jeudi 8 octobre 2015

On Travel, Transcendence, and Taking the First Step: Christina Ammon

Christina Ammon has penned stories for Orion Magazine, Hemispheres, The San Francisco Chronicle, Conde Nast and numerous travel anthologies. She is the recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship for nonfiction and organizes the Deep Travel writing tours in Morocco and Nepal.
When not traveling, Christina Ammon lives in Ruch, Oregon where she writes, sips wine, and paraglides.  For travel tales and workshop information, visit her blog 


PML:  What triggered your life as inveterate traveller and writer?

CA:  I grew up with a case of geographical low-self esteem. I think this is common among kids living in places like the American Midwest. I disdained the ordinariness, the flatness, the feeling of not being somewhere - like California!

PML:  Did your parents and siblings feel the same way?

CA:  Given that they all live in Nebraska, Kansas and Minnesota, I don’t think they felt the same way at all.

PML:  But what was so frustrating about life in the Midwest? 

CA: I didn’t understand why people wanted to take on all of the strictures of conventional life: get married young, have kids right away, live in the same house forever etc. But that’s how teenagers think.  

PML:  And now?

CA:  I understand now the huge satisfaction that comes from having roots and rich, long-term friendships.  And I respect the meaning people find in family and routines and community—wherever they find it.

PML:  But your choices have necessitated sacrifices.

CA:  Yes, I have forgone having children and committed to have adventures, which offer up a similar amount of mundane moments, stress, and annoyances all redeemed by moments of transcendence.

PML: Meaning?

CA: Those moments of bliss where you feel sort of out of yourself and connected to everything.  Small, transient moments of awakening and pure contentment. It’s blissful.

PML:  How did you get in touch with the outside back then?

CA:  My window to the big world—as it was for many--was National Geographic magazine. I sat on the brown shag carpet of my bedroom in Nebraska and thumbed through photos of Africa and South America and conjured some big dreams.  I still haven’t quite matured out of the dream of being a female Sinbad and sailing the high seas, or trekking through the Middle East like Freya Stark.

PML:  I’ve read a little of Freya Stark.  Didn’t she have a rather condescending, colonial attitude?

CA:   So, I’d be Freya Stark minus the colonialism. Or how about Pippi Longstocking instead? Seriously, when it comes to traveling role models for women, it’s been slim pickings. Our gender hasn’t historically been encouraged to set off on our own. That’s changing now.

PML:  How did you begin writing about travelling?

CA:  It was Jeff Greenwald who tipped me over the edge. I read his book Shopping for Buddhas when I was sick in bed with flu and food-poisoning in Kathmandu, Nepal in my early twenties.  His humor and insight were the best medicine. He modeled a way of travel, or I should say a way of looking at travel, that I wanted for myself: an openesss to the random and as well as a comedic attention whatever is served up. Jeff winnows the remarkable out of the most ordinary, and at the same time, makes the remarkable feel ordinary to the reader. Although he has had incredibly exotic experiences, he communicates in accessible, everyday metaphors.

PML: Can you give us an example?

CA:  The flow and color of a monks orange robe might be described as “a flood of Florida orange juice.”  I always delight in these whimsical descriptions and ability to render the extraordinary ordinary. There is humility in this approach, in not presenting his own life in grand, flourishing terms, or holding his experience above that of his reader.

PML:  Do you have your own philosophy towards travelling?

CA:  Travel, like writing, is a creative act and like all creative acts, is best not planned too much in advance. But there is alchemy in the first step. You can’t know what an essay is really going to be about until you’ve written it. The writing itself is generative. The same goes for travel. The first step is generative: one step is followed by the next in the way that one word suggests another.  If you want all the details ahead of time, either you won’t begin or the writing/travel will have a stiff and disappointing quality. That step into the unknown can feel risky and painful though.  At first, you wander around feeling lost, and you wonder if you are wasting time.

PML:  Do you always have such feelings?

CA:  Particularly in the case of solo travel. I’m usually miserable for at least a little while. It takes time to strike a match, for the trip to catch fire. I’m still undone by it, but now at least hold a little more faith that I’ll find my way.

PML: Where do you think this discomfort comes from?

CA:  It’s the feeling of being suspended between two chapters. You’ve left what you know, but haven’t started the new chapter yet. You’re in limbo. It’s awful. But I think it’s a potent formula for living a vital life.

PML: Which is?

CA: It’s being awake! It’s not trying to escape through television or compulsive Internet-use, or addiction. It’s not trading your integrity for security by staying in dead relationships, or in jobs or lifestyles that are killing you. It’s being present and sitting with pain. It’s grieving, laughing—it’s everything that isn’t numb.

