Apartamento #14


A few quotes found in volume 14 – Autumn/Winter 2014-15 – of the magazine Apartamento (available via the official website).


I always want to live elsewhere, wherever I am, it’s like a sickness. I’m always missing a country that doesn’t exist, and every night, I dream of exotic cities invaded by the jungle, of endless towers, and of the ruins of the future.

– Interview with Koudlam, page 88

‘You have to be sensitive to everything around you. You have to be sensitive to the sun, to the light, to the shadows, to the water, the wind. Today, we are ignore these elements, we are inhuman, we violate nature. This worries me…’

– Quoted by designer Michael Anastassiades in his text on Cypriot architect Neoptolemos Michaelides, page 136

Lastly, from a short autobiographic essay from Kenneth Perdigón:

I’m attracted to city life and and civilisation, and I understand the vision of contemporary life. But after all this time, I have begun to miss nature: its values, its laws, the outdoors, the stars, and the sea. It would be great to be able to combine both worlds.

– Kenneth Perdigón, page 270


Food for thought.

The elegance of Paul Valéry’s verses

Yesterday, I was watching “The Wind Rises – one of the latest animated movie from Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, about whom I can warmly recommend the documentary “Kingdom of Dreams & Madness” which is a sort of ‘making of’ for “The Wind Rises”.

The movie opens, explore and (somehow) concludes with quoting French poet, philosopher and essayist Paul Valéry.

Le vent se lève!… Il faut tenter de vivre!

Which in the original poem is preceded by these verses (not quoted in the movie):

Oui! Grand mer de délires douée,
Peau de panthère et chlamyde trouée
De mille et milles idoles du soleil,
Hydre absolue, ivre de ta chair bleue,
Qui te remords l’étincellante queue
Dans un tumulte au silence pareil,

Le vent se lève!… Il faut tenter de vivre!

And which I translate as:

Yes! Mighty, gifted sea of wild frenzies,
The panther skin and the pierced chlamys
By thousands of sun-induced false divinities,
Supreme hydra, intoxicated by your blue flesh,
Bite again your own glittering tail,
In the tumult of a shining silence,

The wind is rising! . . . We must attempt to live!

Now if you cannot read French, you would think my (probably poor) translation does not make any sense. Well, it doesn’t – and only because the original doesn’t either. Poetry, and I find this is particularly true of French poetry, sublimates words and forms to generate something in the reader’s mind. It was never intended to be easy to read, in the same way Miró works are not intended to be open and clear to everyone. Verses – and art in general, call for contemplation.

But how powerful regardless, is this verse selected by Miyazaki: bite yourself as much as you want, believe what you want, every morning, the wind also rises, and you also need to live. Attempt as you must, a much better translation than “need” (used in the movie and most translations of the poem I could find on the Internet). We all attempt to live.


I am now carried away by Paul Valéry himself – who was last night guilty, by unknowingly (sic) forcing me into regressing further and into exploring his works. For I found his poem “Le cimetière marin“, from which the wind rises quote originates, in a French anthology of French poetry (this one if you must know), and was driven to read a few more lines of his there. Among them, the introduction of his book “La Soirée avec M. Teste” which is French for “The Evening with Monsieur Teste“, available in a translated version here. It is a quotation a little longer so I will spare you the French.

Foolishness is not my strong suit. I have met many individuals; I have visited a number of nations ; I took part in various enterprises, without loving them ; I ate almost every day ; I have touched women. I see again now hundreds of faces, two or three grand shows, and perhaps the essence of twenty books. I retained neither the best nor the worst of these things: there stayed what could.

This calculus spares me the astonishment of old age. I could also recount the victorious moments of my spirit, and picture them as one, composing a happy life… But I believe to always have judge myself well. I rarely lost sight of who I am ; I have despised myself, I have adored myself – and then, we grew old together.

This is the beginning of a novel, but how it rhymes, and how rhythmic this two paragraphs are – the editor of the anthology is right to stop here. In the same way Miyazaki was right to pick only a verse, cryptic but so clear in an ever cryptic poem.

Now I could go on about the beholder’s interpretations of the two sets of verses. How personal I can take both to be, but this is not my topic today, and I should leave Paul Valéry’s words vibrating in you, if they do. I should leave you to contemplate how an evening with a certain Monsieur Teste might have been. Meanwhile, I will watch another of Miyazaki’s movie, because elegance of verses is not only to be found in verses themselves. Poetry abounds in our world of images and pictures and sounds and noises. We may just need to look a little deeper.


Jazz poet Langston Hughes’ own Google doodle

I had never heard of Langston Hughes before today, and have no reserve in admitting so. Someone at Google fixed this lack of knowledge, by choosing the jazz poet, novelist, playwright, all-round artist and activist for today’s doodle – over Clark Gable, equally born on a 1st February, if only a year after Hughes.


Ms. Katy Wu designed the doodle and it is archived here.

After watching the little animation put together by the Google folks, I read some of his poem at poets.org, where Langston is dedicated a page and 13 poems. Here is Dream Variations:

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me—
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Langston seems to me, from the little I know about his poetry, to be fully anchored in America. This is not anodyne, for a number of his works (as far as I can find on the Internet and from the Wikipedia page and other online resources such as here) crudely and pointedly portraits the racist America, its dream lost for the many, against the riches of the few.

While this is very contemporary, it is also perhaps a reminder of how, no matter if many of us believe that we always have a choice, that freedom of choice is real, not all choices are accessible to all.

I will surely put my hands on his Collected Poems next time I order something online.