George Sand. Heard of her?

She was a great-great granddaughter of the King of Poland, Augustus II the Strong.  Her father was the king’s great-grandson, Maurice Dupin.

Her mother, Sophie Delaborde, the daughter of a bird fancier, was, said George, of the ‘vagabond race of Bohemians’.

She was a girl with a foot in two worlds, born Amantine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin in 1804 in Paris, raised by her aristocratic grandmother.

She did what women did in the nineteenth century:  she married at 18 and produced a child, and a few years later, after some time away from home, she produced another child.  Perhaps not by the same father…

She did what women didn’t do:  she left her husband to live as a single mother in Paris.

George Sand, Auguste Charpentier, 1838, Musée de la vie romantique, Paris

George Sand.  Auguste Charpentier, 1838.  Musée de la vie romantique, Paris

In 1831, she began mixing in artistic circles and changed her name to George Sand.

To be independent, George had to earn her living.  She took to writing, lived in attics, cropped her hair, abandoned her expensive layers of women’s drapery and donned cheaper clothing:  a redingote, trousers, vest and tie.

Dressing in men’s clothes allowed her to visit clubs and theatre-pits where she closely observed men in their public male spaces and listened in on their literary and cultural conversations.

And dressing in men’s clothes brought her valuable attention as a new author.  It helped her books to sell so she and her two children could eat.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Liszt_at_the_Piano.JPG

Franz Liszt Fantasizing at the Piano.  Joseph Danhauser, 1840.  George Sand is seated on her red cloak.  An imagined gathering of musicians and writers (and Liszt’s mistress).  Image courtesy Wikipedia

In her writing career she considered herself an equal among her male peers, and her works were widely read.

By the end of the nineteenth century, her works were out of fashion.

Some of her best writings have been translated into English in recent years.  Now, SUNY Press is publishing Spiridion, and will have it ready in May 2015.  I first read it about 3 years and 3 months ago, and when I’d finished, I started translating it.

George wrote Spiridion in 1838/39 while keeping company with Frédéric Chopin, several years her junior.  In 1842, she revised the ending of her tale and it is this ending that you’ll read in the English translation.

In Spiridion the audacious George wrote of an exclusively male microcosm where not one female plays a part, a world impossible for her to experience but not impossible to imagine:  a monastery where goodness is punished, corruption is encouraged, love is discouraged, and real and unreal demons haunt the cloisters and the crypt.

George criticised the rigid dogmas of a monastery and its authorities.  “I allowed myself to challenge purely human institutions,” she said, and, for that, some declared her to be “without principles.”  Her response:  “Should it bother me?”.

Some readers will learn a lesson and find hope in this story.  Others will read a mystery based on the evil tendencies of humans confined in an institution, with a positive suggestion or two for living peaceably with our fellow monks.Spiridion cover

In May next year, if you’re looking for a Gothic novel with a philosophical turn, keep your eye out for this cover.

George became one of the rare women of the nineteenth century able to earn enough to be financially independent.  She was still writing when she died at 71.

Nadar (Gaspard Félix Tournachon), photographer (French, 1820 - 1910) George Sand, about 1865, Albumen silver print Image: 24.1 x 18.3 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/4 in.) Mount: 30.5 x 21.4 cm (12 x 8 7/16 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

George Sand, photograph by Nadar, about 1865, Albumen silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 *****

Voice Work

On Thursday, the WordPress writing prompt was “Voice Work”:  who would you like to do a voice recording of your blog?

It got me thinking about audio books, a book pleasure I enjoy from time to time.  The delight of this kind of ‘reading’ is in the hearing.  The voice of the reader combined with an excellent novel is the best kind of one-sided conversation.  Usually an actor is chosen as the reader, but hearing him read is streets ahead of seeing and hearing actors interpret a novel as film (well, for me it is).

Take, as an example of a highly-recommended audio book, Dances with Wolves read by its author, Michael Blake.  My husband and I listened to it on a long drive and often found we didn’t want to get out of the car.

danceswithwolves

Then there was The Collector, written by John Fowles, narrated by James Wilby.  Creepy story.  A butterfly collector decides to collect something less morally acceptable.  The reader played the part so well that I don’t think I could trust him in real life.

