January 8, 2010

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of an evening at home with daughter. Her work had been cancelled due to the weather and she volunteered to cook the pair of us a meal if i supplied the wine. She further suggested watching the film of The Tin Drum which I had finally decided to buy. She is reading and loving The Magus at the moment and I had recommended The Tin Drum as her next venture. To help this along I dispatched the whole of the Danzig Trilogy to her university address via Amazon this morning.

I should say that until recently I had resisted watching the film. I picked up the book back in 1975 from the University Bookshop out of curiosity. I had just read Hesse’s The Glass bead Game on the recommendation of my Jesuit mentor in the Catholic Chaplaincy. That had led me to Steppenwolf which radically transformed my perception of myself. This was was started on a love affair with German Literature and music in and around the Weimar Republic. If you have never heard Braunfels Die Vögel or the orchestral works of Hindemith then a whole cannon of musical experience is available to you. Not to have read Mann’s Magic Mountain or Buddenbrooks is a sin against education. Cabaret remains the best musical, and possibly the best film of all time with its fractal perspective on the rise of the Nazis.

The Tin Drum won Grass the Nobel Prize for literature and deservedly so. Magical realism is one of the most effective, but difficult of literary genres and no where is it better executed than in this novel. I was never sure if the film would be able to capture the exquisite dadaism of the novel and I regret to say it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the eclectic conversation around anthropology, politics and philosophy with daughter, something that is possible when you are reliant on sub-titles for meaning. However I think the film has value if you have read the book, its the shadow on the cave wall. Too much is missed out, the sexual instead of informing the political verges on a self indulgent end of itself. Ironically I am writing this entry while listening to Goodall’s WNO recording of Parsifal with Ellsworth (who would have been the greatest heldentenor of his generation if he had not died of lymphoma at the age of 42), McIntrye, Joll and Meier in the leading roles. For those who don’t know, Wagner described his last major work as a Bühnenweihfestspiel not an opera. It means a play for the consecration of the stage. True art consecrates life with meaning, and The Tin Drum as a novel achieves that.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Dog Days, the third volume of the Danzig Trilogy: While God was still at school, in the heavenly playground he came up with the idea of creating the world, together with his schoolmate, the talented little Devil.

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