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The Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore in Maastricht is a 13th century gothic architecture becomes a bookstore through continuos dialogue between history and modernity. In Maastricht, Selexyz Dominicanen is a project with multiple souls, where tradition and innovative solutions come together over a good book and a good cup of coffee.
In the Classical world, Mercury, the god of merchants, was also considered the messenger of the gods and the protector of swindlers. Since then, trade has been traditionally labeled as “amoral,” a notion that gained ground during Christianity, when St. Nicholas was named the patron saint of thieves and merchants and St. Thomas Aquinas concluded that traders would be kept from entering the Kingdom of Heaven seeing that temptation figured as an integral part of their profession.
The disorientation visitors encounter upon entering the Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore in Maastricht is likely atavic in nature. The building that houses the store is in fact a Gothic church consecrated in 1294 by the Order of Predicators founded by St. Dominic. The church has not hosted a religious function since 1794, when the church was confiscated by Napoleon’s army for military purposes. Since then, the space has been used as a town archive, warehouse and even an inglorious site for bike storage. In 2005, Boekhandels Groep Nederland (BGN) decided to give new life to the building by transforming it into what is now one of the world’s most incredible bookstores.
The interior design by the Amsterdam-based firm Merkx+Girod Architecten creates retail space by taking advantage of the spatial magnificence of the church’s architecture. To satisfy BGN’s need for 1,200 m2 of selling space and given that the church’s floor area is of only 750 m2, Evelyn Merkx and Patrice Girod thought to insert an over-sized walk-in bookcase. The two upper levels therefore compensate for the lack of surface area, enabling the transversal use of space.
The imposing bookcase created by Keijsers Interior Projects is positioned on the right side of the building, between the central and lateral naves, and encompasses the stone columns. A series of stairs lead visitors up the black steel walk-in bookcase, providing an up close and personal view of the vaults of the nave, enthralling them with a nearsighted view of the frescoes and revealing an unknown perspective. In stark contrast, the left side of the church retains the original height of the building with low tables placed parallel to the central nave as if to lead the visitor toward a sort of hypothetical altar. The left nave features low, horizontal tables and vertical book shelves along the walls to create thematic islands separated by the steady rhythm of the columns. The lighting, which is an all but integral part of the store’s design, manifests itself in the chorus by way of a traditional chandelier above the crucifix-shaped table located in the café area. Here, with the left side housing the bar area, a series of tables, poufs and armchairs mimic the curved line of the chorus to a raised platform.
The Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore, for which Merkx+Girod was awarded the Lensvelt de Architect prize in 2007, welcomes about 700,000 visitors each year and showcases 25,000 books and 45,000 volumes.
Design: Satijn Plus Architects, Merkx+Girod
Destination: Maastricht, Netherlands
Text: Giulia Gerosa
©2012 Mida Editore s.r.l
By the book’s editor, Nicola Bennett
In 1964 the English author Joan Grant, famed for her best-selling “far memory” novels such as Winged Pharaoh and Scarlet Feather, visited the Association for Research and Enlightenment at Virginia Beach with her husband Dr Denys Kelsey.
There they gave a series of lectures and Joan’s first lecture was titled, with typical simplicity, “Why I believe in Reincarnation.”Some readers may remember it. She began:
Early this month I stood on the deck of a liner, watching the soaring towers of New York rising from the sea. Half a century ago I stood on the deck of another liner, coming into the same harbour and experiencing the same pleasurable emotions.
If I were asked to prove than in October 1964 I came to New York on the Queen Elizabeth, I could easily do so. My passport would confirm the date of my arrival, and if there is no Cunard label on any of our suitcases, there is probably a notation on the ship’s passenger list. But it would be more difficult to prove that in October 1914 I came to New York in the Lusitania.How do I know that both these episodes really happened? How do I know that a child of seven is an earlier version of the woman of fifty seven who is talking to you now? The answer is, of course, obvious; I know because both experiences are part of my memory.
The best reason I can give you for my belief in reincarnation is that I was born with it. And I was twelve years old before it dawned on me that everyone else had not been born with it too. Until then I thought that to mention anything which had happened to me before I was born annoyed people only because it was something no-one talked about in polite society.