PML: Can you describe one of your trips?

CA:  I arrived in Morocco by myself a couple of years ago. I floated from Tangier to Chefchaouen to Fez and felt depressed for the first month.  I even looked into early plane tickets home. Later, I ended making wonderful friends, and having some of the most profound travel experiences of my life.

PML:  How did that come about?

CA:  Well, after feeling isolated in Fez for a while, I worked up the nerve to call a writer I admired. Soon after, I was having dinner with her and her husband. Then, they hosted me in their incredible house for months and introduced me to many people wonderful people. So, I went from being depressed and aimless, to incredibly inspired and connected. That couple saved me! Travel serves up some awful loneliness sometimes, but it also offers magic connections.  Anyway, I stayed for four months and return every year. I’m glad I stuck out those initial weeks. Nothing is wasted.

PML:  You’re off to Morocco again soon.

CA:  I’m organizing writing and storytelling workshops in Morocco for this fall. Our group will have a cultural exchange with the old storytellers of Marrakech. Morocco has a long storytelling tradition that has been threatened in this era of Internet and television. Our group will be part of an effort to keep this ancient tradition alive.

PML: I’m wondering whether travelling contributes to destroying such traditions too...

CA:  The cat is already out of the bag, and it’s probably not going back in. There is an upside though. In this case, travelers are interested in the storytellers, are willing to pay to hear them, and that could inspire a renaissance of sorts.

PML:  How do you design these trips?

CA: I approach itineraries like art projects and take great care in calibrating the pace of the trip. It’s fun to do something a bit rough like trekking in the mountains and then follow it up with some pampering, to immerse ourselves into something deeply foreign, but then relax into something comfortable.

PML:  How do you connect your participants with the local culture?

CA: I search for the people in the place who can articulate the culture. For example, rather than trail around a guide to the Top Ten Sites (you can do that on your own with a guidebook!), we wander the medina with Fez photographer Omar Chennafi. You never know what’s going to happen with Omar—he doesn’t plan in advance. You just experience the place as he experiences it—running into friends, stopping over somewhere for a spontaneous cup of mint tea. People like Omar are bridges for us, they straddle both worlds—that of the local and that of the foreigner and so can empathize and help translate our confusion. Fez writer Suzanna Clarke is another one, Sandy McCutcheon another, and Mike Richardson with his cross-cultural cafes. There are not many people at this nexus, so it feels like such a gift when you find them.

PML:  Thanks for this, Christina.  A brief word about future plans?

CA: I see more writing, more travels, and more workshops abroad. Our Morocco storytelling workshops will be held October 21-30th and December 4th-13th.

Photos by Tim Daw.

mercredi 2 septembre 2015

Poetry, Medecine and Mensa in Kosovo - Dr Aziz Mustafa

Dr Aziz Mustafa is a Kosovo Albanian physician and writer. He is the co-founder of Kosova’s ENT Association and member of PolitzerSociety, Mediterranean Otorhinolaryngology and Audiology Association and Balkan Otorhinolaringologists.  His publications are cited in several important databases: PubMed, Index Copernicus, Scopus, Google Scholar and EBSCO.
Mustafa began writing at a very young age. He has published the following books in Albanian:
1. Mustafa, A. (1996). My skull is my passport. Pristina, Jeta e Re
2. Mustafa, A. (1999). The measurement of stopped time. Skopje, Asdreni
3. Mustafa, A. (2004). Learn to say no. Pristina, Rozafa
4. Mustafa, A. (2014). My land is in love. Pristina, Olymp
His poetry appears in several Albanian anthologies. He has been a member of Albanian's Writers Association since 1999. English poetry has recently been published in Emanations, International Authors.
As a consequence of his achievements in medicine and in literature, he was honoured by being included in the 31 Edition of "Marquis Who's Who in the World" in 2014.
Aziz Mustafa is also known as the very first Albanian member of Mensa International.
He currently works at the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo. He is married and father of three children.

PML: What is it like to be an intellectual in Kosovo nowadays?

AM:  Not easy at all.  But I can frankly say that it never was.  It is always difficult to be a part of a minority whether we speak about a national minority, a religious minority or a gender minority.  On the other hand, belonging to a minority of intellectuals is both challenging and inspiring.

PML:  Why is that?

AM:  Well, it means that you possess a powerful tool of wisdom and understanding lacked by the majority.

PML: You don’t come from a family of intellectuals yourself.

AM:  Both my grandmother and my mother were illiterate, while my father completed only 4 years of primary education.

PML: And yet you began reading very young.

