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Living With the Land: Four Seasons in Tibet • Lu Nan • Magnum Photos
“As part of an ongoing series, Living With the Land, we speak to Magnum photographers whose work explores a way of life tied closely to nature.

The  inhabitants of rural Tibet—as seen through the lens of Magnum photographer Lu Nan—live a relentlessly tough existence. From morning until night – when photographed near the turn of the millenium – they had endless work to do; in the spring, they sow, in the autumn, they harvest, before the summer, they shear wool which they twist into yarns. When they weren’t farming, they were sewing and weaving clothes and quilts. They are materially poor and their survival is closely bound to the whims of the weather. But, as Lu Nan explains, “Tibetan peasants do not talk about nature [as a separate entity], they are part of nature.”

In Tibet, the vast majority of peasants are Buddhists, but their religious faith is rarely fixed upon ceremony. “It is integrated into their daily life. This embodies itself in their attitude towards Nature, divinities and other living beings, as well as towards birth, aging, sickness, death and so on,” says Lu Nan. “Peasants do not use pesticides. Even if they are given out for free by the government, they still refuse to use them. The reason is very simple: pesticides will kill bugs. Life is fully respected here.”

Lu Nan spent seven years documenting these communities, resulting in the project titled, Four Seasons, which made up the third and final chapter of his Trilogy series. From 1996 to 2004, he made nine trips to Tibet and stayed three to four months each time, living alongside his subjects. His approach was methodical; he generally lodged at a government township and would visit any villages within a 2.5 hour walking distance from where he was staying. “On my last two trips, between August 2002 and May 2004, I worked in Tibet for fifteen months—six months for the first time and nine months for the second. During the work for Four Seasons, I photographed the entire spring sowing twice and the entire autumn harvest four times.”

Eighty-five percent of Tibetans are rural workers, and live lives that are fundamentally little removed from that of their ancestors. They plow their fields with oxen and horses, reap with sickles, and winnow wheat with the wind. Lu Nan witnessed a poetry in this machineless life. “What we hear is the ‘yo-heave-ho’ of driving draught animals, the songs of the women in the harvest, loudly thanking God for bestowing a bountiful harvest and the sound of threshing,” he says.

As a nationality, Tibetans value relationships deeply, especially among family members, says Lu Nan. “When you visit one family, if only the children are in the home, you can’t ask them where their parents are. Because of the harsh environment, poverty and lack of medical care, one of their parents may well have died. The children may begin to weep [if] asked such a question,” he explains. “Therefore, when one visits a family, one should instead ask how many people there are in the family and who they are and then you know whether the children’s parents are still alive.” Friendship outside of the family unit is also fundamental to their survival. “For example, when one family builds a house, every family in the village will send one person to help,” he adds.

Four Seasons offers a powerful and intimate study of a group of people with a profound connection to the land they live upon. This in turn leads to a deep appreciation of the present, evident in Lu Nan’s portraits. Quiet pleasure—and often sheer joy—is taken in tea making, braiding hair, lifting wheat, roasting barley, sitting with family or taking rest in the sun. “In their peaceful inner state, Tibetan peasants live and work leisurely and at ease, without being trapped by the past or disturbed by the future,” explains Lu Nan. “This is the state of happiness according to Buddhism, which resonates with the blessedness sought by Epicureanism, Stoicism and Spinozism.”

The project was heavily influenced by the work of German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.“Goethe’s belief in the infinite value of living in the present and his overall vision of everything determines the level of Four Seasons,” says Lu Nan. “During the seven years of photographing Four Seasons, no matter how familiar I was with the peasants’ lifestyle and their customs, I was always prepared to leave empty-handed before I went to Tibet, because the fascination of life lies in its impermanence, which is also the inspiration and solace of life for me.””
tibet  lunan  photography  nature  morethanhuman  weather  seasons  time  multispecies  buddhism  religion  belief  faith  animals  agriculture  farming  happiness  epicureanism  stoicism  spinozism  goethe  spinoza  relationships  life  living  peasants  machines  land  landscape  geography  pleasure  pleasures  simplicity  leisure  work 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Translations by Kathryn Nuernberger | Poetry Foundation
"I want to believe we can’t see anything
we don’t have a word for.

