The best new books, music, art and films to keep you thoughtful and delighted in the coming months.
For centuries the leaves of date palms have provided shelter from the extreme climate of the Arabian peninsula. In this vibrantly illustrated coffee-table book Sandra Piesik traces how the palm leaf has been adapted from a material of necessity to a slick contemporary staple of Western architecture.
Bolaño’s last book, found posthumously in 2003, is now published in English. The story focuses on an unlikely set of characters including a war games champion. The tremendous philosophical weight of this writer is immediately visible. Mediocrity and violence, the familiar and the desperately alien leave the reader mesmerised.
There are few better comforts in winter than curling up with a fantastic selection of short stories, all the better when they’re from the land of green and gloom itself: Ireland. The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story ranges from lyrical, to dark, to comic and back again, with stories by Frank O’Connor and Mary Lavin, among many others.
Despite the subject matter being the Italian Renaissance, this is very much a book of today. Drawing on recent scholarship, Campbell and Cole make new approaches accessible to students and non-specialists while maintaining a fiercely intelligent edge. This is the largest and most comprehensive textbook on the subject – sure to make a Botticelli lover out of anyone.
John Segovia is an American obsessed with the history of South America who moves from the US to the coastal desert of Peru where he falls in love with Pilar, a local woman. As soon as his good fortune arrives it is taken away when John is made a widower with a baby – and a killer is at large.
Through a series of essays, the author shines his torch on Picasso, Klee, Klein, Ruscha and others in a way that is both refreshing and clearly learned. What the book might lack in academic reference it makes up in a reassuring intellectual style that is bound to appeal to lovers of art and art history alike.
Harvey’s follow-up to her highly acclaimed 2009 novel Wilderness explores the obligations and bonds of brotherhood. After the death of his father, Leonard Deppling returns to London and moves in with his estranged brother William. William is a former lecturer and believes that happiness comes only from knowing oneself, a belief that leaves him isolated from his family, who want to know him.
Africa’s most populous country is still a huge enigma for the West. Saro-Wiwa has written an engaging travelogue which opens up this continent of a nation in a distinctively funny and intimate style. The author encapsulates the sights and sounds of the country in the real-life metaphor that is the extraordinary Transwonderland.
Arguably the greatest living author has dropped a magnum opus on the world. After entering a parallel dimension on a city expressway, a female assassin searches for a lost childhood friend. As a literary fraud and a sinister cult take over everyone’s lives, two moons rise in the sky. Welcome to Murakami’s world, simmering with a surreal creeping malevolence.
With more than 1,900 publishing houses from 40 countries, Guadalajara International Book Fair is the most important print gathering in Latin America. Navarro talks to Monocle about the 25th edition of the fair, taking place 26 November – 4 December.
Tell us more about this year’s edition of the fair.
We have become a major platform for emerging talents with up-and-coming writers from all over Latin America and rest of the world. Some of the names to check out are Dani Umpi (Uruguay), Giovanna Rivero (Bolivia), Pablo Raphael (Mexico), Miguel Syjuco (Philippines). One of the highlights this year is German Nobel prize winner Herta Müller’s public talk with another Nobel laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru.
How was the publishing industry affected by the global crisis?
People are still buying books, and the fair is not being really affected by the crisis because we opened the largest library store in the continent, and avid readers and visitors are investing in books. The industry is another story. I think that nowadays big publishers tend to be conservative, taking minimum risks and supporting projects that are more or less sure for the commercial revenue.
What is the current state of literature in Latin America?
It is alive and booming! This year, we started a project called The 25 Best Kept Secrets of Latin America: our team visited all the countries in Latin America and met with major publishers to discuss the writers they worked with. They were then asked to recommended particular authors who they believed were extraordinary.
Proving that “new folk in Kent” doesn’t solely mean immigrant fruit-pickers, this young singer-songwriter channels her grounding in the garden of England with a pastoral set that’s ideal autumn ear-work. With a leaf-rustle of fretwork here and a bonfire of lovelorn vanities there, Soraia is following in the yum-folk slipstream of Kate Walsh and Emmy the Great, but with a bit of electro to let us know that she’s no night-time scarf-knitter.
God, this is a bad name for a group, but let your ears do the judging and you’ll grasp a record of super-cool French electro with a rocky, dancey edge – un petit peu, les Freres Chemical, peut-etre? “Blue Steel” is a lazy, Little Dragon-ish electro-swoon, “Overdrive” sounds like Cliff Martinez re-scoring Mad Max. It’s for parties and headphones more than a book club soundtrack, so rearrange the sofas and damn well get dancing.