The Collector | [John Fowles]

And recently, on another long drive interstate and back again, we listened to The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by Gerard Basil Edwards, a story about a long life on the island of Guernsey, written by a Guernsey man, and read by Guernsey-born Roy Dotrice.  It was so good that we’ve replayed parts of it just to hear the narrator’s voice and the quirky dialogue, where verbs aren’t always conjugated and h’s are dropped when they exist and added when they don’t.The Book of Ebenezer le Page | [G. B. Edwards]

I tried to imagine someone (not me) reading my blog posts, but I drew a blank.  But something else sprang to mind: a book I’ve translated which will be available next year.  That is something I’d like to hear read aloud.  The story, Spiridion, is set in an 18th-century monastery where goodness is punished and females play no part.  So my reader would have to be male, for the only female in this book is the author, though she’s a writer with a man’s name:  George Sand.  She wrote in French, but for my English translation I would choose, perhaps, an eloquent Englishman.  Or Australian, because I’m Australian.  But then, perhaps not, since there are no 18th-century monasteries here;  an Australian accent might not be credible.  I’d need someone who sounds like he could have lived in the 18th century, from a country where monasteries have been around for a millennium.  How about an actor I’ve seen in a film of the same genre?  Say, Sean Connery.  Hmmm.  Did you see him in The Name of the Rose?  Yes, he’s the one.  I’d pick him.

*****

One trip EVERY month: August

Not far out of Canberra, a small village called Gundaroo beckons some of us to stop and stroll, and others to stop and live in the peace and quiet.  This morning we drove there for a cuppa, parked in Cork Street outside the old police station, beside which there’s a tank on a tower, beneath which there was a sheep asleep.

water tower Gundaroo

We had morning tea at the Cork Street Café in the old stables behind the Gundaroo police station.

Gundaroo police station

The chef suggested her freshly baked (in three minutes) foccacia with jam, and with our cappuccinos, it was all hot and delicious, outside in the sun, looking at the lockup.

Settlement in the Gundaroo area began in the 1820s after explorers discovered the well-watered land and fine black soil of the Yass River valley.  From 1856 the village grew slowly with a general store, a Presbyterian Church and Royal Hotel going up.  This small, small village needed a police station and lockup, sad but true, as well as a Court of Petty Sessions.  Today the Court, built in 1874, is an Anglican Church.  It’s fascinating to walk around it and work out how it’s been converted to a church, with the addition of three stained glass windows in an otherwise blank front wall, a bell in the yard to call people to worship, and a cross on the roof (only just visible in my photo).

A short skip down the street brought us to an old shop built in 1886, once called Sally Paskins’ Store, but which is now a kind of museum of old tools that can be purchased.  Together with another shop beside it, the Gundaroo Store, it would sell all kinds of necessaries, from haberdashery to hardware items, and even explosives for miners, for gold had been discovered in the region.  No one bothers with the gold these days, since Gundaroo has a pretty high average household income.  In the header of this page you can see the outside of the store with its heritage-listed wooden plank walls and brick fireplace, quietly retiring beside an ancient tree.

Gundaroo tools

Though it’s a shop, the building is laid out in the typical style of small 19th-century Australian houses, with a hallway extending like a tunnel from the front door to the back.  I slipped out into the back yard while my husband was still inside looking at the blokey stuff.

Sally Paskins' Store Gundaroo

A similar cottage across the street was put up as the Gundaroo Literary Institute and Library, which I once wrote about here.  As we were heading down to the Village Common, run by the villagers as a common grazing ground, we saw the sheep that had been asleep, now standing close to the fence munching grass.  We approached.  She came towards us like a lonely dog looking for a pat.  It’s been a long time since I’ve touched a sheep and I’d forgotten how thick the layer of wool is.  I had to press down through several inches of it to make any contact with the actual head.   As I stroked her, I found tiny horns curving over and hiding their tips down in the thickness of the wool.  She seemed to like the attention even if she couldn’t feel me making much contact.

With her sweet ears that stuck out horizontally, two furry white triangles with pink inners, I couldn’t resist a few clicks.  As we were walking away, she came to the gate and poked her nose through, like our dog does when we arrive home.

Gundaroo sheep

It was a good Gundaroo morning.

Thanks Marianne for inspiring me to take a trip EVERY month.