The society she refers to was Edwardian England. Joan Grant was born on 12th April 1907 making this year her centennial. Her mother Blanche was a celebrated beauty with a mysterious past and psychic powers which she so family rumour had it exploited professionally as Mlle Voyer, with rooms in London’s West End in the 1890s.
Blanche foretold the sinking of the Titanic, but she appears to have been little more than perplexed and irritated by her daughter’s propensity for seeing people whom others did not and later – as Joan grew older, dismissed her vivid dreams of soldiers fighting at the Front as nightmares.
Her husband – the scientist J F Marshall, known as Jack to his friends who made his name as the author of The British Mosquitoes, still the standard work – was as dedicated to the rational as his wife to the irrational. A staunch atheist, he would examine Joan’s far-fetched claims with scientific rigour, only according to Joan – to find them corroborated.
But of course the 19th century, in both the US and the UK, had witnessed a love affair between science and the paranormal with famous scientists such as her father’s friend Sir Oliver Lodge, who investigated telepathy and ghosts with the same enthusiasm as he discovered electromagnetism.
As a young woman Joan remembered trying to “bluff” herself into pretending that the psychic 9/10ths of her didn’t exist. It was only in 1933 that her first husband Leslie Grant persuaded her to try psychometry.
In her autobiography, Far Memory, she describes the moment when she pressed the hilt of the sword against her forehead: “I made my mind a blank and expected it to stay like that.
To my surprise, visual images appeared as though I were seeing them through a third eye set between and slightly above my eyebrows.”It was in this way that she discovered the lifetime she recorded in Winged Pharaoh, her first and most successful book, published to instant acclaim in October 1937.
It was with her second husband Charles Beatty that she began to use her “far sight” to see into other people’s past lives. During what they called “Gold Key” sessions at their farmhouse deep in Wales they began to practise what she described later as “high speed psychotherapy” on the friends and acquaintances who flooded through their doors in need of rest and recuperation from the traumas of wartime.
However it was only when Joan met Denys Kelsey, a trained psychiatrist who had been using hypnosis as a way of facilitating his clients’ recall of difficult or obscure memories and been astonished to discover some of them were describing the moment of conception and before, that Joan was able to realise her dream of creating a therapeutic environment where she could use her psychic abilities and old wisdom to use in helping other people with what would now be called “past life regression therapy”.
From 1962 until the early 1970s Joan and Denys welcomed clients to their house in a beautiful valley in France as well as working in New York and London.
The A.R.E. lectures, which were also given at the University of Virginia at the invitation of Professor Ian Stevenson, set out to explain their particular theories of reincarnation and the ethics they derived from it as the basis for their form of therapy.
Joan began her second lecture thus:
When I read in the September issue of the A.R.E. Bulletin that some of my books were “psychically received”, I thought I had better begin this talk by explaining that the faculty of far-memory is in no way concerned with information or ideas received from any outside entity.
The faculty is in no sense magical, mystical, or super-natural. It is the result of energy expended in acquiring a technique, by which a current personality can re-live the experience of an earlier personality in the same series. In fact, like every other ability, far memory is the result of practice.
The idea that some-people are born gifted, as though their abilities depended on the whims of good, or bad, fairies, who were invited, or not invited, to their christenings, is suitable for a bed-time story; but totally inappropriate to the robust reality of reincarnation.
For reincarnation is a robust reality; and we betray it unless we forthrightly accept entire responsibility for our past, our present, and our future. So we must accept that there are no gifts; there are only acquired abilities…
And she concluded:
Looking back to my childhood, or down a vista of millennia, I see no change in the principles of benign living. What are these basic principles?
That every individual is entirely responsible for his behaviour, and for his reaction to circumstance.
That physical age is irrelevant. The wise are born wise and the sour old person will become a sour baby, unless he changes his attitudes before death, or during the excarnate period.
Those labels of rank, or class, or nationality, or race, or creed, or sex, are so transitory that in the long run they are trivial.
