The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America is supported in its work by academic staff and students at the University of Essex, as well as external researchers. This community contributes texts and papers to our online catalogue and to other ESCALA publications.

Valerie Fraser

Livio Abramo's White Nights series text

This series of five woodcuts is inspired by Dostoyevsky's short story, White Nights, first published in 1848. Subtitled 'a sentimental story from the diary of a dreamer', this story charts a chance encounter between the narrator, an introverted, lonely young man who draws inspiration for his vivid waking dreams from the people and places he observes as he wanders the streets of St Petersburg, and Nastenka, an equally lonely young woman who spends her days reading and sewing, her skirt pinned to that of her blind, jealously protective grandmother. The strong contrasts of woodcut are well suited to the emotional intensity of the story as well as to its night-time setting. Abramo's combination of powerful narrative content with an unmistakably modern aesthetic found favour in Brazil with the writer Jorge Amado, who contrasted his work with what he regarded as the feebleness of modernist abstraction and surrealist tendencies. White Nights dates from 1955, two years after Abramo's return to Brazil from Europe. Dostoyevsky's story was also the source for Luchini Visconti's film Le Notte Bianchi of 1957 starring Marcello Mastroiani.

Valerie Fraser, 2009

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