Tag Archives: Waiting for Robert Capa

Six Degrees of Separation – from The Beauty Myth to Waiting for Robert Capa #6Degrees

Six Degrees of Separation is a meme hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best. It works like this: each month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the others on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month we’re starting with Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth which I remember reading when it was first published. It encapsulated my own views about the way in which women pursue an impossible ideal of beauty and the money made from that pursuit. Sadly, it seems to me that this has only got worse and can now be extended to include young men. Not the kind of equality I want to see.

Lightening the tone a little, the beauty industry is closely linked to fashion which takes me to Lauren Weisberger’s bestseller The Devil Wears Prada set in the offices of a fashion magazine. I haven’t read the book but I have seen Meryl Streep’s star turn as the magazine’s editor hell-bent on keeping her staff in their places.

Glen David Gold’s Carter Beats the Devil was one of my favourite books the year it was published. Set in 1920s America, it’s a tale of daring and loneliness as the magician Charles Carter takes ever greater risks on stage. When the President dies shortly after seeing Carter’s act, the performer becomes the object of Secret Service attention. Riveting stuff!

I have to admit that I haven’t read Ted Lewis’ gangster caper Get Carter but my crime-reading partner says it’s great. I have seen the film which stars Michael Caine as the eponymous hero, though.

Caine appeared in an entirely different role in Lasse Hallström’s excellent adaptation of John Irving’s compassionate novel The Cider House Rules. Set in an orphanage where unmarried women come to have their babies, it’s about Homer Wells who learns the founder’s secret and finds himself reluctantly continuing it when Wilbur no longer can.

Leaping from New England to Gloucesteshire for Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie which many UK readers will have read at school. Lee’s colourful memoir of his childhood and early manhood in the Cotswold village of Slad probably needs to be taken with a pinch of salt but it’s thoroughly enjoyable nevertheless.

Lee also wrote about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War in A Moment of War. The Hungarian photographer and founder member of the Magnum photographic co-operative Robert Capa made his name recording the Civil War. In her novel, Waiting for Robert Capa, Susana Fortes writes about his affair with Gerda Taro who died in the war. Taro’s photographic talents were sadly overlooked, barely acknowledged at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre I visited in Budapest.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from a feminist analysis of the beauty industry to a woman photographer in the Spanish Civil War. Part of the fun of this meme is comparing the very different routes other bloggers take from each month’s starting point. If you’re interested, you can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #6Degrees, check out the links over at Kate’s blog or perhaps even join in.

Five Days in Budapest and a Bit of a Book

I’ve been wanting to go to Budapest for some time. I remember it popping up on the departure board at Munich station when H and I caught the train down to the Dolomites for a walking holiday a few years back. Then we hopped on and off the Hamburg to Budapest train last year but veered off from Bratislava to Vienna. We’d thought about another, shorter railway journey Margaret Island (Budapest)taking in the city but plumped for a long weekend break instead. The trip seemed to be jinxed in the weeks running up to it: first thanks to Ryanair’s fit of cancellations (we were lucky) then a health crisis for H’s father who, fortunately, was well enough for us go after all.

Spending much of our first day on Margaret Island, slap in the middle of the Danube which divides Buda from Pest, was a much-needed laid back start after all that stress and finally getting to bed at 2 am after the flight. It’s a large and lovely area of green space, beautifully planted with trees just on the autumnal turn with squabbling red squirrels running up and down them. There’s a splendidly kitsch musical fountain at one end which knocks the Las Vegas Bellagio’s into a cocked hat. Hard to do it justice but, as ever, YouTube comes to the rescue.Museum of Applies Arts (Budapest)

The following day we crossed the river and wandered around leafy Buda, taking the cog railway a little way into the hills. Back over the Danube to Pest after lunch in search of a bit of culture we headed for the Museum of Applied Arts, unfortunately closed for renovation but it was enough just to see the outside. Readers of this blog who’ve followed my travels House of Art Nouveau (Budapest)around the Baltics, Central Europe and Antwerp will know that I’ve a weakness for Art Nouveau architecture, the more extravagantly flamboyant the better. It’s the sheer bonkersness of it all, and you can’t get more bonkers than the Museum of Applied Arts, although there are many rivals for that in Budapest. The rather more restrained Bedő House, whose upper floors house a museum, is an excellent example of the Secessionist architecture we’d seen in Vienna last year but if it’s extravagance you want – and I did – the former Török Bank fits the bill nicely. Impossible to walk very far in Budapest without coming across yet another extraordinarily ornate building. If you fancy seeing a little more outrageously exuberant architecture you might like to visit this Pinterest site.

Sunday seemed like a good day to visit the Great Synagogue but apparently every other tourist in Budapest had the same idea so we went to the Orthodox Synagogue instead. I’d expected it to be Orthodox synagogure (Budapest)somewhat spartan but it turned out to be anything but with its gorgeously painted walls and stained-glass windows. On to the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre, our only bit of culture thanks to the glorious weather, housed in a beautiful, converted Art Deco cinema. Capa famously documented the Spanish Civil War as did his Polish photographer wife, Gerda Taro, who was killed in action. Sadly, Taro doesn’t get much of a mention at the centre. I remember reading Susana Fortes’s novel based on their lives, Waiting for Robert Capa, which tells their story from her point of view, and enjoying it very much.

With the museums closed and another bright shiny autumn day in the offing, we decided to spend Monday morning in City Park after a brief visit to Heroes’ Square in front of which were parked a huge number of police vans and cars, a reminder that Hungary is not quite the free and easy state it might appear when walking its capital’s streets. We spent our last evening wandering around both sides of the river, marvelling at the gorgeously lit Parliament, Parliament (Budapest)a palace of democracy, over which hung a huge harvest moon. Five days, and we’d barely scratched the surface of this lovely city with its elegant tree-lined boulevards. We need to come back to visit at least one of its many baths, take the Children’s Railway around the Buda Hills and eat more fabulous cake at the stylish Cover imageDunapark.

And the book? Not much luck with reading on this holiday. My first book was pleasant enough but hardly worth mentioning. The second was Louisa Young’s Devotion, the third in a series which began with My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You set against the backdrop of the First World War. Young moves her characters on to the interwar years taking some of them to Italy where Il Duce is on the rise. Unlike the first two, both of which I loved, I found it a little difficult to get into and am contemplating giving it up.