Peruvian Poet Blanca Varela, The Intellectuals and Expats of The Paris Left Bank Cafes

Blacnca Varela in Paris Studio, 1937

I found this remarkable photograph of Peruvian poet Blanca Varela while editing many years ago an anthology of Latin American poets of the twentieth century for Dan Veach at The Atlanta Review. This enchanting photograph is of Varela in her early 30s, perhaps during a period when she had traveled to Paris with her new husband. It was in Paris where she met artists and intellectuals, such as André Breton, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Henri Michaux, Alberto Giacometti and Fernand Léger. Paris in the early twentieth century was a magnet that drew many Latin American artists and writers. The intellectual life of Paris at that time was extraordinary due to the flow of intellectuals from the Americas (North and South) as well as refugees from revolutions in Russia, eventually Spain, and many other countries. Spanish painters Salvador Dali, Joan Miró, and Picasso all left Spain to live and work in Paris. The extraordinary painter Tara de Limpika also migrated from Warsaw, Poland to begin a new life there. The Mexican poet Octavio Paz, a future Nobel Prize recipient for Literature, also met Varela in Paris. Paz talking about his encounters with intellectuals in the cafés of the Left Bank (where artists tended to gather) on the Seine River said of her: “At that time we all used to sing. And among those songs you could hear a lonesome song of one Peruvian girl: Blanca Varela. The most secret, timid and natural of them all.” Later Varela lived in Florence, Italy and Washington, D.C. In 1962 she returned to Lima, Peru and then traveled mainly to the U.S, Spain, and France. She passed away in 2009.

Norwegian Music Video

Finnmark, Norway

The band Røyksopp, from Tromsø from Troms of Finnmark, Norway, is one of the best-known electronic bands in the contemporary Nordic music scene (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden). Part of the European Union, the collective population of the Nordic region is 28 million people united by similar cultures and languages. A very active and popular nightlife in the region’s iconic cities (Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Reykjavik, Stockholm) provides large young audiences for the popular bands and musicians. After releasing two albums in Norway, Røyksopp received worldwide attention from music videos on America’s MTV in heavy rotation. Their song “Sparks” was licensed by Apple Inc. for use as the welcome music to the company’s Mac OS X Panther operating system (2003), playing the first time a user booted a new Apple-brand computer. In Norway the band continues to create and release their stunning music and videos to a global audience.

Translating Tranströmer: An Interview with Patty Crane 

By Danniel Schoonebeek January 26, 2016

In the afterword to Bright Scythe, her new translation of Tomas Tranströmer’s selected poems, Patty Crane tells a fascinating, fatalist story about how she came to translate the late Swedish poet and Nobel Prize recipient. Crane moved with her family to Tumba, Sweden in 2007, after her husband took a job overseas at a paper mill. A year into her relocation, she took a summer residency at Vermont College and began flying back to the United States in order to focus on her writing. One evening she sat next to poet Jean Valentine in a cafeteria, and because Valentine had heard that Crane was living near Stockholm, she asked if Crane might deliver a book to her friend Tomas. A year later, Crane was sitting in Tomas Tranströmer’s home, speaking to him in Swedish, and beginning to translate his poem “The Station” into English. A few more years later—and this isn’t part of that fatalist afterword, but it’s part of our story today—a galley of Bright Scythe arrived at my studio in the Catskills and the doors that seemed to bar me from Tranströmer’s work for so many years were blown off their hinges.

Is it weird for you to think that if even one of these events never took place you and I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation?

It is weird. If it weren’t for a flat bicycle tire, we definitely wouldn’t be having this conversation! That’s how I met my future husband, whose future job brought us to Sweden. I imagine there are events in your own life, maybe even a chance encounter, that led to this exchange we’re having. Turn of events such as the ones I experienced—the move to Sweden, learning the language, re-discovering Tranströmer, my chance encounter with Jean, and everything that flowed from that—seem to me to be less about what happens to you in a given set of circumstances and more about what you make happen. I guess I’m talking about opportunity. A door opens and you enter. And look, a new room with more doors. Here I am in Stockholm, taking Swedish-for-Immigrants classes. Here I am reading Tranströmer in the original Swedish. Here’s an early draft of my translation of “From July ’90” with Tomas’s faint pencil lines under the word pit. And here we are, Danniel, having this conversation. How do I reconcile that? I hope with sufficient gratitude, humility and hard work. 

