Claudia Moscovici

Remembrance of Things Proust: Alain de Botton, William Carter and Michael Norris

 

As a fan of Marcel Proust’s fiction, I’d like to write today about this timeless writer who reflects upon the nature of time. With the centennial of  A La Recherche approaching, it’s interesting to reflect why–despite the arcane nature (and length!) of his sentences, his philosophical, speculative inclinations and his controversial lifestyle–Proust continues to remain so popular today. I believe that his writing is kept current partly by the process of canonization itself. Influenced by the great nineteenth century writers–Stendhal,  Flaubert, George Eliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy—Proust became one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. However, his novels are also kept alive thanks to the biographies, books and blogs written by literary critics who straddle perfectly the divide between intellectual/scholarly publications and writing for the general public.

I’m thinking, first of all, of Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, which discusses Proust’s life in an engaging and witty manner that grabs the readers’ attention (whether or not they were, originally, Proust fans). You can see his writings both on his personal website (below) and, more recently, on the art, literature and culture Romanian blog started by Miheala Carlan, Catchy.ro.

Rather than putting Proust on a pedestal, De Botton humanizes this legendary figure, alluding to his many challenges and neuroses (his asthma, ambiguous relationship to his mother, and fear of mice) that makes a bridge between contemporary readers and Proust. Botton’s “philosophy of everyday life” in general takes somewhat arcane philosophical and literary subjects that are usually relegated to the scholarly sphere and brings them to the general public. Isn’t that what being an intellectual is–or should be–about?

 

The well-known American biographer of Proust (and my good friend), Professor William C. Carter, also makes Proust and his life more accessible to a general audience in his biographies, Marcel Proust: A Life and Proust in Love.  Accurate, clear, engaging and without sparing us any details—including details about Proust’s sexual obsession with rats, his hypochondria as well as, of course, his various paramours—these two biographies are essential reading for anyone interested in Proust the man. Recently Professor Carter has launched an online course about Marcel Proust and his fiction, which, like his biographies, are aimed at a general audience as well as students and scholars.

www.proust-ink.com

This online course is a high-tech enterprise that includes comments from subscribers, live webcams, filmed posts of 30 lectures on Proust and monthly short films of the life and work of this timeless writer.

Furthermore, if you’re interested in engaging discussions of each of the seven novels that form A La Recherche, I’d suggest that you take a look at Michael Norris’ series of articles about Proust and his work on one of my favorite literary blogs, litkicks.com.

http://www.litkicks.com/ProustIIIb

Last but certainly not least, for the main image (above) I chose a digital photograph called “Proust Gazes Upon Olympia” by my fellow blogger and friend, Alex Bustillo.

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com

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October 2, 2011 Posted by | Alain De Botton, Alex Bustillo, Alex M. Bustillo, book reviews, books, catchy.ro, Claudia Moscovici, How Proust Can Change Your Life, litkicks.com, Marcel Proust, Marcel Proust: A Life, Michael Norris, Mihaela Carlan, online course on Proust, Professor William Carter, Proust, Proust in Love, Remembrance of Things Proust, William C. Carter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Remembrance of Things Proust: Alain de Botton, William Carter and Michael Norris

Unveiling the Veil in Contemporary Iranian Art and Literature

 

 

In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini mandated that all Iranian women must observe an Islamic dress code, which included wearing the veil, under the threat of death for those who refused to abide by these laws. This happened at about the same time that the totalitarian leader of my own country, Nicolae Ceausescu, was starting to impose draconian measures on Romanian women. Between the years 1979 and 1989, Ceausescu instituted a series of laws that controlled women’s sexuality and reproduction by banning birth control and abortion. This was part of his narcissistic fantasy of doubling the population of the country, so that he could have more power. Eventually, as I described in my novel Velvet Totalitarianism, such measures lead to tens of thousands of unwanted children, many of which were placed in unimaginably bad conditions in the infamous Romanian orphanages. To my mind, both measures—in Iran and in Romania–represented a way of establishing power over women rather than being a reflection of religious or ideological (communist) values.

