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Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
by Orlando Figes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AWE-INSPIRING, 28 Aug 2010
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When reading about Natasha's dance I must think of a TV-programme I saw some years ago. The great German soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was interviewed during one of her master classes teaching German Lieder to foreign singers. She told the journalist that though many of the foreign singers were doing very well, they would never be able to sing the Lieder like a German because for the German the Lieder were part of hers or his internalized culture.

This is what Natasha's dance is about: It is the story of Countess Natasha Rostov in Tolstoy's War and Peace. When she is stirred by a folk song she ha never heard before, she instinctively takes up the rhythm of the dance that accompany it - in spite of the fact that she by social class and education was far removed from the village culture it represented. She did so because it was - analogues to the Lieder example above - part of her internalized native sensibility or national consciousness.

At the heart of Natasha's dance is the encounter between two entirely different worlds, says Figes: The European culture of the upper classes and the Russian culture of the peasantry - an enduring theme in Russian history that is unfolded in the book. The book tells us about the complex interaction between these two cultures and the influence this interaction has had on the national consciousness and the arts.

For those of us who admire the Russian composers and authors, Figes' book gives us invaluable information about the context in which they lived and work. We learn that there are many strands of Russian cultural identity: The European Russia of St. Petersburg; the Russian Russia of Moscow; the peasant culture and the inheritance from Genghiz Khan.

Churchill once said that Russia was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. As for myself I felt enlightened after having read Figes' book. I like his touch as a historian. He writes with an unsentimental sensibility and has a profound knowledge of his subject. An awe-inspiring book!


When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies
When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies
by Andy Beckett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking under the strain, 25 Jun 2009
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As a former student of English, and the history of Great Britain after 1945 in particular, I remember very well the phrase above used by a historian to characterize the decade from 1970 to 1980. To many the 70ies represents a hangover after the permissive and booming 60ies. The party was over and we got oil crises, stagflation and mass unemployment. Andy Beckett gives as a perceptive and thorough description of the decade with interviews with many of the main actors in this turbulent period of British postwar history. He shows us that there was more to the 70ies than the clichés will have it. It is quite remarkable that a person born ten days before the decade started should give us such a thorough analysis of a decade so much despised by many older historians. But this may also be the reason why he treats the decade with such an open mind and thus gives us a more detached and sympathetic view of the decade than usually done by other historians. Taken into account the present recession and its causes, it seems to me that - after having read Beckett's book - it is to early just to condemn all the elements of postwar consensus still visible in the 70ies as counter productive and the cause of Britain's economic decline. But this may be common knowledge in Britain of to day after having lived through the Thatcher- era. Being a Norwegian I cannot tell.


Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe
Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe
by Mark Mazower
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evil Empire, 28 May 2009
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It is easy to be shocked and shrink back in horror when reading about the atrocities committed by the Nazis and their allies in Eastern Europe during WW2. However, Mazover writes about this sinister subject in a descriptive and readable way that makes the book bearable to read for ordinary readers like me. This does not mean that he writes without empathy for the victims, but since most of us now know about Nazi attitudes and their treatment of Slavs, Gypsies and Jews - and Mazover does not underestimate his reader - he leaves the moral indignation to us by painstakingly accounting for what happened. Thus, if you are not completely morally perverted the book cannot but make an impact. For one like me who is no specialist on the subject, but who grew up in occupied territory during the war, this book is both informative and revealing as to how lightly we were treated here in Norway compared with for instance Poland. For all who are interested in this dark chapter of European history: This is the book.


Brideshead Revisited - Complete Series [DVD]
Brideshead Revisited - Complete Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jeremy Irons
Offered by Copeylad
Price: £52.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate British TV-series, 5 Jun 2008
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I saw Brideshead Revisited for the first time on TV in the early 1980s and I remember it well for its nostalgia for what we today call old-fashioned values. After having watched all the episodes on the DVD some 25 years later, I must say that the series still manage to hold its grip on me who have always admired British cinema and the reserve of excellent British actors like Jeremy Irons and John Gielgud. I still think the series is one of the most outstanding ever produced by a British television company. For the excellent bargain of about 17 pound you can still witness the doomed relation of Charles Ryder with the Marchmain family - a human drama set in grand locations in England and Venice in the recent past. Brilliant!


Seventies: The Sights, Sounds and Ideas of a Brilliant Decade
Seventies: The Sights, Sounds and Ideas of a Brilliant Decade
by Howard Sounes
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eloquent about the 1970s, 20 Mar 2008
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For one like me, who had his formative years in the austere, but innocent postwar years and became an adult in the permissive, but optimistic 1960s, the 1970s stands for economic backlash and a more pessimistic view of the future. However, I must admit that Howard Saunes manage to catch my interest with his colourful description of the decade's most prominent personalities within the cultural field - in the visual arts, literature, film and pop music - many of them icons today. Sounes' biographies, most of them about English and American artists, are all very readable and seem to be well researched. (Even if I am not a great fun of pop music, the tragic fate of many of the pop musicians cannot but make an impression and strengthen my belief that the most important thing in life is not worldly success, but to keep oneself intact as a human being.) My only and minor objection is that I miss a more detailed description of the social and political setting of the decade. After all the artists were children of their time.
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Nikon F4 and F3 (Hove User's Guide)
Nikon F4 and F3 (Hove User's Guide)
by Heiner Henninges
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO A CLASSIC, 12 Oct 2006
If I ever should use the term "powerful" about a camera: Nikon F4 would be the one. Built like a tank - and almost as heavy - the camera gives you that wonderful feeling of quality when you hold it in your hands; a feeling you never get when you pick up one of the modern SLRs, digital or not. I bought my F4 some months ago and I soon decided to buy the user's guide to get an understanding of all the camera's dials and buttons in order to utilize this fine tool to the utmost.