And that character, which has nothing to do with intellect or skill, can evolve only by increasing our capacity to love, and to become lovable.
These basic principles are implicit in a belief in reincarnation; and it is the privilege of all of us to help each other to put them into practice.
I think that of all the lives I can remember, the most concise and effective instructions for living I have learned was when I was a pre-historic North American Indian: they believed that only one question needs to be answered before you could enter their Heaven the “happy hunting grounds”.The question was: “How many people are happier because you were born?”Note:
Joan Grant Speaking from the Heart, Ethics, Reincarnation and What It Means to Be Human edited by Nicola Bennett. Jane Lahr and Sophia is a collection of Joan Grant’s unpublished teachings and writings including her A.R.E. lectures, and comes out this October from the Overlook Press in company with new paperback editions of “Winged Pharaoh” and “Scarlet Feather”.
Reference: The Intuitive-Connections Network
Writers around the world who have not yet published a book, now is your chance!
More details can be found on the Shakespeare and Company website.
About The Prize
The Paris Literary Prize is an international novella competition for unpublished writers. Any topic is welcome.
Shakespeare and Company has a long-standing tradition of opening its doors to aspiring writers and in keeping with that philosophy, the 10,000€ Paris Literary Prize is open to writers from around the world who have not yet published a book.
We have long been admirers of the novella, a genre which includes such classics as The Old Man and the Sea, Animal Farm, L’Étranger and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The Paris Literary Prize celebrates this small but perfectly formed genre while giving a unique opportunity to writers whose voices have not yet been heard.
There are three Paris Literary Prize awards:
The Paris Literary Prize award: 10,000 Euros
Two Paris Literary Prize Runner-up awards: 2,000 Euros each
All three winners will be invited to a weekend stay in Paris to attend the
Prize ceremony and read from their work at a special event at
Shakespeare and Company.
Last year, the winner of the Paris Literary Prize was Rosa Rankin-Gee for The Last Kings of Sark ; the two runners-up were Adam Biles for Grey Cats, and Agustin Maes for Newborn.
Selection Process & Jury
The selection process for the Paris Literary Prize occurs in two phases. First, our dedicated team of readers (numbering 12 in 2011) goes through each submission in search of exceptional stories, voices and craft and a long list of roughly 10% of entrants is then chosen for closer inspection. After many hours of reading and debate, this is again reduced to form the short list, between 10 and 15 entrants. This is where our Jury takes over, spending a month with the texts before selecting the winner and two runners-up.
To ensure the quality and diversity of the selections, each submission is considered by several readers (for instance, in 2011 each text was viewed at least five times).
The identity of all entrants is withheld throughout the process.
Erica Wagner will again be chairing the jury for this year’s prize, with the remaining members to be decided shortly. For the list of 2011 readers and jury go to the Paris Literary Prize site.
Bloomsday is a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer, James Joyce, during which the events of his novel Ulysses (which is set on 16 June 1904) are relived. It is observed annually on 16 June in Dublin elsewhere. Joyce chose the date as it was the date of his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle: they walked to the Dublin suburb of Ringsend. The name derives from Leopold Bloom, protagonist of Ulysses.
The English portmanteau word Bloomsday is usually used in Irish as well, though some purist publications call it Lá Bloom.
Bloomsday (a term Joyce himself did not employ) was invented in 1954, on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy Magazine) and the novelist Flann O’Brien organised what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route. They were joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce (a dentist who, as Joyce’s cousin, represented the family interest) and AJ Leventhal (Registrar of Trinity College, Dublin). Ryan had engaged two horse drawn cabs, of the old-fashioned kind, which in Ulysses Mr. Bloom and his friends drive to poor Paddy Dignam’s funeral. The party were assigned roles from the novel. They planned to travel round the city through the day, visiting in turn the scenes of the novel, ending at night in what had once been the brothel quarter of the city, the area which Joyce had called Nighttown. The pilgrimage was abandoned halfway through, when the weary Lestrygonians to inebriation and rancour at the Bailey pub in the city centre, which Ryan then owned, and at which, in 1967, he installed the door to No. 7 Eccles Street (Leopold Bloom’s front door), having rescued it from demolition. A Bloomsday record of 1954, informally filmed by John Ryan, follows this pilgrimage.