When I look out the window and say green, I mean sea green,
I mean moss green, I mean gray, I mean pale and also
electrically flecked with white and I mean green
in its damp way of glowing off a leaf.

Scheele’s green, the green of Renaissance painters,
is a sodium carbonate solution heated to ninety degrees
as arsenious oxide is stirred in. Sodium displaces copper,
resulting in a green precipitate that is sometimes used
as insecticide. When I say green I mean
a shiny green bug eating a yellow leaf.

Before synthetics, not every painter could afford a swathe
of blue. Shocking pink, aka neon, aka kinky pink,
wasn’t even on the market. I want to believe Andy Warhol
invented it in 1967 and ever since no one’s eyes
have been the same. There were sunsets before,
but without that hot shocking neon Marilyn, a desert sky
was just cataract smears. I want to believe this.

The pale green of lichen and half-finished leaves
filling my window is a palette very far from carnation
or bougainvillea, but to look out is to understand it is not,
is to understand what it is not. I stare out the window a lot.
Between the beginning and the end the leaves unfolded.
I looked out one morning and everything was unfamiliar
as if I was looking at the green you could only see
if you’d never known synthetic colors existed.

I’ve drawn into myself people say.
We understand, they say.

There are people who only have words for red
and black and white, and I wonder if they even see
the trees at the edge of the grass
or the green storms coming out of the west.
There are people who use the same word for green
and red and brown, and I wonder if red
seems so urgently bright pouring from the body
when there is no green for it to fall against.

In his treatise on color Wittgenstein asked,
“Can’t we imagine certain people
having a different geometry of colour than we do?”

I want to believe the eye doesn’t see green until it has a name,
because I don’t want anything to look the way it did before.

Van Gogh painted pink flowers, but the pink faded
and curators labeled the work “White Roses” by mistake.

The world in my window is a color the Greeks called chlorol.
When I learned the word I was newly pregnant
and the first pale lichens had just speckled the silver branches.
The pines and the lichens in the chill drizzle were glowing green
and a book in my lap said chlorol was one of the untranslatable
words. The vibrating glow pleased me then, as a finger
dipped in sugar pleased me then. I said the word aloud
for the baby to hear. Chlorol. I imagined the baby
could only see hot pink and crimson inside its tiny universe,
but if you can see what I’m seeing, the word for it
is chlorol. It’s one of the things you’ll like out here.

Nineteenth century critics mocked painters who cast shadows
in unexpected colors. After noticing green cypresses do drop red
shadows, Goethe chastised them. “The eye demands
completeness and seeks to eke out the colorific circle in itself.”
He tells of a trick of light that had him pacing a row of poppies
to see the flaming petals again and figure out why.

Over and over again Wittgenstein frets the problem of translucence.
Why is there no clear white?
He wants to see the world through white-tinted glasses,
but all he finds is mist.

At first I felt as if the baby had fallen away
like a blue shadow on the snow.

Then I felt like I killed the baby
in the way you can be thinking about something else
and drop a heavy platter by mistake.

Sometimes I feel like I was stupid
to have thought I was pregnant at all.

Color is an illusion, a response to the vibrating universe
of electrons. Light strikes a leaf and there’s an explosion
where it lands. When colors change, electromagnetic fields
are colliding. The wind is not the only thing moving the trees.