Ibrahim Maalouf, the nephew of writer Amin Maalouf, is about to release his third jazz album, Diagnostic. Maalouf is a famous trumpet player – he’s played with Sting, Amadou and Mariam, Salif Keita and on Max Reinhardt’s Late Junction. Famous for infusing oriental notes and melodies into jazz with the help of a specially-built trumpet that allows oriental quarter notes. Maalouf has also earned prizes in many of the major classical trumpet competitions around the world. In 2010, he was awarded the Instrumental Revelation of the Year Victory Prize.
The thing with DJs – happily – is that it’s not the 1990s so they don’t release overblown albums of hubristic roof-raising beats on major labels twice a year – they make a single here, a remix there and do their knob-twiddling thing live. Therefore, The Juan Maclean (that’s “John” to his mates) has come done this compilation of his clever way with the floor-filling stuff. Hot Chip fans will even buy the T-shirt.
The Scandinavian pop-genius conveyor belt might be zero-carbon and solar-powered nowadays but it’s no less efficient at churning out bloody brilliant girls – they all are – with winning tunes, toothsome looks and just enough weirdness to pop your bubblegum. Here you go, then – a Fever Ray for fans of Robyn or vice versa. Great pop!
What a lovely noise Bosco makes – it’s rockabilly swagger and whisky and rye-slugging country mixed with some Sun Records-era rhythm and blues, whipped up in an old-school synth mix. Everybody Wah sounds like a cowboy happily trapped in a computer game. It might be future rock or electro if it were done by Elvis. Listen to this and then Google the hell out of him next year – this’ll be a glorious year for this great racket.
What the hell’s going on in Copenhagen? Well, see that Q&A column over there? But specifically, good things are happening – these young chaps have made an unlikely piece of work that’s the most addictive record to have passed this desk in months – a lazy, lush, hooky, vaguely tropical thing that sounds like handsome Skandies playing Roxy Music playing Dire Straits’s “Follow Me Home”. Honestly. It’s that good.
This toothsome twosome prove that great Danes think alike. Josephine and Ina are almost as beautiful and mysterious as their songs and before you groan – go and see them live and tell us it ain’t so. Measured guitars, chamber pop arrangements, two-part harmonies and an always-live sound make this jump out of the speakers. They might be soundtracking a silent movie about lovelorn ladies in peril; they might just love a blue guitar. Either way, they’re fresh as daisies but wise to life.
Guitar, synths, multi-instrumental bits and bobs, an FX pedal – all so very experimental. And this time around Bradford Cox – he muchly of Deerhunter, he solely of Atlas Sound – has made all those intriguing sonic investigations into a really coherent, cogent, beautiful rock record. It’s alt-rock, it’s got its gauzy edges and refracted constituents, but it’s a damn pretty thing. Look, the horses are all still calm and just where you left them. Not scared at all.
This record is where pop went after it read the dictionary, showed-off a bit, wrote some copycat sonnets and finally got laid. Then, and only then, can people make such lovely, dreamy pop as this. Husband and wife, Keith and Hollie Kenniff are Julep and they’re married so they’ve clearly seen off all of the above. This is grown-up girl meets boy but still with starry eyes.
The BBC’s Radio 3 knackers its passport to bring the world things it might otherwise never hear. This compilation has 30 tracks from 18 countries as diverse as Cape Verde and Georgia, Mali and Japan. This is the good, non-po-faced stuff – this, really, is just the world’s best real pop.
Fake Diamond Records was launched in 2006 by three friends in a Copenhagen living room. Today, it is one of the trendiest indie labels in the Danish capital covering a wide range of music from the electric Oh Land to the melancholic The Late Great Fitzcarraldos.
How did you come about launching a new label in 2006, when no-one else would?
The idea initially was to release our friends’ music. We started the business while things were going bad, so we had to think creatively to discover new exciting artists.
How is the music industry in Denmark at the moment? Does anyone still buy CDs?
The industry has been really bad, but everything is slowly changing. People have started paying digital music and content so now the market is growing. Companies like Spotify are new here and the potential is endless.
How do you pick such a wide variety of artists?
We are interested in any kind of sound, as long as it’s something new, high-quality and we like it. We want to feel the dedication from the people behind the music.
Tell us about the Copenhagen music scene and your predictions for 2012.
Copenhagen is a cosmopolitan village, where we are influenced from all over the world but still end up with our own Scandinavian feeling. Many new Danish bands are coming out with exciting sounds; a lot of new vinyl stores are popping up and so on.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Right now it’s The Late Great Fitzcarraldos and Darkness Falls, then a new album by Giana Factory. We are also starting a project focused on feeding artists into our local scene.
Through a series of 65 traditional Japanese paintings and illustrations, including the distinct Nippon cartoons of manga, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art displays a narrative exhibition about Japan’s history with works that stretch from the 13th century to the 19th century. From Buddhist and Shinto tales to stories about brave Samurai warriors and romantic idylls, the Storytelling in Japanese Art retrospective (the first in the US devoted to the subject in more than 25 years) will please artists and historians alike.
