Category: miscellaneous

November 2019 Overview

monthly-recap_thumbMy reading experience this last November boils down to five books.

Among them my first encounter with a novel by Paul Halter, an author I’ll certainly read again soon.

Besides, I returned to read one of the few Maigrets I had still missing and I’m lacking only one to complete the full series of Poirot’s mysteries.

The Seventh Hypothesis (Dr Twist #6), 1991 by Paul Halter (trans. John Pugmire) A+

Clouds of Witness, 1926 (Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery # 2) by Dorothy L. Sayers (C)

The Perfect Crime: The Big Bow Mystery (1891) by Israel Zangwill (A)

Elephants Can Remember, 1972 (Hercule Poirot #32) by Agatha Christie (D)

Maigret’s Childhood Friend, 1968 (Inspector Maigret #69) by Georges Simenon (tr. Shaun Whiteside) (A+)

OT: Brueghel. The Fascinating World of Flemish Art

Brueghel: The Fascinating World of Flemish Art is the sixth major exhibition organised by Arthemisia Spain on the main floor of Gaviria Palace, a versatile venue that has consolidated its reputation as a focal point of the Madrid art scene thanks to shows like ESCHER, Alphonse Mucha, 20th-Century Revolutionaries, Tamara de Lempicka: Queen of Art Deco, and Liu Bolin: The Invisible Man.

Exhibition Information:

  • Price: 14 € general | 12€ reduced | Free

  • Opening hours:
    From Monday to Thursday and Sunday 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
    Friday and Saturday 10:00 am to 9:00 pm *Everyday last entry one hour before
  • Group visits: For further information on planning your group visits, contact
  • Rucksacks, sports or travel bags, suitcases, briefcases, umbrellas, food, drink, animals, plants and objects such as racquets, ballons, etc., are not allowed into the room. Maximum bag size allowed inside the building is 40cm x 40cm. Items that do not fit in the lockers are not allowed. The staff do not guard any item of the visitor.
  • All children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • There is not available elevator to come into the exhibition´s room, only stairs. The access to the disabled is not possible. Sorry for the inconvenience.

1024px-Pieter_Bruegel_d._Ä._093Gaviria Palace will once again be a highlight of Madrid’s autumn art season with the landmark exhibition Brueghel: The Fascinating World of Flemish Art, a rare opportunity to view the output of a creative dynasty that marked the history of European art in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Organised by Arthemisia Spain and curated by Sergio Gaddi, the show will feature nearly one hundred iconic pieces by this family of painters, whose imagery is the reflection of an entire historical period. The exhibition comes to Spain after passing through Rome, Paris, Tel Aviv and several venues in Japan (Tokyo, Toyota, Sapporo, Hiroshima and Kōriyama), where it was very favourably received by local audiences.

With an ample selection of works by the eight most prominent members of this artistic family—Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Jan Brueghel the Younger, Jan Pieter Brueghel, Abraham Brueghel and Ambrosius Brueghel—the show also provides a more complete vision of the pictorial context of their time thanks to representative pieces by approximately twenty other artists, including Rubens, Bosch and David Teniers the Younger.

The exhibition begins with the renowned founder of the dynasty, Pieter Brueghel the Elder (ca. 1525–1569), whose oil paintings illustrate proverbs and popular sayings in a realistic, thoughtful, provocative, incisive way that is not always easy to interpret, producing an oeuvre rich in moral content. In his depictions of landscapes with peasant figures and scenes of country life, he constantly inquired into the condition of humanity and the world while sarcastically criticising human vices.

800px-Flemish_Fair_-_Pieter_Brueghel_the_YoungerAs most of Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s works were in private collections, where the public could not see them, his early fame was largely due to the efforts of his eldest son, Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564–1637), who ensured the dissemination of his father’s work by producing highly accurate copies of his paintings, such as Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap (1601).

Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder-Landscape_With_WindmillsThe second son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625), also followed in his progenitor’s footsteps, using the same technique and themes but interpreting them with greater freedom and focusing more on the representation of nature. His remarkable pictorial technique, which produced textures so rich and lifelike they almost seem touchable, earned him the nickname “Velvet Brueghel”.