AM:  Yes.  I was able to read from the age of 7. One of my happiest memories!  I clearly remember the moment when I read my first letter.  It was sent by my father who at the time happened to be working in Switzerland.  His letters were the only means of communication because, in those days, we didn’t have today’s technology such as phones and internet.  Anyway, since my family was illiterate, my father’s letters had to be read by either a distant neighbour or the village teacher.  While I was reading it out, I remember my grandmother’s face full of surprise and happiness because her beloved grandson was able to read.  That 7-year old boy is now a PH.D.

PML:  You’ve lived through many changes in Albanian society.

AM:  Absolutely.  It’s amazing when you think about the societal changes that happened since the last century in Albanian speaking regions.  The foundation and unification of the Albanian alphabet is as recent as 1908.  Before that, during the Turkish Empire domination, written Albanian was forbidden and there were more than three different alphabets in use.  In 1974, the Congress of Unification of the Albanian Language united the two main dialects: Tosk (in South, Macedonia and Greece) and Geg (in North, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia). With writers like Ismail Kadare, in my opinion one of the world’s best living novelists, and poets such as Visar Zhiti and Ali Podrimja, the Albanian Language can no longer be considered insignificant. Albanian language and culture belong to Western civilisation after all.

PML:  The intellectuals were the impetus of these changes?

AM:  All through the Renaissance period, the second half of the 19th century until Kosovo’s Liberation in 1999 and Independence in 2008 the intellectuals and writers of Kosovo appeared on the forefront of political and social development.  Ibrahim Rugova was the first president of the free Kosovo; he was a literary scholar and critic.  Adem Demaqi (known as Kosovo’s Mandela) was a political spokesman for Kosovo's Liberation Army.  He also wrote some well - known novels and he is honorary head of the Kosovo Writers' Association.  I can sincerely say that being one of Kosovo’s intellectuals and writers makes me feel a special pride.  Especially as being intellectual in the Balkans is a matter of survival, an existential issue.

PML:  What are you trying to express in your poetry?

AM:  I would not like to explain or assess my own poetry.  Firstly, because I think that poetry critics and scholars are the people qualified; and secondly, because I never like to praise myself because of my modest nature.

PML:  Admirable sentiments, Aziz.  But since only 12 of your poems have been published in English…

AM:  Since only 12 of my poems have been published in English - in the third and fourth editions of the International Authors Anthology Emanations - and based on the evaluation of Kosovo critics, I will say that my poetry is poetry of protest.

PML:  What are you protesting against?

AM:  Negative phenomena in society.  As I am a doctor, I understand human pain, sorrow, and the psychology of my patients’ suffering.  Nearly all my poems show compassion, and are dedicated to people who know what pain and sorrow is.

PML:  Are there similar themes in your short stories?

AM:  Yes, in my book of short stories (My land is in love. Pristina, Olymp 2014) almost all the tales deal with mankind’s affliction and evocations of torment.

PML:  How does your knowledge of medical science manifest itself?

AM:  I am perhaps the first poet who in his poems and tales used the concept of phantom pain to compare human pain with the pain of a whole nation.  The phantom pain of amputated limbs is a metaphor for that of Albania.  We are a nation whose lands have been dispersed throughout six different countries. In fact, the title of my first book My Skull is my Passport (Pristina, Jeta e Re 1996) refers to the numerous Albanians who have been killed attempting to cross Albanian borders.

PML:  Your poem Learn to Say No published in Emanations 4: Foray into Forever, pg. 250 seems to carry a theme of Albanian nationalism?

AM:  Not really.  In fact, I’m a Kosovo/Albanian patriot trying not to become a nationalist. Learn to say no is also the title of my third book. It is protest against the tendency of equalization of the aggressor and the victim during the Kosovo war. It’s a political manifesto and a powerful appeal for national and international awareness in order to say a strong “NO” to all negative phenomena in society.

PML:  Negative phenomena being, I suppose, cruelty, lies…

AM:  Let me try to explain.  According to Biblical and Quranic lessons the average age when people pass from knowledge to wisdom is 40.  This is life’s main stage where people must strongly oppose lies, voracity, parsimony, adultery and other sins. It’s the time in life where they must be awakened to repentance and regret.  They must henceforth work very hard to expiate their sins. A long time ago, maybe 22 years ago, I wrote a one stanza poem entitled Half Life which I would like to quote:
Half life
The half of my life passed,
Doing continues sins,
Will I have the other half,
To expiate them?

PML: There are, of course, other themes in your poems.

AM:  Yes.  My literary creation also includes much love for: woman, children, life, nature, friendship and mankind in general.  Poetry is written from the heart I think that the true reader can feel the emotion and immediately s/he can notice if those emotions come from the heart or if the poet wrote without inspiration without any emotion at all.

PML:  Are there many poets in Kosovo/Albania?

