So off to the circus we went again. This time around, it was pure acrobat-infused fun, sans les animaux. I didn’t realise how obtuse I had been about the use of animals in circuses until my daughter pointed out the cruelty of it all after another circus trip (shame on me!). More recently, when I mentioned to a friend that I was taking my children to the circus the very first thing out of his mouth was: Sans les animaux bien sûr (Without animals of course). Oui, bien sûr! I think I can safely say the past month has made me a lot more aware of animal cruelty issues.
Title: Black Orchids
Author: Gillian Slovo
I enjoyed Black Orchids, a story dealing with race and set in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and England from the 1940s through to the 1960s. It is a story of the white Evelyn, raised in the then Ceylon as a child of a diplomat father. Her family’s life changes when Ceylon is granted independence – leaving the family with having to return to England.
I had not really wanted to linger after our meal, but we found that the Relais de l’Entrecôte does not lend itself to that type of slow dining anyway. If you’re looking for the kind of place where a midday lunch turns into a late afternoon, and a bottle of wine disappears long before the conversation ends – try some place else. The service is efficient – think conveyor belt efficiency. You wait -inside if you’re early but most likely outside – in a winding long queue, to be seated so you can have a salad, their famous entrecôte and pomme allumettes – string fries. That’s the sum of the menu.
I took in the Salvador Dali exhibition at the Pompidou Centre on Sunday; the first retrospective of the artist’s work to be held in Paris in thirty years. As I made my way around, taking in this surrealist painter’s bizarre and at times thought-provoking work, I wondered if it was the art, or his showmanship that had made him the darling of the art world at the height of his career.
Containing over 200 paintings, drawings, collages, assemblages, photos and film clips, the Pompidou Centre is paying hommage to what it calls ‘the most complex and prolific figure of 20th century art’.
Dali’s theatrics are also shown in short film clips around the exhibition – his eccentricity on full display.
Title: The Buddha in the Attic
Author: Julie Otsuka
Julie Otsuka’s book is written in the first person plural – a style I have never seen used before. It was at first distracting as I thought it was simply a foreword and the style would change. Not the case. By the time I was into the second chapter I had started imagining the women in the story as a collective.
The Buddha in the Attic traces the story of Japanese women that make their journey from Japan to San Francisco as picture brides in the early 1900s. She starts off with the first section catchingly- titled, Come, Japanese!
The books opens with a quietly steady chapter that begins:
It seems like it was just yesterday that I was writing about the Christmas markets in Paris. Well here we are again. Two weeks ago the Champs Elysees market stalls opened for business.
More markets will be opening up in the various arrondissements around Paris, all spreading the Christmas cheer. It’s seems a bit early – hearing Christmas carols in November, but it looks quite enchanting at night.
Last night we went to the Diana Krall concert at the Palais des Congres de Paris. I am not a complete jazz aficionado, but the only music that plays in our house on Sundays when we have family and friends over is jazz. Why jazz? No idea, I have just always associated it with relaxed Sunday afternoons, winding down the weekend. Diana Krall is one of my favourite jazz singers so I jumped at the chance to see her. Even if it was to be held at the Palais des Congres. This is a conference centre with behemoth-sized auditoriums – not exactly the perfect venue for an intimate jazz evening. I had also not expected the masses of people that turned up last night. The French love Diana Krall! That was the first surprise.
Title: The Poisonwood Bible
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible is the story of the Price family, an evangelical Baptist family that moves from America to Belgian Congo in the years preceding independence. It is a tragic story of a family living under a very religious – almost fanatical husband and father, who sole mission is to save the heathen Africans from themselves.
Title: Infidel: My Life
Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
When I read Infidel more than four years ago, Ayaan Hirsi Ali had lost her dutch citizenship and her status as a member of the Dutch parliament. The controversy about her was over the means in which she had acquired her refugee status in the Netherlands and her subsequent citizenship.
My reading of Infidel at the time was not tarnished by any preconceived ideas. Writing about the book now, years later and after a second reading, makes me doubt the legitimacy of the harrowing tale she tells.
Title: Unaccustomed Earth
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of short stories told from the perspective of different characters, all of Indian origin carving out their lives in the US. The first part of the book is a collection of five different stories, all relating the varying experiences; from the parents – arriving in the US to a world wholly different to what they know; to their children- born in the US to Indian parents, and struggling with their own identities and the juxtaposition of their origins and their citizenship.