, Cultures of the Erotic. Spain 1898-1939 (Maite Zubiaurre, Vanderbilt University Press, 2011), in the same way in which the book is a companion to the Website. They enhance each other when they work together.

The main purpose of the book/website is to unearth the wealth of popular erotic materials that animated the urban life of Spain during the first half of the Twentieth Century, and which was later forcefully repressed and thus “forgotten” during the Franco era. By erotic materials I mean a multifarious collection of cultural artifacts, from the erotic novelette, the philosophical essay, the sexological treatise, and the nudist manifesto, to the erotic postcard, the risqué illustration in erotic magazines, and the first manifestation of pornographic cinema.

Creating a New Language: The Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé

August 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Stéphane Mallarmé is renowned as being one of the most influential poets in the French Symbolist movement. Born in 1842, his creative and critical work inspired many of the radical artistic movements in the 20th Century, including Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism.


Notoriously misunderstood, obsessively ‘difficult’, accused of obscurity, pretence and genius: still, Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) was arguably the greatest, and most innovative, of the French Symbolist poets. His story is not as passionate as that of Verlaine and Rimbaud’s scandalous love affair. Neither were his habits as decadent as Baudelaire’s penchant for opium, women and the senses. No; Mallarmé lived in financial and matrimonial modesty, writing as a means to escape and to nourish himself.

With the 19th century being a time of great excitement, and a paradigm shift in French poetry, it is no wonder that ever since his adolescent years Mallarmé had envisaged a life as a poet. Baudelaire had just published his revolutionary Flowers of Evil (1857), free-verse was cracking the shell of traditional versification, and some of the greatest voices of French literature – Hugo, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Valéry, Zola, Balzac – were publishing one masterpiece after another. Mallarmé had married out of some higher sense of responsibility, and he disdained- yet maintained- his job as a provincial teacher. He wanted desperately to take part in this explosive creation.

Pulling back the curtain

August 10, 2014 § Leave a comment


When I first read Jean Rhys’s short novel After Leaving Mr Mackenzie in my early 20s, I felt a strong sense of empathy. It was the attraction of identification. I identified with the main character, Julia Martin. She was a tragic figure. She stayed in disreputable hotels and drank alone. “The landlady … disapproved of Julia’s habit of coming home at night accompanied by a bottle. A man, yes: a bottle no. That was the landlady’s point of view.”

Rhys was born in Dominica in 1890, to a white Creole mother and a Welsh father. She is mostly known for Wide Sargasso Sea (a retelling of the story of the mad woman in the attic in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre), but Rhys didn’t publish that book until 1966 when she was 76. It had been nearly 40 years since Rhys’s first book came out, with an introduction by Ford Madox Ford, who discovered her and with whom she was romantically involved. In the decade between 1927 and 1939, Rhys published one collection of short stories and four novels, of which ‘After Leaving Mr Mackenzie’ was the second. None of these books did terribly well. During the second world war, they went out of print and Rhys all but disappeared. People assumed she was dead, but she was living as a recluse in Cornwall.

Wide Sargasso Sea is an important book, but it doesn’t have the emotional gall and urgency of Rhys’s early novels. In After Leaving Mr Mackenzie you feel as if you are in the presence of a writer who is trying to tell it as it really was, to pull back the curtain of social decorum and say, “Look! This is what we’re really like to one another!”

C. Pountney

This happens more often than not

August 9, 2014 Comments Off



Unimpressed by Rasputin: A witty female voice in a male-dominated sphere

August 8, 2014 § Leave a comment


The majority of classic Russian writers are male, but readers seeking a humorous female perspective should look no further than Nadezhda Teffi.

If you asked most readers for a list of 20th century Russian prose writers, the same names would keep cropping up: Bulgakov, Pasternak, Gorky, Chekhov, Solzhenitsyn. Few people would mention Teffi. And yet in the years leading up to the 1917 revolution, Teffi was a bona-fide leading light, a superstar who was stopped on the streets of Moscow by admirers and counted both Tsar Nicholas II and Lenin as fans. She mingled with high society figures like Rasputin and wrote about them with a searing and uncompromising wit.

Unafraid to buck the trend

Teffi was born Nadezhda Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya in 1872 to a wealthy St. Petersburg family. She married in 1890 and moved to the countryside to begin a calm and uneventful domestic life. However, Teffi wasn’t the kind of person to live up to society’s expectations, and a decade later she headed back to the city to make a go of her writing career. She deliberately picked an androgynous pen-name – adapted from the name of a fool, since fools were supposed to be lucky – and set about carving a niche for herself writing satirical articles and vignettes of contemporary life. The editor of The Russian Word, Vlas Doroshevich, recognized her potential and encouraged her to spread her wings into short stories. “Let her write what she wants to write,” he said. “You don’t use a pure-bred Arab to haul water.”

Until now, there haven’t been a great deal of English-language editions of Teffi’s writing, but a notable exception is the recently published  “Subtly Worded,”  translated by Anne Marie Jackson with the collaboration of Robert Chandler, Clare Kitson, Irina Steinberg and Natalia Wase.


via RBTH — Photo AFP / East News

André Frénaud — Il n’y a pas de paradis

August 6, 2014 § Leave a comment


‘Good books sell, very good books do not,’ declared the great French publisher Gaston Gallimard in the 1950s. ‘For example, I like Henri Michaux very much. But who reads him? And Frénaud . . . There is no relation whatsoever between what he costs me to print and what his books bring in.’

Gallimard published all the main titles of the fine poet Andre Frenaud. But did they sell? His 1968 collection, La Sainte Face, in a revised and expanded edition, was not issued in the Collection Poesie paperback series until 1985. Yet nine of Frenaud’s books are still in print with Gallimard, and apparently still selling.

First known for his war-time poems written from a German labour camp – notably his sombre reworkings of the myth of the Magi – André Frénaud (1907-1993) is one of the best French poets. His work is structured by a sense of quest, which gives it its labyrinthine patterns, underground tensions and fractured, inventive forms. His poetry has an epic and tragic dimension: spurred by an urge for transcendence, it refuses false paradises, arrivals and notions of reconciliation.

Il n’y a pas de paradis
à Dylan Thomas

Je ne peux entendre la musique de l’être.
Je n’ai reçu le pouvoir de l’imaginer.
Mon amour s’alimente à un non-amour.
Je n’avance qu’attisé par son refus.
II m’emporte dans ses grands bras de rien.
Son silence me sépare de ma vie.
Être sereinement brûlant que j’assiège.
Quand enfin je vais l’atteindre dans les yeux,
sa flamme a déjà creusé les miens, m’a fait cendres.
Qu’importe après, le murmure misérable du poème.
C’est néant cela, non le paradis.
Pauvres petits enfants [...]

André Frénaud

Australian Great Forgotten Novels

August 6, 2014 § Leave a comment


The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney (1930), by Henry Handel Richardson. The three novels that make up this trilogy, surely the richest and most expansive chronicle in Anglo-Australian literature, took 20 years to write. They describe the life of one man from the height of the Ballarat gold rush in 1852 to his death 20 years later. As an account of failure, it is a startling success.


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