Weekly photo challenge: Curve

This week’s photo prompt, Curve, immediately made me think of the semicircular arches on the Catholic Basilica in Heliopolis, Cairo, or Basilica of the Virgin Mary. I’ve written about it and posted a few photos in other posts, for example here and here and here, but I have a fourth one from a different angle. It’s a church that’s not particularly Roman Catholic in a western European sense, but rather more like the Byzantine basilica, Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, which also has large semicircular arches on its sides, and multiple domes. The Heliopolis basilica is deceptively cake-like in this photo and doesn’t look too monumental, that is, until you look at the little man walking down the road!

Roman Catholic Basilica, Heliopolis, Cairo, c1941
Roman Catholic Basilica, Heliopolis, Cairo, c1941

I post these images for those who are interested in not-so-ancient Egyptian history; they are from my father’s war album, a collection of photos he took in 1941/42 as well as photos from his mates.

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Close

Once, when we were having a day in the country, not too far from the city, and in fact quite close to Canberra, we discovered not just the Googong dam and spillway, but, continuing a little further along, and crossing a causeway over the Queanbeyan River, we discovered an echidna coming from the river and heading for the road.

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We pulled over and, knowing how slow echidnas go, I took advantage of his handicap to photograph him up close.

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He was a very peaceful little fellow to observe. But he was wary of me, and, unable to run away, he hid his face, hoping he would become invisible. When echidnas feel endangered they try to bury themselves, but since I’d caught him on a rocky surface, it was all he could do to stick his snout in the sand.

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When he looked up and saw me still watching, he made an effort to escape to a place inaccessible to humans. And I have to admit, these brambly blackberry canes covered in thorns (an introduced invasive weed) would leave me scratched and bleeding if I tried to reach into them, but for a creature covered in long sharp quills, this is not a problem.

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I moved away and watched him turn about and head back to the road. Now I feared for his life, I’ve seen a lot of echidna roadkill, and knew he’d be history if it was not his lucky day. But as it turned out, not many cars passed this way while I was there. He made it to the other side, where I once again attempted to get up close. He made a beeline for a large and rather beautiful arrangement of deadwood. I tried to take his photo but he kept hiding his face behind the grey branches.

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Finally he went deep into a sort of cave of dead tree trunks and vegetation debris, and all I could see was his spiky rear end disappearing into the safe shadows. If you look carefully, you’ll see his round back at about the centre of this photo:

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Thanks to Ailsa at Where’s my backpack, I remembered my close encounter with a spiny spiky prickly thorny much-loved Australian animal, an echidna.

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The Mandrake

‘The Mandrake’, my translation of ‘La Mandragore’ by Jean Lorrain – about a princess who gives birth to a frog – has just been published in a new literary journal, Belmont Story Review. I missed its appearance in May in this first issue, and discovered it one afternoon this past week when searching randomly online. A delightful surprise!

Cover of first issue of Belmont Story Review
Cover of first issue of Belmont Story Review

Jean Lorrain was a French author of the Belle Époque who wrote fantastical stories and novels that were original but often bizarre. He was loathed for the caustic humour of his newspaper columns in which he attacked many of the leading figures of his era. Yet, while his perversions repelled readers, this participant in Belle Époque decadence was also a spectator who wrote sarcastic analyses of its morals: many of his stories encourage questions about prejudices, leaving a reader unmasked and uneasy. Lorrain was particularly renowned for his flamboyant homosexuality and an addiction to ether. No surprise, then, that he died quite young, at 51, in Paris. Today much of his work remains unread, even by the French.

I’ve translated a number of Lorrain’s short stories, with a few published in literary journals. Last year I decided to translate ‘La Mandragore’ (1899), a dark fairy tale brilliantly illustrated by Marcel Pille and available online in the original French edition at Gallica. I submitted my work to a few journals and this year was fortunate to have it accepted. When you’ve read the translation available in print from Amazon or for free on the site of the digital publisher, Issuu, I highly recommend you check out Gallica, where you’ll see amazing illustrations like the one below which will give you clues to the story about a Queen and her frog daughter. Oh, and of course there’s a mandrake, the plant with an eerily human-shaped root…  Illustration by Marcel Pille in original edition of 'La Mandragore' by Jean Lorrain. My translation, 'The Mandrake' has been published in The Belmont Story Review (no illustrations, unfortunately). A Spanish translation was published in 2015, with the original illustrations. Ilustración de Marcel Pille para la obra La Mandrágora, de Jean Lorraine.:

‘La Mandragore’ has also been translated into Spanish by Alicia Mariño and Luis Alberto, and it looks to be a beautiful edition that includes the original illustrations.

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