Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another Storm tale - A Quiet Musician - Instead of the keys, I was reaching for his ghostly hands

I guess the title of Theodor Storm's A Quiet Musician (1875) is not exactly a paradox. But a musician should not be too quiet. The center of this story is an episode of stage fright:

"My fingers felt paralyzed all of a sudden, but attempted to play a few more bars. Then a helpless sense of indifference overwhlemed me and I was at that moment transported to another time and place far in the past. All at once I felt that the piano stood in its old place in my parents' living-room, and that beside me stood my father. Instead of the keys, I was reaching for his ghostly hand." (p. 66)

The pianist finds himself ("without knowing why") seated on a rock by the stream; the stream lulls him towards sleep, but a fragment of a Schubert lieder, apparently entirely imaginary, returns him to the world. There must be some German Novellen that do not have at least one uncanny scene. This is very mild stuff compared to E. T. A. Hoffmann, but still, there it is.

Meine Frau has a couple of German collections of Storm, one quite thick, and neither contains this story. Is this minor Storm, not one of the good ones? The English translator likes it well enough, obviously, and so do I. It does seem slight relative to Immensee. But if lesser Storm is as good as A Quiet Musician, I'm going to read everything I can find by him.

Here's a funny thing. The narrator of this story becomes acquainted with the musician because they frequent the same bookstore. They share an enthusiasm for Hauff's Lichtenstein; the musician says "I find I can read it over and over again." Hauff's Lichtenstein, you don't say. It's the first historical novel in German, it turns out, published in 1826. You can visit the Lichtenstein Castle and see a bust of Hauff. There is also a collection of arms and armor, and a Fog Cave. The thing one learns.

No comments:

Post a Comment