AM:  Oh, yes.  Even though, Kosovo and Albania are not large countries, there are many writers.  In proportion to the total number of the population, there is a density of Albanian poets.

PML:  So there’s always been a strong poetic tradition in Kosovo/Albania?

AM:   The Balkans and especially Albanian countries are the only countries in Europe which continue to create the kind of oral folk literature which dates back to the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad.  As a child, I remember the folk rhapsodists with demotic instruments – for instance a two- stringed lute – singing historical epics and new songs about recent events.

PML:  How do the rhapsodic songs fare nowadays?

AM:  That’s the question.  Nowadays, even written literature, specifically published literary books, are struggling.

PML:  What role can the poet play in modern Kosovo/Albania?

AM:  Poets have always played an elite role in literature and culture.  During the National Renaissance of the Balkan countries, which took place in reaction to the depravity of the Ottoman Empire, poets appeared to be “principal bells” in the awakening.  Unfortunately, this movement resulted in further terrible and bloody conflicts.

PML:  Things are a little better nowadays…

AM:  We are living in a more democratic era - one in transition too.  I think that the time has come for poets to build bridges between the Balkan countries and bring people together.  Nowadays, poets can have their works translated in their neighbour’s language, and the language of their former enemies.  We can begin the process of soothing troubled spirits and healing old wounds.

PML:  Is this why your own work is appearing in English? 

AM: I have decided to publish my literary creation in English in order to extend my readership and the opportunities to receive criticism.  My land is in love is currently being translated, and I’m also writing my first novel.

PML: How far along are you with it?

AM:  Unfortunately, due to my commitment to medicine I face a constant struggle in finding free time.  As a consequence, I am writing very slowly, but with great inspiration!

PML:  Doubtless writing must take second place to medicine.

AM:  I consider my profession – which is one of the most human of professions – to be of primary importance.  I am an ENT specialist and my major project is to perfect my aptitude of diagnostic and therapeutic knowledge in ear microsurgery.

PML:  What’s the Kosovo medical system like?

AM:  Unfortunately, it’s passing through hard times due to the transition phase.  That’s why I feel that my role is to give the highest possible contribution.  I will wholeheartedly put every effort into helping and curing people who suffer from health problems.

PML:  You had a recent presentation in Japan?

AM:  Yes.  I had a presentation on the topic of acute mastoiditis in the 30th Politzer Society Meeting /1st World’sCongress of Otology, 30 June-3rd July-2015, in Niigata, Japan. This trip to Japan was for me very inspiring professionally (medical) and also from a literary (poetry) point of view.

PML:  And you’re also the first Kosovo/Albanian member of Mensa?

AM:  These last few months I’ve been very involved in setting up the Kosovo branch.  It’s an honour, but I must say it’s been really hard work!  Already, the first candidates are tested and the results are coming in.  We hope to identify young, talented people, and to create opportunities for them to share their knowledge and enjoy each-others company.

PML:  What about your personal future?

AM:  Life brings unexpected changes so I never like to predict the future.  As always, I plan to have a lot of work, small holidays, and again a lot of work until in my retirement. Then, when I’m retired, I intend to dedicate all my time to literature.  If God has planned a long life for me, I will bestow upon my readers literary works of wonderful poetry, stories and novels! Adults, like children need wonderful, fanciful tales because it makes them feel differently; it makes them feel how they would like to be - at least for a short time…

Aziz and Philip would like to express their gratitude to Mrs Valdete Aliu-Muçaj for the Albanian to English translation.

vendredi 31 juillet 2015

MADE IN ADVERSITY - Gareth Jackson

Gareth Jackson is a conceptual artist operating in the North West of England.  His work has been described as 'cold and post human' which pleased him greatly.  He has previously produced both commercial art and high art, but now prefers to occupy an indeterminate post modern zone.

PML: You wanted to call this interview Made in Adversity.  Why was that?

GJ: It's the name of my faux media company and the circumstances in which my work is made.

PML:  Can you give us some examples of this adversity?

GJ:  Willfully producing no budget works / refusing to permit colour in most of my work / working outside of the industry-establishment / not seeking approval or often even an audience / not relocating from the rural North to London.  And although I am not now impoverished, I have been for long periods. 

PML:  Yes?

GJ:  Most of this ADVERSITY is from self imposed prohibitions.

PML:  You do keep a low profile.  I googled you and didn't find much.

GJ:  It amuses that while people seem to litter the internet with 'selfies' and whatnot I take a contrary position of attempting to minimize my personal self.  Almost everything is an act of art, so is given due consideration.

PML:  You’re a filmmaker, an editor and a writer...

