Feeling winter coming on? Time to read ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ (1874) and ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ (1886)

I recently saw the 2015 film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd in the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast (a quick plug for what might be the world’s most comfortable cinema), and was struck by Hardy’s obsession with the relentless ferocity of the natural world. More accurately, perhaps, I was reminded of being struck by this theme when reading Hardy’s novels. (The … Continue reading Feeling winter coming on? Time to read ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ (1874) and ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ (1886)

When you miss home: saltless Tuscan bread in Dante’s Paradiso (La Divina Commedia, c. 1304-1321)

As I (Nico, clearly) am about to leave Italy once again, and as migrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East sadly gallop through Southern Europe to reach the better-off North, the Literary Kitchen today will offer you something from a most famous Italian writer who went through political exile: Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Dante was, of course, a privileged exile: being already a … Continue reading When you miss home: saltless Tuscan bread in Dante’s Paradiso (La Divina Commedia, c. 1304-1321)

Holes and histories: baguettes in Ciaran Carson’s ‘For All We Know’ (2008)

Belfast-born poet Ciaran Carson is one of the most accomplished wordsmiths to be found amongst the current generation of writers. Born in 1948, he has published over 29 volumes of poetry, prose and translations from Irish. Carson’s indefatigable flair for witty, convoluted, memorable story-telling is cemented in his 2008 volume, For All We Know. This is an absolutely beautiful and emotive novelistic sequence of not-quite-sonnets … Continue reading Holes and histories: baguettes in Ciaran Carson’s ‘For All We Know’ (2008)

Kneading bread: temptation in Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ (1862)

The nursery rhyme sounds of Christina Rossetti’s most famous poem, ‘Goblin Market’, chimed through my childhood and were probably among the earliest sources of my interest in poetry. Yet this ambivalent tale is underpinned by darkness, rhythmic instability, and contradictory interpretations. The narrative is simple: two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, hear goblins calling them to buy mysterious fruit. But they know they shouldn’t eat it. Laura’s willpower breaks … Continue reading Kneading bread: temptation in Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ (1862)

From farm to factory: bread in Michael McLaverty’s “Call my Brother Back” (1939)

  The next instalment in our culinary cruise through literature takes us to the north of Ireland and the work of the writer Michael McLaverty. Born in 1904, McLaverty is one of Belfast’s most accomplished proponents of the short story and novel form. His first and best known novel, Call my Brother Back (1939) is an understated, poignant elegy to rural life. Set during the … Continue reading From farm to factory: bread in Michael McLaverty’s “Call my Brother Back” (1939)