Once when I went into those woods I saw a single hot pink orchid
on the hillside and I had to keep reminding myself not to
tell the baby about the beautiful small things I was seeing.
So, hot pink has been here forever and I don’t even care
about that color or how Andy Warhol showed me an orchid.
I hate pink. It makes my eyes burn."
vi:datatellign  poetry  names  naming  colors  words  green  kathrynnuernberger  wittgenstein  goethe  vangogh  andywarhol  illusion  vision  sight  seeing  pink  color  eyes 
january 2018 by robertogreco
OUTWARD FROM NOTHINGNESS » Interview: Felipe W.Martinez On Translating Joao Guimarães Rosa
"Translation is a utopian concept. In truth, all translation is impossible. This is even the case with translations that are generally accepted as “definitive” (for the time). Chapman’s 17th century translation of Homer’s Iliad was once the definitive English translation, but was replaced a hundred years later by Alexander Pope’s translation. Of course, this provisional nature of the product of translation is no reason to throw our hands up and say enough! –Which is what’s seemed to happen with the work of Guimarães Rosa in many cases, it’s been largely absent from the English language for decades now.

When I said just now that Translation is impossible, I mean the utopian concept of translation is impossible. Just as determining an ideal reader is impossible, and, essentially, communication, in many ways, is impossible. Walter Benjamin asks: “what does a work of Literature really say? A work of literature tells very little to those who understand it–even they must grapple to “understand” the work. Ultimately it is the work of effort that matters, the willingness of the translator to approach Guimarães Rosa. The process. The toil, the struggle, the attempt to point in the direction of art."



"I learned Portuguese for a year before I began the translation, not because I thought I could translate Grande Sertão: Veredas, but just because I wanted to be able to read Grande Sertão: Veredas. As I learned the language, I inched closer and closer to being able to read the original. Once I could, I realized I could record what I was reading, and that, with research and the right dictionaries, I could even translate. What are translators after all but readers who write what they read? The renowned translator, Gregory Rabassa, translated One Hundred Years of Solitude as he read the work for the first time. I’m following his lead in this translation. I’m discovering the work and translating it at the same time."



"I think Guimarães Rosa once said something to the effect of You can tell a man by the way he tells his stories, the words he uses. I’m paraphrasing. So, man creates himself through his language, and that language gives shape to his world. The only way to change himself and the world, is to change his language. Essentially: the words make the man. But Guimarães Rosa’s neologisms were not invented merely to complicate the work. True, a single neologism might be made up of three similar words, from three different languages, with two or three possible meanings–but, he knew what he was doing. He was drawing life out of every language he could touch upon, modern and ancient, present and lost, new and, sometimes, invented, all in attempt to more fully translate the world around and inside of him. This does complicate the translation process, but only to the extent that we can’t ever be certain we’ve grasped the author’s complete intention. I consult an array of dictionaries when translating. To translate a fragment of the author’s intention, I think, can be just as amazing as anything we might expect from a perfect/complete translation. The Brazilian poet, Haroldo de Campos, quotes Goethe in an epigram to one of his poem: “Every entelechy is, namely, a fragment of eternity.” I always think about this."
felipemartinez  2013  guimarãesrosa  joãoguimarãesrosa  brasil  brazil  translation  portuguese  walterbenjamin  goethe  haroldodecampos  neologisms 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Nietzsche, Use and Abuse of History (e-text)
[Google cache of: http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/Nietzsche/history.htm ]

"This is a parable for every individual among us. He must organize the chaos in himself by recalling in himself his own real needs. His honesty, his more courageous and more genuine character, must at some point or other struggle against what will only be constantly repeated, relearned, and imitated. He begins then to grasp that culture can still be something other than a decoration of life, that is, basically always only pretence and disguise; for all ornamentation covers over what is decorated. So the Greek idea of culture reveals itself to him, in opposition to the Roman, the idea of culture as a new and improved nature, without inner and outer, without pretence and convention, culture as a unanimous sense of living, thinking, appearing, and willing. Thus, he learns out of his own experience that it was the higher power of moral nature through which the Greeks attained their victory over all other cultures and that each increase of truthfulness must also be…"
nietzsche  history  goethe  culture  greeks  romans  youth  honesty  morality  toread  via:timcarmody 
july 2011 by robertogreco

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