Art lessons

kievjuly21As a (freelance) teacher of Art and English, I’m always trying to think up new projects and ideas for lessons. Most of the time I try to take the lessons outside to parks, museums and galleries, where we can draw from observation and learn about art first-hand.

We also have some favourite classroom-based games, including:

– “What Am I?” (names of animals are drawn on numerous pieces of paper, each person sticks one to their forehead and tries to discover which it is by asking Yes/No questions like “Do I have hooves?”)

– “Exquisite Corpse”, aka “New Species” (each person draws part of a figure, then folds over the paper and passes it to the next person to complete)

– the self-explanatory “Keep-the-pencil-on-the-paper” and “No looking” drawings

– “Describe the picture” (one person picks a picture from an art book and describes it for the other person to draw)

On one of the rare occasions we weren’t out and about on my last visit to Kyiv, I came up with this very simple mosaic-making project. Suitable for all ages (with varying degrees of assistance).

How to make a paper mosaic Continue reading

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Return to Kiev

For the past few days I’ve been working in Kiev. As instability and violence continues to grow in Donetsk, my employers and many of my friends have relocated – hence my change of location too. The circumstances are permeated with so much sadness and worry for those families fleeing and broken up by the violence in the East, and Ukrainians across the country anxiously forseeing an invasion by the Russian army.

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St Sophia belltower

The reasons for being in Kiev are far from ideal; however, it’s been wonderful to have an excuse to visit this beautiful city so soon again. I’ve visited a few new places, discovered some incredible Ukrainian folk music and seen ballet and opera for the first time (and done some teaching too!).

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Street art. Chicken Kiev..?

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A protest outside the German embassy

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The son of Yaroslav, a struggling artist who sells his work on Andrii’vsky Descent, shows off his dad’s paintings

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A gala concert performance of opera and ballet at the National Theatre

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An exhibit in Ivan Gonchar museum, woven from corn. I am keen but yet to find out its name!

kievjuly09A chance encounter at the Golden Gate led to a pretty magical evening sitting on the grass, drinking kvaas and listening to singing and kobza-playing by Taras Kompanichenko and fellow folk musicians. More to follow on their music! In the meantime, here’s one of their songs – ‘De Libertate’ (On Liberty). Thanks to John Doe for the comment and additional info.

Kiev: St Sophia Cathedral

Built in the eleventh century, St Sophia cathedral is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Kiev – hence its rightful place on the World Heritage site list. The ancient building isn’t immediately obvious, having been cloaked in a cheerfully garish white, green, and gold Baroque facade in the eighteenth century. Inside, however, many of the original mosaics and frescoes survive, whilst floor tiles, graffiti and the ingenious structure of the building continue to be uncovered by conservators and archaeologists.

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The external walls of the cathedral, where areas of 18th century paint have been stripped back to reveal the original 11th century pinkish stone and brick structure

Draconian ladies in hooded green ponchos checked my ticket in every room, kept a watchful eye and prevented me from taking any but the sneakiest of photos, so most of these images are from other (linked) websites and the guide book I bought on the way out.

The cathedral’s history is intertwined with that of the Grand Princes of Kiev, Varangian Vikings who established their powerbase in Kiev in the ninth century. It’s now thought that Volodymyr I founded the building in 1011, then it was completed by his son, Yaroslav.

Volodymyr had converted himself and Kievan Rus to Christianity after pulling off an unlikely marriage to Byzantine princess “born in the purple” Anna. As sister to the powerful Emperor Basil II, the match to a pagan ‘barbarian’ who already had a number of wives seemed a doubtful one, but, nevertheless, the marriage went ahead. Through this diplomatic wedding contract, Volodymyr gained a tie to the powerful Byzantine imperial family, whilst Basil II gained military support against rival Bulgaria and a long term Christian ally.

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St Mark the Evangelist, writing

Anna herself is unlikely to have had much say in the matter, but she had a very important impact on her new home, judging by St Sophia and its art. The cathedral is named after Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The choice of and subject matter of the mosaic decoration shows this Byzantine influence, and may have been undertaken by artists sent from Constantinople.

Anna is depicted at least twice in the cathedral’s decoration: with her family in a procession portrait in the central apse, and in a fresco celebrating her entrance into Kiev.

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The high number of female saints depicted and choice of iconography may also signify Anna’s importance to the cathedral. The fresco below shows Mary receiving the precious purple and cochineal materials needed for her to make a veil for the temple of Jerusalem. This unusual choice of subject matter seems to identify Princess Anna with Mary, through the symbolic and status-bound colour purple. Anna’s title Porphyrogenitus – “born in the purple”, signifies her status as a member of the Imperial Byzantine family, born in the purple clad chamber of the Imperial palace.

