(Continued from Klimt and Judith I)

The brochure continues:

klimtjudith2brochure1997reduced“Perhaps influenced by the 1907 performance of Richard Strauss’s opera, Salome, Klimt returned to the subject of the femme fatale in 1909, when he painted Judith II. Here again, critics mistakenly identified the subject as Salome. Indeed, this Judith appears threatening and monstrous: her face and claw-like fingers instil fear, and her dress engulfs Holofernes’ head, symbolising his loss of identity. As in Judith I, the artist’s counter-decapitation of Judith is suggested by the two white stripes cutting across her neck.

“Klimt’s depictions of Judith and Holofernes deviate from the traditional narrative and express the ambivalent attitude towards women in fin-de-siècle Vienna. In art as in society, women were compartmentalised into one of two categories – vulgar prostitute or untouchable ideal creature. Sexual hypocrisy was rampant: many upper-class men carried on affairs with working-class young women, prostitution flourished and pornography developed into a thriving industry. Women’s unprecedented demands for political and social emancipation, the Secessionists’ call for sexual liberation and Freud’s writings on the unconscious all heralded a revolution in traditional perceptions of sexuality and guilt. However, the new, sexually-liberated life-style was seen by many men as a threat to their identity and also brought with it a gnawing fear of venereal disease. It was this terror which gave birth to the image of female lover turned insatiable predator – the femme fatale, epitomised in Klimt’s Judith I.”

The Women Friends is a series of novellas written by Emma Rose Millar and Miriam Drori, and based on the painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. The first in the series, The Women Friends: Selina, will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December, 2016.

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Author of the Day

Sarah Louise Smith writes chick-lit. Her four novels to-date have all been published by Crooked Cat and one of them, Izzy’s Cold Feet, is free to download from Amazon for one day only. Sarah can be found all over the Internet, sometimes with Arwen the puppy.

The story of Judith and Holofernes is told in the Apocryphal Book of Judith (a text not  included in the Jewish canon but preserved in the Christian tradition). The story’s plot develops in the context of Nebuchadnezzar’s military campaigns against his neighbours, including the nation of Israel. Under the command of Holofernes, the Assyrian army besieges  the Jewish city of Bethulia and cuts off its water supply. When the thirst becomes unbearable, the town elders decide to surrender to the enemy. At this critical point in the story, Judith, a wealthy widow famous for her beauty and wisdom, appears on the scene. Rebuking the town elders for their  lack of faith, she bravely sets out with her handmaiden for the enemy camp, plotting Holofernes’ downfall. The Assyrian commander is captivated by her beauty, and invites her to his tent. During a feast in her honour, Judith gets Holofernes drunk and, while he sleeps, takes his sword and decapitates him. Carrying the severed head, she returns victorious to Bethulia. Holofernes’ death horrifies the enemy camp and the Assyrians flee in terror with the Israelites at their heels.

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So says just one paragraph of a brochure I received from Esther, one of the members of my writing group. The brochure dates from 1997 and accompanied an exhibition in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece known as Judith I.

The brochure goes on to explain that Judith has been depicted in different ways over the centuries: as the the triumph of good over evil, of virtues over vices, of freedom over tyranny; and also as a sinful woman who dared to use her sexuality as a weapon.

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In 1901, Klimt shocked the Viennese critics and public with the daring eroticism of his painting Judith I. Despite the title, viewers were unable to reconcile Klimt’s interpretation with that of the modest Jewish widow and courageous heroine from the Book of Judith. It was assumed that Klimt had really meant to depict Salome, a favourite femme fatale of turn-of-the-century artists such as Franz von Stuck, Gustave Moreau and Aubrey Beardsley (who illustrated Oscar Wilde’s play Salome). Aware of his departure from artistic tradition, Klimt modelled the rounded mountains and stylised date palms in the background after an Assyrian relief, in order to connect the figure to its Assyrian context. In addition, he inscribed the names Judith and Holofernes on the ornate picture frame made by his brother, Georg.