Orange

From Éloge de l’oranger by Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695)

Orangers, arbres que j’adore,
Que vos parfums me semblent doux !
Est-il dans l’empire de Flore
Rien d’agréable comme vous ?

"Orange de Malte", P. Doumerc, Oingt, France

“Orange de Malte”, P. Doumerc, Oingt, France

My translation, wherein I change the plural orangers to a single orange tree, for the sake of rhyme:

Orange tree, my desire,
How thy scent is sweet to me!
Is there in Flora’s empire
Anything as lovely as thee?

Blood oranges at EPIC market yesterday

Blood orange eighths

Blood orange eighths

Thanks Ailsa for the orange prompt!

Weekly photo challenge: Texture

Judy Watson, an indigenous artist, created this sculpture, Fire and Water.  It’s textural…

Fire and Water, Judy Watson, Reconciliation Place, Canberra

Fire and Water, Judy Watson, Reconciliation Place, Canberra

You’ll find it in Reconciliation Place, Canberra, where there are a number of sculptures by Aboriginal artists.  Since this particular artwork is called Fire and Water, I’d always thought the grey object amid the fiery reeds represented a seal or dugong.  But on closer inspection today, I saw it’s not an animal, but a stone.  A gathering stone.  Muted sounds are constantly playing through small holes all over it, representing bogong moths flying in on their annual migration and people gathering to feast on them.  Michael Hewes designed the sound.

Looking between the two stands of rusty reeds, we see the National Library, one of my favourite haunts.  In this wintry season, the reeds echo the hibernating poplars in the library forecourt.  At the moment I took this photo, two jets in the fountain were working.  That was just luck;  the fountain is not always turned on.  The elements in the photo are a great example of symmetry in this city of many symmetries.

National Library of Australia and "Fire and Water" sculpture by Judy Watson

National Library of Australia and “Fire and Water” sculpture by Judy Watson

Bogong moths pass through Canberra every year in about September.  Last year they were in plague proportions, congregating on many of the national institutions in the parliamentary triangle, and particularly in Parliament House.  At night they’re attracted to the powerfully lit flagpole on top of the House.  We all had moths flying and dying in our homes, which was annoying for those of us who don’t eat them.

Since we’re thinking of texture for this week’s photo challenge, take a look at this image from another Canberra photographer, Donald Hobern, of a bogong with its fluffy head and carpet-like wings.  When they land on tree bark they’re well camouflaged.  But I can tell you, while one individual moth might look beautiful in a close-up, a crowd of brown, fluttering moths resting up in a corner of your room is not attractive.  But thanks to Judy Watson’s sculpture, I learnt that they’re edible, and even delicious, and I was reminded once again that nothing is completely ugly or useless.

Photo of  bogong moth courtesy of Donald Hobern, Canberra, Creative Commons

Photo of bogong moth (Agrotis infusa) courtesy of Donald Hobern, Canberra, Wikimedia

Take a look at more textures on the WordPress photo challenge page for this week.

One trip EVERY month: July

This is a story of mud, bats and abandoned boats.  But it’s also a story of a certain beauty I found in a suburb that was far from a favourite when I was a child.  Fifty years ago, Wynnum was a Brisbane suburb about 20 minutes away from our house, down the road on the edge of Moreton Bay.  In my small mind, families poorer than mine lived there.

So it was weird this month to be holidaying in Wynnum, in a street where many of the old homes have been renovated by owners richer than their ancestors.

My memory of the bay is of mud flats, the poor man’s waterfront.  Sure enough, as I approached the esplanade for the first time in a long time, it was night, but there was enough city light to see the vast expanse of mud.

Wynnum, tide out, evening

Wynnum, tide out, evening

When I walked to the esplanade in the morning, there was still nothing to see but mud, and rocks tumbling across it from the raised walkway.

Mudflats, Wynnum

Mudflats, Wynnum

To make a fair comparison, I had to see the bay when the tide was in, so I returned mid-afternoon which seems to be a good time to see the sand and sea, sans mud.

Wynnum, tide in, afternoon

Wynnum, tide in, afternoon

For water views there’s not only the ocean;  there’s Wynnum creek and the mangroves where bats sleep, black, upside down and ugly.

