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Photo Friday

By Jennifer Tisdale

Each Friday, the Ransom Center shares photos from throughout the week that highlight a range of activities and collection holdings. We hope you enjoy these photos that reveal some of the everyday happenings at the Center.

Volunteer Emily Butts, a high school senior at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, uses the Vagelli board shear to cut paper and board to rehouse single leaves of handwritten documents, many on parchment, in the Center’s Medieval and Early Modern Manuscript Collection. Photo by Pete Smith.
Volunteer Emily Butts, a high school senior at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, uses the Vagelli board shear to cut paper and board to rehouse single leaves of handwritten documents, many on parchment, in the Center’s Medieval and Early Modern Manuscript Collection. Photo by Pete Smith.
Independent curator Donald Albrecht selects materials for the exhibition “I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America,” which opens at the Ransom Center in fall 2012. Photo by Pete Smith.
Independent curator Donald Albrecht selects materials for the exhibition “I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America,” which opens at the Ransom Center in fall 2012. Photo by Pete Smith.
The 2010-2011 undergraduate interns were honored for their contributions, ranging from addressing research queries to supporting exhibition planning and assisting in the preservation of the collections. Photo by Pete Smith.
The 2010-2011 undergraduate interns were honored for their contributions, ranging from addressing research queries to supporting exhibition planning and assisting in the preservation of the collections. Photo by Pete Smith.

Ransom Center helps to launch Magnum Photos's “Postcards From America” tomorrow

By David Coleman

Image courtesy of Magnum Photos.
Image courtesy of Magnum Photos.

“5 photographers, a writer, 2 weeks, a bus.” Thus begins a unique documentary project comprised of Magnum photographers Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Paolo Pellegrin, Alec Soth, Mikhael Subotzky, and writer Ginger Strand, who will be traveling from San Antonio to Oakland from May 12 to May 26 on the first of a series of trips across the country.

They’ve been blogging about it since the end of March, so there’s already plenty to see and read. You can follow them on various social media sites, and you can even post your own images at the “Postcards From America” Flickr site. At the end they will be mounting a special exhibition of images from the trip at the Starline in Oakland, and they promise to include some of the follower-contributed Flickr images as well.

The idea was born at a retreat where Magnum photographers talked about, of all things, photography. It’s exactly the type of independent project that was behind Magnum’s founding by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, and George Roger in 1947. Established to preserve the copyright of their work, the Magnum cooperative agency thus secured perpetual revenue from the photographers’ imagery. This watershed moment in photojournalism thereby allowed the photographers to break free from the news cycle and pursue more in-depth and independent projects like “Postcards From America.”

The Ransom Center is excited to participate in this unique documentary event, which comes as an outgrowth of our relationship with Magnum Photos.  In 2010 the Ransom Center joined in partnership with Magnum Photos and MSD Capital, LP to house some 200,000 original press prints from Magnum’s New York bureau. The Ransom Center has since created a preliminary inventory and opened the collection to students, faculty, and the general public. We continue to work with Magnum, including the Magnum Foundation, to add further research value to the collection.

The events on Friday, May 13, begin with a chance to informally meet and talk with the photographers between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. at their R.V., which will be parked on the north end of the Ransom Center plaza. This will be followed by a public discussion among the “Postcards” participants about photography and ways to picture America, held at 7 p.m. C.S.T. at Jessen Auditorium, Homer Rainey Hall, across the plaza from the Ransom Center. The program will be webcast live.

I hope you can join us.

Scholar explores work and career of writer Mulk Raj Anand

By Charlotte Nunes

 

Charlotte Nunes is a graduate student in English at The University of Texas at Austin. She used the Ransom Center collections to research her dissertation, “‘This Novel Social Fabric’: Transnational Anti-Imperialism and British Literary Modernity, 1913–1936.” One chapter examines Mulk Raj Anand’s novels Untouchable (1935) and Coolie (1936) in terms of Anand’s involvement in the Indian Progressive Writers’ Association in London during the mid-1930s.

