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giovedì 22 marzo 2012

Colours, my new iPod, and Chagall

Since the end of February I have been craving for colours. The colours and smells of the coming spring, of nature slowly coming back to life. The colours of chocolate, fruits, the delicate shades of freshly baked bread. Colours blossoming on barren trees as they start to bloom. Colours on my clothes: flowery scarves around my neck, gaudy earrings and necklaces. My new iPod - actually my first mac thing - can shoot photos, and though I have a wonderful camera for that,I really enjoy taking pictures with this tiny thing, so practical and quick. I also childishly enjoy the program "Camera+" to edit pictures and play with their colours.

Being so hungry for colours made me think of one of my favourite painters, Marc Chagall. I adore his paintings and I connect them to many pleasant memories, especially one solitary trip I took from my home town to Genova, by train, to see an exhibition of his bible-related paintings. The exhibition was hosted by the town's Synagogue and it was truly interesting and well worth the over 4 hours trip there.

Chagall was a Russian-French artist, described by art critic Robert Hughes as "the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century". As a matter of fact,Chagall's world is the colourful, beautiful, magical world of the "Schtetl", which is a diminutive form of Yiddish shtot, "town", and was typically a small town with a large Jewish population in Central and Eastern Europe until the horrors of the Holocaust destroyed them all. It hurts to write this, to think it actually happened.

Chagall wrote a book, a biography simply called Ma vie (My Life). I read it a long time ago but it's one of those books that simply stays forever. It is written in a language that, under a simple surface, hides infinite treasures: totally unexpected metaphors, lively descriptions of people, places, states of mind, everything so vivid as to convey a visual and even tactile impression. Like a version of his paintings made of printed text. My edition of his Ma vie is full of pencil marks, and what I meant to do when I started this post was basically to translate some passages from it, because when something is so perfectly beautiful it's useless to talk about it. The only thing to do is plunge into it.

"All about my father seemed to me enigma and sadness. Inaccessible figure.
Always tired, worried, nothing but his eyes to release a sweeter reflection, greysh-blue.
Tall and slim, he would come home in his greasy clothes, soiled from work, a faded red handkerchief popping out of his pocket. Evening entered our home with him.
He would draw out of his pockets loads of sweets, ice-cold pears. He would distribute them among us kids with his brown, wrinkled hand. (...) An evening with no sweets and no pears out of Dad's pockets was a sad one for us.
That peasant's heart, poetical and softened with silence, was familiar only to me."

"in the muttering of prayers the sky seemed bluer to me."

And dreams oppressed me: a square room, empty. A single bed in one of its corners, and I'm on it. Darkness closes in.
Suddenly the ceiling opens and a winged creature descends among glares and thunders, the room fills up with a swirl of clouds.
A flutter of wings.
I think: it's an angel! But I can't open my eyes, too much light, too much glow.
After fumbling everywhere, it soars up again and leaves the room through the hole in the ceiling, bringing with him the light and the blue air.
Darkness closes in again. I wake up."

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