Bats, Wynnum mangroves

Bats, Wynnum mangroves

But they’re not half as ugly as these abandoned boats in the creek, which the locals must find shameful.  Whose responsibility is it to dispose of them?

So, Wynnum has mudflats, bats and abandoned boats.  Is there anything good about this suburb?  Well, there’s an excellent jetty that projects far enough out into the bay to enable reflection on symmetry, or to turn your back on the mud and reflect on Moreton Island in the distance.

Jetty, Wynnum

Jetty, Wynnum

And there are Queenslanders.  I’m a Queenslander because I grew up in Queensland.  But there are also houses that are Queenslanders, and that’s what you can see in Wynnum, beautifully renovated high-set weatherboard homes, set on stumps to allow airflow under the house, keeping it cooler in the sub-tropical heat.  And from upstairs, many of these homes have a view of the bay, a peaceful sight whether the tide’s in or out.

Queenslander home

Queenslander home

The name Wynnum is possibly derived from Winnam, an Aboriginal word for Pandanus tree, a great number of which grow in the shore-side parks and streets.  Pandanus is a palm-like tree with roots growing out and down in a pyramid form to keep it balanced…

Pandanus tree - Wynnum

… and it produces large fruit resembling a pineapple.  Bats and possums love it, and it’s edible for humans, as are most parts of the Pandanus tree.  As I walked down the street I caught sight of some niblets of the fruit under one of the trees, looking sadly up at me.

Pandanus seeds

Pandanus seeds

Moreton Bay.  A quiet place.  I’m glad I took the trip.

Moreton Bay, Wynnum

Moreton Bay

See some more monthly trips on Marianne’s East of Málaga.  She challenges us to take one trip EVERY month.

Relic

In a Pioneer Museum in Queensland this week I saw a number of objects that are relics of Australia’s past.  There was the original Dalby lockup, and a cottage with a backyard toilet, an old boxy TV with a remote connected by a power cord, and bones of local dinosaurs.  There was also a collection which would normally do nothing for me:  one of Australia’s largest gatherings of old agricultural machinery.  But wandering through the open sheds, expecting nothing, I found something.  The old beauties in the photos below are really my scene.  I would have loved a ride in any of them.  Well, almost any.  There was this jazzy yellow Ford truck:

Truck, Pioneer Museum, Dalby, Queensland

A 1957 Chevrolet fire engine:

Fire engine, Dalby Pioneer Museum, Queensland

A train whose chugging days are over:

Train, Dalby Pioneer Museum

And weirder than all of the retired vehicles on display, and one I don’t want a ride in, is this Chandler hearse, one of only two left in the world.  I can’t say for sure there was no one in that box:

I was in Dalby to speak to someone in the historical society, hoping to find a few relics from my family tree…  On a map, Dalby appears as the centre of a spidery star with numerous roads radiating out from it.  Or is it that all roads in the region lead to Dalby?  This town is the centre of a great farming region, the Darling Downs.  The cultivated landscape is hill-free, tree-free, flat as if it’s been levelled, nothing but rolling plains of cereal and vegetable garden either side of the road.  A few cows and sheep congregate under trees, when there are trees.  Dalby was proclaimed a township in 1853, though my pioneering relatives were there a decade earlier, squatting on land, claiming it as their own.  It’s all been divided up and sold off now, but it’s inspiring to know I had self-starters in my family.

Thanks to the retirees who run the Pioneer Park Museum and historical society, who care for our relics, for without them we wouldn’t know about the stages in our development, we wouldn’t understand the progress we’ve made and are making every time we try to do something that’s never been done before, like our pioneers.

See hundreds of relics on the WordPress photo challenge.

 

One trip EVERY month: June

This month, well, yesterday, I went to the Deep Space Communication Complex in Tidbinbilla, south-west of Canberra.  Relaxing with a coffee in the Moon Rock Café, I had a great view of the largest steerable antenna dish in the southern hemisphere, the DSS43 (Deep Space Station 43), which was staring off into the distance, at this angle:

DSS43, Tidbinbilla

After coffee, I went into the gallery to see the moon rock:

Beside the rock stood an astronaut that some tourists were touching despite the do-not-touch sign.  When they finally left him alone, I took a closer look, without touching, and in his mirrored helmet visor I caught sight of me and my son, who was reading some information on the wall behind me.  I snapped the three of us:

Astronaut head

And I wondered how he would look in a space suit, sans visor:

While I was dabbling in moon history, the DSS43 began to move:

DSS43 on the move, Tidbinbilla

I went out onto the balcony to watch closely as the dish rotated to look straight up at the sky.  I wanted to know more.