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Mary Receiving the Purple and Cochineal. 11th-century fresco, Joachim and Anna’s Chapel

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Unknown saint

In the towers and upper gallery, reserved for the Prince and his family, there are many secular frescoes. Imagery includes the Hippodrome, dancers, musicians, acrobats, fighters, creatures and strange beasts. Some of the decorations, like the medallion below featuring a griffin, are reminiscent of the rich silk textiles woven in the Byzantine empire.

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fresco in the north tower, griffin

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fresco in the north tower, pair fighting

More details about the mosaics can be found here: http://sofiyskiy-sobor.polnaya.info/en/mosaics_st_sophia_cathedral.shtml and the frescoes here: http://sofiyskiy-sobor.polnaya.info/en/frescos_st_sophia_cathedral.shtml

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As I left the cathedral building, a white-haired man playing a multi-stringed instrument began singing. Here’s the resulting video I made of Stepan and his bandura (a Ukrainian folk instrument similar to the lute).

Kiev: Maidan

Walking through the centre of the city on the second day of my trip, I unwittingly wandered down Khreschatyk Street and into Maidan, where riots earlier this year led to the overthrowing of the government.

Maidan01Maidan02Although the streets have been peaceful for a while now, the effects of the protests and violence remain tangible. Blockades constructed from piles of tyres block off traffic at both ends of the street and square, and walls and stacks have been built from bricks taken up from the pavement. The pavement may be gone, but now pedestrians wander freely down the wide, previously traffic-filled street. A few years ago I took part in a large protest in London against the rise in tuition fees, and remember most of all how strange it felt to walk down the middle of the Strand, normally blaring with cars and buses. I imagine Kievans experience the same sensation now in Maidan.

Maidan03Maidan04Maidan05Now the area has become a strange sort of tourist attraction, with visitors having their photos taken in front of tanks and burnt-out cars. There’s even the odd ice cream seller. Shrines consisting of multicoloured clusters of candles in glass jars, keepsakes and photos remember those who died.

Maidan06As I approached the main square I was puzzled by the smell of burning, but then, seeing tents, realised that many protesters are still occupying the area. The bonfire smell came from the cooking of meals rather than tyres (I’d heard rumours that pigs and chickens were also being kept in the square but saw none during my visit).

Maidan07Maidan08Maidan11Maidan09After sheltering from the rain under the tall Independence monument, I wandered out of the square again, stopping to ask a man for directions. Since my Russian (let alone Ukrainian) and his English didn’t quite meet in the middle, he called a friend out from the tent to translate.

Before I knew it I was inside, drinking tea and eating homemade cake with Ted, Alicia and Anastasia, sitting amongst pillows and sleeping bags in a large, dimly lit tent. My hosts were from different parts of the country, and different walks of life, but had been brought together by a common cause. We didn’t talk politics too much (I think their occupation speaks for itself) but I was sad to learn that political unity had loosened familial ties; one woman had become estranged from her family in Donetsk because of their difference in opinion. I placidly accepted gifts of a book, an “I love Tymoshenko” pen and a rosary (we didn’t talk religion either) and made my goodbyes.Maidan10

Kiev: National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

NatMusUkrFolkArt13Perhaps my favourite museum I visited in Kiev, the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art is situated within the grounds of Pechersk Lavra, a huge monastery complex founded in the 11th century on the banks of the Dnieper.

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Entrance to Pechersk Lavra

This post is simply an overview of the museum and its contents, but I hope at a later date to research Ukrainian costume and its making and history in more detail, probably by picking one of the pieces below to start my research. Please comment if you are interested in any particular costumes or elements.

The incredibly informative and well-illustrated folkcostume.blogspot has a number of posts about Ukrainian dress and embroidery, so I recommend having a look to find out more about the items featured here.

Rushnyk

The Folk Museum (as I’ll refer to it from now on) has a huge display of embroidered rushnyk (pronounced ‘rooshnik’). As I mentioned in my last post on the Ivan Gonchar Museum, these strips of cloth have traditionally played an important role in rituals throughout life, being used in baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Rushnyk were traditionally made by individuals for use within families, but their organised production also developed into a sophisticated textile industry during the 20th century, enjoying considerable growth in the 1960s and 70s. State-run factories were set up, which later became part of the “Ukrhudozhprom” (Ukrainian Art Industry), under the Ministry of Local Industry. The rushnyk displayed here largely come from these factories. I’d love to know more about how their production and design differs from family-made rushnyk.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt04Hand-embroidered linen rushnyks (рушники) made in the “Red beam” factory (фабрика “червоний проминь”), New Sanzhary, Poltava region, 1951 – 67.

This chest was displayed in the rushnyk room, so I assume it could have been used to store textiles.

