This November, we have a wonderful opportunity to study Javier Marías in Valencia as hosted by Salonista Robin Tottenham. His work, A Heart So White, considers the questions around what choose not to know of our loved ones’ lives and histories– and what we imagine in the face of our ignorance. This article connects these explorations to the history of Modern Spain–with insights for us all on memory and forgetting…
Robin spotted this reflective article in the NYT magazine– some thought-provoking reflections on the novelist’s relationship to history, the ambivalence of forgetting crimes of political power, the nobility of speaking out at times, and the importance of silence at other times…and the importance of recognising differing positions on what should be told:
“Some things are so evil that it’s enough that they simply happened,” he said. “They don’t need to be given a second existence by being retold.” He took a drag on his cigarette. “That’s what I think on some days, anyway,” he went on. “Other days I think the contrary.”
“Of course, Marías is not advocating outright ignorance; he is inviting us to consider the tension that exists between memory, which can be stifling and constraining — a form of perpetuating grievance or division — and forgetting, which can be a form of liberation.”
The article also connects our coming read of A Heart So White to these reflections– especially the narrator’s resistance to learning the truth of his family’s history.
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I would recommend courses led by Toby to anyone who wants to look at a text in detail in a study group
I was certainly surprised at how much I was thrown off balance by these two astounding writers…I look forward to returning for more
We all came to the group with different backgrounds and interests but Mark has skillfully guided us through a stimulating programme of Greek literature.
I always leave the meetings with a much broader understanding of what we are reading than when I arrived
Everyone feels they get heard and therefore that each of us has a contribution to make
In all of the courses I have attended I have felt a bond within the group, and this contributes significantly to the quality of the discussions
Lovely, intimate groups with in-depth discussions, lots of learning, and friendships are made for life there
I’ve read things I’d never dared read before. I’ve made new friends and met really interesting people.
Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?
Mortals do not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living.
Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Mortals do not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
Job: 28: 12-14
Tempest Horizon 2021, Nicky von Fraunhofer
Bereaved, bankrupt, and unwell, the eponymous hero of our story, Job, searches for meaning in his suffering. By turns comforted then taunted by ill-advised but well-meaning friends, Job’s quest for wisdom finally brings him face to face with God. Through poetry, provocation and personal encounter will Job resolve his quest, or does his conversation only bring about more questions?
Whether you come from any faith background or none, find out how this epic narrative from the Hebrew Wisdom tradition explores issues that have startling modern resonances. For this study, you are welcome to bring any version of the Bible. If you do not have access to one, the text is also freely available on many websites.
Facilitated by Rev Dr Nicky von Fraunhofer
Thursdays, 16:30-18:30 BST, 6-20 May
£72 for three-meeting study
Meetings online (via Zoom)
To join, please use the Paypal button below
To register, please use the Paypal button below to pay £72 for this three- meeting study. Upon receipt of payment, I will send you the opening notes, resources and preparation suggestions.
"The course of true love never did run smooth."
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing (William Blake, c. 1786)
Performed for the first time in 1598 (at the latest), with multiple revivals in his own lifetime, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays. It lives on in the 21st Century as an example of both Shakespeare’s lyric mastery and his capacity to engage diverse audiences across time and space.
It has often been said that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was specifically created for an aristocratic wedding. Although there is no evidence to support such a claim, it is wonderful to think it might be true. An enchanted forest is the perfect backdrop for lovers to take their vows. But not all is well in this play’s magical wood. The Fairy Kingdom is in conflict, the ecosystem is in upheaval, and at least one jilted lover has her eye on a dangerous mate. Meanwhile, a human is transformed into an ass, and a troupe of ‘rude mechanicals’ nearly sabotage their own play.
In equal parts wholly improbable and fully plausible, this beloved comedy holds a funhouse mirror up to nature, one in which we may see distorted reflections of ourselves. Love-struck and desperate for freedom, the characters flee to the forest to escape the city’s restrictive laws. But the woods have a law of their own. The monarchs of the Fairy Kingdom and their subordinates fling the lovers into unanticipated bedlam. Believing they still have some control, the protagonists strive heroically – and hilariously – to win the hearts of their beloveds.
For centuries it was believed that on no other night than Midsummer was magic so alive. During the Midsummer festival, witches and spirits reached the height of their powers. This sinister aspect of the holiday hovers in the wings of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From the moment this play opens, with Duke Theseus’s confession of violent wooing and Egeus’s threat to kill his rebellious, besotted daughter, we feel this comedy could take a tragic turn. Can love truly conquer all?
THIS STUDY IS NOW FULL– If you are interested in a future study, please email the organizer
Facilitated by Jane Wymark and Julie Sutherland
Mondays, 18:00 – 20:00 BST, 10 May to 21 June
£175 for seven-week study
Meetings online (via Zoom)
Recommended edition: Folger Shakespeare Library (editors Barbara A Mowat and Paul Werstine), ISBN 978-1-5011-46213
…Today, guess what, we became beekeepers! We went to the local meeting last week (attended by the rector, the midwife,
…Today, guess what, we became beekeepers! We went to the local meeting last week (attended by the rector, the midwife, and assorted beekeeping people from neighboring villages) to watch a Mr Pollard make three hives out of one (by transferring his queen cells) under the supervision of the official Government bee-man. We all wore masks and it was thrilling. It is expensive to start beekeeping (over $50 outlay), but Mr Pollard let us have an old hive for nothing, which we painted white and green, and today he brought over the swarm of docile Italian hybrid bees we ordered and installed them. We placed the hive in a sheltered out-of-the-way spot in the orchard the bees were furious from being in a box. Ted had only put a handkerchief over his head where the hat should go in the bee-mask, and the bees crawled into his hair, and he flew off with half-a-dozen stings. I didn’t get stung at all, and when I went back to the hive later, I was delighted to see bees entering with pollen sacs full and leaving with them empty at least I think that’s what they were doing. I feel very ignorant but shall try to read up and learn all I can. If we’re lucky, we’ll have our own honey, too!
From Letters Home, 15 June 1962
When Sylvia Plath died on 11 February 1963 she left a black spring binder on her desk containing a manuscript of forty poems with the title Ariel.* The final five poems are a sequence about bees: The Bee Meeting, The Arrival of the Bee Box, Stings, Swarm and Wintering. In this powerful sequence Plath purposefully changes her poetic tone as she uses the natural metaphor of bees to explore issues of female self-assertion, rites of death and rebirth, creativity and survival. She also writes with loving precision about the details of beekeeping and the bees themselves. The final poem, Wintering, is a tour de force evoking cold and despair but, ultimately, hope for the coming spring.
Over the course of two hours we will study Wintering in depth, look at its form and construction and, through repeated readings, unlock the secrets of this acclaimed poem.
*This is not the version of Ariel published in 1965, which has four of the bee poems in the middle of the book, but Faber did publish Ariel the Restored Edition in 2004, with a foreword by Frieda Hughes.
Facilitated by: Caroline Hammond
Wednesday Evening: 6–8.00pm
Single meeting study: Wednesday 12 May 2021
£25 includes background materials and opening notes
TO REGISTER for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £25. Contact us if you prefer to pay by direct bank transfer. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration. The study is limited to 10 participants. Please contact us if you have any questions.