To quote Albeerto Sordi’s character(Di-Salvio the publisher) in Etorre Scolla’s 1968 Magnificent Satire:”Will Our Heroes Be Able to Find Their Friend Who Has Mysteriously Disappeared in Africa?”:”And we’re going to publish the encyclopedia of the Literature Champions, to show that we’re not ignorant”, allow me to digress from movies and politics, and talk about something else- books.
I love and adore books, too much love and too much adore, I read practically everything, but still there are some hundered thousands, which I didn’t read.
So now, I managed to read two 19th Century Classiscs, which I didn’t read. One:”Oblomov”, by Ivan Goncharov, is about the Russian inertia, the other “Budebruck”, is the first novel by Nobel Lureate Thomas Mann, is about Protestant Industrious Middle-Higher Class, in Lubeck, Germany, his hometown.
The 19th Century was an age of social, political and cultural upheavals. In Europe it was the Napoleonic wars, and the Balkan volatile situation, the demise of Turkish Empire, and the rise of the British, German and Italian States, the Napoleon and Lumiere/Melies in one Country, at a span of 99 years- Think about that and let’s not forget the forming of USA, and the tragic consequences-Civil War, the Native American plight, the African-American unberable conditions, and in Latin-America-Simon Bolivar’s epic journey to free Latin America from the fading Spanish Colonialism, now teetering on his legs, breathing an agonized gasp.
Of course, Zionism was also there, Dreifus and Herzel’s”Judednstadt-The Jewish State”, were there. Rimbeau, Twain, Irving Witman,Wagner, Gilbert& Sullivan, Offenbach, all were there.
And the Literature and the theater were also there. Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, August Strindberg, and Henrick Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw, and Oscar Wilde were there. And Mann and Goncharov.
Ivan Goncharov was the Russian Censor, as such he was despised by his fellow novelists, Dostoevsky complained that he can’t understand how a man like him posses a soul of a genius.
That was typical complaint, others like Tolstoy and Anton Chekov cited him as a major influence on their work.
Which one is right? Allow me to be for once, at the UN Referee and arbiter, and state that Goncharov was truly a great writer, the fact that he worked for a living as a censor, dosen’t and shouldn’t be our judgment of his talent.
“Oblomov” is a country squire, a man who lives in a paradise of laziness, he’s now , at the beginning of his late life down on his luck, his eatate is partially ruined, and he lives with his manservant the unefficient Zakar. Into his life burst first Andrei Ivanovich Stolz, half Russian and half German, a man of vitality, enterprise, a man whose sleep is not a first nature, the man literary drags Oblomov, out of his bed, his apartment, his lazy life full of unrealized plans, into another house, another life, and into the realms of love.
It’s in the love field, where Oblomov try to live and eventually fails.Olga Iliansky, a young woman, is his passion, she’s in love with him, but social constraints, and his inertia finally gets the better revenge on poor Ilia Ilich Oblomov, and it’s Andrei who wins(Sorry Spoiler!).
blomov satirize all of Russia-Everyone, save Stolz, Oblomov, Pashnizia the widdow, who eventually marries Oblomov, and Olga comes unglued. The High society, the Goverment, the idle Country Falks. Alll of them suffer from the Oblomovism, the idle on the one hand, and the loudmouth without substance or direct action. If thwere was one book, which symbolize to me Russia-It’s Oblomov. If one wish to understand the rise and fall of USSR, the Russia of today, let him read” Oblomov”
.Thomas Mann is another brand altogether, if Goincharov satirize the idlemeess, hustle and bustle which lead to nothing, the presu,ptions of the intellectual ans cultural lives in Russia, Mann chronicles in his 1906-1908 Magnum Opus, the rise and fall of one family The Budenbruck.
Nili Mirsky who translated it to Hebrew twice, once in 1985, the other in 2010, wrote justly, that the book describes the German Bourgoisie, not the Budenbruck, as a class who roll with the punches, rise, sink, sometimes rise again, sometimes like the Budenbruck sinks to oblivion.
Mann showing shreedness, and criticize harshly and unmercifully the life in Germany, having written the book in Italy, certainly gave him perspective. Al through the novel, one can sense the German spirit seeping through. Ity’s all there- TYhe hypocricy, the disgusating Protestant Pious way, the sujrrender of an individual to authority, while others vainly try to escape it to some other realms- music, other countires, and in a case of one member- madness.
If one widh to understand why the Nazies took over, better read the book.
One can see the German spirit, which shaped Nazism, which gave the rise to Himler and Goering, here’s nobody, save poor Hanno-Yohan Budenbrook, and his friend Kai the poor Earle’s son, or Gerda, and the servants, or Clara Boodenbrook, who somehow manage to come out positive, the male side of Booodenbrook, are being treated in a very harsh and cynical manner. Mann dosen’t side with them at all, he sees (rightly) in them as the main culprits to the German Situation from 1870 till 1945.Though it’s written in 1906-08, it’s a prophetic book.
Upon reading it(Though, it’s highly recommended , not to read it while you’re fasting on a 14 hours hiatus at Yom Kipur, the First Part One’s 4 chapters, can bring you halucinations , if one is fasting liKe me, on his imaginary transgressions and his real sins).
So, please read these books, I think that one can do an adaptation of both book to our epoch, as a miniseries or a movie. It’s tempting, but not recommended. Unless the writer and the director are geniuses, with enough satire, visual imagery, and compassionate cinical attitude, otherwise- Leave them as they are: untouched, unspolied, untimely!.