Page 54. " I picked up Eichendorff's 'Memoirs of a Good For Nothing' "

 Eichendorff was a German poet and novelist born in 1788.  His poetry was set to music by noted composers such as Schumann, Strauss and Brahms.  ‘Memoirs of a Good For Nothing’ was written in 1826 and follows the Romantic themes of unattainable love and the hero’s need to go abroad in order to move his life forward.

 

Page 55. " I was in love with Rilke "
 Rainer Maria Rilke was a Bohemian-Austrian poet, born in Prague in 1875.  He primarily wrote in German, and is considered one of the most important literary figures to have worked in that language.  He also completed a significant portion of work in French.  He travelled well, spending time in Munich, Russia, Italy, Paris, Trieste, Vienna and Switzerland, where he eventually settled thanks to the patronage of Werner Reinhart.  Rilke’s literary style was very lyrical, and is rich with imagery and Classical allusions.  His famous works include the poetic ‘Duino Elegies’ and ‘The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge’, a novel. ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ consists of ten letters he wrote to Franz Kappus, a 19 year old student, who published them three years after Rilke’s death.  He was also a respected and prolific art critic; he married a sculptor, and wrote a monograph on Rodin.  Rilke’s health began to deteriorate from 1923, but it took three years for his doctors to diagnose leukaemia.  He died a few days after Christmas in 1926.   

Here are some quotes by Rilke.

Page 55. " and Benn "

 Gottfried Benn (1886-1956) was a German poet, novelist and essayist.  Like many others, he also earned a doctorate in medicine before turning to a career in writing.  He served during WW1, and was already a published poet.  In the early 1930s he was sympathetic to the ideas of the rising Nazi party, but by the end of the decade his vocal unhappiness with the regime had led to the party banning him from writing. Despite this, he did continue to write through WW2, and in 1951 he was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize.

Page 59. " the Biedermeier furniture "

The Biedermeier era in Germany lasted from 1815 to 1843.  The name is most commonly used now to describe the creative culture of the time, in terms of the rising middle class and the styles they adopted.  Biedermeier furniture was originally designed around the idea of clean lines and utilitarianism, using easily obtained woods such as oak, cherry and ash.  It also had something of a neo-classical influence.  Later in the period, however, the styles became more ornate as people sought to display their growing affluence.  

The era was later to influence the Art Deco and Bauhaus styles of design. 

Page 61. " there was a book on Kant "

 Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 in Königsberg, at that time capital of Prussia.  He is one of the most important European philosophers to have emerged from the Enlightenment, and his perspective is still enormously influential today.  He was raised strictly, in a pious household, and began studying at his city’s University at the age of 16.  He remained there for the whole of his working life.  Kant’s most important works include the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, the ‘Critique of Judgment’ and the ‘Critique of Practical Reason’.  His philosophy centred around the concept of the ‘categorical imperative’.  His ideas are both accessible and realistic, and well worth exploring further.  As well as his scholarly work, Kant also lectured on anthropology for over two decades.  He continued to write up until his death, although his blindness and failing memory caused him great frustration.  He died aged eighty, in 1804. 

 

 

Page 61. " and another on Hegel "

 Georg Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel (1770-1831) was a German philosopher.  His complex ideas are not easily summarised, but he was one of the key thinkers behind the German Idealism movement and a profound influence on Karl Marx.  He placed great emphasis on the development of human thought as a historical process and argued that freedom and progress were of paramount importance.  By the age of five, he already knew some Latin, and his desire to study earned him the nickname ‘the old man’ when he was a teenager.  During his career he studied and taught at the Universities of Jena, Heidelberg and Berlin.  Two of his greatest works are ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’ and ‘The Science of Logic’.  He occupied the philosophy chair at the University of Berlin until his death aged 61.

Page 66. " Nausicaa, white armed and virginal "

The reference to Nausicaa here is fascinating. She is a character in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, the daughter of the King and Queen of Phaeacia.  Odysseus first sees her when he emerges naked from a forest after being shipwrecked; she provides him with clothes and helps him to gain favour with her parents.  She is beautiful, and is depicted alongside Odysseus as a romantic potential which never manifests.  She is also something of a mother figure to him; the parallels here between Hanna and Michael are clear.

Page 68. " I read her 'War & Peace' "

War and Peace (1869) is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy.  It is considered to be a great work of canonical fiction; epic, detailed and extremely long, it depicts events leading up to the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and its subsequent impact, as experienced by five aristocratic Russian families.  Tolstoy’s meticulous research is evident throughout the novel, and it is another text notable for its development of Realism.  An interesting feature of the book is that, in its original form, it contained portions of dialogue in French alongside the narrative Russian voice.  This is authentic, as at the time the Russian aristocracy often conversed with each other in French.