Tag-Archive for ◊ Delft ◊

Author:
• Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Kader Abdolah was born in Arak, Iran in 1954. His real name is Hossein Sadjadi Ghaemmaghami Farahaniand his pen name is a combined pseudonym in memory of his two executed friends from the resistance. He is the author of novels, short stories and non-fiction as well as being a columnist and poet. From an early age Kader Abdolah wanted to become a writer like his forebear, Ghaemmaghami Farahani.

While studying physics at Teheran University, Abdolah joined an underground left wing movement against the dictatorship of the Shah and later against the authoritarian Khomeini regime.

He wrote articles in an illegal journal and while still in Iran, secretly published two books describing what life was like under the Khomeini rule. He escaped in 1985 and three years later was accepted, at the invitation of the United Nations, as a political refugee in Holland.

Kader Abdolah was quick at mastering the language of his host country as much as writing all his work in Flemish. He received many honours and awards: The Golden Donkey Ear prize in 1994, the Edgar du Perron prize in 2000 for My Father’s Notebook which was first published in Dutch in 2000 and then in English in 2006. He received the 2008 decoration de chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He was also Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2000 and awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Groningen in 2009. He currently lives in Delft in Holland.

After escaping Iran, Ishmael, the main character and narrator of the novel, like the author himself, becomes a political refugee in the Netherlands. While in exile he receives a parcel containing the notebook that had been written in cuneiform script by his half illiterate deaf-mute father, Aga Akbar, the talented tapestry mender and the illegitimate son of an Iranian nobleman and servant mother. Aga Akbar was acquainted with these scriptures when he was sent by his uncle to copy the three thousand-year-old ancient cuneiform inscriptions chiseled on a cave wall on Saffron Mountain.

These scriptures narrate the story of the first Persian king in history, king Cyrus, who lived 2500 years ago. The author relates historical facts: We are informed that several years later the reign of king Cyrus was followed by the Qajar dynasty which ended in 1921 with a coup d’état staged by Reza Khan. Reza Khan declared himself the new king of Persia and established the Pahlavi Kingdom. He was in turn followed by his son Mohamed Reza Pahlavi in 1941 and then by his prime minister, Mohamed Mosadeq, from 1951 to 1953. Ayatollah Khomeini follows in 1979 and the war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is also mentioned.

Ishmael decides to translate his father’s undecipherable work of a lifetime into Dutch. He feels it is his duty to do this as a painful, nostalgic, fond commemoration to his deceased father and his lost motherland. Throughout the novel, Ishmael recounts a double biography: his father’s life story combined with his own. He also writes about the political and social situation in Iran.

Aga Akbar was about nine years old when his mother died. His uncle, Kazem Khan, who looked after him, realised that his nephew couldn’t read or write. He decided to encourage him by giving him a notebook and asked him to “scribble something”, at least “one page every day. Or maybe just a couple of sentences”, which he did.

My Father’s Notebook blends facts, autobiography and fiction. The novel is about the intertwined past and present of Persian culture going back thousands of years. There are the myths, poetry, geography, religion and unique rich traditions on one side and the depiction of the twentieth century life in Iran on the other. It is also about the unconditional tender love between a son and his disabled father, despite their differences.

The author’s constant navigation between the enchanting past tarnished by Iran’s present bitter reality and his new life in exile in the Netherlands, brings two parallel worlds into focus and in complete opposition due to their entirely different cultures and history – conservative Muslim Iran on the one side and secular Holland on the other.

The novel ends on a sad note tinted with a ray of hope. Golden Bell disappears and her father, Aga Akbar, who accompany her in escape is found dead by a shepherd on a cold snowy mountain. Nevertheless, Golden Bell might still be asleep in the Saffron Mountain waiting to be woken at the right time to witness a new world of justice and freedom in her country. Just like the people mentioned in The Holy Koran in the Surat “The Cave” to which the author refers to in the novel’s prologue and epilogue.

An emotionally poignant story which gives an insight into the humanitarian problems relating to political refugees and their sufferings after being uprooted from their beloved homeland by repressive regimes.

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Author:
• Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Tracy Chevalier was born in 1962 and grew up in Washington DC. She obtained a degree in English from Oberlin College in Ohio and worked as a Reference Book editor for a few years before quitting in 1993. She got an MA in Creative Writing in 1994 from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

She moved to England in1984 and stayed there since. She now lives with her husband and son in London.

She is chairwoman of The Society of Authors and is known for being a historical novelist. She said the reason why she likes this genre, is because she feels comfortable with the good, lasting value of the past.

Tracy Chevalier, has written six novels to date :
The Virgin Blue, published in 1997.
Girl with a Pearl Earring, published in 1999.
Falling Angels, published in 2001.
The Lady and the Unicorn, published in 2003.
Burning Bright, published in 2007.
Remarkable Creatures, published in 2009.

Girl with a Pearl Earring was made into a film which was released in 2003, starring Colin Firth as Johannes Vermeer and Scarlett Johansson as Griet. It won several awards.

Although Tracy Chevalier likes Vermeer’s thirty five paintings because of their beauty, the mystery surrounding them and also because of what the expressive solitary women accomplishing their daily domestic duties convey to the viewer. Girl With a Pearl Earring, one of Vermeer’s masterpieces, was the painting that inspired her the most because of the hypnotic and enigmatic look on the girl’s face.

Tracy Chevalier had a poster of the Girl With A Pearl Earring painting on her bedroom wall since she was nineteen-years-old. The mysterious look on the “Dutch Mona Lisa’s” face intrigued her to the extent that one day she decided to reveal what might have been behind this portrait by combining history and art with imagination.

The author had to do careful research to successfully capture Dutch peoples’ lives in those days, the landscapes and the surroundings in Delft. She went to the great length of taking a painting class while writing the novel in order to learn about the art of painting and accurately describe the mixing of the colours, the multiple technics, the different shades and their effects and all the intricacies involved.

She also gathered some information about Vermeer’s painting in their finest details from the woman who restored the painting for the 1996 Vermeer exhibition.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, is a novel set in seventeen century Delft in Holland about Vermeer’s eponymous painting. The fictitious story is built on a historical background, depicting life during this golden age of Dutch art. Vermeer being a mysterious painter, since very little is known about his life, gave the author the opportunity with her magic wand to mix the fanciful with reality and fill in the unknown gaps in his biography and therefore build an imaginary, compelling story about Vermeer’s portrait of Girl with a Pearl Earring as being his maid, Griet, who was also his assistant and model.

The novel is narrated by sixteen-year-old, solitary, innocent, naïve but intelligent Griet, who, due to her father’s fatal accident, becomes a maid in Vermeer’s household in order to support her family.

She is spellbound by her master from the first time she sets eyes on him but being aware of her position, she knew her place and therefore had to keep her feelings at bay.

Her quiet love and devotion to him are described in great subtlety during her posing for him, but unfortunately, the author described Vermeer so engulfed in his art, that he was oblivious to the outside world. The fact that he was not insensitive to Griet’s charms and her magnetic attraction to him and his paintings was implied by the author in a subtle way but never in words.

Girl With a Pearl Earring is a highly emotional novel without suspense or twists but is elegantly and poetically written with a great deal of subtlety, sensibility, sensuality and nineteen century romanticism. At times, the unsaid conveyed strongly the feelings of the protagonists.

The author with her description of suggestive, luminescent colours, seems to have succeeded the right oil brush strokes effect she was striving for. She wanted to “achieve with words what Vermeer achieved in paintings: simple writing, uncluttered and without superfluous characters”.