DSS43, Tidbinbilla

Back inside, I read the information about the big dish and tried to understand it.  Of course, I couldn’t.  But perhaps you can.

DSS43 info Tidbinbilla

Yesterday at Tidbinbilla, the weather was stunningly clear and fine, if wintry.  Today it’s raining, the wind is howling and blizzards are threatening in the mountains.  We had picked the perfect day for dish-watching.

Thanks Marianne for the prompt to take one trip EVERY month.

Photo challenge: Cities

Ailsa has posted a photo challenge:  take her on a tour of my favourite concrete jungle.  Well I’m not partial to concrete, and I don’t have a favourite city, but I do have a favourite photo of a city.  Here’s Bombay in 1941.  Or 1942.

Bombay, 1941/42

Bombay, 1941/42

Ailsa quoted John Berger:

‘Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and, in this, hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.’

Now I’m wondering about the age of Bombay.  Is it young or old?  Feminine or masculine?  Perhaps a long-time resident of Bombay could tell me.  At least, someone who lived there when it was Bombay.  Now that it’s Mumbai, has it changed its sex and age?  It has certainly changed its population density.  It’s described on Wikipedia as the most populous city in India and the fifth most populous city in the world.  But look at this photo – not a lot of people on the street, not a lot of cars on the road.  Plenty of space for everyone.

And here’s a very attractive Bombay building made of bricks, not concrete, and only three stories high, not scraping the sky.

Bombay 1941/42

Bombay 1941/42

The photos are from my father’s World War II album.  His ship stopped at Bombay en route to Egypt.

Thanks Ailsa for the prompt to find photogenic cities.

One trip EVERY month: May

I haven’t travelled far this month.  But I have travelled.  Just yesterday, for instance, I drove to the library, couldn’t find a place to stop, drove on to the lake, parked. From there I took the long way round to the library, first to the art gallery – ten minutes – in air uncommonly warm for the end of May.  I wound my way through the sculpture garden and photographed dark forms.

"Angel of the North", Antony Gormley, National Gallery of Australia

“Angel of the North”, Antony Gormley, 1996

"Penelope", Emile Antoine Bourdelle,

“Penelope”, Emile Antoine Bourdelle, 1912

I did some work at a table in the café overlooking the sculpture garden.

View from café upstairs, NGA

View from café, NGA

Then I walked to the National Archives – ten minutes – and read a file about a soldier who stowed away on a ship heading to World War One.  At lunch time I walked to Old Parliament House – five minutes – and had lunch with a view across the lake and up Anzac Avenue to the War Memorial and Mt Ainslie.

Anzac Avenue leading to the Australian War Memorial

Anzac Avenue leading to the Australian War Memorial

From there I walked to the library whence I began – ten minutes – and read some police gazettes.  I’d achieved much.  But I had to walk back to my car – twenty minutes – under threatening skies with no umbrella.  Back past the dark clouds over Old Parliament House,

Old Parliament House from behind the Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Old Parliament House from behind the Aboriginal Tent Embassy

back past the dark sculpture of a burgher of Calais by Rodin,

Burgher of Calais, Auguste Rodin, 1885

Burgher of Calais, Auguste Rodin, 1885

back past dark swans swimming.

Swans on Lake Burley Griffin

Swans on Lake Burley Griffin

At the art gallery I learnt that dark sculptures are my favourite;  at the Archives, that my grandfather spent more time in France than I have (4 months in 1916, between Marseilles and Pozières on the Somme where he was gassed and sent home);  at Old Parliament House, that the café with the fantastic view is closing soon and reopening in the viewless courtyard out the back;  and at the library, that it was a crime in the 19th century to desert an illegitimate child.  Hence my searching of police gazettes.

An altogether successful trip.  I can’t say I never go anywhere.

Be sure to check out some of Marianne’s Spanish trips at East of Màlaga.  Thanks, Marianne, for your idea that we take one trip EVERY month, and what a good one it is!