Klimt created the sensation of a direct encounter with a living and breathing femme fatale by realistically rendering Judith’s face, body and arm. This style contrasts with the geometric, two-dimensional decorations on Judith’s clothes and in the background. Judith’s destructive potential, reflected by Holofernes’ severed head, is encountered by Klimt’s powerful mutilation of Judith’s figure conveyed by the jewelled collar separating her head from her body, and the composition that cuts her off below the navel. Sexual ecstasy is expressed through Judith’s half-closed eyes, parted lips, semi-nudity and her hand that caresses Holofernes’ head. This ecstasy is particularly unsettling as it results from the assassination of her partner. The pairing of sexuality and death (Eros and Thanatos) fascinated not only Klimt, but Freud and many other members of European society at the end of the nineteenth century.

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Klimt’s model for Judith was probably Adele Bloch-Bauer, the Jewish wife of a wealthy Viennese banker, whose 1907 portrait by Klimt became the subject of the 2015 film, Woman in Gold.

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(continued in Klimt and Judith II)

The Women Friends is a series of novellas written by Emma Rose Millar and Miriam Drori, and based on the painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt. The first in the series, The Women Friends: Selina, will be published by Crooked Cat on 1st December, 2016.

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Author of the Day

Esther Rafaeli is an amazing woman with an amazing history. Spanning ninety years, it hovers between the Land of Israel and Australia before settling here in Israel and bringing her into contact with many special people. Esther is full of surprises, the last one (up to now) being that despite a horrible fall, a very short time after her ninetieth birthday, leaving her lying on the floor for 36 hours, she couldn’t wait to get back home and start writing again. Her latest piece doesn’t describe the fall in detail, but lists the fortunate coincidences connected with the fall. I am in awe.

“So, Miriam Drori,” says Kirsty Young and I’m thinking: why isn’t Roy Plomley here? because his is the name I associate with this radio programme. “As a lover of music, you must have had a hard time choosing just eight pieces.”

“I certainly did,” I answer confidently, because of course this is all made up, so I might as well make myself and my communication abilities up, too.

“How did you narrow your choices down to just eight?”

“I chose pieces connected to my life,” I say, because it’s what they all say and it happens to be true. Turntable-floating-view

I continue to answer Kirsty’s questions with ease and to explain why I chose these particular pieces of music.

  • Ledavid mizmor… (the prayer): The synagogue played an important part in my childhood, and my father often led the services there. I particularly remember this tune, for a prayer that is said only on special occasions. Most of the members of the congregation didn’t know the tune and so my father’s beautiful tenor voice easily rose over the rest. (I listened to several Youtube videos but couldn’t find the tune I know.)
  • Ma Nishtana: The seder night – the first night of the festival of Passover – was a specially fun time in our family. I enjoyed my moment of fame with this song, traditionally sung by the youngest person present. I was always the youngest.

  • Beatles – Here Comes the Sun: I grew up with the Beatles. I had to include them in my list. So I chose one that’s lively and good to dance to. I expect I’ll do plenty of dancing on the desert island.
  • Bach’s Double Violin Concerto: This is one of the pieces I studied at school, and it’s one that I love.
  • Paul Simon – Something So Right: I’ve always felt this song is about me. “They got a wall in China. It’s a thousand miles long. To keep out the foreigners they made it strong. And I got a wall around me that you can’t even see. It took a little time to get next to me.”
  • Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar: At university, this was the song I loved dancing to the most. I had no idea what it was about; I just loved it.
  • Back Street Boys – I Want It That Way: My daughter was just six when this song was popular. But she heard it a lot because her big brother liked to play it. So she learned it – words and all. No wonder she became a singer!
  • Vatikach Miriam: I had to include a song from the many I’ve danced to at Israeli folk dancing sessions. And why not one that’s lively and includes my name!

“Thank you, Miriam Drori, for letting us hear your Desert Island Discs.”

“Thank you for inviting me,” I reply. “I’ve enjoyed it immensely.”

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Author of the Day

Stella Hervey Birrell knows about being concise and keeping to rules. All the posts on her blog are exactly 140 words long. She also draws simple pictures to accompany the posts. When I submitted a guest post for her blog, I managed the first but not the second, and was delighted with Stella’s rendering of Neither Here Nor There. Stella writes women’s fiction and is the author of How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? – a novel I enjoyed and recommend.

Nancy Jardine posted a link to this fascinating article on Facebook recently. I was amazed. I knew about Mary Anning through reading Tracy Chevalier’s novel Remarkable Creatures, but I’d never connected her with the well-known tongue twister:

She sells seashells on the seashore.

Well, that’s how I knew it, although apparently it should be:

She sells seashells by the seashore.