GJ:  I attempt to produce works in all media.  I have little interest in constructing a formal career as I am interested in what can be discovered if you turn around and travel in the opposite direction.  This means that my work can be restlessly divergent.  I think of these various strategies as hats and I am very fond of hat-stacking.

PML:  Is this an attempt to avoid artistic unity?

GJ:  No.  All of these strategies / hats could be thought of as subsets of my conceptual art practice.  It is never entirely clear if I am making a film or writing a text or producing a conceptual artwork in that form.  I strive to leave no gap between art and life - therefore almost everything becomes potential material for / or act of art.  I would perhaps regard myself ('misen' in Northern slang) as a philosophical test pilot questioning if theory holds in application.

PML:  Is there any particular hat you prefer wearing nowadays?

GJ:  I have drifted away from filmmaking a little in recent years, and now mostly produce textworks.

PML:  Why do you think that is?

GJ: I had a very prolific period making no budget experimental films which culminated, but did not conclude, with making LORD HORROR - THE DARK AND SILVER AGE (2010) after which I was unsure if there was any new territory which these films could explore.

PML:  So writing is fresher?

GJ:  I am now very interested in words and their arrangement in considered order. I find there is something very direct / immediate in the act of writing although I prefer authoring SPECULATIVE FICTIONS pages as that is a concurrent marriage of writing, graphic design and illustration.

PML:  What are you trying to do in your writing?

GJ:  I strive to remain experimental although this becomes trickier the more textworks I produce.

PML:  Is that because of the danger of repeating yourself?

GJ:  Yes, with familiarity it becomes a rote process which does not particularly interest me.

PML:  But is it still possible to be an experimental writer in our hyper modern era?

GJ:  After the sixties it is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to produce anything truly experimental in any media; but this does not absolve us from the attempt to do so.

PML:  What are your general aims as an artist?

GJ:  My aim is mostly to please and amuse myself and with regards to others to 'wreck everything and ruin their lives'.

PML: And beyond that?

GJ:  The provocation of thought.  I find much of contemporary art disappointing as most artists operate within the strictures of the art industry / establishment, and permit their work to be commodified.  Coming from an abandoned career in the commercial arts as a graphic designer and (uncommercial) illustrator, I reject this and struggle to keep my work 'pure' - FREE and distributed electronically to ALL.

PML:  It’s not necessarily wrong to make a living from your art…

GJ:  No, but I prefer to adopt a contrary approach by applying personal prohibitions.  This position is willfully quixotic.  I thoroughly enjoy being quixotic and I do this because someone has to.

PML:  Tell us about one of these free projects - your online magazine SPECULATIVE FICTIONS.

GJ:  SPECULATIVE FICTIONS (SF) could be read self contained pages as an e-magazine or as works exhibited in an imaginary exhibition.  I write my own page contributions and respond to author submissions as an editor / graphic designer / illustrator.

PML: And SF is, I understand, published annually?

GJ: Yes. ISSUE ZERO of SF (2013) was entirely my work being a test experiment to define what SF should be.  With ISSUE ONE (2014) I opened the project to submissions as I am interested in the act of collaboration which can be engaging and can temporarily permit the relaxation of certain personal prohibitions.

PML: What other collaborative work have you been doing?

GJ:  My most recent collaborative work is participating in the exhibition (AND MODEL Gallery /Leeds / 11/06/15) which accompanies the book launch of the Robert Meadley novel GOING TO OST.  Robert is the greatest 'philosophical comedian' working in the English language.
 I usually avoid the act of exhibition as I prefer to circumnavigate the art ind/est and engage with the viewer directly.

PML:  If your work is in a gallery, it still engages with the viewer.

GJ: The act of exhibition confers the status of 'art' onto any object which appears inside a gallery and I feel it is preferable to allow the viewer to make their own readings and value assessment of the work.
As I reject the commodification of art entirely I feel that everyone should be able to own an exact copy of a work of art which enables them to engage with it in their domestic environment.  The internet has now enabled artists with the potential to distribute their work freely and directly.

PML:  Is SF a long-term project?

GJ:  I am driven by whimsy so I usually conceive and conclude most projects very quickly, although I have committed to produce annual issues of SF for as long as it remains interesting - unusually, for me, distribution is an integral part of this project.

PML:  Why is that?

GJ:  The act of distribution can be very time consuming.  More often than not when I conclude a project I immediately move on to new projects as the work being seen does not greatly concern me but always disregarding the act of distribution had become very much an omission.
With SF I only need to distribute issues on the 01/01 annually and then give it no further consideration.

PML:  You also have some ongoing film projects.

GJ:  I do have to get round to finishing the nearly completed but long bypassed short films TERMINAL and THE LAST MAN ON THE MOON - - - which may or may not occur in 2015.
In the interim the written texts for these films also became pages in SF.

