Georgia's blog

A Year of Fairytales

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Are you ready for a fairytale year? What started timidly a decade ago with publications like the graphic novel series Fables has become the biggest trend at the moment. Fairytales retold in a contemporary context is not a new phenomenon. Literary retellings make a whole category of its own, but such a big success in the popular culture industry is only just recent.

Bill Willingham situates all fairytale characters in contemporary downtown New York, hiding their true identities from the normal mundane people or ‘mundys’. This is not the first time that fairytale characters find themselves misplaced. The 1987 TV series ‘The Charmings’ was an earlier such example. However the big boom of fairytales in the small and big screen is now.

Once Upon a Time finds all these characters trapped in Storybrooke, a contemporary Maine town. The ABC ongoing TV series created by the producers of Lost has numerous insider references for Lost fans and has already created a fandom of its own.

Grimm on the other hand, is more like a crime series with a fairytale twist. The last descendent of the Grimm family, famous monster killers, is a police detective and has just discovered his special ability to see the monsters around him. Each crime solving episode is a reference to a Grimm fairy tale.

And if you’d rather go for the big screen, a variety of choices awaits: two versions of Snow White, to start with. Julia Roberts is the funny Evil Queen in Mirror, Mirror and Charlize Theron the dark one in Snow White & the Huntsman. An addition to the darkness is Twilight Kristen Stewart as Snow White.

And here is some more: Jack the Giant Killer, an action movie with lots of giants and battles, from the director of X-men and a long awaited revenge for the two siblings in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

And more fairytale films are coming after 2012: Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion 2014 film will finally offer a closer to the Collodi original, darker version of Pinocchio, with Nick Cave as musical consultant. (See some first images here.) Or if you prefer a live action Pinocchio, Tim Burton is already thinking about it.

There are many theories that try to explain the reasons for this fairytale re-booming. Some say that we have run out of ideas and we rush to the old ones to get inspiration. Some others that the fairytale world offers to the average recession-affected person the escapist alternative world that, unlike the vampire and zombie previous trends, can still offer hope…

Or maybe fairytales are reflections of old myths that from time to time need to be retold and re-adjusted in order to convey their age old messages. Maybe some of those myths are the oldest of all. (to be continued…)

A literary House of Mirrors

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Alois Hotschnig’s collection of short stories Maybe This Time, published by Peirene Press, is like a visit to the House of Mirrors in a dark forgotten amusement park; you will only see your reflection: distorted, but still yours. Like with a David Lynch film, you know that a part of you understands what it is all about, even though you cannot properly articulate it.

Tzvetan Todorov describes the fantastic as lying within the moment of hesitation of the reader and the character, ‘who must decide whether or not what they perceive derives from “reality” as it exists in the common opinion’.[1] Hotschnig’s Maybe This Time could be described as hesitating about hesitation. Should the reader even be hesitating? Is it fantastic, an allegory, a metaphor or just poetic uncomfortable realism? Karl in “Then a Door Opens and Swings Shut” mysteriously finds fragments of his past memories through the old lady’s uncanny dolls without being able to recall and understand these memories properly; in a similar way the reader merges into Hotschnig’s stories unprepared, wandering around in a territory of uneasy symbolism and wondering whether he should be having the questions that emerge.

Stories like “You Don’t Know Them, They’re Strangers” have references to the anxiety familiar from the work of Franz Kafka, however Hotschnig has his own particular style. A style which is more universal than just Austrian, his characters uncomfortably recognisable: family relationships that become a bit too suffocating, old relationships that didn’t work out, unresolved traumas, and the never-ending quest for understanding and defining oneself.

Haruki Murakami’s short stories also end without explanations, unresolved, but with Hotschnig the reader is left with a very uncomfortable feeling that he might have read them and interpreted them in a way that reveals something about his own self; this can be disturbing. Are these stories a deep psychoanalytic free dive, a fantastic realistic painting, a twisted metaphor, a strange mirror as most of the characters are for each other?

Hotschnig in an interview at BBC mentions: “I want to take the reader by the hand and seduce him into a forest and leave him there in the darkness.”[2] He has definitely managed to do that and the forest is haunted. You will be thinking of these stories long after you have read them; of course always depending on how many of your personal demons you encountered on your way back from the forest…


[1] Todorov, Tzvetan, The fantastic: a structural approach to a literary genre, Ithaca, N.Y. 1975: Cornell University Press, p. 41.

