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Archive for January, 2012

Modernist Commitments: Ethics, Politics and Transnational Modernism, a recently published book by Jessica Berman, has a major chapter on Virginia Woolf. That chapter, the book’s first, is titled “Intimate and Global: Ethical Domains from Woolf to Rhys.”

In an email to the VWoolf Listserv, Berman said the material may be familiar to some Woolf scholars, as “it had its genesis in a number of Woolf conference presentations and other essays.” However, she adds that she was “able to incorporate it into a broader argument about the politics of transnational modernism.”

A blurb from Jed Esty, author of Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development, describes the book this way: “Berman boldly redefines the question of global modernism by zeroing in on the shared ethical dimensions of disparate modernisms. A superb, sure-footed guide to the complex relation between narrative ethics and literary politics. Berman utterly and finally debunks the myths of modernist disengagement and aesthetic individualism.”

That last statement piques my  interest, as Woolf and her colleagues are still often seen as apolitical artists and writers. You can visit the Main Book Page, the Contents Page, and read reviews or an excerpt.

The book is now being offered by Columbia University Press at a 30 percent discount. To get the discount, add the book to your shopping cart, and enter code MODBE. Click on the “apply” button and your savings will be calculated. (Paper, 384 pages, 13 illus. ISBN: 978-0-231-14951-8 $29.50; $20.65 with 30 percent discount / £20.50 in UK. e-book, $9.99)

Berman is associate professor and chair of English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She is the author of Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism, and the Politics of Community and the coeditor, with Jane Goldman, of Virginia Woolf Out of Bounds. She is also the co-editor, with Paul Saint-Amour, of the series Modernist Latitudes.

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The fascinating second season of the PBS Masterpiece Classic series Downton Abbey is in full swing. And a couple of Woolf sightings can’t resist connecting Woolf to the show via the English country manor of lover and friend Vita Sackville-West and via World War I as presented in Mrs. Dalloway.

If you missed any episodes since the new season began on Jan. 8, you can watch them here.

