Paintings in Proust - A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time (Eric Karpeles, London, Thames & Hudson, 2008) was translated by Pierre Saint-Jean under the title Le Musée imaginaire de Marcel Proust - Tous les tableaux de À la recherche du temps perdu (2009). After a short doubtful introduction - "La perspicacité psychosexuelle dont il [Marcel Proust] fit preuve pour élaborer ses personnages épicènes l'ont à jamais transformé en père fondateur des queer studies."(*) - the book divisions follow the volumes of À la recherche. Short text extracts in which a painting is alluded to are presented (in the original text from Proust in this 'translation') together with a reproduction of the corresponding painting. It's a great way to wander along Proust's masterpiece, as well as a very useful companion when reading it. For example the lines where Swann refers to Françoise's new kitchen-maid as "la Charité de Giotto" are printed along a reproduction of the Caritas from the Arena Chapel frescoes in Padua.
In the year in which we ate such a quantity of asparagus, the kitchen-maid whose duty it was to prepare them was a poor sickly creature, some way "gone" in pregnancy when we arrived at Combray for Easter, and it was indeed surprising that Françoise allowed her to run so many errands and to do so much work, for she was beginning to find difficult in bearing before her the mysterious basket, fuller and larger every day, whose splendid outline could be detected beneath the folds of her ample smock. This last recalled the cloaks in which Giotto shrouds some of his allegorical figures, of which M. Swann had given me photographs. He it was who pointed out the resemblance, and when he inquired after the kitchen-maid he would say: "Well, how goes it with Giotto's Charity?" And indeed the poor girl, whose pregnancy had swelled and stoutened every part of her, even including her face and her squarish, elongated cheeks, did distinctly suggest whose virgins, so sturdy and mannish as to seem matrons rather, in whom the Virtues are personified in the Arena Chapel. And I can see now that those Virtues and Vices of Padua resembled her in another respect as well. For just as the figure of this girl had been enlarged by the additional symbol which she carried before her, without appearing to understand its meaning, with no awareness in her facial expression of its beauty and spiritual significance, as if it were an ordinary rather heavy burden, so it is without any apparent suspicion of what she is about that the powerfully built housewife who is portrayed in the Arena Chapel beneath the label "Caritas," and a reproduction of whose portrait hung upon the wall of my schoolrooom at Combray, embodies that virtue, for it seems impossible that any thought of charity can ever have found expression in her vulgar and energetic face. (translation by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D.J. Enright, in the Modern Library edition, 1992)
Now you really want to take a look at Giotto's Caritas, don't you?
Very good and concise review of Hitler's Private Library: the Books that shaped his life (Timothy W. Ryback, Knopf, 2008, 304p) by Ritchie Robertson in the March 6th issue of the TLS (Was Hitler a bookworm?). Only a small proportion of Hitler's library survives: "Although enough survives to tell us a good deal about Hitler's mental world, though the reader of this book must not expect too much." "Hitler's library is most remarkable by what it didn't contain." Schopenhauer, Nietzsche. "The other striking absence is literature." "Though carefully researched, the book is carelessly written." If the topic is of interest to you, read the longer review by Anthony Grafton published in the December 24, 2008 issue of The New Republic (Mein Buch). Grafton concludes that "Hitler's Private Library offers clear proof, if any was needed, that Hitler's worldview did not represent, as American propaganda claimed, the culmination of centuries of German thought."
I found with great pleasure my copy of the New York Times
under my door when I came back home last Tuesday. The pleasure was
further increased by the beautiful color reproduction, on the front
page, of an old portrait claimed to be of Shakespeare. The
painting was recently identified among the collection of an Anglo-Irish
family, the Cobbes. It was inherited from Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd
Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare's patron. British experts who have
been studying it claim "it is the holy grail Shakespearean scholars had
sought for centuries: a portrait done in Shakespeare’s lifetime, and
the original from which other Shakespeare paintings of the period were
copied. They said their studies showed it probably was painted in 1610,
when Shakespeare was 46, and only a few years from his death in 1616."
They add: "The portrait might open a new era in Shakespeare
scholarship, giving fresh momentum, among other things, to generations
of speculation as to whether the playwright, a married man with three
children, was bisexual. Until now, that suggestion has hinged mostly on
dedications to the Earl of Southampton that Shakespeare wrote with some
of his best-loved poems and some of the sensual passages in his poems
and plays, particularly his sonnets, most of which, the London scholars
said, are centered on expressions of love and desire for men, not
women." The portrait shows a very handsome and attractive man. I let
you go to the New York Times site to admire it, and read the corresponding articles (Portrait of Shakespeare Unveiled, 399 Years Late, Is This a Shakespeare Which I See Before Me?).
James Purdy (1923-2009) died on Friday. Stephen Guy-Bray writes in glbtq that his novels "often describe obsessive love between men for whom homosexuality is unthinkable and whose fate is inevitably bleak." The New York Times published a substantial obituary on Saturday (James Purdy, Darkly Comic Writer, Dies at 94) which made me want to read The Nephew:
(*) The psychosexual acuteness with which he [Marcel Proust] painted his neither-male-nor-female characters have made of him, forever, the Founding Father of Queer Studies.