Archive for Renaissance

a journal of the plague year³ [lazy we]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2022 by xi'an

Had the opportunity [Xmas gift!] to visit the Botticelli exhibit at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. Besides the sheer beauty of the paintings, while is timeless, I was also impressed by the activity of Botticelli as an entrepreneur and designer, declining his signature on different media and delegating part of the realisation to employees. Read the beginning of the third volume of Raven’s mark, Crowfall, but could not complete the book as the story was terrible and the main character mostly disintegrated (both literally and scenario-wise). Too bad that an initially great if grim universe construction could not keep up till the end. (Involving deities is always risky in this branch of the literature!) Also read another BD taking place near Cayenne and other places we visited, if in the 18th Century.

Watched over a lazy weekend two several admittedly terrible movies whose only appeal was watching in the vernarcular, Major Grom: Plague Doctor, and Minnal Murali. Also was rather disappointed by Don’t look up, because I found the satire too heavy-handed. And hence failing to engage readers about the sloth pace of governments and influencers to face the climate crisis, favouring futile or immediate concerns (as shown by French gilets jaunes putting la fin du mois above la fin du monde, or UK media cycling on BoJo’s partygate when Russia is about to invade Ukraine!). I also presumably missed most of the US-centric undercurrents.

royal Chambord [jatp]

Posted in pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2020 by xi'an

Villandry castle [jatp]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on July 30, 2020 by xi'an

L’œuvre au noir

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , on September 28, 2013 by xi'an

L‘œuvre au noir (The Abyss) is a 1968 book written by Marguerite Yourcenar I read decades ago and took with me this summer. It tells the story of Zeno(n), a mediaeval precursor of the Renaissance humanist, involved in medicine, alchemy, engineering and philosophy, but above all fighting or at least resisting the pressure of irrational beliefs and superstitions until they lead him to suicide. As acknowledged by Yourcenar in her notes, the character borrows from Renaissance scientists like Erasme, Giordano Bruno, Mikołaj Copernic, Leonardo da Vinci, and medical pioneers like Paracelsus (very much like Paracelsus!), Michel Serat and Etienne Dolet. Zenon is an atheist at a time when atheism is punished by burning at the stake, and an experimenter in an epoch when alchemy and dissection were assimilated to sorcery. The original title (translated as nigredo) is the first of the three steps in the alchemist transmutation process but also applies to the transformation of Zenon from what the society planned for him into a free and rational man. So free that he could choose himself the time and manner of his death. So rational that he reached a spiritual solitude that made him see his fellow humans with the doctor’s detached compassion and the philosopher’s pessimistic analysis of their superstitions. (The English title is just missing the point!)

This is a 20th century novel (on which Yourcenar tolled for many years, from three short stories to the final version), which makes the highly modern vision of the imaginary Zenon less remarkable than the steps made by the above real characters, but the text abounds in remarkable discussions and monologues that reminded me of similar passages in Memoirs of Hadrian. Both books are centred on (impossibly and unrealistically) exceptional men with visions that set them out of their historical time. The fate of Zenon is somehow underlying the whole book and his weak and failed attempt at fleeing Bruges and the Inquisition can be understood at the first step towards his philosopher’s suicide, preferring to face the ecclesiastical tribunal and debate of some of his ideas than Flemish smugglers and an inglorious end by being tossed into the North Sea. L‘œuvre au noir is a remarkable if pessimistic book that reflects on science and intolerance in a beautiful style, a book that I put in par with the equally great Memoirs of Hadrian.

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