Anne-Marie Lescourret (2014) Aby Warburg ou la tentation du regard, Hazan: Paris.

Review by Victor Claass

Last year, French philosopher, journalist, translator and biographer Marie-Anne Lescourret published an ambitious biography of Aby Warburg. The 400-page tome adds another entry to the massive Warburgian bibliography that includes, as Lescourret comments in her introduction, more than 3,500 works. Lescourret’s Aby Warburg ou la tentation du regard is a milestone in France, contributing to the Weiterlesen

K. H. Barth (1859-60) Reisen und Entdeckungen in Nord- und Central-Afrika in den Jahren 1849 bis 1855, 5 vols (Gotha: Justus Perthes): Inventing African Art History

Misunderstandings can be quite productive sometimes – or at least historically interesting. Such is the case of the German geographer and pioneering Africanist Karl Heinrich Barth (1821-65). Among many other things, Barth was the first to describe the splendid rock paintings that can be found in the Lybian desert. His description of them can be found at pp. 207-17 in volume 1 of his 1859-60, 5-volume publication Reisen und Entdeckungen in Nord- und Central-Afrika in den Jahren 1849 bis 1855, which is conveniently now freely available courtesy of the Internet Archive. The images are today probably known best from their appearance in Michael Ondaatje’s novel “The English Patient” (and it’s screen-adaptation), in which the so-called ‚cave of swimmers‘ plays a crucial part in the narrative.

Rock art from the Libyan site, now widely known from the Michael Ondaatje novel 'The English Patient' and its 1996 film adaptation.

Rock art from the Libyan site, now widely known from the Michael Ondaatje novel ‚The English Patient‘ and its 1996 film adaptation.

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E. T. A. Hoffmann (1817) Der Sandmann: the Puzzle of Olimpia

By Philipp Ekardt

Along with its central characters – Nathanael, a young student; the optician Coppelius; and Olimpia, his daughter – E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1817 story Der Sandmann has firmly established a place for itself in the European cultural canon.1 For instance, the tale presented composer Jacques Offenbach with the material for one of the acts of his 1881 opéra fantastique Les contes d’Hoffmann. As Hoffmann’s story unfolds, Nathanael falls madly in love with Olimpia, while perhaps also falling into madness. Consequently, his discovery that she is actually an automaton constructed by her ‘father’ Coppelius, who in turn doubles as the menacing sandman Coppola out on the hunt for Nathanael’s eyes, hovers in an insolubly ambiguous state between the literary depiction of a mad person’s delusions and the representation of a world in which the common laws of reality don’t apply. As such the text has served as prime subject matter for by now classical interpretations and first rank theorizations. Weiterlesen