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giovedì 4 aprile 2013

Mathias Énard and Jo Whaley

Thanks to my amazing little daughter, I've recently found out a writer and an artist of whom I knew exactly nothing about, and whom I both like (and cherish, considering they "come" from my daughter!).
This is how it all went: the three of us were in a bookshop, after a pizza in a shopping mall. My daughter chose a tiny book for herself and then just idly walked after me while I was having a look around. Then she found this book:

She was attracted by the cover image and thought it could be good for me. I felt a huge tenderness and the book even seemed interesting, especially because it is set in Istanbul and recently I have been reading a lot of Orhan Pamuk. So I got it. My daughter even wrote the loveliest dedication I've ever had: her name, and the drawing of an elephant.

The book is written by French author Mathias Énard, who is quite unknown I think, considering that the Wikipedia page in English is still missing. Yet the book is truly good, able to outline the subtlest hues of feelings such as love and jealousy with apparently simple words and very short sentences. It tells the story of what Michelangelo Buonarroti might have done in Istanbul if he had accepted the invitation of a Turkish sultan in 1506. The sullen character of the famous artist is perfectly created, his desire for loneliness, his bad tempers, his (supposed) fear of closeness and intimacy. He has been invited to design a bridge connecting the two sides of the Bosphorus and he is constantly torn between the excitement and the fear of being there, in an unknown place. He has a guide, a Turkish poet who silently and desperately falls in love with him. And he has a mysterious lover, a singer of undetermined sex who tries to make love to him in the darkness of his bedroom at night, when Michelangelo is defenseless and alone and confused by wine. Days seem very similar to each other, yet the love of the poet-guide towards Michelangelo gets stronger and the presence of the night lover becomes increasingly eerie, until all the small pieces of the puzzle make sense. But of course I'm not going to say what happens. :)

It was a pleasurable read which also led to he discovery of Jo Whaley, the author of the cover picture that had attracted my daughter. He is a San Francisco based artist who uses both painting and photography to create ephemeral images with insects and other details. Here are some of them....