  1. Not your average prof, Eastern Echo
    Though, Allen admits she’s rereading Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” (as she does every year). She said, “Each time I read it, I have a different impression. I’m really looking forward to reading it in my fifties so I can relate to Mrs. Dalloway. …
  2. History in the Making, Red Pepper
    In the January round-ups few critics will fail to register 2011’s historic nature, but Mason, I’d wager, will be the only mainstream figure who’ll go so far as to propose – as Virginia Woolf once did of human character in 1910 – that in this year human
  3. Virginia Woolf: ‘Haworth expresses the Brontës; the Brontës express Haworth’, Telegraph.co.uk
    “Haworth expresses the Brontës; the Brontës express Haworth,” wrote Virginia Woolf after a visit to the village in 1904. “They fit like a snail to its shell.” Climb the steep, cobbled high street to the parsonage where the family lived and the modern
  4. A master class in telling travelers’ tales, Sunday’s Zaman
    She never emphasizes her important husband or even the fact she was writing to her famous friend, Virginia Woolf. Instead of the sneer at life we come to link with Bloomsbury, her story reveals a love for Persia, based on its remoteness and lack of
  5. From Patti Smith, Images Romantic and Morbid
    New York Times
    But there is something endearing about the famous artist who remains a fan of other artists — even if she has special access to Virginia Woolf’s bedroom or other spaces closed to the rest of us. And there is something more than just an adolescent
  6. Buyers’ attitudes – they either exhaust every option before being satisfied or , Financial Times
    As Virginia Woolf once wrote, some people are radiators and others drains – E exudes warmth. She’s looking for a home that can accommodate a family but also has that “wow” factor. She desires something kooky that can blend into many different roles:
  7. Art Preview: “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage”, Washingtonian.com (blog)
    Over the course of about two years, Leibovitz traveled across America and to Europe in search of some of her own heroes: Ansel Adams, Virginia Woolf, Georgia O’Keeffe, Elvis Presley, Eleanor Roosevelt—even Sigmund Freud. She photographed their homes
  8. New work by Annie Leibovitz at American Art Museum, Washington Post (blog)
    One affecting display offers side-by-side images of Virginia Woolf’s ink-stained desk as well as the dark blue wake of River Ouse, where the author drowned herself in 1941. Elvis Presley shot his television in the 1970s.
  9. Planning a Pilgrimage with Annie Leibovitz, USA TODAY (blog)
    But her kids don’t care, she goes and sees the water and gets inspired and then she decides to go see all these other things, like Virginia Woolf’s writing studio, and multiple trips to Yosemite to try to get the same sort of Ansel Adams sky,
  10. Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, January 20, 2012, Library Journal
    With a vintage Polaroid instant camera, Smith shoots photographs that connect her interests in literature and poetry, including images simple yet profound of objects like the slippers of Robert Mapplethorpe, the bed of Virginia Woolf, and the spoon of
  11. Patti Smith’s photographic ‘diary’ is one for devotees, The Guardian
    Among the talismanic objects she has captured on her Polaroid Land camera are Robert Graves’s hat, William Blake’s death mask and headstone, the beds of Virginia Woolf and John Keats and a pair of monogrammed slippers worn by Smith’s erstwhile muse and
  12. Court strikes wrong note on music copyright, Yakima Herald-Republic
    The New York Times has reported that the law restored copyrights in films by Alfred Hitchcock and Federico Fellini, books by CS Lewis and Virginia Woolf, and paintings by Picasso. It did the same for transformational 20th century musical composers like
  13. Sunset Series with Juliet Nicolson, Sunday Times.lk
    Later Vita returned to her husband, children and home but continued to have several affairs; most notable of those being her affair with Virginia Woolf. Juliet fondly spoke about her grandfather, Harold, and about growing up in the castle.
  14. Where the Heart Is, Cornell University The Cornell Daily Sun
    Whether in section discussing the work of Virginia Woolf, or just with friends learning of the wonder that is Nutella, I am enveloped in an unabating sense of awakening (honestly, where has Nutella been all my life? I have utterly no idea).
  15. Wired for Love, Isthmus Daily Page
    Hui’s early music group Eliza’s Toyes performed amidst the Memorial Library stacks; a recent performance of his own work involved a guided installation inspired by Virginia Woolf. “I’m not excited just by ‘exposing’ people to classical music;
  16. The Stranger in the Mirror, By Jane Shilling, The Independent
    “I don’t believe in ageing,” wrote Virginia Woolf when she hit 50. “I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.” This pragmatic approach to middle-age struck journalist Jane Shilling as a better idea than “sticking a patch on my bottom and
  17. About the books, Sacramento News & Review
