Sunday, November 20, 2011

MM Part 7: Mijnheer Peeperkorn

Gerhart Hauptman
Mann is getting short on inspiration: 3 chapters will be titled Peeperkorn.

Peeperkorn is a colonial Dutchman. He is from the east and the west. His name reminds us of this duality. Pepper the spice from the east. “Koren”, grain the bread of home. 
A Dutchman, Peeperkorn drinks Jenever ( from Schiedam btw ), the liquid bread. ( Not Gin ! )

“someone else”. The narrator promises that this last “pedagogue” will “spread great confusion” over our hero but this time ( Thanks God !) “no one need to worry that yet another instigator of intellectual and pedagogic confusion has made his appearance”. Mann knows we have got our fill.

PP is the companion of Clawdia

PP is described as a God – like figure. His hair forms an aura around his head, he commands respect with his colourless eyes, he has a white and regal head and a beard. His most impressive way however, is how he speaks, speaking without saying anything, with unfinished incomprehensible phrases , punctuated with hand and arm movements like an orchestra conductor… a fantastic figure ( and funny too ! ). PP calls everybody “my child” and surrounds himself occasionally with 12 people.

The wounded King / the fallen King

In his essay “The Hollow Miracle” ( Language and Silence ), George Steiner investigates the relationship between German language and political, in casu Nazi, inhumanity. Steiner describes how the traditional keepers of language, the famous writers and poets, the intellectuals and academics tried to survive the war. The lucky ones, (the ones who could afford it) like Mann, Hesse and Broch escaped from Germany to Switzerland or America. Others became in the words of Steiner “lackeys in the Reichsschrifttumskammer, the official whorehouse of Aryan culture”.

A third category “equivocated till they had lost the faculty of saying anything clear or meaningful, even to themselves”. Steiner illustrates this with an excerpt out of the correspondance between the Mann brothers :

In his letter to his brother Thomas, Klaus Mann sketches, how the German dramatist and novelist Gerhart Hauptmann, “the old lion of realism” and Nobel Prize winner of 1912, stuttered his opinion when confronted with the new reality…

“Hitler… after all… My dear friends!... no hard feelings!...Let’s try to be…No, if you please allow me… objective… May I refill my glass? This Champagne…very remarkable, indeed-the man Hitler, I mean…The Champagne too, for that matter… Most extraordinary development…German youth… About seven million votes…As I often said to my Jewish friends…Those Germans…incalculable nation…very mysterious indeed…cosmic impulses…Goethe….Niebelungen Saga….Hitler in a sense, expresses…As I tried to explain to my Jewish friends…dynamic tendencies…elementary, irresistible … “

You have probably recognized an echo of the ramblings of Pieter Peeperkoorn, the famous character of Thomas Mann’s novel: “The Magic Mountain”. And indeed, Hauptmann, whom Thomas Mann met at the Alpine resort, was a major inspiration for his Peeperkoorn personage.
Under Wilhelm II Gerhart Hauptmann (15 November 1862 – 6 June 1946) had enjoyed the reputation of a radical writer, on the side of the poor and outcasts. During the Weimar Republic (1918–33) he rose to the status of the literary figurehead of the new order, and was even considered for the post of state president. Under Hitler however he kept his distance from the regime, but never publicly criticized it. This, and the fact that (unlike many other writers and academics) he stayed in Germany, was strongly held against him after the war.

With some hindsight, it becomes clear why Mann, depicted Hauptman, his follow writer as an inarticulate and fallen deity and how probably he came to see himself as the new bearer of the torch of German culture.

I am sure you find this stuff as exciting as I do…

The positioning of his fingers when he underscores what he is about to say, reminds me of a “Christ Pantocrator” . Christ-like too, is how he raises his Jenever glass. It looks like an Eucharist ( see also next chapter )

PP speaks about himself in the 3rd person when drinking.
PP is ill too. Maybe Malaria, or worse.

Clawdia ignores Hans for now.

The kinky Egyptian Princess is back too ( with here eunuch, a castrated Moor ), she turns out to be a lesbian… 

“Jewish woman from Romania with the very plain name of Landauer”. Is Mann taking a jab at the anarchist Gustav Landauer?

My languishing Céladon: referring to the hero of the “Novel of novels” l’Astrée by Honoré d’Urfé