Having been sensitized early in life to these displays of totalitarian power, many years later, when I read Azar Nafisi‘s memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003), I was especially moved by the author’s critique of the uses of the veil to control Iranian women’s bodies. I was also very impressed by her creative allusions to Anglo-American literary history—the book is divided into four sections–Lolita, Gatsby, James and Austen–to launch her compelling cultural critiques. Many of you have probably already read this book, but if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel, Lolita, about a sociopathic sexual predator whose fetish is prepubescent girls functions as Nafisi’s main metaphor for Iranian laws, which, she states, imposed “a dream upon our reality, turning us into figments of imagination.” These female figments are objects of simultaneous control and temptation: temptation through prohibition by hiding the female body.

Recently, I ran across the images of an artist who, I believe, launches an equally powerful and creative critique of the veil by unveiling women. Majeed Benteeha is an Iranian-born photographer, poet and aspiring film producer. Moving back and forth between Tehran and New York City, he simultaneously combines and clashes both worlds, in a spectacular mix that challenges cultural assumptions on both fronts. His images often feature veiled women posing nude in an iconic fashion that seems more sacred than profane. Benteenha’s strikingly original photography violates religious orthodoxies–about feminine modesty, about the religious and social connotations of the veil–only to show us another way to respect women and all that they represent: love, maternity, sensuality, desire, intelligence.

His images are simple, beautiful, erotic and dramatic. They include symbols associated with the Muslim faith, but also seem very European in many respects. Perhaps unwittingly, Beenteha’s photography alludes to works like L’Erotisme, by the French anthropologist and philosopher Georges Bataille, which presents the sacred as inextricably related to the profane: not just for Muslim societies, but for all cultures in general. Bataille famously states: “The essence of morality is a questioning about morality and the decisive move of human life is to use ceaselessly all light to look for the origin of the opposition between good and evil.” It seems that is precisely what Beenteha’s artistic short film below underscores, in its mirroring and contrast between a universal modernity and Muslim tradition; between light and dark; between masculine and feminine; between tenderness and predation; between desire and contempt. You can view his photography and artistic films on the links below.

http://www.youtube.com/user/ClaudiaMoscovici#p/a/f/0/Mv3P-3kPfzo

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com


June 3, 2011 Posted by | Ayatollah Khomeini, Azar Nafisi, book review, book reviews, books, Claudia Moscovici, communism, communist Romania, controlling women's bodies, controlling women's sexuality, critiques of the veil, Iran, Islamic dress code, literary criticism, literature, Lolita, Majeed Benteeha, Majeed Benteeha photography, Nicolae Ceausescu, Photographer Majeed Beenteeha, photography, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Romania, Romanian orphanages, sensual photography, sociopath, sociopathy, Surrealism, the veil, Velvet Totalitarianism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Unveiling the Veil in Contemporary Iranian Art and Literature

Bernard Salzman’s Mihaella: Chekhovian Fiction Meets Kabbalah

 

When one thinks of Eastern European fiction that tackles the big ontological questions—what is divinity, what is the nature and purpose of existence—as well as difficult metaphysical questions—such as the problem of theodicy, or why suffering exists in a God-created world—one thinks of writers like Dostoievsky and Tolstoy. However, often these questions seem too big for human beings to handle. Even a philosophical character like Ivan Karamzov seemed to give up on finding any satisfactory answers to such questions and, along with that, he also gave up on individual human love. In a famous quote from The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan states: “But it always happened that the more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity.” For Chekhov, on the other hand, the balance seems to be tipped in favor of depicting with compassion individual human beings. In the Russian literary tradition it is Chekhov, I believe, who brings large metaphysical questions down to Earth. His short stories and plays stage moral dilemmas in all-too-human characters, which he portrays with some irony and a lot of tender-hearted indulgence.

