“Under the Shirttails of Albert Russo” modernizes the concept of the biography away from Boswellian “every ladder rung is vital” structure, and straight to “the good and meaningful stuff — that defines who a person is … and why. This ‘biography’ is thus constructed and written in a way that is more akin to a cinematic portrait — rather than an academic Wikipedia profile.”
With laser-like precision, Adam Donaldson Powell bores into Albert Russo’s psyche, while in parallel he analyzes the work of a lifetime. But more often than not, there is a process of cross-fertilization, whether it is clearly identified or on the sidelines. He interviews his subject, not always in a linear fashion, scanning the latter’s important stages of life: there is first Central, Eastern – the former Belgian Congo (now, DRCongo), Ruanda-Urundi (now, the two countries of Rwanda and Burundi) and Southern Africa – Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, where the author was raised, completing high school at the Interracial Athénée of Usumbura (now Bujumbura), studying with European, Congolese, Hutu, Tutsi, Asian and American classmates, both in French and in English (he also went to an all-boys’ school in Salisbury, now called Harare). We then find him in the Big Apple at the age of seventeen, attending New York University, after which, he pursues his studies in German at the Collegium Platinum in Heidelberg. The subject is asked very intimate questions about his private life, with which he is faced for the first time. And he reveals facts he never thought could one day be thrust into the open. But still, he complies, candidly. Mr. Powell illustrates with excerpts of the author’s novels, poems and short stories, which are all either clearly or subconsciously related to Albert Russo’s life, as well as photos, letters and book reviews from Albert Russo’s personal archives. Mentioned are his AFRICAN QUATUOR, the collected poems in the CROWDED WORLD OF SOLITUDE, volume two, his collected stories and essays in the CROWDED WORLD OF SOLITUDE, volume one, and finally, his GOSH ZAPINETTE! series, of which David Alexander writes: “… Be warned, Zapinette’s gems of insouciant wit tend to become infectious. This wise-child’s deceptively worldly innocence takes the entire gamut of human endeavor in its compass. Hardly anyone or anything escapes unscathed. Michael Jackson,Vittorio de Sica, Freddy Mercury, Mao Zedong, Bill and Hill, the Pope, Fidel Castro, and even Jesus of Nazareth all come under Zapinette’s delightfully zany fire as she “zaps” from topic to topic in an irrepressible flux. As the century of the double zeros is with us, we have seen the future and the future is sham. As a healthy dose of counter-sham, Zapinette should be on every brain-functional person’s reading list.” After America, the subject moves to Northern Italy where he will reside nine years, then to Brussels. He spends half of his life in Paris, France, before finally settling in Tel Aviv Israel. When asked what his roots are, he replies that he is a humanist born in Africa, with his virtual roots being the languages which he speaks: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, vernacular Swahili, as well as those he can only read: Portuguese and Dutch. He will soon add Hebrew. Those cherished languages are much more than forms of speech, they are his planet, from which he extracts much of the sap of his writing. So, don’t be shy. Get Under the Shirttails of Albert Russo. See the publisher’s page HERE!
DO WATCH ”The Age of the Pearl”, extracted from my new biography “Under the Shirttails of Albert Russo”
READER COMMENTS … regarding UNDER THE SHIRTTAILS of ALBERT RUSSO:
UNDER THE SHIRTTAILS of ALBERT RUSSO ‘can perhaps be likened to skipping a small rock across a pond – creating ripples and reverberations which both reflect the greater omnipotence of the water and temporarily alter its periphery and identity.’ Such is Adam Donaldson Powell the master weaver behind the literary tapestry that is the life & times with a view into poems, novels and picture gallery of one brilliant international award-winning multilingual poet, novelist, essayist, historian and photographer – Albert Russo – a man with a claim to no country yet a citizen of many soils – in his sensitively scripted yet profoundly penetrating work unveiled as ‘an alternative biography’.
— Jeanette Skirvin
This biography crowns five decades of my father’s very prolific writing. Both my brother Alex and myself are immensely proud of our father’s literary achievement. From his very deep insights on the history of Africa, to the birth and struggles of the Israeli state, his poems and immensely entertaining short stories, humorous novels for teenagers, short stories covering the complexities of human nature, there isn’t one topic that my father hasn’t masterfully addressed in his writings.
— Tatiana Russo
We have the pleasure to see all the beauties of literature, poetry and photography of Albert Russo in Adam Donaldson Powell’s brilliant and memorable book “Under the Shirttails of Albert Russo”. Russo’s profound and well-ordered imagination helps him to create great works of literature. Russo never writes his great poems and novels according to any mechanic rule. He has perfected his writings due to “the existential qualm for which my heritage is responsible: Africa, Judaism and Italy. They exist and coexist in cycles, in a fashion so inchoate that I am never quite sure which will take the upper hand.” Powell, the immortal poet famous for his classic “Three-legged Waltz”, points out that Russo “began life as an outsider; the offspring of refugees to Africa from Nazi and fascist persecution then became an outcast via his self-proclaimed ‘gaytude’.” No doubt, this fact has provided the perfection of tone in all his creative endeavors, and this will certainly entice all readers. The true essence of Russo’s writings and photography is revealed by Powell in this unique book. Adam Donaldson Powell’s latest powerful book “Under the Shirttails of Albert Russo” is a tour de force in biography and literary criticism.