    By Alison Rood Every year around January I revisit the literary journey that began with Dr. Seuss, progressed to tales about heroic dogs, and eventually—when I was in my early 20s—wound its way to Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen and George Eliot.
  18. The film list: Best of director Stephen Daldry, GoErie.com
    Daldry managed to film a supposedly unfilmable novel that spans the lives of three women in different times, all connected by Virginia Woolf’s novel, “Mrs. Dalloway.” Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for playing Woolf; the stellar cast also includes Meryl
  19. Beyond the Roaming and Rambling, The Sensitive Side of Woody Guthrie, New York Times
    And the distance between them made for moments that suggested something akin to Virginia Woolf paraphrasing Mark Twain. Even so, the lyrics for Guthrie’s sometimes mystical love songs had the same rough-hewn diction as his broadsides.
  20. Learning curve, Minneapolis Star Tribune
    They started by reading “The Waves,” a poetic 1931 novel about consciousness by the English feminist Virginia Woolf. After a lot of stops, starts and “regrouping,” they distilled their response into a two-part installation that includes a spare,
  21. Where have all the book illustrators gone?, The Independent
    You wouldn’t wish on any artist the job of drawing much of Virginia Woolf. But the possibility that illustrations could actually illumine writing and draw out elements of a narrative doesn’t seem to count for much any more. And as Posy Simmonds,
  22. Algonquin late bloomer now a Rhodes Scholar, Chicago Daily Herald
    Alexis particularly loves the modernist literature of James Joyce, TS Eliot and Virginia Woolf. “English, literature, they always made sense to me in a way that nothing else does,” she said. Naturally, English always came easy, but Alexis concedes she
  23. Public domain copyright renewable, says top US court, Sydney Morning Herald
    The law applied mainly to works first published abroad between 1923 and 1989 that had earlier not been eligible for copyright protection under US law, including films by Alfred Hitchcock and Federico Fellini, books by CS Lewis and Virginia Woolf,
  24. Meryl Streep: Is She Unbeatable for ‘Iron Lady’?, Daily Beast
    The past decade has seen actors and actresses take home trophies for their impersonations of Edith Piaf, June Carter Cash, Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI, Truman Capote, Virginia Woolf, Ray Charles, Idi Amin, and Harvey Milk.
  25. I treat writing much like a 50-hour a week job, Tehelka
    Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Dostoyevsky, Pasternak, Tolstoy, and Kafka were my touchstones then. Do Amitav and you discuss your books and take feedback from each other during the writing process? Not during the writing process.
  26. Public Domain Works Can Be Copyrighted Anew, Supreme Court Rules, New York Times
    The law applied mainly to works first published abroad from 1923 to 1989 that had earlier not been eligible for copyright protection under American law, including films by Alfred Hitchcock, books by CS Lewis and Virginia Woolf, symphonies by Prokofiev
  27. From the archive, 19 January 1929: Modern novelists under attack, The Guardian
    Discussing those writers who dealt with the “stream of consciousness,” the speaker mentioned Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Dorothy Richardson, of whom the first was the most delicate and charming. Betraying a critical acquaintance with the works of
  28. Shelf Lives: Four Centuries of Collectors and their Books at Cambridge , Culture24
    I. There are handwritten manuscripts by John Donne and Virginia Woolf, journals from the trenches and military money from the Austrian-occupied zone of Italy, borrowed from the 10000-strong War Reserve Collection of First World War ephemera.
  29. Top 5 Parks in London, CheapOair (blog)
    Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew: A short train ride outside central London, Kew Gardens has been immortalized in the works of authors like Virginia Woolf. The park’s beautiful landscaping and world-renown glasshouses rival botanical gardens across the
  30. Wishing Ms. Woolf a happy birthday, Ridgefield Press
    Virginia Woolf Legendary British author, Virginia Woolf was born on Jan. 25, 1882. On Jan. 28, 2012 her birthday will be celebrated in a most auspicious way at the Unitarian Church in Westport, 10 Lyons Plains Road, from 12:30 to 5:30 pm Thirty actors
  31. Another Page Torn Unceremoniously From The Book, Patch.com
    Virginia Woolf.  We are the sum total of all that we’ve experienced to date; the things we’ve done; the things we’ve failed to do; the people with whom we’ve interacted; the places we’ve been; everything in our lives is a cohesive building block in the
  32. Michelle Williams, In Character Yet Again, On GQ, New York Observer
    While we don’t recall Nicole Kidman shooting any Vanity Fair covers in early 2003 dressed as Virginia Woolf, Michelle Williams is on the cover of GQ (un)dressed as Marilyn Monroe, complete with peroxidey hair. If this cover looks familiar,
  33. War poet’s playful side revealed, The Press Association
    A velvet-bound sermon book belonging to Queen Elizabeth I will share exhibition space with hand-written manuscripts by John Donne and Virginia Woolf and trench journals, produced by troops for troops while in action during the First World War.
