Sunday, October 23, 2011

MM Part 3 : Satana

Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl, Die Seelen des Acheron ( Hermes Psychopompos )

First meeting with and introduction to the unforgettable Settembrini.

Settembrini  is the first of the Major Mentors of Hans. See the details of his first description : a delicate stranger encountered on the path, striking a graceful pose propping himself on his cane and crossing his ankles. His greeting is precise and melodious.

Settembrini is presented as the God Hermes, the mentioning of the ankles, the cane, the precise and melodious communication capture all the attributes of this fine deity:  the winged sandals at the ankles, his herald staff, the kerykeion, god of successful communication and music, his handlebar moustache twirled at the end might even resemble the wings of the helmet.

Hermes is the conductor, the guide of the souls of the dead to the Underworld: He is the Psychopomp.

Although the general impression is that of a likeable and educated man, Thomas Mann reminds us that he looks poor, is clothed shabbily and  looks like an organ grinder, a street musician.  A windbag even when he annoys a passing local girl with some lewd remarks. 

Describing Settembrini as an organ grinder ( Leiermann ) is more than a detail. Der Leiermann is the title of the last song of Schubert's Winterreise cycle.

Drüben hinter'm Dorfe
Steht ein Leiermann
Und mit starren Fingern
Dreht er was er kann.

Over there behind the village
Stands a Hurdy-Gurdy man,
And with numb fingers
He grinds away, as best he can

The begging musician in Schubert's song is dirt poor and stands with naked feet in the snow.

In Schubert's cycle, the lost wanderer stumbling through the snow covered forest encounters in the end the Hurdy-Gurdy man. The wanderer asks him in the very last lines, as if he finally has found a companion : Should I go with you ? Will you to my songs,  play your Hurdy Gurdy ?

The image of Settembrini as a organ player pops up regurlarly during the entire novel and Ian Bostridge in his interpretation of  Der Leiermann considers the possibility that the Leiermann figure represents death inviting people to a Toden danz.

Settembrini does not like his stay in Davos. Like Joachim he gives the impression that he would prefer going down immediately :

“One could in fact forget completely where one is…” It sounds as if this idyllic décor of mountain meadows and splendid weather are something bad.

“ Has the gloomy ceremony of the first examination taken place yet… “How many months have our Minos and Rhadamantus saddled you with…” …” Settembrini thinks Hans is a patient like all others.

Settembrini is surprised when he hears that Hans is not ill.
“You are not one of us?” “Settembrini compares Hans to Odysseus visiting the Underworld ( Virgil)

Settembrini presents himself as a disciple of the Italian freethinker Carducci famous for his ode to Satan “Inno a Santana”

Hans finds there is a preachy flavour in what Settembrini says

Settembrini: “ I am a humanist, a homo humanus” and therefore an educator. Only the humanist can defend dignity and beauty.

Malice, the spirirt of criticism is a weapon to defend progress and enlightment against the powers of darkness and ugliness.

First advice to Hans: Form opinions !

2. Time

“And what sort of time period you have in mind ?”
“Our smallest unit of time is the month”

3. Death

Minos and Rhadamantus are brothers, one is judge of the death and the other ruler of the underworld. Settembrini means of course Behrens and Krokowski. Behrens is Rhadamantus and Krokowski is the God Minos, known for his many love affairs… ( filled with the secret of the ladies…) Settembrini criticizes the upcoming science of psychiatry. Krokowski , the Man of the night, the man with the filthy thoughts.  Wohooooo !

Hermes : psychopomp

The Sanatorium Berghof is in fact the Underworld, the World of the Moribundi, hanging between life and death.

4. Eros

Hans nearly misspeaks the name Settembrini… Mr Septem(ber)…What’s in a name ? I will not give it away right now

5. Geography

Settembrini comes from the south

6. Note

Neither Joachim or Settembrini smoke because of their weak lungs ?

Settembrini: … I have my vices too… ( he does not say which )

Adriatica Von Mylendonk; Settembrini doesn’t like her because she is a devout Christian, from an aristocratic family or just because she is a bossy woman ?

Settembrini reminds us that the Sanatoria are Big Business and that their Managers go to the utmost to keep their patients.

Is Settembrini serious ill ? What keeps this man who advocates work and action on the mountain. Not a serious case but a stubborn case.