Review by Dana Grigorcea's Weight of a Bird in Flying | EUROtoday

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What is artwork? The Romanian-French sculptor Constantin Brâncuși litigated this query between 1926 and 1928 with the American customs authorities, who declared his bronze sculpture “Oiseau dans l'espace” (Bird in Space) as manufactured items as a substitute of permitting it to cross by duty-free as artwork. Dana Grigorcea has devoted a feather-light novel to the artwork of creating a heavy piece of bronze float.

In February, the author Dora travels to a Ligurian seaside resort. Here her novel will lastly see the sunshine of day in regards to the sculptor Constantin, his time in New York and an “onyx” statuette with a phantasmagoric inside life that was created there underneath uncommon circumstances. With her baggage, Dora has her eight-year-old son Loris and an clearly symbolically charged nanny who’s on the similar time polyglot and never utterly fluent in any language. In a set with a view, the bohemian dream of each single artist begins, writing over breakfast specials by way of room service with a view of the ocean and the occasional sideways look at her son taking part in properly: “Why art if not to sharpen the senses, for a good thing and beautiful life?” The solely hazard threatens from a lover who’s each longed for and stored at a distance and whose title is “Regis”.

At least one author's block would now be anticipated. But “words flew to her, sentences, rhythms. She wrote herself into a frenzy – a fast dance, in secret joy at her omnipotence, having predetermined every chord and every step in this room.” The dance takes you to New York in the Roaring Twenties, to silent film divas and city girls and a sophisticated lady with a real cobra as a necklace, who, as the newly crowned heiress of the most important New York gallery, makes the artists dance like dolls. Instead of using “traditional evidence” and “work interpretation,” Dora Brâncuși approaches it with creative sensitivity. Instead of being a “pioneer of current discourses”, he turns into their muse, fictionalized into Constantin “Avis” – a “hint” that has grow to be literature, pointing to an artwork world wherein solely two letters separate stone and look.

Women's alternative as a central motif within the novel

Dana Grigorcea: “The weight of a bird in flight”.  Novel.  Penguin Verlag, Munich 2024. 224 pages, hardcover, €24.

Dana Grigorcea: “The weight of a bird in flight”. Novel. Penguin Verlag, Munich 2024. 224 pages, hardcover, €24.

Image: Penguin Publishers

Worlds which are 100 years aside are related by the illusionary and first mass artwork of cinema with the diva Alba Fantoni, who comes from the small Ligurian city. For their final silent movie, Constantin, who was reasonably disoriented in New York in comparison with contemporaries like Man Ray or Duchamp, would find yourself making a mock-up of his artwork – and expertise bitter disappointment. The circle closes with a Swiss basis that donates to the literary metamorphosis of the Statuette Hotel and Dolce Vita. They all have the identical title: Ladies' Choice – the central motif of the novel.

With tightrope strolling confidence, Grigorcea brings collectively the connection tales of half a dozen girls succinctly, aptly and with humorous laconicism. The gallery assistant Lidy seduces Constantin, not least with a fiery speech in regards to the that means of artwork; Over espresso, Laura tells us how she first landed her Tullio and later a extra glamorous lover in Sicily within the late Nineteen Fifties, and Dora, in a stunning transfer, frees herself from the person who has dominated her for twenty years. They are girls who’re unsuspicious from a feminist perspective, who discreetly and persistently escape the prescribed function fashions of a complete century and finally flip their like to canines, their very own sons or artwork. This is the good energy of Grigorcea's storytelling.

When it involves artwork manufacturing, the novel fades away

In comparability, the artwork discourse appears reasonably synthetic. The analogy to the sculptural “liberation from the stone” – which has already grow to be a platitude because it was based by the Renaissance sculptor Donatello – stays a metaphor. As eloquent because the novel is about its creation, when the spot in entrance of the resort within the Ligurian current turns into a New York cat and this turns into a spot once more, it’s equally speechless earlier than the creative course of. Symptomatically, the textual content fades out when the sculptor has unfold out his instruments to work on a tough river pebble within the resort room (like Dora) and solely returns with the mud that then covers all the things. The unfinished sculpture stays hidden underneath the blanket.

Hardly any fashionable sculptor had a extra intimate relationship together with his materials than Brâncuși. That's why it's a harmonious thought to have him create a sculptural dummy out of papier-mâché that doesn't simply function… lacking hyperlink connects the storylines, however wherein printed paper turns into an obvious (valuable) stone, solely to steer in flip to written paper. But right here too there’s a hole between mixing the paste and portray, which may have given physique to the reflections on the that means of artwork and the creation of artwork that float by the novel.

So what’s the purpose of artwork? She prepares “Joy” for Lidy, Constantin satisfies the misleading imitation of a chook name, and Dora needs to make use of her to deliver evil to an finish. As sympathetic because the optimistic, hedonistic solutions that “The Weight of a Bird While Flying” provides its characters are, the novel's celebration of the artwork of residing typically touches on the culinary facet – not least within the elaborate description of Ligurian specialties.

Dana Grigorcea: “The weight of a bird while flying”. Novel. Penguin Verlag, Munich 2024. 224 pages, hardcover, €24.