[2] The Strand, 16/09/11, BBC World Service

Written by Georgia

September 20, 2011 at 16:45

Prelude in A minor – EVS in Vienna

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A film about Vienna and its people seen through the eyes of a few more or less permanent visitors. A blend of images (or the voice of the city), music (the beautiful sound of Luca Melis) and voices (interviews with young Europeans who, after participating in the European Voluntary Service programme, decided to stay in Vienna for a bit longer – each for different reasons…).

Written by Georgia

August 18, 2011 at 09:02

Posted in Film

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The end of the ‘human rights culture’

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This is what David Cameron thinks should come next, including rubber bullets, social media restrictions and whatever else. The London riots was just the beginning. It won’t stop there.

Unfortunately we have all been infiltrated by the media industry to perceive and interpret events and people in a manicheistic sort of way. And now all this disinformation industry are in heaven, dividing us all into the good and the bad. You have to know where you stand. With the police or with the looters. Really?

Melodramatic interviews with people whose houses were burnt during the riots, video footage of angry hooded looters, breaking and stealing, the ‘other’ crowd that helped clean up, a confusion of messages. Who is to blame? The police who shot dead a young black man, the gang culture, crowd psychology, the government cuts, the closing down of libraries and youth centres? People filmed looting say ‘we are taking our taxes back’. While other British taxpayers feel they have to pay for all this damage. But who caused the original damage? And is it just such an easy one-way explanation?

Let’s play the black and white game they want us to. I am a PhD student and a MA graduate of one of the best universities in the world, speak 8 languages or 10 if you count the dead ones, have 10 years work experience in different fields and still cannot find a paid (important clarification) job in London within my expertise. What chances does a young black man from a council house without higher education have? Try to put yourself in his shoes. I know it’s difficult, we are perfectly trained to ignore, but give it a try. You could never study because you can’t pay the fees, you face social and racial discrimination when it comes to jobs, so where would you turn to? You get regular police checks because of the way you look and the place you live. Your family is poor and cannot support you. You are angry and afraid and hopeless. There is no security, nothing you have that you can lose. So you find yourself within a crowd that throws stones at window glasses. And here is the question: would you throw that stone? Would you let that anger and fear come out this way?

Now to the other side. Put yourself in the policeman’s shoes. Your duty is to protect citizens, human lives and property. To restore order into chaos. Most of the times you do paper work, but when worse comes to worst, you might find yourself in the midst of an enraging crowd. You don’t like these confrontations, but it’s part of your job and your orders are to restore order. So you catch this youngster looting from Carphone Warehouse and you have to arrest him. That’s the other question now: would you hit him with your baton? You have to arrest him and he resists, so you have to do something.

Would you throw the stone or would you use the baton? That is the question we are all expected to answer. Tell me with whom you identify most and I’ll tell you who you are, like a TV magazine quiz. Because if we invest our time answering this sort of questions, then we miss the point and Mr Cameron gets the ground he wants to rip us off our ‘human rights culture’. As far as I know there’s scarcely any place in the U.K. without video surveillance cameras; photos of youngsters stealing crisps from supermarkets are immediately first page news. When people -including 15-year-old kids- demonstrate peacefully against the rise of university fees, they find themselves kettled in the cold for 10 hours, plain torture. How worse can it possibly get? I wonder if the U.K. will be able to fulfil E.U. human rights standards in the near future.

But the real question is do we want to understand and change things or do we want to blame and condemn and get back to our lives? And how do you condemn something you do not understand? There are many good attempts to explain the context of the London riots, like the articles of Nina Power, Tariq Ali, David Harvey and many others, as well as this article published in the Guardian days before the riots started. Sometimes the context is even more important than the events themselves. And our context is that of a society that tolerates to be looted by bank bailouts, but is deaf to the angst and fear of the poor and the weak.

Yes, Mr Cameron, there are sick parts in our society, nice metaphor, well done. But when someone is sick, you don’t let them die, right? Or is it this what you want to do with the NHS? When someone is sick, you diagnose him, find the cause of the sickness and cure it. The sickness is not the problem, it is only the manifestation of the causes. And big part of the causes you’ll find if you take a good long look in the mirror. Your ‘Big Society’ is a ‘Sick Society’.