PML:  What else does the future hold?

GJ:  The past is a hole which I am constantly climbing out of as I fall into the future - - - I imagine I will be carrion food for our cockroach inheritors.

The Renaissance is nigh :Torquato Tasso by Dario Rivarossa:

Dario Rivarossa was born in Cuneo, North-West Italy, in 1969. He studied philosophy, theology, and comic art with a view to working first as a journalist and then as a translator from English and German.  His translations include science fiction, essays on history or economy and interfaith studies.  His first-and-a-half job is as an artist, with works published and collected in the USA.  A member of International Authors since 2010, he recently created the “Magic Trio” team of illustrators together with Tiziana Grassi aka Selkis and Eva Nieri aka Nivalis. He now lives in Perugia, near Assisi (the homeland of St Francis), where he married Paola in 2006. He also sings in a “mountain choir” as a first tenor. His most notable publication to date is Dante Was a Fantasy Writer (International Authors, 2013).
Dario is currently working on an English translation of Il Mondo Creato by the 16th century Italian poet, Torquato Tasso.  It should be published by next Spring

PML: Dario, can you begin by telling us a little about Tasso?  Who was he exactly?

DR:  “A madman,” according to commonplace opinion in Italy. But he was jailed in order to make him go insane, not because he was: a way to make a dangerous citizen be quiet, like it would happen in the 20th century in the USSR.

PML: Why has he had such a bad press?

DR:  He threatened to reveal dark secrets about the Este family, the rulers of Ferrara, in central Italy, where he lived.  But this overshadows the fact that he was one of the greatest Italian poets ever.

PML: Whose idea was it to translate Tasso?

DR:  It came from a dear friend who is now the co-translator in the project, Prof. Salwa Khoddam. Since I have a blog,, wholly devoted to Tasso and the translation of his works into English, especially Gerusalemme Conquistata, she asked me if I meant to make a book of it. I replied, “Naa, nobody would care about this stuff.” And she, “Are you joking?! It would be of great interest, etc. etc.!” We then chose Tasso's poem Il Mondo Creato (The Seven Days of the World's Creation) because it was shorter and less difficult than the Conquistata, 10,000 lines instead of 20,000, and because it may have been a source for Milton's Paradise Lost.

PML : Tasso's Il Mondo Creato was a source for Paradise Lost

DR:  Oh, yes, this is a very intriguing side of the problem. In Naples, during his Grand Tour in Italy as a young man, Milton met Count Giovanni Battista Manso, who had been one of Tasso's best friends. Milton would even title a poem after him: Mansus. Well, Tasso had decided to write Il Mondo Creato precisely after exchanging theological conversations with the Count's learned mother. So, it would be strange if Milton knew nothing about that poem which reworked the first chapters of Genesis. Was Paradise Lost meant as a sequel?

PML: How did you come across Tasso?

DR:  Following the rings in a literary chain. I have been a fan of Dante since I was 10 or so. Some twenty years ago, my Dante studies led me to William Blake, and in turn Blake to Milton. Some five years ago, Milton made me curious about the great Italian poets of the Renaissance, whose works he knew well: Ludovico Ariosto, and Tasso, precisely.

PML: What attracted you to his writings?

DR:  On first reading his best-known poem, Gerusalemme Conquistata (“Jerusalem Delivered”), I thought: “See, there are many cool episodes and lines, who could have believed that?” The second time, it sounded rather like: “Wow, all this is really great!” And the third, “Oh my God, this guy is greater than Dante!” He became an uncontrollable passion. A whole new universe was opened by the opportunity to retrieve his so-called minor works: Il Re Torrismondo (the only Shakespearean tragedy written in Italy during Shakespeare's lifetime, and later), Il Mondo Creato, and Gerusalemme Conquistata (1593), the remake of the Liberata (1581). It is unbelievable the number of silly statements about the Conquistata that have been spread by scholars who haven't even taken the trouble to flip through its pages.

PML:  Do you think Tasso still has relevance today?

DR:  For tomorrow, I daresay. In my opinion, the Modern Era, i.e. the epoch in the Western history that started in the 17th - 18th centuries, is approaching its end; see the Charlie Hébdo affair as a symptom . . .

PML:  Are you a decadent, Dario?

DR:  Even further back than that: a pre-decadent! Yeah, I think we'll probably have to re-adopt a Renaissance attitude towards . . .  everything.

PML:  What does it mean to adopt a Renaissance attitude?