Remembering that again made me think of other tongue twisters:

Betty Botter bought some butter.
“But,” she said, “the butter’s bitter…”

 

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers…

And our own family tongue twister, discovered while on holiday in Switzerland:

Das Schloss Spiez

TakingThePlunge

If you don’t know how to pronounce German, it should be something like this:

Dass Shloss Shpeetz

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Author of the Day

Mary Grand interests me for several reasons. One is that she lives on the Isle of Wight, which I’ve visited many times. My other half fondly remembers family holidays there. But the main thing that first interested me about Mary is her first novel, Free to be Tegan, about a young woman who leaves a particularly strict cult. The similarities to and differences from my debut novel, Neither Here Nor There, didn’t escape me. Now, Mary has a new novel out: Hidden Chapters.

 

(This is where I get to reveal the gorgeous new book cover.)

What links my first book, Neither Here Nor There, with my second, The Women Friends: Selina, written together with Emma Rose Millar?

Not a lot. It would be easier to list the differences:

  • Contemporary – Historical
  • Romance – Story of love, but not romance
  • Light – Dark

One link is orthodox Judaism. Esty in Neither Here Nor There leaves the ultra-orthodox community in which she grew up. Janika, the second of the models in The Women Friends, does something similar, but that’s described in the second novella. In the novella to be published by Crooked Cat on December 1st, Janika takes a big part but is not the main character.

The other link is orange, which is what makes the two covers so distinctive.

Neither Here Nor ThereCoverFront

We don’t travel around a lot when we’re at home. We tend to spend much of our time in our garden and leave touring for holidays. Unlike my friend, Lisa Isaacs, who travels regularly and writes fascinating blog posts about the places she goes to.

But there are a few places I’ve visited recently:

The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art

FriederikeMariaBeerByKlimtPart of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, this pavilion provided us an interesting hour or two. Due to my forthcoming novel, written together with Emma Rose Millar, I was particularly pleased to see a painting by Gustav Klimt. This portrait was commissioned by the young Viennese socialite, Friederike Maria Beer. She arrived at the modelling session wearing a hand-painted silk dress and a fur jacket. Klimt was taken with the lining of the jacket and asked her to turn it inside out.

Sarona

As a place to eat, shop and wander around, Sarona, which is in Tel-Aviv, is still quite new. But its history goes back to 1871, when the German Templers established a colony there.

MigdalDavid19The Tower of David

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Jerusalem’s Tower of David has a much longer history, which I won’t delve into here, but I plan to write about it very soon.

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Author of the Day

Sue Barnard doesn’t parade her wide knowledge, but it accompanies her to quiz programmes and to wherever she write her novels. She’s had three published, two of those influenced by Shakespeare, and there’s another on the way. I met Sue, first online and then in person, four years ago and we’ve been friends ever since.

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Update: It was while tweeting about this post that I realised I should have mentioned an event that links two of its themes: an excellent outdoor performance of Macbeth by Theater in the Rough.

Macbeth

 

BlogBirthdayBannerByAilsa

So my second is odd and half my first (no prizes for working that one out) and Ailsa Abraham created this delightful banner for me. This is how it came about:

Eleven days ago, Ailsa held an online Crone Party (as you do when it’s the day before your birthday). I didn’t know quite what to expect from it, but I came prepared…

WitchReduced… and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Not only that, but I won a prize for the best costume (what costume?) from the Crone Queen herself: one of her books or artwork for my blog. As I’d read both of Ailsa’s excellent novels, I plumped for the artwork and got the banner at the top of this post. Isn’t it brilliant?

It never ceases to amaze me that I know so many people with birthdays in August. Growing up, I was always the only one in my class and consequently (because of the cut-off date in the UK) the youngest. This post is meant to be all happy, so I’ll move on now.

I was born into a different world. Rationing in the UK hadn’t quite gone, although I don’t remember it. TVs were in black and white, which I do remember.

What hasn’t changed? Queen Elizabeth II is still on the throne. The pound sterling is still in use (although shillings and pence are long gone).

FivePoundNoteReduced

 

And Israel, despite most forecasts, still exists.

Me and Jerusalem

Me and Jerusalem

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Author of the Day

Ailsa Abraham is one of a kind. There’s so much I could say about her, I wouldn’t know where to start. You’re better off hopping over to The Bingergread Cottage to find out more. What I can say is that Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum are well worth reading.