If you are not a novice to photography, you will probably - like me -find the chapter about operating the camera the most useful. However, there are chapters about exposure, lenses, speedlites and accessories that you may wish to browse through or delve deeper into. All in all: This is a good introduction to a camera that seems to be the pride of most Nikonians.


Walker Evans: The Hungry Eye
Walker Evans: The Hungry Eye
by Gilles Mora
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Direct Approach to Reality, 30 May 2006
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This book surveys the long career of Walker Evans - from the 1920s to the 1970s. His photographic projects may be from different periods and have different themes, but the common denominator is always Evans' direct - and often brutal - approach to reality in the spirit of Flaubert and Baudelaire, whom Evans greatly admired. Contrary to the American tradition of lyrical landscapes in photography Evans depicts the industrial civilization of his country through his photographs of urban environments with their signs and other manmade artifacts. The frontal impersonal viewpoint is his, whether he depicts decaying architecture in the Deep South or photograph people on the subway in New York with a hidden camera. Here he avoids interaction between the photographer and his subjects and thus is able to record people as they really are with his particular sense of wit.

I really recommend this book as an introduction to one of the great American documentary photographers. It is well written and the pictures in the book are of high quality being printed directly from the original negatives.


Story of Photography
Story of Photography
by Michael Langford
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A READABLE INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD OF PHOTOGRAPHY, 12 Jan 2006
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This review is from: Story of Photography (Paperback)
In this book Michael Langford takes us through the history of photography from the time of the camera obscura to the post-modernist age. Part 1 of the book covers the technical evolution – from the danquerreotype, via the calotype, the “wet” and “dry” type to the roll film and the corresponding development of the camera. All chapters are richly illustrated with photographs by the main practitioners of the different processes. For those who are not particularly interested in the more technical aspects and their history, it is possible just to browse through the chapters in this part and concentrate on the summary following each chapter.
In Part 2 Langford introduces us to the subjects, styles and approaches to the photography – with a short biography about, and photos by, the main representatives of the different genres and periods. He introduces us to pictorialism, naturalism and other modernist movements. We learn to know about the boom in professional photography during the permissive 1960s and the post-modernist movement in the 70s and 80s – when photography achieved a status as fine art equal to painting and sculpture.
As to myself I found my favourites among the realists, and thanks to this book I now want to read more about photographers like Edward Weston and Ansel Adams - about the former’s exquisite stress on form and rhythm and the latter’s almost pantheistic visions of the American wilderness. Even if this book does not mention the development of the digital photography, it is a good introduction to the world of photography that may also give other readers than me an impetus to read more about the many aspects touched upon here.


Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange
Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange
by Elizabeth Partridge
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE PEOPLE`S PHOTOGRAPHER, 30 Dec 2005
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I bought this biography about Dorothea Lange, because I wanted to know more about the person behind the emblematic picture Migrant Mother from 1936. Written by the daughter of one of Dorothea Lange`s closest friend, this book tells the story of a remarkable woman, who - in spite of lack of formal education and much adversity - became a famous photographer exhibiting in the Museum of Modern Art shortly before she died in 1965.
Born in 1895, and of German stock, Dorothea Lange was determined to become a photographer from an early age. After having learnt the tools of the trade, she set up her own studio in San Francisco, but later turned her interest to the streets outside - to the hungry homeless, many of them middle class people, fallen on hard times due to The Great Depression.
As a photographer hired by the Emergency Relief Administration, her task became to document the migration of people across the USA desperately looking for work. Later she photographed the impoverished sharecroppers of the South and the victims of the anti-Japanese hysteria - a hysteria that led to the internment of more than 100000 people of Japanese descent in camps in the deserts of California, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming during World War II. Dorothea Lange is also known for her documentation of the worker`s life in the shipbuilding industry - which boomed due to the same war.
Elizabeth Partridge writes about Dorothea Lange with empathy, but also with restraint.This makes the account personal, but not private. The book is richly illustrated with black-and-white photos.


Faces: The Creative Process Behind Great Portraits
Faces: The Creative Process Behind Great Portraits
by Jane Bown
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An honest approach to portrait photography, 19 Sep 2005
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Working in black and white with an SLR-camera set to 1/60th at f 2,8 - and without the use of flash - Jane Bown succeeds to catch the core of the personality of her sitters. In this book we can witness the result of her 50 years as a photographer for the Observer. What strikes me is her is the naturalness of her approach - completely free of the dressing up we may find in more commercial portraiture.

Besides being an example to all those practising the art of portrait photography, this is definitely a book for the culturally interested reader of contemporary history. The personalities of many of the persons who have put their stamps on this period are subtly revealed to us by Jane Bown, and the book may thus be a supplement to any historical text and broaden our understanding of our own time.


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