The prestige of the Brueghel dynasty was enhanced by the addition of Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601–1678), son of Jan the Elder, who inherited his father’s workshop and joined the Guild of Saint Luke, one of the most respected associations of Flemish artists and craftsmen. Jan the Younger became very successful by selling the pictures inherited from his father, but he also completed those left unfinished and painted new compositions in a highly personal style. He had eleven children, five of whom became painters. The exhibition also presents the fascinating work of the heirs to this noble tradition, beginning with Jan Pieter Brueghel (1628–1664), who specialised in flower paintings, and continuing with Abraham Brueghel (1631–1697), painter of landscapes and still lifes with flowers and fruit.Brueghel_-_Coastal_Landscape

Other delightful surprises await visitors to Madrid’s Gaviria Palace, where they will have a chance to admire the Pair of Still Lifes with Flowers from 1660 and a series of four paintings depicting the Allegory of the Four Elements: Earth, Fire, Water and Air from 1645 by Ambrosius Brueghel (1617–1675), a little known and rarely studied artist.

(Source: Exhibition brochure)

Winter Landscape with (Skaters and) a Bird Trap (1565), by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Flemish Fair (1636), by Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Landscape with Windmills (c. 1607) by Jan Brueghel the Elder

A Coastal Landscape with Fishermen with their Catch by a Ruined Tower (c. 1610 – 1620), by Jan Brueghel the Younger

October 2019 Overview

monthly-recap_thumbOctober has been characterised for, from my reading perspective, putting into effect an old project: begin to read some Japanese detective fiction. Besides, this has allow me to discover some excellent blogs to which I ‘m very grateful for showing me some excellent novels, short stories and authors that will keep me company in my forthcoming readings. Stay tuned.

O.T.: Boldini and Late 19th Century Spanish Painting. The spirit of an Age

Exhibition in Madrid. Fundación MAPFRE Recoletos Exhibition Hall

This exhibition, curated by Francesca Dini and Leyre Bozal Chamorro, was produced by Fundación MAPFRE. It was made possible thanks to the extraordinary generosity of numerous institutions and private collections who so kindly loaned their work to us.

boldini-894x1074_tcm1070-564605The exhibition displays the work of the painter Giovanni Boldini (Ferrara, 1842 – Paris, 1931) for the first time in Spain. Boldini was one of the most important and prolific of the Italian artists living in Paris during the second half of the 19th century; alongside his body of work this exhibition brings together pieces from some of the Spanish painters also residing in the French capital during the same period. A dialog is established between their paintings and those of this native of Ferrara.

Born in Ferrara in 1842, the painter Giovanni Boldini became one of the most important Italian portrait painters at the turn of the century. Settled in Paris since 1871, he was considered one of the foremost painters of Montmartre, the neighborhood which would soon become a popular meeting point for the national and international bohemian lifestyle. Influenced on his arrival in the French capital by the work of Meissioner and Fortuny, whom he did not meet in person owing to the Spaniard’s premature death, Boldini maintained a unique style throughout his life, based on his intuition of a moment and of movement, reflected in his swift brushstrokes which never lost sight of the figure and expression of the person portrayed.

Alongside the work of this painter from Ferrara we have included pieces from some of the Spanish painters living in Paris at that time and whose works held a more or less express dialog with those of Boldini. The influence of Mariano Fortuny and his eighteenth century scenes on Boldini‘s paintings is but one of the many connections they shared, but certainly not the only one: A taste for genre painting featuring charming and anecdotal scenes, an interest in the comings and goings of the modern city, the enjoyment of landscapes and above all their shared ideas regarding the renewal of genre paintings are aspects which united the works of these artists at the turn of the century.

Halfway between tradition and innovation, the 124 works selected for the exhibition unerringly convey the spirit of an age.

Portrait: Giovanni Boldini Cléo de Mérode, 1901 Private collection

From: 19/09/2019 End date: : 12/01/2020 Location: : Paseo de Recoletos 23, 28004 Madrid

Honkaku (“Orthodox”), The Japanese Form of the Golden Age Puzzle-plot

I’m reading Alice Arisugawa’s The Moai Island Puzzle (Locked Room International, 2016) translated by Ho-Ling Wong. In the Introduction, Sōji Shimada explains the origin and significance of honkaku (“orthodox”), the Japanese form of the Golden Age puzzle-plot. Honkaku refers to a form of the detective story that is not only literature but also, to a greater or lesser extent, a game. It follows the concept of “a high degree of logical reasoning,” the key prerequisite for the most exciting form of detective fiction as proposed by S.S. Van Dine.’ He goes on to explain that ‘after World War II, novelist like Akimitsu Takagi and Seishi Yokomizo wrote several excellent honkaku detective novels, but the arrival in the 1950s of “the social school” of Japanese mystery fiction dried up interest in the honkaku mysteries almost overnight. This school, led by Seicho Matsumoto, emphasised “natural realism” in which the motive that led to the crime and the depiction of the psychology of the criminal were the most important elements.’ Further to what he says: ‘The “winter of the age of honkaku” lasted until the early 1980s and ended with the publication of my own humble work The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (1981), followed by Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders (1987).’ And ended by saying: ‘The term honkaku was actually coined in the mid-1920’s by Saburo Koga, but it was Edogawa Rampo in his essay collection Gen’eijo (The Phantom Castle), who first applied the term shin honkaku to the style of British post-Golden Age writers of the 1940s, such as Michael Innes, Margery Allingham and Nicholas Blake.’