A beautiful and unusual image of Colette
Persephone Books are exquisite. Take a look at their website. This is the May, 2012 newsletter.
30 May 2012
Well, we are ready for the Jubilee weekend – the Union Jack in the window (on the ironing board and plus iron) and the window boxes planted with red, white and blue petunias. We are all hoping that Sunday will be as glorious as this Canaletto – River Thames with St Paul’s Cathedral on Lord Mayor’s Day c. 1747-8.:
Then on Tuesday we are having a neighbours’ tea party – cucumber sandwiches and cake out of Emma Bridgewater cake tins.
When we were in Los Angeles we saw the posters for the new film called Hemingway and Gellhorn and we had a little giggle because of course we ¬– and every Persephone reader ¬ ¬– can’t wait to see the film: Martha Gellhorn was not only a journalist but an incredible novelist, A Stricken Field (1940) being probably her best novel, and Hemingway was, well, Hemingway. The reason for the giggle is that it’s hard to imagine the two words Gellhorn and Hemingway having even remotely mass appeal. No matter, the film is obviously memorable, here is a review, scroll down for the trailer; the sooner the film opens in the UK the better, we can’t wait.
Talking of incredible women – English Heritage has just put up four new blue plaque – and all to women: Constance Spry, Elizabeth Bowen, Jean Rhys and Elisabeth Welch.
And this English Heritage page makes it plain that they are working on putting up a plaque to Martha Gellhorn, as well as other hitherto unsung women. Talking of which, a Berthe Morisot exhibition has just finished in Paris. She was a spectacular artist. The Financial Times wrote about her here .‘The only woman to exhibit in the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874, such was her standing that Degas declared: “We think Berthe Morisot’s name and talent are too important for us do without.” Yet Morisot was no Amazon….She suffered for her art, and her art suffered as a result. The oeuvre itself, top-heavy with images of women and children – in living-rooms, blossom-bursting gardens and sunlit, shady parks – testifies to an artist devoted to the domestic, intimate and private…It was Morisot’s fate to be born in an epoch that would have frowned on any woman painter who dared to venture, à la Monet and Caillebotte, into the public realm. (That women were only permitted to enrol in L’École des Beaux-Arts two years after her death, and that her death certificate recorded her as having “no profession” reveals much about the challenges she faced.)’
Another pioneering woman: the novelist Elizabeth Taylor. There will be a conference about her life and work in Cambridge on Saturday July 7th. Here are the abstracts of the papers that will be delivered. Anglia Ruskin has a tradition of hosting very good conferences about ‘neglected women writers’.
Most Persephone readers will be familiar with David Gentleman’s work, in part because he drew the shop for us in 2001 and his drawing is on our website here..He is a superb artist and now his new book London You’re Beautiful is bringing him new admirers. Here is a fascinating video about David and about the book.Tavistock Square is below. Congratulations too to his daughter Amelia Gentleman for winning the Orwell Prize for Journalism last week.
The Independent on Sunday ran an article abut Rachel Ferguson in which it called Alas, Poor Lady her most interesting book. And in 1976 Noel Streatfeild was on Desert Island Discs – you can listen to this here. And do look out for details of an exhibition by the brilliant Anne-Catherine Phillips .
Finally, last weekend Persephone Books was at the Steyning Literary Festival. There is a most beautiful walk from Steyning and the First World War poet Philip Johnson wrote this about it:
I can’t forget the lane that goes from Steyning to the Ring
In summer time, and on the Down how larks and linnets sing
High in the sun. The wind comes off the sea, and Oh the air!
I never knew till now that life in old days was so fair.
But now I know it in this filthy rat infested ditch
When every shell may spare or kill – and God alone knows which.
And I am made a beast of prey, and this trench is my lair
My God! I never knew till now that those days were so fair.
So we assault in half an hour, and – it’s a silly thing –
I can’t forget the narrow lane to Chanctonbury Ring.
59 Lambs Conduit Street
30 May 2012 I