The Harry Ransom Center’s notable holdings in international literature include both handwritten and typed manuscripts of the English-language novel Coolie (1935) by Indian writer Mulk Raj Anand (1905–2004). Today, a Penguin Twentieth Century Classics edition of Coolie is still in print. The novel chronicles the tragically short life of the young laborer Munoo in pre-independence India. The manuscripts available at the Ransom Center provide significant insights into Anand’s career-long investment in cross-cultural, cross-lingual, and cross-class exchange. Anand was born to a middle-class family in Peshawar and came of age in an increasingly anti-imperial political climate. He actively agitated against British imperialism in the years leading up to Indian independence in 1947. Yet at the same time, Anand’s early exposure to British culture and literature had a determinative effect on his literary-political career. He traveled to England in 1925 to study at University College London; he would remain based in London, though he frequently returned to India over the next two decades. Along with Ahmed Ali and other Anglophone Indian writers influential in the establishment of the Indian Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA) in London in 1935, Anand leveraged English-language fiction to advance the PWA objectives of affecting social justice in India and fostering interaction between writers internationally.

An examination of the Coolie manuscripts confirms Anand’s ambition to appeal to Anglophone audiences. On the back of page 571 of the handwritten version, for example, Anand scrawled a list of English-language newspapers including The Times of India, The Bombay Chronicle, The Sentinel, and The People. It’s fair to speculate that these were publications that Anand hoped might review and promote his novel once it was completed and published. The typed version, as well, bears evidence of Anand’s networking with British literary and political communities. A hand-printed note to the right side of the cover page reads, “typed 1935 by Celia Strachey.” Celia was the wife of the former British Labour Party politician John Strachey; that she typed the manuscript indicates Anand’s proximity to and engagement with British Labour and Marxist circles.

The manuscripts are yellowed, brittle, and slightly damaged in some areas. Nevertheless, they remain quite legible and offer insights into Anand’s writing process. For example, it’s interesting to observe in the handwritten version that several pages of continuous, unedited writing will often be followed by several pages of heavily marked-up material with entire sentences and passages vigorously scribbled out. It seems that Anand’s writerly flow was subject to considerable fluctuation. The typescript includes Anand’s extensive edits, in pencil; although he includes only a few notes about potential structural revisions, sentence-level edits abound. Compare the consequential last line of the novel as it appears in the handwritten version (page 646):

“But in the early hours of one unreal white night he passed away,—the tide of his life having reached the deeps of the sea and become one with the black waters of forgetfulness.”

And the edited, typed version (page 412):

“But in the early hours of one unreal white night he passed away,—the tide of his life having reached back to the deeps.”

Anand cut nearly the entire second half of the final line, including the phrase “black waters.” Notably, this phrase would appear in the title of his subsequent novel Across the Black Waters (1940), which tells the story of a division of Indian troops deployed in Flanders during World War I. The title references the Hindu prohibition of sea travel known as Kala Pani (“Black Water”). That Anand originally used the phrase “black waters” to denote the oblivion of death enriches the significance of the title of his later book.

It’s worth mentioning that in addition to the Coolie manuscripts, the Ransom Center holds several letters that Anand wrote to such influential literary figures as George Bernard Shaw, John Lehmann, and Henry Treece. The letters demonstrate that his attempts to promote his writing in England were frequently unsuccessful. In response to Anand’s submission, dated February 18, 1945, of a few pieces for publication in England, John Lehmann penciled notes directly on Anand’s letter (presumably in advance of composing an official rejection letter): “The story about ‘Appearances and Reality’ just might do, tho’ it follows a rather conventional pattern… The second story is quite appallingly written.” The letters also demonstrate Anand’s deep conviction that the circulation of literature internationally had a role to play in improving the material conditions of the world’s poor. He wrote to Shaw on March 2, 1949, “Unfortunately, the vast illiteracy in India makes for very poor sales of books. People prefer to buy bread when they can get it.” Yet, he wrote, “I need not emphasize how important is the need for the exchange of literature between the various countries of the world. In India we want to encourage the kind of thinking which is associated with European humanism and free thought.” Although a vocal anti-imperialist, Anand found much to admire in Britain’s cultural and intellectual traditions, and his career was saliently characterized by his investment in transnational literary and political solidarity.

Charlotte Nunes extends her thanks to Professor Snehal Shingavi for his feedback on this blog post.

Photo Friday

By Jennifer Tisdale

Each Friday, the Ransom Center shares photos from throughout the week that highlight a range of activities and collection holdings. We hope you enjoy these photos that reveal some of the everyday happenings at the Center.