DR:  Tasso's message is not specifically different from the message of the other great Renaissance writers and/or poets and/or artists. To make it as brief as possible, it would mean to pass from unilateral thinking (see the Enlightenment: “We are the light. Everything before us, or different from us, is darkness”) to a multilateral view. Since the universe, or even society, surpasses our faculties infinitely, we always need at least two opposite keys in order to approach it, and assume that both / all of them are significant.

PML: So concretely that means...

DR:  . . .  that there are no pre-conceived solutions, but we should learn each time from events. Again, think about the hot issue of Islam. In Ariosto's and Tasso's poems, we don't find the one attitude to be held. It depends on which Christian meets which Muslim. They might be fierce enemies, but respect each other at the same time. Vice versa, the current “liberal” society tolerates Muslims but, at the same time, despises them.  Saladin was a hero and a model of courtesy even in the eyes of the Crusaders. But today, what common elements remain between the West and ISIS? Oil, weapons, TV.

PML: What sort of technical difficulties did you encounter in the translation?

DR:  A huge number of difficulties! Tasso has not – not yet? – many fans, not even in Italy, for a number of reasons: Dante – not Tasso which could have been the case – was chosen as the Standard Bearer of Italian Literature after our National Unification (1861). And, according to the 18th-19th century mainstream culture in Italy, influenced by France, he was “too” religious. And, he was dismissed as a madman. But honestly, a part of the problem is also that he loved to make his verses long, and thorny, and full of Latinizing words. This new English version of ours follows the text line by line, word by word, but puts it into plainer language. We hope it'll promote a rediscovery of this brilliant, “gigantic” poet.

PML:  Did you learn anything about yourself during the translation work?

DR:  Yes, I learned that I understand much less than I boast to.  Incidentally, a billion thanks are due to Dr. Carter Kaplan, who immediately accepted to publish the book for International Authors. He even collaborates as the final editor – and a very careful and clever one, at that: I've nicknamed him “American Sniper.”

PML:  Once Il Mondo Creato, is finished, what'll your next project be?

DR: To trust in God.
PML:  No, seriously!

DR: Is there anything more serious than that?! Ask Tasso. But to go flatly professional, I have a dream, rather than a project: To switch full-time to illustration and design. Se son rose, fioriranno. “If these sticks happen to be roses, it will be shown in their blooming.”

Juan de Nubes Belleville Artist

“J'essaye de faire vibrer les choses que je dessine afin de reproduire leur réalité sensible”
" I try to make the things I draw vibrate with a view to reproducing their sensitive reality "
in “murs,murs” 2012, éditions forceps, juan de nubes

“ juan de nubes ne reproduit pas le visible, il rend visible”
" Juan de Nubes does not reproduce the visible, he renders visible "
in “jardin des cimes, le dessin pas nature” 2014, éditions forceps, juan de nubes/marianne guyader

“la douceur à l'état brut” "Gentleness in the rough"
Camille larquet,

PML: How did become an artist?  

JDN:  I began my arts education by reading everything I could find about the theory and practice of perspective and drawing.  Of course, I rejected everything I'd read after my first few days in a proper art school...

PML:  Why was that?

JDN:  Because when you work on a project, you have to forget the received wisdom and find a way of doing things for yourself.  Experience should be more based on what you feel at the moment rather than in what you've learnt. Your work builds itself empirically.

PML: Where was this first proper art school?

JDN:  In Nice. It was a small place called the “Villa Thiole”.  After that, I put together a pretty good portfolio and was accepted by a State art school, the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Avignon and obtained the DNSEP (Diplôme National Supérieur d'Expression Plastique) a national Visual Arts diploma, in Montpellier. 

PML:  I thought you'd attended a design school?

JDN:   That was a few years later. I chose the ENSCI (École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle) which is considered one of the mythical Parisian design schools. I got my diploma, but never stopped drawing and etching - which were my first loves.  As an artist, as a designer, and as a human being, all those facets converse and feed the same creative process.

PML:   So you haven’t always worked purely as an artist?

JDN:  I consider my real work to be my art. Visual arts are what encompass my entire art experience, but all the jobs I did before such as graphics, corporate, various incursions into the industrial process are connected with my methods and have enriched my working process.  It is strange how, despite having learned complex computer-made 3D technologies, I now use the simplest tools: charcoal, paper, ink and etching; the old-fashioned and basic techniques.

PML:  Why do you think that is?

JDN:  In my opinion, the pure process of expression and creation can count more than the material result.  There's no artifice in such simple tools.

PML:  So how would you define your art today?

JDN: I think my art is a fusion of my way of seeing life.  It’s at once a landscape of real life and a personal interior view which includes my past, my feelings, my experience and my knowledge.

PML:  How has your art evolved over the years?

JDN:  My work is becoming freer and freer.  It includes references to contemporary and conceptual art, but without the need to look different or be original or new. I just try to be as clear and honest as possible with myself.