This is the tone of Bernard Salzman’s newest screenplay, Mihaella, currently in development by his film company, Eye Opener Films. This screenplay centers around the character of Mihaella, a young girl who lost her mother and is being taken care of by her uncle, Noah, and his wife Elizabeth. They live in a small town, reminiscent of Russian and Romanian villages where people go through difficult lives and pray to be spared some of their suffering by a divine miracle. Yet when faced with a being as miraculous as Mihaella–a hybrid of girl and angel—how will they react?

The answer isn’t simple, as nothing that crosses the boundaries of the explicable ever is. Neither religious dogma, epitomized at times by Father Gregory and some of his followers, nor empirical science can explain Mihaella’s mixture of special powers and human vulnerability. She’s not able to answer all of the villagers’ prayers to heal their ailments, as angels are supposed to do. Yet she grows angels’ wings, learns how to fly, and seems a mixed blessing for her new friend, Wright, a handicapped young man. Moreover, when pursued by a group of thugs, Mihaella manages to escape from harm thanks to her angelic demeanor and superhuman powers. But she can’t save Wright from being beaten by them, nor his father, Dean, from having his house burned to the ground. The best this human-angel can do is help people save themselves.

Like human knowledge of divine mysteries itself, Mihaella’s powers are only partial. And that seems to be why the villagers, including the local priest, regard her with ambivalence. They can accept the supposed certainties of religious dogma or the apparent truths of empirical reality much more readily than Mihaella’s hybrid nature and limited–yet clearly extraordinary–powers. When I asked Bernard about the religious and philosophical overtones of his screenplay, he replied that “The script is actually based on a short story I wrote many years ago. There are many universal questions I struggle with and I have spent many years studying Kabbalah in an attempt to understand.”

By depicting our human fear of the limits of our knowledge, this screenplay confronts one of the biggest metaphysical questions facing humanity: why does the suffering of innocents exist if the world ruled by an omnipotent and omniscient God? Why does Mihaella’s young mother have to die? Why does the sweet and innocent boy, Wright, have to endure so much humiliation and pain at the hands of others? Mihaella offers no easy answers about the nature of divinity and God’s ability to answer our prayers. In the Kabbalah, God is, like angels, a liminal being: neither matter nor spirit; the creator of both. God is unknowable to human beings, yet there is a revealed aspect of divinity that human beings can come to know and interact with. In the screeplay by the same name, Mihaella represents this aspect of divinity: one which the villagers must learn to embrace in order to learn the biggest lesson of this upcoming movie: “I think it’s not how much you pray, it’s how much you love,” Mihaella tells Father Gregory. But will he and the villagers get the angel-child’s message or chase her away, in their simultaneous longing for the unknowable and fear of the unknown? Watch and see for yourselves when Bernard Salzman’s new movie–filled with wisdom and hope–is released.

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

May 3, 2011 Posted by | angel, angels, Bernard Salzman, book review, book reviews, books, Celebrity Dialogue Interview with Cinematographer Bernard Salzman, Chekhov, Chekhovian fiction, Chekhovian screenplay, cinematographer Bernard Salzman, Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, Dostoievksy, Inner Circle Films, Ivan Karamazov, Kabbalah, La Tricoteuse, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, love, Mihaella, miracle, miracles, new fiction, screenplay, theodicy, William Bouguereau | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Bernard Salzman’s Mihaella: Chekhovian Fiction Meets Kabbalah

Celebrity Dialogue Interview with Cinematographer Bernard Salzman

Please find below a CELEBRITY DIALOGUE INTERVIEW with the award winning writer / director / producer / cinematographer and artist BERNARD SALZMAN, with whom I’m collaborating on a screenplay and movie of my first novel, VELVET TOTALITARIANISM.