  34. Downton Abbey and ‘the cult of the English country house’, National Post (blog)
    Anyone who reads the work of Vita Sackville-West (novelist, renowned gardener, lover of Virginia Woolf) understands the great sorrow of her life, the cruel fate that prevented her from inheriting Knole, the vast 17th-century mansion (365 rooms,
  35. The British 1 Percent: Downton Abbey Episode Two, Grantland (blog)
    The brilliance of Julian Fellowes’ accomplishment with Downton is his ability to tear pages from PBS staples Jane Austen, EM Forster, and Virginia Woolf and ball them together into a wholly original creation. The effect is not unlike what David Chase
  36. Downton Abbey bookmania, The Periscope Post
    on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque; Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sasson; Regeneration by Pat Barker; Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos; Johnny Got his Gun by Dalton Trumbo; and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, amongst others.
  37. AcA announces new Performing Arts Residency Program, The Daily Advertiser
    This performance is inspired by a passage from Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.“ William and Judith imagines the relationship between William Shakespeare and his equally talented sister, Judith, who arrives in London after being disowned for
  38. Adam Gopnik., Globe and Mail
    Virginia Woolf, easily the best essayist in the English language, pulled it off, but Hugh Trevor-Roper, no slouch himself, always seemed to freeze whenever it came to writing whole books. And who now remembers William Hazlitt’s biography of Napoleon?
  39. Graphic Novels Prepub Alert: Guy Delisle, Alison Bechdel & The Graphic Cannon, Library Journal
    We’re promised a story that folds Dr. Seuss, 20th-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, Virginia Woolf, childhood journals, and Bechdel’s love life into an account of the mother-daughter bond, from Bechdel’s childhood to recent years.
  40. Spotlight India, Sunday Times.lk
    Vita and Harold, two intensely creative individuals, were close friends with many members of the famous Bloomsbury Group, which included EM Forster, TS Eliot, Leonard and Virginia Woolf (with whom Vita had an affair) and other luminaries.
  41. Mallick: Why columnists should confess, Toronto Star
    Never pretend that something isn’t worth having simply because you don’t have it, Virginia Woolf once wrote. Don’t claim that Atwood’s a bad writer because she hurt you or because, like Fulford, you appeared to have soured on life.
  42. Cheer & Jeers: Joe Paterno and the Powerball on the rise, Patriot-News
    Virginia Woolf longed for a room with a view. Leena Sharif just wanted a room to pray. Surely there was a better option than sending her home. CHEERS to realestate.aol.com for its study showing that the Harrisburg area ranks ninth nationally for
  43. Nicole Kidman plays Ernest Hemingway muse in HBO biopic, Los Angeles Times
    For Kidman, there were some parallels with her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in the Academy Award-winning feature “The Hours.” “It was kind of a necessity in the journey of my career to find these women and tell their stories,” Kidman, 44, told reporters
  44. The story of the self, The Guardian
    One of the most interesting writers on memory, Virginia Woolf, shows this process in action. In her autobiographical essay, A Sketch of the Past, she tells us that one of her earliest memories is of the pattern of flowers on her mother’s dress,
  45. The case for writing letters, especially by hand, ScrippsNews
    SJ Perelman, Toulouse-Lautrec, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Robert Frost, Voltaire, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt and the veritable, indefatigable master of the genre, Madame de Sevigne.
  46. Shakespeare’s Sisters: Voices of English and European Women Writers, 1500-1700, PressZoom (press release)
    The exhibition title, Shakespeare’s Sisters, is inspired in part by an influential essay by Virginia Woolf. In A Room of One’s Own (1929), Woolf imagined a sister for Shakespeare called Judith, who wanted to be a playwright like her brother,
  47. Celebrating writers and their friends, Irish Times
    The series begins on January 24th with Nicholas Grene discussing Yeats and Synge; that will be followed by Amanda Piesse on Shakespeare’s same-sex friendships (January 31st); Eve Patten on Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen (February 7th);
  48. Booker High records second contest victory, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
    At this point, the Tornadoes sensed victory, but North Port refused to succumb, matching point for point as questions on refractive indexes mingled with James Thurber, Jackie Onassis, population growth and Virginia Woolf proved an exciting period of
  49. La belle Huppert, The Australian
    She played Medea at the Avignon festival in the great courtyard of the Palais des Papes, and reminds me she has acted in Hedda Gabler; Orlando, adapted from Virginia Woolf; and other dramas such as Robert Wilson’s interpretation of Quartett,