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Carved and painted wooden chest, early 20th century, Ivano-Frankivsk region

Costumes

The museum displays 28 sets of Ukrainian folk costumes from the 19th to 20th century. Organised by geographical region, they are displayed as full outfits, with all the jewelry and accessories to go with the clothes. I’d be interested to know whether they came to the museum as full outfits, and if not, how it was decided to put items together. Most are women’s outfits, which were generally less likely to be made from factory-produced textiles than men’s clothing.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt06Women’s outfits, late 19th – early 20th century, Vlasivka village, Zinkivsky District, Poltava region. Detail: Wrap-skirt, or ‘plakhta’ (плахта)

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NatMusUkrFolkArt08Late 19th- early 20th century costumes, Sumy region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt10 Early 20th century, Chernigiv region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt12 Late 19th – early 20th century, Volyn region

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Svyta (overcoat), 1917.

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Svyta (overcoat), 1930s, Vydrychi village, Kamin-Kashyra district, Volyn region.

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NatMusUkrFolkArt17 NatMusUkrFolkArt18 Late 19th – early 20th century, Yavoriv district, Lviv region

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Mans costume, early 20th century, Kosiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt21 NatMusUkrFolkArt22 NatMusUkrFolkArt24NatMusUkrFolkArt23 Two early 20th century costumes from Torgovytsia village, Gorodenkiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region

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late 19th – early 20th century, Nyzhni Kryvchi village, Borshchiv district, Ternopil region

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NatMusUkrFolkArt27Late 19th – early 20th century, Chernivtsi region

Rugs

There’s an impressive array of handwoven rugs at the museum, most with colourful floral designs.
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NatMusUkrFolkArt3018th century, Poltava province. Wool, handwoven.

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19th century, Kyiv province. Wool, handwoven.

Carved tools

I think more museums should display the tools used to make and maintain the objects on display – after all, they determine an object’s appearance and present state. At the Folk Museum I found a printing block and these beautifully-carved ironing implements. If anyone can guess/knows how these ‘rubels’ are used please let me know!

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Printing block, 19th century, Poltava province. Wood, handcarved.

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Implements for ironing – ‘rubel’ (рубель), Kyiv province. Wood, handcarved.

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In descending order: back of a cart, 19th century, Poltava province; back of a cart, 19th century, Kyiv province; back of a sleigh, 1870s, Poltava province.

Painting

During the 20th century, many Ukrainian artists made drawings and paintings inspired by folk art. They drew upon motifs and subject matter in textiles and ceramics to make a genre of art which also fed into and was influenced by trends in the international art scene. Many chose to re-imagine and keep alive folk tales by depicting them in paint.

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“Bird on Guelder Rose”, T. Pata (1884-1976), 1951. Gouache on paper.

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Y. Mironova (1929-2010), “проводжала дівчинонька” (The Girl’s Farewell), 1970. Gouache on paper.

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M. Prymachenko (1909-97), “Wedding”, 1959. Gouache on paper.

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N. Bilokin (1894-1981), “Wedding Procession”, 1938. Gouache on paper

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Ceramics and glass

As with textiles, Ukrainian ceramics have a long tradition; pottery from as early the Neolithic era has been discovered here. The Folk Museum houses a whole range of plates and vessels and sculptures, but my camera was most attracted to the animal-shaped ceramics on display.

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‘Two-faced lion’ vessel, late 18th- early 19th century, Kyin province.

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Ceramic goat, 1967, Kyiv

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Late 18th-early 19th century plate, Sunki and Dybyntsi villages, Kyiv region.

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O. Hriadunova (1898-1974), Kyiv, 1940s-50s.

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O. Zhelezniak (1909-63), ceramic sculptures, 1960s, Hrybovaya Rudnia village, Chernihiv region.

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Glass containers, 15th -18th centuries

Kiev: Ivan Gonchar Museum

Here’s the second of many posts to come, on places I visited, and hope others will too, in Kiev.

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I first found out about the Ivan Gonchar Museum (aka Ukrainian Centre of Folk Culture) on the Folk Costume of Polissya website, which features traditional ensembles from various parts of Ukraine, nearly all of which are from the museum. So, naturally, it was top of my sightseeing list.

IvanGonchar01The museum is situated in the eastern part of the city, next door to the famous Pecharsk Lavra monastery site and close to the banks of the Dnieper river. Although small, it houses a varied collection of Ukrainian handicrafts, including pottery, clothing, woven fabrics, paintings, photographs and painted eggs, all informatively labelled in Ukrainian and, helpfully, English. The focus of the collection is to represent items from across the regions Ukraine, rather than give a historical survey. The majority of objects are no older than the nineteenth century, but show the range of styles, colours and patterns traditionally favoured by different regions.

Textiles

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Detail of embroidered sleeves of women’s full-length shirts (sorochka dodil-na), from various provinces. Early 20th century, homespun embroidery thread on homespun hemp or linen cloth.

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Hand-woven wrap skirts (plakhta, “zirchatka”), from various provinces. Early 20th century, wool, wool and cotton, wool and linen

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Women’s woven sashes (kraika), Poltava province. First half of 20th century, wool.