PML: Are there any contemporary artists that influence you?

JDN:  Well, all kinds of art and a lot of artists really interest me…  But, you know, in my opinion, Bach is an extremely contemporary artist!  Traditional music too: Chanson française, tango…. In literature: the French Nouveau Roman of the 50’s, but also plain old thrillers.  If I could have lived in another era, it would have been the Quattrocento.  But I am also attracted to Avant Garde movements like Supports/Surfaces and the work of a lot of conceptual artists.  The only form of art that doesn’t really influence me is cinema. Or perhaps, it’s because I can’t help thinking that documentary films are the only real cinema.

PML:  So you wouldn’t consider yourself as part of a movement?

JDN:  Not in the traditional 20th century sense of the word.  I don’t really believe there are “movements” in art.  There are only people connected by a common interest.  These so-called movements can be connected to others in the past and in the present - out of movements, out of time - which retain a strong connection to reality.  Such links mean more to me than a group of people using the same colours or the same techniques over a period of years.  Movements are a way for people to somehow feel exceptional or different.  I don't care for differences; on the contrary, I like similarities.

PML:  Does your art carry a message?

JDN:  Every work of art carries a message.  Not in the sense of “what does it mean socially", but what does it disturb, what does it assemble, what does it remove, what does it do in the spectator’s mind?  I’m not interested in consciously linking my art with daily life, social problems, or trends. I prefer to take the risk of being considered an old-fashioned coherent artist rather than the leader of the new whatever.

PML:  But I suppose your art is subconsciously linked with daily life?

JDN:  The only way I communicate real life is through thoughts that are like out of space and out of time. For instance, you see a stone wall and you feel the same emotion that someone probably felt a hundred years ago, or maybe thousands of years ago.  That emotion is one of appreciation: that the wall is great, or well made, or simple, or mysterious...

PML: Can you talk us through your process?

JDN:  I really love drawing.  I let my hand decide for me, the paper decides for my hand, and the weather decides for the paper...

PML: The weather?

JDN: Yes!  Whether it's dry or wet means that the paper may shrink or enlarge.  It also changes the way the tools interact with the surface.. 

PML:  How did the mysterious pseudonym Juan de Nubes come about?

JDN:  There was a book that was important to me during my studies : A Theory of Cloud, Toward A History of Painting by Hubert Damish.  Since I read it - and I think even before - I felt a natural sympathy for clouds, those strange things we can see, but can’t hold, that don’t really exist as material objects but of which we talk
, about which we create theories and systems - shapes and art history. 

PML: So Hubert Damish’s book gave you your name and your artistic approach?

JDN:  Well, many years later, I read another Theory of Clouds by Stéphane Audeguy, though this one was a novel. The gap between those two books is exactly how I see my approach: from theory to narrative, from the intellect to the emotions. When you draw, you are on the first rung of meaning.  Everyone can understand at least one level of what you are trying to say whether it is just a first impression, or the technical process, or metaphoric... Everyone knows what a cloud is, but it's not that important that the majority of the public doesn't know about my theory of clouds, anymore than they would about “Le nuvolaire “ by Fosco Maraini, or real climatology theories. 

PML:   What about Juan?

JDN:  It’s my first name, the same as my father and my grandfather.  Maybe, now that our king is no longer in power, I could use my full name which is Juan-Carlos.  As for associating Juan and de Nubes, that’s another story...  More to do with a few glasses of wine in a Bistro in Montmartre.

PML:  What are your aims when you exhibit your work?

JDN:  Coherence in quality is what I look for when preparing exhibitions.  I try to present my work in places accessible to the general public as well as art galleries as long as there are no concessions to the quality of the work: Elitaire pour tous as Antoine Vitez said when referring to Jean Villard's theatre.  I should mention that I’m also involved in various artists associations such as the Ateliers d'Artistes de Belleville and the Atelier aux Lilas for typography and print. 

PML:  Where can we see your work?

JDN:  I had a recent exhibition in a cultural centre in St Germain En Laye.  It was called “Gardiens des Cimes, Dessin par Nature”.  It was interesting because it created a dialogue between drawings and etchings.  In November I exhibited at the Autumn Salon, along the “Champs Elysées”.  I've got some pieces in the Aab Gallerie, in Belleville.  I'm currently involved in projects for Berlin and Barcelona.
But everyone's welcome to visit my studio.  It's the best place to see the works as they grow.  And, last but not least, there's my website “”

My next exhibition will be with three other artists, at the ”Biennale de Lmay”, from 5 to 29 march 2015, Galerie des Réservoirs, 2 rue des Réservoirs, 78520 Limay.