Klimt and Judith II

An' de walls came tumblin' down

(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…

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The Seven Years’ Cake War: Sachertorte

Emma Rose Millar

Sachertorte_DSC03027_retouched

With its velvety chocolate icing and lashings of tangy apricot jam, Sachertorte has become Austria’s national dessert. But the history of this luxurious chocolate cake is as rich and as dark as the Sachertorte itself.

In 1832 Prince Clemens Lother Wensel Metternich, the Austrian State Chancellor placed an order for a special dessert for himself and his dinner guests. Orders were sent to the court kitchen where there was instant mayhem; the royal pastry chef was sick. When it became clear that none of the cooks knew what to make, the 16 year old apprentice, Franz Sacher rolled up his sleeves and set about creating a dessert which was to be celebrated to this day. According to legend the recipe came from his sister Anna. The prince’s guests fell in love with the indulgent chocolate cake, and the Sachertorte was born.

klemens_von_metternich_bio Prince Clemens Lother Wensel Metternich

This was only the…

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Klimt and Judith I

An' de walls came tumblin' down

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…

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Café on the Beach

Kathy Sharp

It always seems a romantic idea to be the kind of writer who sits in a café, writing materials spread across the table, watching the world go by, working through numerous cups of coffee as the masterpiece novel takes shape – you get the picture. Thus were the Harry Potter stories born to J K Rowling, so the story goes. There is much to be said for this approach, compared to, say, sitting alone at home writing.

Now, I am fortunate in having a perfectly nice little room to use as a study, and I’ve written three novels in it, too – but it’s very easy to be distracted from the writing process by household chores, the internet, the garden, the internet, phone calls, the internet, other people in the house, and, er, the internet. So having a place to visit where you can write, uninterrupted, in a stimulating setting…

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Tim's Blog

Regular readers of this blog will have picked up that I’m in the middle of writing a novel (you can find some posts about it in the May and August archives). A feature it shares with my last one, Revolution Day, is that although the main narrative is set in the present, the memories of one of the key characters, stretching back decades, play an important role in the story.  In this case (unlike Revolution Day), the memories concerned are rooted in historical events, even though the character’s personal experiences are fictional. This has the happy consequence that it requires a bit of historical research, something I had very much enjoyed doing for my first novel, Zeus of Ithome.

The period in question, in this case, was the Second World War. My character, Herbert, was a tail gunner in Bomber Command, and subsequently a prisoner of war. He is initially  unwilling to talk about his experiences with his…

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