Wednesday 21 December 2016

The Statue of Beethoven

[Max] had even bought a loose-leaf notebook at Ryman's, but then it occurred to him that what the world expected was a fully fledged biography, with details of the illustrious persons he had known, whereas he desired to recall sweet small incidents, family dignity, unassuming love. No publisher would be interested in such a thing; refugees' stories were all too common. The notebook was empty, although he had thought of a title: The Statue of Beethoven. 
Falling Slowly, Ch. 10

My mind returns to Mitteleuropa. I have a forthcoming holiday, between Christmas and Silvester, not to Baden-Baden this time but Frankfurt and Cologne, and shall be offline for the while, reliant instead on my trusty Moleskine.

Max in Falling Slowly seems at first glance a forerunner of Julius Herz, not least because he shares an identical memory. But Max Gruber is more of a showman, potent and mercurial, somewhat akin to the Ostrovski figure in the latter novel. Nevertheless the following two extracts are very striking. Not quite self-plagiarism, but close.

Beyond Kentish Town lay Cologne, their Sunday drives to Bonn to contemplate the statue of Beethoven, their summer holidays in Baden Baden, sedate family walks along the Lichtenthalerallee, the cup of coffee in the Casino gardens, where the orchestra played... 
Falling Slowly (1998)Ch. 8
He was with his family in a fiacre in Baden-Baden, being driven down the Lichtenthalerallee towards the Casino, where they would drink coffee to the sound of a small orchestra. 
The Next Big Thing (2002), Ch. 6

What's more, the city of Bonn is a feature of both novels. Fanny Bauer, in The Next Big Thing, lives there in her later life. I might, I guess, visit the place next week. But like many a Brooknerian I'll probably at the last moment suffer a failure of nerve.

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