— Dr. Santosh Kumar, Editor, Cyberwit.net
To avoid any doubts or confusion, this book by Adam Donaldson Powell is NOT just a biography of the life of Albert Russo, nor is it a synoptic overview of his massive and prolific collection of works of prose, poetry, and photography. This book is something far more than either of these literary vehicles could ever be. Through literally decades of conversations, correspondence, and collaboration between these two very talented authors/artists, Adam Powell gives us a glimpse into not only the very diverse heritage and globe-trotting life and experiences of Albert Russo, but also a glimpse into his very psyche and incredible intellect. In other words, this book lays bare for the world to see what makes Albert Russo one of the few true renaissance men of our times. Russo’s collection of works bridges gulfs of heritage, culture, philosophy, and more – often with more than a hint of his sometimes quirky and off-beat sense of humor. For anyone who has ever read and enjoyed ANY of Russo’s works, this book is a must-read to fully understand the man behind the true art of his words, ideas, and imagery.
– J. Richard Davis, B.A., J.D.
Powell’s study is important, for almost all of Russo’s work has been printed by small presses and/or university distributors and is not easily gathered. In addition, Powell’s particular focus is highly valuable, for it brings into compact view the issues and journeys of Russo’s fables and fiction and his social, personal, and literary commentaries.
— Martin Tucker, Editor Emeritus at Confrontation Magazine
The book is included in the collection of the
Mukanda Central Africa documentation resource center.
Mukanda has some very illustrious academics in its network. See HERE!
UNDER THE SHIRTTAILS OF ALBERT RUSSO — an alternative biography.
Comment from the author:
My latest “experiment” with new forms of writing for our contemporary age moved beyond language challenges (in both English, French and Spanish), structural challenges of combining prose and poetry, and more, to challenge the rather strict academic adherence to the “Boswellian biography” model, which I personally find outdated and cumbersome. In my own “alternative biography” I discarded all notions of writing a slavish detailed version of Albert Russo’s Wikipedia page and curriculum vitae, and I instead used the maximum 200-book pages at my disposition to redefine and modernize biographical approach. In my book I chose the most significant of Russo’s almost 100 published books (including novels, short story and poetry collections, essays, photography books and more) and the most pivotal life experiences in his almost eighty years of living and working on three continents on the planet to serve as the foundation of a journey inside of (and under the shirttails) Albert Russo. All the while I provide somewhat lengthy passages from some of his best books as illustrations of both his writing themes, techniques and styles, but also as the framework for interviews and questions to the author (often of a most intimate nature) which allow the Reader to personally know “what makes Albert Russo” tick as a personality and author/artist by sitting in the back seat on a ride through the countryside of Russo’s life memories. At times it is I who is driving, and at other times Russo himself seems to be behind the wheel with his opinions and rantings which I challenge only to gain more insight into the whats and whys of his meanings, but never (as one critic of the book has desired) to pass any judgment or opinion of my own. By the end of the book the Reader has an incredible knowledge of Russo and his work, as well as the most important events in his personal and professional life; i.e. according to Russo himself — and not to any academic or Wikipedia editor that insists on a year-by-year listing of all events and details from birth onwards. This book was an incredible feat with an unusal approach and writing techniques, including interviews, epistomology, reprints of Russo’s literary works etc. No literary form should be sacred and rigid forever. In our fast-paced digital age we crave entertainment, knowledge, personal involvement, the ability to leave a book and return to the story easily whether we find reading time on a metro, a bus or lying in bed waiting to fall asleep … and we want a book that is easily read and to-the-point when necessary without literary masturbation or grandstanding by the author.
— Adam Donaldson Powell, 2018
J’ACCUSE, J’ACCUSE ET J’ACCUSE … by Albert Russo.
This is the « rant and rage » essay by ex-Parisian Albert Russo that convinced me to interview him critically, and to write my latest book: « Under the Shirttails of Albert Russo » :
(Photo courtesy Blikk Magazine)
(Photo courtesy Per Eidspjeld)
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My latest book “Under the Shirttails of Albert Russo” can be ordered directly through the publisher, as well as many other places on the internet and by ordering it at your local bookstore. Visit the publisher’s webpage here: http://l-aleph.com/project/under-the-shirttails-of-albert-russo-an-alternative-biography-by-adam-donaldson-powell/
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