Further reading:

The Ginza Ghost (Locked Room International, 2017) by Keikichi Ōsaka Translated by Ho-Ling Wong. Book Description: The Japanese form of Golden Age detective fiction was re-launched in the early 1980s as shin honkaku by Soji Shimada and Yukito Ayatsuji, but the original honkaku dates from the 1930s and one of its pioneers was Keikichi Osaka.  The Ginza Ghost is a collection of twelve of his best stories, almost all impossible crimes. Although the solutions are strictly fair-play, there is an unreal, almost hallucinatory quality to them.  Osaka, who died tragically young, was an early pioneer and master of the genre, whose work is only now starting to be re-discovered.  Readers of LRI’s The Decagon House Murders and The Moai Island Puzzle will not be disappointed.(Source: Locked Room International)

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (Pushkin Press, 2015) by Sōji Shimada. Book Description: Japan, 1936. An old eccentric artist living with seven women has been found dead- in a room locked from the inside. His diaries reveal alchemy, astrology and a complicated plan to kill all seven women. Shortly afterwards, the plan is carried out: the women are found dismembered and buried across rural Japan. By 1979, these Tokyo Zodiac Murders have been obsessing a nation for decades, but not one of them has been solved. A mystery-obsessed illustrator and a talented astrologer set off around the country – and you follow, carrying the enigma of the Zodiac murderer through madness, missed leads and magic tricks. You have all the clues, but can you solve the mystery before they do? (Source: Pushkin Press)

The Decagon House Murders (Locked Room International, 2015) by Yukito Ayatsuji. Translated by Ho-Ling Wong. Book Description: Students from a university mystery club decide to visit an island which was the site of a grisly multiple murder the year before. Predictably, they get picked off one by one by an unseen murderer. Is there a madman on the loose? What connection is there to the earlier murders? The answer is a bombshell revelation which few readers will see coming. A milestone in the history of detective fiction, The Decagon House Murders is credited with launching the shin honkaku movement which restored Golden Age style plotting and fair-play clues to the Japanese mystery scene. It is also said to have influenced the development of the wildly popular Anime movement. This, the first English edition, contains a lengthy introduction by the maestro of Japanese mystery fiction, Soji Shimada. (Source: Locked Room International)

The Moai Island Puzzle (Locked Room International, 2016)  by Alice Arisugawa. Translated by Ho-Ling Wong. Book Description: Three students from Eito University in Kyoto travel to a remote island populated with moai statues in order to find a hidden treasure, but several murders—including one impossible–occur before it can be located. Don’t be fooled by the bland description. The locked room murder is brilliant and worthy of John Dickson Carr at his best, and the dying message and chain of deduction leading to the killer rival anything written by Ellery Queen. And neither Carr nor Queen ever combined both in one novel. (Source: Locked Room International)

The 8 Mansion Murders (Locked Room International, 2018) by Takemaru Abiko. Translated by Ho-Ling Wong. Book Description: The 8 Mansion, so called because its owner Kikuo Hachisuka, constructed it in the shape of a figure 8, is the scene of two gruesome crossbow murders. First Kikuo’s son, and then another resident who witnessed the first murder, are slaughtered in seemingly impossible circumstances. The crimes are investigated by Inspector Kyozo and his accident-prone assistant Kinoshita, but they are actually solved by his brother Shinji, who delivers a “quasi-locked-room lecture” reminiscent of John Dickson Carr’s Dr. Fell. Takemaru Akibe was, with Yukito Ayatsuji and Rintaro Norizuki, one of the founders of the shin honkaku movement that has blossomed in Japan since the 1980s, and Locked Room International is delighted to bring another influential impossible crime novel to the English-speaking market. (Source: Locked Room International)

Ho-Ling Wong, author of the introduction to Edogawa Rampo’s The Fiend With Twenty Faces. Translator of Ayatsuji Yukito’s The Decagon House Murders, Arisugawa Alice’s The Moai Island Puzzle, Ōsaka Keikichi’s The Ginza Ghost, Abiko Takemaru’s The 8 Mansion Murders and more. (Source: