Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust (French pronunciation: [maʁsɛl pʁust]; 10 July 1871 – 18 November 1922) was a French novelist, critic and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time; earlier translated as Remembrance of Things Past). It was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927.

Proust was born in Auteuil (the southern sector of Paris’ then-rustic 16th arrondissement) at the home of his great-uncle, two months after the Treaty of Frankfurt formally ended the Franco-Prussian War. His birth took place during the violence that surrounded the suppression of the Paris Commune, and his childhood corresponds with the consolidation of the French Third Republic. Much of In Search of Lost Time concerns the vast changes, most particularly the decline of the aristocracy and the rise of the middle classes that occurred in France during the Third Republic and the fin de siècle.

Proust’s father, Achille Adrien Proust, was a prominent pathologist and epidemiologist, responsible for studying and attempting to remedy the causes and movements of cholera through Europe and Asia; he was the author of many articles and books on medicine and hygiene. Proust’s mother, Jeanne Clémence Weil, was the daughter of a rich and cultured Jewish family from Alsace. She was literate and well-read; her letters demonstrate a well-developed sense of humour, and her command of English was sufficient for her to provide the necessary assistance to her son’s later attempts to translate John Ruskin.

By the age of nine, Proust had his first serious asthma attack, and thereafter he was considered a sickly child. Proust spent long holidays in the village of Illiers. This village, combined with recollections of his great-uncle’s house in Auteuil, became the model for the fictional town of Combray, where some of the most important scenes of In Search of Lost Time take place. (Illiers was renamed Illiers-Combray on the occasion of the Proust centenary celebrations.)

In 1882, at the age of eleven, Proust became a pupil at the Lycée Condorcet, but his education was disrupted because of his illness. Despite this he excelled in literature, receiving an award in his final year. It was through his classmates that he was able to gain access to some of the salons of the upper bourgeoisie, providing him with copious material for In Search of Lost Time.

Despite his poor health, Proust served a year (1889–90) as an enlisted man in the French army, stationed at Coligny Barracks in Orléans, an experience that provided a lengthy episode in The Guermantes’ Way, part three of his novel. As a young man, Proust was a dilettante and a social climber whose aspirations as a writer were hampered by his lack of discipline. His reputation from this period, as a snob and an amateur, contributed to his later troubles with getting Swann’s Way, the first part of his large-scale novel, published in 1913.

Proust had a close relationship with his mother. To appease his father, who insisted that he pursue a career, Proust obtained a volunteer position at the Bibliothèque Mazarine in the summer of 1896. After exerting considerable effort, he obtained a sick leave that extended for several years until he was considered to have resigned. He never worked at his job, and he did not move from his parents’ apartment until after both were dead.

Proust, who was homosexual, was one of the first European novelists to mention homosexuality openly and at length in the parts of À la recherche du temps perdu which deal with the Baron de Charlus.

His life and family circle changed considerably between 1900 and 1905. In February 1903, Proust’s brother Robert married and left the family home. His father died in November of the same year. Finally, and most crushingly, Proust’s beloved mother died in September 1905. She left him a considerable inheritance. His health throughout this period continued to deteriorate.

Proust spent the last three years of his life mostly confined to his cork-lined bedroom, sleeping during the day and working at night to complete his novel. He died of pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess in 1922. He was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Source:  Wiki

A castell is a human tower built traditionally in festivals at many locations within Catalonia. At these festivals, several colles castelleres or teams often succeed in building and dismantling a tower’s structure. On November 16, 2010, castells were declared by UNESCO to be amongst the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

The tradition of building castells originated in Valls, near the city of Tarragona, in the southern part of Catalonia towards the end of the 18th century. Later it developed a following in other regions of Catalonia and, since 1981, when the first castell of 9 levels of the 20th century was built, it has become very popular in most of Catalonia and even Majorca. The only 5 teams that have built complex gamma extra castells are from Valls, Vilafranca del Penedès, Terrassa and Mataró. In Catalan the word castell means castle.

A castell is considered a success when stages of its assembling and disassembling, can be done in complete succession. The assembly is complete once all castellers have climbed into their designated places, and the enxaneta climbs into place at the top and raises one hand with four fingers erect, in a gesture said to symbolize the stripes of the Catalan flag. The enxaneta then climbs down the other side of the castell, after which the remaining levels of castellers descend in highest-to-lowest order until all have reached safety.

Aside from the people who climb to form the upper parts of the tower, others are needed to form the pinya, or bottom base of the castell, to sustain its weight. Members of the pinya (most often men) also act as a ‘safety net’ if the tower structure collapses, cushioning the fall of people from the upper levels.

The castell is built in two phases. First, the pinya the base of the tower is formed. People forming higher levels of the tower move to a position from which they can easily get to their place in the tower. This is done slowly and carefully, and as subsequent base levels are completed the castellers in the pinya determine if their base is solid enough for construction to continue.

Then, when the signal to proceed is given, bands begin to play the traditional Toc de Castells music as a hush comes over spectators of the event. The upper layers of the tower are built as quickly as possible in order to put minimal strain on the lower castellers, who bear most of the weight of the castell. The disassembly of the castell, done amidst the cheering of the crowd, is often the most treacherous stage of the event.

There is a form of the Castell, generally referred to as ‘rising’, in which each successive layer is added from the bottom by lifting the castell into the air, stage by stage. It is held that this form takes even more skill and strength and a great deal of practice. Four levels complete have been observed and five attempted, but it is said that the record is six or perhaps seven.

Typically castellers wear white trousers, a black sash, a bandana and a coloured shirt often bearing the team’s emblem. A differently coloured shirt indicates which team a participant is in. Team Castellers de Barcelona wear red shirts while Castellers de Vilafranca wear green shirts.

The sash (faixa) is the most important part of their outfit, since it supports the lower back and is used by other castellers in the team as a foothold or handhold when climbing up the tower. This tasselled piece of cloth varies in length and width and depends on the casteller’s position inside the tower and also on choice.

The length of the sash ranges from 1.5 to 12 m, and usually is shorter for those higher up in the castell. Performing castellers usually go barefoot as to minimise injures upon each other as they climb to their position and also for sensitivity when balancing and to have better feel and hold each other.

The arrangement of castellers can be into a multi-tiered structure and the highest has a height spanning of nine or ten people from ground up. Accidents are seldom during the construction of a castell, however as in bull runs ambulance are stationed nearby just in case a person needs to be immediately taken to hospital. Fatal accidents do occur where on August 6, 2006, in Mataró a young casteller fell off the formation of a castell and died. Prior to this, the previous death of a participant was in 1981 in Torredembarra.

The motto of Castellers is “Força, equilibri, valor i seny” (Strength, balance, courage and reason).

  • Strength: A casteller is usually a stocky person. The first castellers were peasants that were accustomed to holding great weights and were under much physical exertion.
  • Balance: For supporting other above in the castell while relying on those below for support requires a strong sense of balance and trust.
  • Courage: The most important characteristic for castellers, especially for young children forming the highest levels of the castell.
  • Reason: Rehearsing and performing requires a great deal of planning and reasoning. Any error can cause the structure to fail and break apart.

Source:  Wiki

Related: A day in the life of a ‘castells’ climber earns two minutes of YouTube fame

How wrong could we be?

Architect and designer Oscar Tusquets wishes to apologize for a controversial 1960s manifesto


In the early 1960s, while still a student, I was one of the instigators of a manifesto that opposed continuing work on the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The text was unconditionally supported by the entire intelligentsia of the period, from Bruno Zevi to Julio Carlo Argan, Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier. Although its publication triggered a strong reaction and construction work resumed with renewed vigor, we remained convinced that this was a mistake of monumental proportions.

But now the pope has consecrated the temple, it’s time to reconsider. My doubts actually began when I saw the majestic central nave going up. My rejection took an even bigger hit when Alfons Soldevila, an excellent architect, assured me that if only I got to know the temple in depth, I would change my mind. He said this was the most important building in the 20th century, and was willing to prove it. So I visited the temple from the bottom up (over 60 meters in height), and I was left speechless.

It is true that in the areas that Gaudí left unspecified, there are two serious problems: one is that the people who carried on the project lacked the talent to interpret Gaudí using his own language or to enter into a dialogue with him. This means that nearly all the details added after his death are an eyesore: stainless steel and glass handrails, harsh lighting, pavements, glass windows and in general, decorative elements that fail to live up to the structure as a whole. Still, these details do not take away from the immense quality of the monument, and could even be replaced in a desirable future.

The second, more serious problem is the challenge of finding contemporary artists able to carry out the maestro’s figurative projects. Gaudí meant to imitate medieval cathedrals by explaining the Holy Scriptures on the cathedral’s façade. This was no easy task in the early 20th century, but Gaudí’s genius came up with a solution that was borderline kitsch: the Fachada del Nacimiento features walls that wrinkle up to form figures, many of which were obtained using molds of real people and animals. The painful result on the Fachada de la Pasión reveals the true difficulty of pursuing this line of work. And there is still the main wall, the Fachada de la Gloria, left to do.

But our main objection to continuing the project was the fact that we did not know what Gaudí would have done, since he used to improvise and his blueprints were destroyed at the beginning of the Civil War. Any re-interpretation would amount to a betrayal, we thought. If project leaders had listened to us 50 years ago, this marvel would not exist in its present state. How many people would visit it? This temple never had economic support from the institutions; instead it lives off the donations of its two million yearly visitors. It is being financed like a true medieval cathedral. I don’t know if the completed work will be the best architectural project of the last century… but it will certainly be the greatest religious building of the last three.

HOW TO WATCH THIS VIDEO:. When you see text in white, stop the video ( ▌▌) and read it (it’s only presented for two seconds). When finished, press ‘play’ again (►). Simple comme bonjour!
The texts are quotations from Proust’s monumental novel: In Search of Lost Time (À la Recherche du Temps Perdu). To read the whole volume in English see:…

The scene of the duchess’s red shoes is characteristic for his work, and could form a good start reading the whole book (seven volumes!). For more on the red shoes of the duchess, see Yolande Jansen (academic stuff):…

The images are from Volker Schlöndorff’s movie (1984): Swann in Love (Un amour de Swann), starring Jeremy Irons (Charles Swann), Fanny Ardant (Duchesse de Guermantes), Jacques Boudet (Duke de Guermantes).
Music: Camille Saint-Saëns, Adagio of the Sonata for Piano and Violin no. 1 in D minor, op. 75. Proust scholars have speculated endlessly on what is the “real life” equivalent of Proust’s famous “little phrase”. The adagio is one of the suggestions. To download this music in mp3:…

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