BERNARD SALZMAN has collaborated on over one hundred and sixty projects, including documentaries, features, TV Movies and reality TV world wide, for such clients as: BBC, PARAMOUNT, UNIVERSAL, FOX, ABC, CBS, HBO, SHOWTIME and many others. His companies INNER CIRCLE FILMS and EYE OPENER FILMS, are full service production companies, able to provide production and post production services. Bernard had the honor of being nominated for  the Emmy award for a TV movie he made for CBS. 

CelebrityDialogue: Did you have formal education in cinematography and production or did you learn by doing?

Bernard: I attended film school where, since I had previously majored in Art, I concentrated in Cinematography.

CelebrityDialogue: How did you enter the entertainment industry?

Bernard: Because of my art training, after graduation I was offered to shoot and direct a series of documentaries about prominent artist – ended up doing 35 films in that series.  One of them received a special critics award at a film festival in Stockholm.

CelebrityDialogue: When and how did you establish Eye Opener Films?

Bernard: Eye Opener Films was established in 2007, as a secondary production company dealing mainly with the development and production of feature films.   My other company Inner Circle Films, produces mainly commercials, documentaries and reality TV.

CelebrityDialogue: Tell us about your documentaries that you produced and shot?

Bernard: I started my career as a filmmaker, doing documentaries.  As I mentioned, I did the series abut artists and following that was hired to collaborate on documentaries  dealing  with various subjects – archeology, social and political subjects, religion and many others. It became increasingly difficult to fund and market documentaries in the 80’s and 90’s, therefore my work concentrated more on features, TV movies and commercials. But I always had a soft spot for documentaries and when the opportunity presented itself, I was able to do one of my favorite documentaries – Vegas Striped. It documents the rise and fall of a young man who, after overcoming a traumatic childhood, is able to become a very successful business man, only to loose it all to his gambling addiction.

CelebrityDialogue: Which major commercials have you done? Which corporate clients have you worked for?

Bernard: I have done numerous commercials in Europe and the US. Clients included: Nike, Sony, Pepsi, Kodak, Allstate, M&Ms, BMW,  Porsche, Rocawear, and so many others.

CelebrityDialogue: What about your work in features? Which major production houses have you worked with?

Bernard: I had the opportunity to work for major studios and independents alike.  Disney, HBO, Showtime, CBS, PBS, Fox, Paramount, MGM.

CelebrityDialogue: Which reality TV shows have you been involved with?

Bernard: I have developed several reality TV shows starting with a show called Man vs Vegas for CMT. Other shows were Raising the bar, The prodigy and recently, At the Pawn Shop.

CelebrityDialogue: Which project got you nominated for the Emmy award?
Bernard: It was a TV movie called My past is my own for CBS – it was about the civil rights movement.

CelebrityDialogue: Which other awards have you won?

Bernard: I received two Best Cinematography awards, a Gold Telly award and a Shine media award.

CelebrityDialogue: Tell us about Love, Blood and Tears.

Bernard: Love Blood and Tears is a project about the Lincoln brigades and their involvement in the Spanish Civil War.  These volunteers from all walks of life went to Spain to fight against and prevent the rise of Fascism.  Many famous artists have taken part in this, including George Orwell, Hemingway and many others.

CelebrityDialogue: Which other projects are you working on currently?

Bernard: I am trying to raise funds for a feature film that is very dear to me, based on a script and short story I wrote called  Mihaella.  I have also developed a web based show called Divorce Rehab – I am currently in production with it.

You can find out more information about Bernard Salzman–his movies, commercials, documentaries, shows and art–as well as about my novel, Velvet Totalitarianism, which we’re currently collaborating on, on the links below:

http://bernardsalzman.com/ 
http://fineartebooks.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/the-art-of-bernard-salzman/ 
http://www.youtube.com/user/ClaudiaMoscovici?feature=mhum#p/u/9/2Db3FI_kv0Y 
http://www.litkicks.com/ClaudiaMoscovici 