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VW Diary Vol. 5Today we have a link to a blog post sent in by a Blogging Woolf reader. It discusses Virginia Woolf’s lifelong habit of keeping a diary and how that practice has morphed into blogging for many today.

Is this a sad development or just a reality we must accept? And does the medium affect the message? Read “The Diary of Virginia Woolf and the Blogosphere” by at Blue Duets.

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As Paula observed, I’m always on the lookout for references to Woolf in contemporary fiction and so honed right in on Benjamin Roesch’s story,  “Bloomsbury Heads West,” from a list of 49 sightings in one of the December Woolf sightings.

Of course it wasn’t enough for me to enjoy this provocative story; I wanted to know more. I wanted to know about the author’s interest in Woolf and why he wrote this story as well as to express my admiration. I contacted Benjamin Roesch through his blog and posed my questions; he was kind enough to respond as follows:

“Thanks so much for reaching out and I’m honored that you enjoyed the story and that it was mentioned on the Virginia Woolf blog. My interest in Virginia Woolf goes back to my mother, who was a Bloomsbury fanatic for a time and become particularly intrigued not only Woolf, but especially with Dora Carrington.

Then, in college, I encountered Mrs. Dalloway, which I adored, and later read letters and journals and developed my own fascination with Virginia Woolf, who I saw as a both triumphant and tragic figure. I can also remember seeing and loving ‘The Hours,’ which broadened my sense of her. I can also credit a colleague of mine who is a Woolf fanatic.

Benjamin Roesch

“The idea to have a rural farm wife turn into the great Victorian just came to me one day and seemed like it might make a wild premise for a story that, if executed right, might work. Initially, I saw it as a humorous conceit–the contrast between the American farmer and the proper Victorian–but in revision the story took on a life of its own and began showing me other things it wanted to say. I had a blast working on it.”

It’s always fascinating to see what draws people to Woolf, and for me, what prompts writers to use her in their fiction, whether by a single obscure allusion or, in this case, a story that draws from her life.

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The most notable offering among this group of Woolf sightings is the date May 11. It marks the British Library exhibition on “British literature and place” that will include an issue of Hyde Park Gate News, the childhood newspaper written by Virginia Woolf describing a summer visit to a lighthouse. Scroll down to #10 for the link.

If you can’t make the exhibit, you can still read issues of the Stephen family newspaper. They are available in book form, edited by Gill Lowe with a foreward by Hermione Lee.