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Man’s Costume, Western Podillia. Late 19th – early 20th century

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Woman’s costume, Ivano-Frankivs’k Province. Late 19th – early 20th century.

IvanGonchar19I was, of course, particularly drawn to the costume display, with its exquisitely embroidered linen or hemp full length shirts, worn under multi-coloured hand-woven woolen wrap-skirts tied with sashes. The amount of time that must have been spent making these outfits and all their constituent parts is staggering, and demonstrates the importance and pride placed in their making and wearing.

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Woven rug, on which I failed to write down notes – if you visit the museum please let me know and I’ll update the info

The museum also has a display of ‘rushnyk‘ – long strips of cloth traditionally embroidered or woven with symbolic patterns and/or imagery. They still play a part in modern Ukrainian wedding ceremonies, being used to literally tie the bride and groom together at the wrists.

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Embroidered ritual cloths (rushnyk), 18th – 20th century. Homespun linen or hemp cloth embroidered with wool or cotton thread.

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Woven cloth, late 19th to early 20th century. Linen, hemp, cotton and/or wool.

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Woven Krolevets’ ritual cloth (rushnyk “krolevets’kyi”), early 20th century. Cotton.

IvanGonchar17I loved seeing some of the tools of textile-making on display too – these giant wooden prongs are the combs used by weavers to separate threads.

Admittedly, my interest waned after passing the textiles section, so  apologies for the under-representation of the beautiful ceramics and paintings also on display..

Ceramics

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Teapot (chainik), 1930s. Cherihiv Province, Korop District, Village of Verba.

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Oven tile (kahlia pichna), mid 19th century. Ivano-Frankivs’k Province, City of Kosiv.

Paintings

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Folk Painting ‘Stepan and Yaryna’, by Yakylyna Yarmolenko(?). Mid-2oth century, Kyiv Province, Pereyaslav-Khmel’nyts’kyi District, Village of Stovp’iahy. Oil on panel.

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Folk Painting ‘Oh there is a fire burning on the hill’, P. Shtorma, 1952. Kyiv Province, Obukhiv District, village of Husachivka. Oil on panel

 

The Ivan Gonchar Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 – 17:30.

Address: 19 Lavrska Street, Kyiv.

Nearest Metro station: Arsenalna

Kiev: Day 1 – tour

My arrival in Kiev was greeted with torrential rain, claps of thunder, and lightning so bright the pictures look as though they were taken in broad daylight.

lightning in Kiev on Make A GifSo I was rather surprised to have come back from my first day of sightseeing with dry clothes and sunburn.

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Statue of Yaroslave the Wise, 10th century Grand Prince of Kiev, holding the cathedral of St Sophia

My guided tour began with the city’s ‘Golden Gate’, a reconstruction of the main entrance to the old city, under which a bit of 10th century wall is still preserved. The eighteenth-century zeal to recoat and paint ancient monuments also struck the city’s oldest church, St Sophia. Originally built by Yaroslav in the 11th century, its bright white, green and gold facade is hard to connect to the originally round-domed church within (as seen in the model held by Yaroslav in this statue) and its old frescoes and mosaics.

Outside St Sophia, and in several other parts of the city, clusters of candles commemorate those killed during the tragic events earlier this year.

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the bell tower and entrance of St Sophia

IMG_1575The tour was sprinkled liberally with stops at statues – to make a wish on the lucky ear of the cat, the lucky ring and shoe of the lover, the lucky hand print on Yaroslav.. This, and my guide Hannah’s enthusiastic report on the importance of the number 13 and black cats, made me wonder if she, Kiev, or both, were just a little superstitious. However, my skepticism didn’t stop me wishing on the ear of the cat for peace in Donetsk.IMG_1560IMG_1598IMG_1592

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A recently-painted mural on Andreevsky Descent

On Andreevsky Descent, we wandered past stalls selling antiques, embroidered Ukrainian shirts and tablecloths, and pottery bowls and ornaments, to number 13 – home to the Mikhail Bulgakov Museum. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pose for a picture with the bronze Bulgakov next to the museum, holding my (borrowed) half-finished copy of The Master and Margarita. The stranger who took my picture recommended reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand* next.

IMG_1911We then went on to Vichnoi Slavy Park, a popular spot next to the Dnipro river for couples to have their wedding photos taken, and tie a ribbon to the ‘love tree’. IMG_1624When the tour finished, I asked the guide to drop me off at the Ivan Gonchar museum and National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art, which really need a piece of their own to properly do them justice.

*20/05/2014 My dad has warned me that Atlas Shrugged is “the most extreme neo-lib novel imaginable”, and it’s been described by critics as an “homage to greed”, and “shot through with hatred”. Perhaps I’ll try Gogol’s The Overcoat instead.