English-speaking expats coming to Prague to write poetry and become famous – yes, you’ve heard that one before and assume that piece of ancient history dates back to the early 1990s. In fact, it stretches just a bit further back, and on November 24 in Prague there will be a series of events commemorating Elizabeth Jane Weston, known as Westonia, the English-born poet and stepdaughter of alchemist Edward Kelley, who spent most of her life in Prague and wrote her verse in Latin. More famous than Shakespeare during her lifetime, Weston might have written some lovely, elegant poetry but she also wrote poetry like this:
A Jew can wash in holy water
a head full of perfidy,
yet he remains a Jew in mouth, mind, face …
… They take Prague for their Jerusalem
and subject and apply God to their Talmud,
spitting on Christ and Christians.
– from “On baptized Jews”
Now we know who Rabbi Lev created the Golem to protect the Jews against just then. I just wonder if those expats also talked about Paris in the (15)20s.
Pushkin publishing Pushkin
The new owners of the Pushkin Press, Adam Freudenheim and Stephanie Seegmuller, were interviewed on Book Brunch by Rosie Goldsmith and spoke about selling international authors and some of the authors they’re excited about at the moment (Penelope Delta, Ryu Murakami – in fact, they refer to Haruki Murakami as “the boring one” – i.e. the boring Murakami, which actually would make a good name for a band©-sorry, called it). They also mention the odd fact that Pushkin Press has never before published Pushkin, something which the new owners are setting to rights.
In the hype surrounding the release of Anna Karenina here is a really good list of 10 Russian adaptations, going beyond some of the usual suspects and including works like Bresson’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s long and underappreciated short story “The Forged Coupon” titled L’argent (The fact that the film’s title hasn’t even been translated and, I’m guessing you haven’t seen or heard of it, is a sign of how widely publicized it was). Incidentally, as great as this Tolstoy story is it does contain the single worst dream sequence written by anyone, anywhere . . ever. The list also contains a claimed successful adaptation of Bulgakov in a 2008 Russian film Morphia by Aleksey Balabanov.
Photo – 1) Elizabeth Jane Weston/wikimedia, 2) Morphia by Aleksey Balabanov