  1. Free at lastIndian Express
    On January 1, 2012, the works of James Joyce, Marina Tsvetaeva, Virginia Woolf, Rabindranath Tagore and Sherwood Anderson, among others, entered the public domain (except in certain jurisdictions). In other words, they can be freely read, …
  2. Canadians: tell Parliament to preserve Canada’s public domain!Boing Boing
     Year’s Day this year by welcoming the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Carl Jung into the public domain just as European countries were celebrating the arrival of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, 20 years after both entered the Canadian public domain. …
  3. Grace by Esther Morgan – reviewThe Guardian
    Setting in motion a kind of archaeological excavation of the charged moment, this poetry can call to mind Elizabeth Bishop and the prose of Virginia Woolf – though, oddly, there can be an absence of detail in Morgan’s writing. …
  4. 12 for ’12: The Most Anticipated Books of the YearNational Post
    A debut novel from a former nominee for the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and one of Knopf’s New Faces of Fiction, Magnified World starts with a nod to Virginia Woolf, as a mother fills her pockets with stones and drowns herself in the Don …
  5. The Death of the Heart (Modern Library #84)Reluctant Habits
    There’s some truth to the notion that Elizabeth Bowen may very well be the missing link between Virginia Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness and Iris Murdoch’s masterful fusing of behavioral study and philosophy. Yet as I’ve intimated above, …
  6. ‘Iron Lady’ star Meryl Streep has a way of forging her pathLong Beach Press-Telegram
    In “Adaptation,” she’s the fantasy version of a deranged screenwriter, and in “The Hours” she’s a woman whose life is affected by Virginia Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway.” ANGELS IN AMERICA: In the 2003 HBO miniseries based on the play by Tony Kushner, …
  7. Movie makeovers help actresses capture the magicUSA TODAY
    An unrecognizable Nicole Kidman bagged an Oscar for playing Virginia Woolf in 2002’s The Hours. A year later, an equally transformed Charlize Theron won the same award for playing an unsightly killer in Monster. And let’s not forget sparkly Marion …
  8. Six Actors Who Actually Look Like the Famous People They PortrayedPW-Philadelphia Weekly
    Erin Brockovich doesn’t look like Julia Roberts, Virginia Woolf didn’t look like Nicole Kidman and Salvador Dalí looked nothing like Robert Pattison. That said, apply the right makeup to Meryl Streep and she’ll look like Margaret Thatcher, …
  9. A New Chapter begins for Le Cordon Bleu London School of Culinary Arts at PR Web (press release)
    Several members of the group lived in the area in the early decades of the 20th century, including biographer Lytton Strachey and novelist Virginia Woolf. The building features state-of-the-art kitchen and classroom facilities offering students the…
  10. Literary events in 2012The Guardian
    … JG Ballard’s handwritten manuscripts; the “suppressed” chapter from Wind in the Willows; a childhood newspaper written by Virginia Stephen (Woolf) describing a summer visit to a lighthouse and manuscripts of the Brontës, including Jane Eyre. …
  11. Gigantic summer movie quizHerald Sun
    Which Australian played the ill-fated novelist Virginia Woolf in the 2003 movie The Hours? 2. In which 2004 movie did Harry Potter discover that a dangerous wizard named Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban prison? 3. Which 1944 movie, based on an …
  12. Alexis M. Smith finds a Portland publisher for her Portland novelOregonLive.com
    Smith is a huge fan of Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and was influenced by Woolf’s use of the present as a point of reference for the past. “It’s very poetic,” Montgomery says. “Alexis is such an elegant writer. She’s really got the soul of a poet….
  13. Because they have a VoiceIndian Express
    Virginia Woolf’s unforgettable words, “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman”, became directional for Polish theatre director Marta Górnicka. They echoed cultural stereotypes about femininity. “There doesn’t exist a language which belongs to women …
  14. Kate Bolick: why modern women don’t marryTelegraph.co.uk
    Her flat is softly feminine, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves stuffed with novels, including authors such as Virginia Woolf and Rousseau. A well-worn copy of Eleanor Roosevelt’s On My Own sits on a side table. I ask her why she thinks her article has…
  15. Louise Doughty novelIran Book News Agency
    Ghojaloo is the translator of well-known works such as Virginia Woolf’s “Woman in the Mirror” and “Orlando”, Malcolm Bradbury’s books on novel, and Susan Sontag’s “Alice in Bed”. “Stone Cradle” penned by Louise Doughty is converted into Persian by…
  16. Tilda Swinton on Virginia Woolf’s OrlandoTelegraph.co.uk
    When Tilda Swinton first discovered Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’, she embraced it as a practical guide to living. Fifteen years later she played the gender-hopping hero on screen. Now, as a new edition is published, the actress maps the obsessions behind…
  17. Parallel Points of Light Ricochet Across TimeNew York Times
    They represent what Virginia Woolf called “moments of being,” in this case in the unremarkable existences of William Rivington and Caroline Carpenter, two people who never knew each other but appear to have resided in the same corner of England at ...
  18. Beverly Ford Food for thoughtFrederick News Post (subscription)
    If one believes, as the English novelist Virginia Woolf did, that “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” what one eats may be an important area of resolve for 2012. Beverly Ford of Walkersville is a retiree and …
  19. I Was a Teenage Samuel Beckett: Or, My Literary Biography ProblemTIME
    I became obsessed with biographies of Sylvia Plath, and then Virginia Woolf, and then Evelyn Waugh. These were serious scholarly works, but to me they were porn for a wannabe novelist. (Plath’s life is pure incandescent ecstasy and agony. …
  20. Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson to Lead AN ILIAD at New York Theatre WorkshopBroadway World
    At NYTW Lisa Peterson has directed numerous productions, including Light Shining in Buckinghamshire for which she won an OBIE award, and The Waves, which she adapted from Virginia Woolf’s novel of the same title with David Bucknam and which received …
  21. The infamous C-wordOUPblog (blog)
    The protagonist in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando fainted at seeing a woman’s ankle. Keep reading and don’t faint. Words for the genitals and sexual activities have always been tabooed, but not necessarily out of prudery. Throughout history people have …
  22. My First Job: Toy SalesmanSo So Gay
    What I’d really wanted to do was mooch around Waterstone’s all summer, binge-reading Virginia Woolf and flicking my fringe at customers, but my mum wanted me out of the house and had sold a fitted kitchen to the toy store manager so ultimately I was …