Link to Paris Review Interview

London Photographer Adopts Swedish Baby Squirrels

Youtube Channel for Dani Connor Wilde in London

Link to Danni Connor on Instagram

Dani Connor Wilde, a pretty wildlife photographer and zoologist from London, England goes on a blind date with four orphan baby red squirrels in a wild forest in Sweden and they all fall in love! Very sweet little video of an intrepid photographer and girlfriend to the little squirrels.

Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah awarded 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature

Tanzania/ United Kingdom

The Swedish Academy of the Nobel Prize announced this morning in Stockholm that novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has been awarded the 2021 Prize in Literature. Born on the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of East Africa, Gurnah emigrated as a refugee to Great Britain as a student in 1968 to escape persecution during the Zanzibar Revolution. He studied at Christ Church College, Canterbury, and received a degree from the University of London. He received a PhD degree from the University of Kent. The central theme of his academic and literary works focus on postcolonial history, literature, and politics of colonialism and its impact on the people of Africa, the Caribbean and India.

Link Nobel Prize Biography Abdulrazak Gurnah

Link For Memoir Stockholm

Boston, MA/ Stockholm, Sweden


Tomas Tranströmer receives 2011 Nobel Prize in Stockholm

Link to Memoir:

My trip to Stockholm was the end of this trip to Europe. A visit with Monica and Tomas had been meaningful as they had become friends in both my life and imagination. At the Writer’s Union before I left, I shared a conversation with Anya about our mutual interest in the American and Russian writers of our reading histories. As we talked on a bench in the garden, the sky and world around us expanded as literary angels looked down upon us and listened to our conversation. The sky above was busy towing its infinite, luminous blue cargo of birds, clouds, human dreams, and sunlight towards the end of day. We said goodbye and separated in two different directions: I would return to America and Anya back to Moscow. Inspired by the fullness of this trip on the way to the airport, I suddenly wanted to sneak aboard a train and continue on a night trip to Portugal, to Lisbon to enjoy more Europe! Not less, but more Europe.

Steven Ford Brown

American Poet Louise Gluck Wins 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature

Paris, France

Louise Elisabeth Glück born April 22, 1943 is an American poet and essayist. She won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, whose judges praised “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”. Her other awards include the Pulitzer Prize, National Humanities Medal, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Bollingen Prize. From 2003 to 2004, she was Poet Laureate of the United States. Glück is an adjunct professor and Rosenkranz Writer in Residence at Yale University. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tranströmer Video Poem

Boston, MA/ Amsterdam, Nerherlands

Dutch actress, singer Louise Korthals of Amsterdam  

The Blue House

It is night with glaring sunshine. I stand in the woods and look towards my house with its misty blue walls. As though I were recently dead and saw the house from a new angle.

It has stood for more than eighty summers. Its timber has been impregnated, four times with joy and three times with sorrow. When someone who has lived in the house dies it is repainted. The dead person paints it himself, without a brush,  from the inside.

On the other side is open terrain. Formerly a garden, now wilderness. A still surf of weed, pagodas of weed, an unfurling body of text, Upanishades of weed, a Viking fleet of weed, dragon heads, lances, an empire of weed.

Above the overgrown garden flutters the shadow of a boomerang, thrown again and again. It is related to someone who lived in the house long before my time. Almost a child. An impulse issues from him, a thought, a thought of will: “create. . .draw. ..” In order to escape his destiny in time.

The house resembles a child’s drawing. A deputizing childishness which grew forth because someone prematurely renounced the charge of being a child. Open the doors, enter! Inside unrest dwells in the ceiling and peace in the walls. Above the bed there hangs an amateur painting representing a ship with seventeen sails, rough sea and a wind that the gilded frame cannot subdue.

It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.

A motor far out on the water extends the horizon of the summer night. Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands.

From The Blue House, translated from the Swedish by Göran Malmqvist, published by Thunder City Press in Houston, Texas. Copyright © 1987 by Göran Malmqvist. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.