Written by Georgia

August 16, 2011 at 18:04

Against petty moralism

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Or in defense of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

First of all let me clarify that this is not about if DSK is innocent or guilty. This is about the whole media and public opinion carnival celebrating old and rusty conservative morals. I am not going to discuss how obvious it is that the man was framed; how easily everyone believed the chambermaid’s story. After all it is his word against hers. And we all want so desperately to be politically correct, right? A poor chambermaid cornered by a powerful old horny man. Old clichés revisited. How could one possibly defend the 62-year-old who pulls the strings of global economy and has a reputation of great and wide sexual appetite? The French seducer? Nothing has been proved against him, yet all the media hurried to call him pervert and the American authorities made sure to humiliate him enough, just for the sake of the good old family values. That is, if you want to satisfy yourself with a much younger one, do it secretly, the good old way, with your niece or nephew, not just with any chambermaid at a hotel, where do you think you are Monsieur Strauss-Kahn? In Paris?

Oh, and just a sidenote: the highly efficient forensics team cut a piece of the carpet, where supposedly the maid spat out DSK’s sperm after the forced oral sex. So if they find his sperm on the carpet, he is guilty. Really? One can never jerk off on a carpet? Is that all the proof you can get? And still, 5 days later, they have not found the maid’s electronic card to confirm what time she entered his room. Right, and you expect me to believe this? Or that Sofitel has no control over which maid enters which room at what time? Especially if it is a $3000 suite. But of course she is an asylum seaker from West Africa with a 15 year old daughter. How can anyone dare to question her? She is the weak, he is the powerful. The career of a brilliant intellectual person (no matter if we disagree with his views) has apparently no value in this case. Or else you could be labelled as anti-feminist at least. I feel sorry for all the men that cannot speak out their opinion or their doubts about DSK’s guilt, for fear of the hyenas around them.

This is the hyperreality that Baudrillard described when referring to Disneyland or the Watergate Scandal. Now that we got Strauss-Kahn, all the rest is fine. Our conscience can rest satisfied, we punished the bad guy, even if he is proven innocent, we already ruined him, his career, his reputation. Justice was paid against all the innocent female victims. No matter that women in Somalia or Afghanistan are denied to see a doctor and die in childbirth or are stoned to death because their husband thinks they are guilty. No matter that powerful people continue to abuse children. We can’t bother ourselves with too many things. We got Dominique, that’s enough. We are the good guys.

Written by Georgia

May 19, 2011 at 10:48

The White Heron

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It was not the magical triangle of the river’s end

It was not the old poplar’s tranquilling whisper

Nor was it the bedlike bough bent

And not my wood nymph soul sister

 

It was not the wild horses’ mystical circle

Nor the black cormorants’ premonitory flapping

It was not the wise river’s silent advice

Not the northern air my thoughts unwrapping

 

Only the beautiful white heron, alone of all egrets,

More like a human, but pure and proud

So calmly revealed me the world’s and my own secrets…

 

How elegant white feathers, black beak, long and shrewd

How my heron’s shadowy, ever-accompanying absence

Dragged me out to bring me into another  pondering cloud…

 

© Georgia Panteli 2002

published in “The Beauty of Darkness”, International Library of Poetry, Owing Mills, 2002

Written by Georgia

December 1, 2010 at 15:41

Posted in Poetry

Εις το επανιδείν

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Δεν ξέρεις να σ΄αρέσει

ν’ αγγίζω τους φόβους σου

Δεν ξέρεις ν’ ακροβατείς όπως εγώ

σε λεπτές ισορροπίες

Ν’ αφήνεις το σώμα σου να πέφτει στο κενό

και να το σώζεις με την ψυχή σου

 

Ξέρεις τι γεύση έχει

μια ανάμνηση που δεν έζησες ποτέ;

Τι χρώμα τα φιλιά που δεν ήπιες;

Δε σε στοιχειώνει η ανάσα

χαμένων βογκητών,

το θρόισμα μιας φούστας

που ποτέ δε σήκωσες;

 

Φεύγω, λοιπόν, για να σ’ αφήσω να κυνηγάς

τη νοσταλγία για στιγμές ανύπαρκτες

Κι όταν ξανάρθω και για πόνο μιλάς,

το γέλιο της νύχτας ίσως ξυπνήσει

μέσα σου τις Ερινύες…

 

©Γεωργία Παντελή 2001

‘Ανθολογία νεαρών ποιημάτων’, εκδόσεις Ροές, Αθήνα 2003

Written by Georgia

December 1, 2010 at 15:33

Posted in Poetry