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Next month, Penguin Books will publish A Small Circus, Hans Fallada‘s dark but humorous account of summer in a small German town in 1929.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf visited Germany that same year. They traveled by boat and spent Jan. 17 -21 in Berlin. The impetus for the trip was Vita Sackville-West’s 10-week stay in Berlin, where her husband was Counsellor at the British Embassy. The Woolfs were joined by Vanessa and Quentin Bell and Duncan Grant who were touring galleries in Germany and Austria (D3 218).

Woolf collapsed when she got home, writing to Sackville-West on Jan. 27 that “[t]hat blessed sea sick drug of Nessa’s somehow went wrong and I had to be hauled along like a sack” out of the ship’s berth (L4 7-8). She spent three weeks in bed “& then could not write; perhaps for another three” (D3 218).

Leonard Woolf and Virginia’s physician blamed her “rackety life in Berlin” for her physical state during the weeks following the couple’s Berlin sojourn.

Woolf had mixed feelings about that city. The positive ones are connected with seeing Sackville-West, while the negative are about Berlin itself.

According to Jan Morris in Travels With Virginia Woolf, Woolf wrote in her diary that she would “never again” visit Berlin, as she thought it “the ugliest town in the world” (152). It took me a few minutes of page turning to track down Morris’s references, finally locating them in the fourth volume of Woolf’s letters.

On the positive side, Woolf writes the following in her Jan. 27 letter to Sackville-West, “I’m much better today. Berlin was quite worth it anyhow” (L4 8). And a day later she reiterates that sentiment by writing, “Well anyhow it was worth the week with you” (L4 8).

Here are more of her thoughts about Germany — and the Germans:

  • “But Lord! what a horror Berlin and diplomacy are!” (L4 9).
  • “There were two Germans in the carriage — fat, greasy, the woman with broken nails. The man peeled an orange for her. She squeezed his hand. It was repulsive” (L4 12).
  • “Berlin glamour seems only that of Woolworths and Lyons Corner House — its immeasurable mediocrity still affects me” (L4 13).
  • “Berlin was great fun in many ways — humans and pictures. Never again though” (L4 15).
  • “Berlin was very exhausting; very large; very cold; lots of music” (L4 19).
  • “I suppose Berlin, which is the ugliest of cities, did me in somehow” (L4 21).

The Woolfs also spent three days motoring through Germany in 1935, traveling with their marmoset Mitz. Coming as it did during Hitler’s reign, this trip was less pleasant. They were troubled by swastikas, anti-Semitic banners, a 10-minute delay at customs and crowds lining the street to salute a Nazi official.

In her diary, Woolf complained of their own “obsequiousness gradually turning to anger. Nerves rather frayed. A sense of stupid mass feeling masked by good temper” (D4 311).

Fallada’s book, first published in 1931, was written as the Weimar Republic was collapsing. Penguin’s version is the first English translation of that work. His 1947 novel about German resistance against the Nazis, Alone in Berlin, became a best-seller in the UK in 2010.

Note: Read Virginia Woolf’s Trip Through Nazi Germany, a post dated March 8, 2012, and Virginia Woolf and Hitler’s Black List, dated Jan. 22, 2012. Both are posted on ‘s The Virginia Woolf Blog. (Posted Jan. 31, 2013)

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Roy Johnson of the Mantex website is kind enough to keep Blogging Woolf posted about updates to its information about Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Here are links to recent Woolf-related book reviews:

Read more about author Harris and her work:

 

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