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giovedì 16 maggio 2013

Nikolaj Roerich

All day, the colors had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths. Briefly visible above the vapor, Kanchenjunga was a far peak whittled out of ice, gathering the last of the light, a plume of snow blown high by the storms at its summits."
Kiran Desai, The Inheritance Of Loss

This month I started a book which I meant to review here, The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss. Apart from some good glimpses here and there, I found it unoriginal and poorly written, so I haven't been able to finish it yet. Instead, a few days ago I started The Inheritance Of Loss, by Kiran Desai (daughter of Anita Desai and girlfriend of Nobel prize winner for literature Orhan Pamuk, one of my favorite writers) and I'm adoring it. It's one of those books you want to both devour quickly and savor slowly and carefully, so beautiful it is. One of those books that opens hundreds of doors leading to different unknown or slightly known paths of thought and knowledge.

I will write a review of this novel after reading it, now I just wanted to spend a few words about Russian artist Nikolaj Roerich. I had heard of him before but got curious about him now as Kiran Desai mentions him and his paintings, in particular this one:

Tibetan choksee tables painted in jade and flames colors piled with books, including a volume of paintings by Nicholas Roerich, a Russian aristocrat who painted the Himalayas with such grave presence it made you shiver just to imagine all the grainy distilled cold, the lone traveller atop a yak, going - where? The immense vistas indicated an abstract destinations.

Roerich was a Russian painter, writer, philosopher and public figure, born in St. Petersburg in 1874. He was fascinated by Russia's ancient past, by archeology and architecture, and, after meeting his future wife Helena in 1900, he started to share her passion for eastern religions and traditions, especially Vedantist essays of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, and the Bhagavad Gita. After the political changes following the February Revolution of 1917, Roerich, his wife and two children left Russia and moved first to Finland, then London, where he started to work as a stage designer in order to earn a passage to India and to explore the Land whose culture had been the object of his studies and passions, together with his wife. Due to economical troubles at the theatre company, ne never got any money for his work and the the Roerich family moved to the US in 1920. They fulfilled their dream of and expedition in Asia in 1923. In Roerich's own words, as quoted by Wikipedia, they "started from Sikkim through Punjab, Kashmir, Ladakh, the Karakoram Mountains, Khotan, Kashgar, Qara Shar, Urumchi, Irtysh, the Altai Mountains, the Oryot region of Mongolia, the Central Gobi, Kansu, Tsaidam, and Tibet".
Their travels in these areas inspired his paintings, mentioned by Kiran Desai.

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