Inspired by the 'Becoming Tennessee Williams' exhibition, students in Carrie Kaplan’s Theatre History class perform in the galleries. Photo by Pete Smith.
Inspired by the 'Becoming Tennessee Williams' exhibition, students in Carrie Kaplan’s Theatre History class perform in the galleries. Photo by Pete Smith.
Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley is interviewed by Mason Jones, videographer with the university’s Office of Public Affairs, about the arts and humanities. Photo by Pete Smith.
Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley is interviewed by Mason Jones, videographer with the university’s Office of Public Affairs, about the arts and humanities. Photo by Pete Smith.
The Ransom Center hosted the Poetry on the Plaza event 'Singers and Songwriters.' Photo by Pete Smith.
The Ransom Center hosted the Poetry on the Plaza event 'Singers and Songwriters.' Photo by Pete Smith.

New short story collection by Ransom Center author Julian Barnes released this week

By Courtney Reed

Cover of 'Pulse' by Julian Barnes
Cover of 'Pulse' by Julian Barnes

Pulse, Julian Barnes’s new book of short stories, came out on Tuesday, May 3. Comprised of 14 stories, Barnes examines the mysteries of love, death, and friendship. The stories traverse Italian vineyards and English seasides, spanning from the eighteenth century to modern day.

The Ransom Center acquired Barnes’s archive in 2000. The British writer’s papers span a 30-year career, including typescript drafts, printer’s copies, proofs, production material, and reviews of Barnes’s works.

According to Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley, “One of Britain’s major writers, Barnes is a versatile man of letters. From Flaubert’s Parrot to Love, Etc., Barnes’s fiction is rich and entertaining. His prose is as playful as it is supple and rich.”

Barnes’s first novel, Metroland, was published in 1980 and received the Somerset Maugham Award. The novel was later adapted into a 1997 film starring Christian Bale. Barnes then published two crime thrillers under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh, followed by his second novel, Before She Met Me, under his own name.

Describing his papers, Barnes wrote “Everything I do from the moment I am faced by what I recognize as the possibility—or pre-possibility—of a novel is contained within the archive. I have never thrown away more than the occasional (more or less duplicate) page of typescript. My archive therefore contains 98 or 99% of all the marks I make on paper as a novelist.”

Barnes is one of the writers featured in the Ransom Center’s current exhibition Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century, on display through July 31.

Alaskan explorer "Yukon" Yates publishes book about life’s adventures

By Alicia Dietrich

Walter “Yukon” Yates, 86, recently published the autobiography Breakaway, which documents his life as an Alaskan explorer, bush pilot, gold miner, airplane and airport builder, helicopter crash survivor, World War II veteran, documentary filmmaker, grizzly bear hostage, and all-around adventurer.

Yates’s story was detailed by filmmaker Warren Skaaren (1946–1990) in the documentary of the same name. Breakaway (1978) was the first film that Skaaren wrote and directed, and materials related to the film can be found in the Skaaren archive at the Ransom Center. Skaaren later worked on scripts for such films as Top Gun (1986), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Beetlejuice (1988), Days of Thunder (1990), and Batman (1989).

The archive includes correspondence between Yates and Skaaren as they scripted and planned the documentary and negotiated business terms, Skaaren’s notes on the film, promotional materials, photos, and fan letters.

Born in 1924, Walter Yates spent his early years on Burny Mountain (now called Yates Mountain) in Arkansas, living in a log house built by his father. At age 10 his family moved off the mountain and later moved to Texas. Yates loved to read adventure stories and dreamed of the day he would live some of his own. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17, one week before Pearl Harbor thrust the U.S. into World War II. He served in the South Pacific and was wounded on the island of Guadalcanal.

After Yates learned to fly, his adventures led him all over the world. His love of the wilderness drew him to the North Country where he built a log cabin 100 miles from the nearest neighbor and lived off the land for an entire year in isolation while filming the documentary Breakaway.

Tragedy nearly ended his adventurous life when his helicopter crashed and burned in British Columbia in 1978. Badly injured, he lay there for 14 days before being rescued by the Royal Canadian Air Force. The story made international news.

After his recovery, Yates spent several years gold mining in the Yukon Territory.

Yates has built several boats, two helicopters, and an airplane. As a real estate developer, he established many residential neighborhoods, including the fly-in subdivision called Breakaway Park in Cedar Park, Texas, where residents keep their planes in their backyards. He lives there today with his wife, Tracy.

 

Please click thumbnails below for larger images.