In a time when Japan is confronted with reconsidering past decisions and architectural construction, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo hosts the very first comprehensive exhibition of the visionary Metabolism movement. The school of thought developed under Tange Kenzo’s influence in the 1960s and ignited Japan’s commitment to building organic cities in tune with the environment. Relevant in the current context, architect visitors will probably hope to root out hidden solutions to their present conundrums.
Kunsthaus Bregenz gallery takes the bold step of exhibiting Austrian uppercase-lettered artist VALIE EXPORT’s previously unseen work in a comprehensive archive. The exhibition showcases an intense experience of conceptual media, body performances and film art, together with original insights into VALIE EXPORT’s creative process – her train of thought is revealed through Polaroids, drawings, statements and collages. You might think nothing more could be revealed from the artist whose most important works were the provocative, audience-participatory, performance pieces entitled “Tapp und Tastkino” (Tap and Touch Cinema) and “Aktionshose: Genitalpanik” (Action Pants: Genital Panic). Well, it just has.
Bucharest hosts a multi-dimensional collection of the German side of the Fluxus art scene of the 1970s, featuring works of Joseph Beuys and Wolf Vostell. Should you, however, not be in the arty mood for an anti-art debate, do have a walk around the museum anyway: MNAC is a modern renovation incorporated into one wing of Nicolae Ceausescu’s enormous “People’s House” (the Romanian Parliament) – a walk through the endless rooms makes you feel like you’re already in a fluxus.
Two years after moving to its new building in the emerging Ciudad del Río neighbourhood, Medellín’s Museum of Modern Art is still throwing housewarming exhibitions. With La comedia y la tragedia, the MAMM pays tribute to Colombia’s notorious pop artist Beatriz González. Displaying 200 pieces of her colorful artwork, the show looks at the artist’s and country’s history from 1948 to 2010, including a set of her most popular paintings, a series of sardonic portrayals of Colombia’s late ex-president Julio César Turbay.
Tate Britain delves into its archives and sews together a variety of works from artists all over the world, unveiling a thorough exhibition that depicts the fundamental influence migration has had on British art. Putting together 500 years of art history and highlighting the global diffusion of ideas, from the Dutch to the American, it will feature artists as varied as Jacob Epstein, Piet Mondrian and the Black Audio Film Collective.
The MoMa is taking a meander down memory lane, recreating an exhibition of Diego Rivera’s work that was last seen nearly 80 years ago. In 1931, Rivera produced eight “portable” frescoes on-site, becoming the second artist ever to be the subject of a monograph exhibition at the MoMa. The key pieces of this exhibition will be displayed alongside drawings and designs for Rivera’s iconic mural that still adorns the Rockefeller Center.
If you are one of those who think they’ve seen it all when it comes to David Hockney’s pieces, you might be mistaken. From January to April, new works from the acclaimed British artist will be hanging from the walls of London’s Royal Academy of Arts as part of A Bigger Picture, an exhibition showcasing landscape paintings by the Pop Art icon, including commissioned art depicting the East Yorkshire countryside. The show includes Hockney’s iPad drawings and a sequence of films shot using 18 cameras.
Is there any better place to explore the philosophical concept of the “uncanny” than a converted warehouse in one of the focal areas of Istanbul’s gentrification movement? We think not. Istanbul Modern’s industrial building is hosting Uncanny Encounters, a collection of photographs from six Turkish female artists that explores the philosophical, socio-cultural, individual and artistic aspects of the uncanny and includes conversations with the artists and experts on the topic.
The creativity of chaos is the lynchpin of this travelling exhibition from the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The 200 works are all products of the avant-garde art movement, centred on Berlin, that rose like a phoenix out of a historical period that saw the First World War, the rise and fall of the Weimar Republic and the rumblings of Nazism.
The exhibition displays works by the iconic Brazilian expressionists Iberê Camargo, from the late 1980s until his death in 1994 when he was mainly focused on drawings. Spanish curator Adolfo Najas has made a fascinating selection of works, most of them never seen before. The breathtaking building was designed by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza.
It’s a strange contradiction of art theory that Manet’s main contribution to French art was his brightening and lightening of the palette while it was his dedication to black that separated him from other Impressionist artists. This exhibition celebrates Manet’s darker tones, presenting the master in a different light, it’s back to black and time to celebrate Manet as a graphic artist.