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Bernard Salzman, bitlit, Blood and Tears, book review, book reviews, books, Celebrity Dialogue, Celebrity Dialogue Interview with Cinematographer Bernard Salzman, cinematographer Bernard Salzman, Claudia Moscovici, communism, communist Romania, David Israel, David K. Israel, Eye Opener Films, fiction, Inner Circle Films, interviews, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, Love Blood and Tears, movie review, movie reviews, My past is my own, new fiction, novel, novels, Princeton University, producer Bernard Salzman, psychological fiction, spy fiction, spy thriller, Velvet Totalitarianism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Celebrity Dialogue Interview with Cinematographer Bernard Salzman

Neatorama’s Bitlit Launches The Cube: A Novel by Nat Karody

 

Today, Neatorama’s literature blog Bitlit is proud to introduce a new science fiction novel: The Cube by Nat Karody. Were you disappointed by the ending to the series Lost? What follows is a story with as intricate a mythology as Lost’s but with an important difference: in the end it is all explained mechanistically, without resort to mysticism or religion. At the conclusion of the novel, the following summary of the core mystery, taken from the opening chapter, will be perfectly sensible: The Oopsah told a story, a majestic, exalted, beatific story of the coming of the end times and the rise of the Controller.

He learned how the world would end, who would destroy it, and how he, Zranga, could prevent it. He learned that he had been appointed by destiny – by the Controller himself – to carry out this mission. But above all he learned of the existence of a perfect being, the demigod Celeste, trapped beyond time in a cycle of eternal death. Only Zranga could rescue her, and to do this he had to place a giant door on the bottom of the Silent Sea, and kill the Great Man. Read on to found out how far Ivy Morven will go to stop Tobor Zranga from realizing his destiny, and how this alternative universe is bizarrely structured so that the most rational acts are the most extreme.

What I  love most about The Cube is the fact that it’s phenomenally well written  and has great character development. Although clearly a science fiction narrative, The Cube also transcends its genre, to attract a broad audience. It tells the Romeo and Juliet story of a  young couple from adjacent sides of a  cubic planet who meet at an edge and develop a relationship in the midst  of a war that threatens to  destroy the planet. The story is unique  in creating an alternative  universe from first principles:  all matter is   oriented in one of the six Euclidian directions.

This simple deviation  from our own universe leads to the creation of cubic celestial bodies and   allows a reimagination of  transportation, power generation, warfare,   architecture, and lovemaking, among other things. As an example, the  political conflict   leading to war is that both inhabited sides of the   planet generate hydroelectric power by draining a large body of water on   one side   through edge sluices, a cheap and easy source of energy that will ultimately destroy the planet if the water is drained too far.

What  drives this story is the relationship of the two main characters,  a girl  escaping from a classified weapons facility with terrible secrets she   refuses to share, and a rural boy who literally catches her  when she leaps   over the edge and soon learns he is the target of international espionage.   The novel is organized around a series of   revelations of the girl’s   secrets culminating with an answer to the ultimate question — who is  Celeste?

As you can probably tell even from my brief description, The Cube is a multidimensional narrative (pun intended!) that could simultaneously described as a science fiction novel as well as a moving love story and a dystopic utopia fiction,  similar  to George Orwell’s 1984.  You can discover this alternative universe, governed by different laws of physics but similar political motivations and machinations for power as in our world, on the links below:

http://www.neatorama.com/bitlit/category/the-cube/ 
http://www.youtube.com/user/ClaudiaMoscovici?feature=mhum#p/a/u/0/BXP7xYtrVeU 

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

March 31, 2011 Posted by | book review, Book Review of The Cube, Book Review of The Cube: A Novel by Nat Karody, book reviews, books, Claudia Moscovici, David Israel, David K. Israel, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, love, love story, Nat Karody, Neatorama, Neatorama's Bitlit, new fiction, novel, novels, online fiction publisher, science fiction, The Cube, The Cube: A Novel, The Cube: A Novel by Nat Karody | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Neatorama’s Bitlit Launches The Cube: A Novel by Nat Karody