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The Librarian's Choice

Hello everyone,in time for Easter, I'd like to share one of my favorite authors with you.

Day Laid On The Altar by Adria Bernardi: Set against the backdrop of sixteenth-century Italy, The Day Laid on the Altar re-creates a rich, vibrant world of art and beauty, in a tale that sweeps from a remote mountain village in the Tuscan hillside to Venice, where the master painter Titian grapples with the demands of fame and family while the plague is devastating Italy. Interweaving the lives of humble peasants and unsung artisans with celebrated painters and patrons, The Day Laid on the Altar is a powerful meditation on the meaning of art, the mystery of creation, the fervor of religion, and of lives -- great and small -- touched by genius.
It is a luminous work and I've enjoyed reading it again and again over the years. In fact, the second part of the book is written from the perspective of Titian's daughter and I found her description of keeping house for the father very moving. Let yourselves be surprised ;-)

For those of you who prefer short stories, then try In The Gathering Woods, also by Adria Bernardi. Through these short stories, we follow members of an Italian (and Italian-American) family through several generations. The connections between the characters of these stories are not always direct, and, in some cases, are more implied than stated. The stories could be read individually, or as a whole. Spanning time from roughly post-middle ages to the present, the pieces in this collection allow us not only to observe, but, in some cases, inhabit these characters.
My favorite story in this book is Noli Me Tangere, based on the painting by Titian in the National Galley in London. It is the most sensitive observation of the painting by a young woman, as she examines her own life, as much as this painting. It will make you want to look up the painting as you read the story.

And since we're all about painters in this week's recommendation, here's another one for you: Rembrandt's Whore by Sylvie Matton. A translation from the French (!), it will be the greatest disappointment to those people excited by the title hoping for a smutty gossip narrative...
What it is, is a fictional monologue of Hendrickje Stoffels, Rembrandt's last mistress. As a young girl she escapes the harsh realities of her poor home-town to become a servant in Rembrandt's household. Later on she becomes his lover and closest confidante, filling the void in his life resulting from the death of his wife and two of their children. 'Reborn at twenty' in Rembrandt's studio, exposed to beauty, truth, love and art, Hendrickje is fated to discover the hypocrisy of Amsterdam society, which ostracizes her and precipitates Rembrandt's final collapse.     

All that remains for this evening is to wish you a very Happy Easter!
Enjoy a weekend with your loved ones and an egg hunt that brings you inner discoveries - if not chocolate ones in the garden ;-)

I'd like to add a quote by famously un-religious author Jeanette Winterson from her column 06/2007:

The resurrection story is wonderful. We’ve all sat by the body or the grave of someone we’ve loved, and longed for them to return. In the Christ story it happens, not fancifully, I think, but as a deep truth about love itself, which does not die when the body dies. Like energy, real love cannot be lost. Its transformation beyond the body is part of our humanity, bitterly won but worth the discovery. We are more than machines, more than selfish genes. The big myths are reminders of this, and signposts to us to follow further into the possibilities of being human. It is too easy to accept a reductive point of view – and attractive because it demands no effort – but at the resurrection the first thing that has to happen is effort, as the great stone is rolled away from the tomb.

It is necessary to roll away whatever blocks new life – and it is hard work. When the angel has done it, he sits down on the stone, presumably to have a rest. It is a detail I love.
The stone rolled away, Jesus returns. I do not read this literally, but as a symbol of hope; that sacrifice and effort are not worthless, but that from such struggle comes a new beginning.

I wish you strength with your own hard work, whatever it may be.
Enjoy the sunshine and keep reading.
Your Librarian