This is the story of a Midwest dad with apocalyptic dreams, who decides to secretly build a tornado shelter in his backyard. Yawn? Not yet. Jeff Nichols’ follow up to 2007’s Shotgun Stories goes beyond the predictable schizo scenario. After all, it is not about the story itself, but about the way it is told. Shot in Von Trier’s Melancholia-esque way with a convincing performance by Michael Shannon (who also played the lead in Nichols’ Shotgun Stories and also got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Revolutionary Road), Take Shelter is a captivating paranoia thriller that deservedly won the Critics Week Grand Prize at Croisette this year.
Associated with the New French Extremism wave, Bonello’s House of Tolerance is a period drama about a French brothel and its habitants in the middle of Belle Époque. The film is sprinkled with plenty of Bonello’s distinctive trademarks (think his award-wining Le Pornographe from 2001): there is an abundance of nudity, sex and, at times unnecessarily brutal violence. One thing’s undisputable though, it is a deftly shot pic by Bonello’s favourite cinematographer Josée Deshaies.
Argentinean director Giorgelli’s feature debut takes us on the road from Paraguay to Buenos Aires. It is a lonesome journey to self-discovery, loss and ultimately life. The film has won numerous awards on the festival circuit, including the Camera D’or in Cannes 2011.
“I’ve always wanted to make a film in which dream blends with reality, and visa-versa,” Czech director Jan Svankmajer tells the camera at the beginning of the film. Using a mix of cutout animation from photographs and live-action segments, Surviving Life does achieve an unparalleled dreamlike quality. Quirky, smart, and wholly unconventional this is a film for those who appreciate fringe cinema and aren’t afraid of a gigantic cutout tongue.
We can only imagine English director Phyllida Lloyd briefly scratching her head while thinking about who to cast for the role of Margaret Thatcher, smiling seconds after she sorted it. The one and only Meryl Streep, the actress who Lloyd previously worked with in Mamma Mia! successfully took on the role of Britain’s former prime minister in this entertaining biopic.
What was hiding behind the dry stare of one of England’s greatest writers? In Revealing Mr Maugham, documentarist Michael House explores the life of W Somerset Maugham, author of The Razor’s Edge and The Painted Veil (each of which was taken to cinema with acting by Bill Murray and Naomi Watts respectively). Special appearances and interviews with writers Armistead Maupin and Alexander McCall Smith help dissect Maughaum’s literary work.
An ageing rock star goes after his father’s tormentor, a fugitive Nazi war criminal who now lives in the US. Sean Penn and Frances McDormand are brilliant. The cherry though, is Penn character’s encounter with David Byrne himself, performing “This Must Be the Place” at a concert.
Thirty years since the AIDS epidemic emerged in San Francisco’s gay community, this new documentary provides a timely tribute. Through personal recounts, the deadly escalation of the virus is evocatively rendered. However, what quickly emerges is the respect, bravery and milestones that were seen in the wake of the outbreak. From the suave City Hall lobbyist to the single-mother nurse, to the florist at the Castro Street corner, Director David Weissman shows Frisco at its most inspirational.
Ever been in the orbit of a star? Colin Clark was for a season while third assistant director to Sir Larry Olivier on The Prince and the Showgirl and this is the film of the filming of that film. Michelle Williams is spellbinding as sexy, vulnerable Monroe, Kenneth Branagh brilliant as the bitchy and brittle knight of the stage. It’s a sumptuous, funny and moving lesson in forces of nature versus those that suppress them: performance, fame, love.
Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained – because Tarantino never gets it wrong.
Pedro Almodóvar’s Mina – because we love his dazzling mujeres temperamentales. Mucho.
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises – because the previous one was so picture perfect.
Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom – because we hope it is at least as good as The Royal Tenenbaums, or has the soundtrack brilliance of The Life Aquatic.
If the caliber of Béla Tarr’s fans are anything to go by then this celebration of his work is not to be missed. Gus Van Sant and Tilda Swinton both swear by the Hungarian director’s vigorously intellectual films. If this isn’t enough to sway you maybe this will, Tarr’s most recent film, The Turin Horse, won the Silver Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
DIFF began eight years ago with the intention to give an international platform to established or promising new filmmakers from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. This year’s festival will open with the Bollywood production Ladies vs Ricky Bahl and is, as usual, under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed, ruler of Dubai.
Arguably the most important film fest in the US, which has also put Utah’s Park City on the world’s culture map, Sundance is the place where the destiny of the most of the films you just read about has been decided. With John Cooper in charge, 2012’s film selection is expected to be one of the best so far.
Each year for 12 days since 1972, Rotterdam’s been hosting its own international film festival with a focus on independent and experimental cinema and video art. Besides the more predictable European film destinations, RIFF supports emerging talent from Asia, Africa, LAM and Central and Eastern Europe.
Now in its 34th edition this world-leading short film fest attracts more than 100 000 visitors a year, while about 3,000 industry pros gather on the look out for the next big thing in the 40-minute or under cinematography format.