Like the two springs before, I’m reading Jean-Christophe. This time it’s the second book. The first 50 to 100 pages I was a bit tired of the story. There seemed no development whatsoever, just the same type of things repeated over and over again: criticism of the local (French) music and art scene, Christophe alienating everyone, gathering enemies and falling into troubled relationships with women, and other people. The way this narrative repeats itself in just slightly different forms IS tiresome. It’s very predictable that after the artistic commentary and struggle chapters comes an infatuation chapter. And not only that but there is no change in either either. This is not a typo. But anyhow.
I somehow got over this. The other day I felt a pleasant kind of cosiness to pick this book up again and be in the company of Christophe. This will sound sentimental – I’m trying to think of a way of phrasing it so it will sound less so – because it isn’t so – it’s a very down-to-earth sort of feeling, but he is like a friend to me. Reading this novel is like interacting with a friend, keeping an eye on his life and doings. A gentle, earthy sort of pleasure. Like touching moss or tree bark.
That was my first emotion and mood. But it got worse. I noticed I was slightly falling in love with
me him – (if ever there was a Freudian slip, this has got to be the master slip…). When his appearance was described, I noticed it particularly (no, he isn’t beautiful). I’m also becoming to understand his strength. In the first book, the narrator kept referring to Christophe’s strength, but I failed to see a neurotic like that being particularly strong. Now I can see it more, though his type of strength is hardly my prototype, which probably made the suggestion laughable at first. One lives and learns.
Admiration and adoration of fictional characters is something I do sometimes, being of such a temperament that adores, but I don’t recall ever falling in love with them. I can’t say I have done so now either, but I noticed the gentle buds. So yes, I obviously have a screw or two loose.
Oh. And I think trees and moss are my favourite things in nature.
This is great stuff:
Do not think of what will be in a year, or in ten years. Think of to-day. Leave your theories. /…/ Live in to-day. /…/ If you are good, all will go well. If you are not, if you are weak, if you do not succeed, well, you must be happy in that. No doubt it is the best you can do. So, then, why will? Why be angry because of what you cannot do? We all have to do what we can…. Als ich kann.”
“It is not enough,” said Christophe, making a face.
Gottfried laughed pleasantly.
“It is more than anybody does. You are a vain fellow. You want to be a hero. That is why you do such silly things.… A hero!… I don’t quite know what that is: but, you see, I imagine that a hero is a man who does what he can. The others do not do it.“
“Oh!” sighed Christophe. “Then what is the good of living? It is not worth while. And yet there are people who say: ‘He who wills can!'”…
Gottfried laughed again softly.
“Yes?… Oh! well, they are liars, my friend. Or they do not will anything much….”
They had reached the top of the hill. They embraced affectionately. The little peddler went on, treading wearily. Christophe stayed there, lost in thought, and watched him go.
(From my favourite book)
I was disappointed by this English translation. I have an edition in my native language and this paragraph is much superior there. The above reads like something I might have written. I find it hard to resist improving it. But what can you do, I’m not going to type up this quote in my native language and I wanted to record that idea somewhere. It was at once new and instantly strikingly relatable.
God should honour the man who invented sleep, for he must have been a smart fellow; still more honour, however, should be paid to the inventor of the dream. Not the dream that arises from our minds only when we lie under the soft blanket of sleep — no, the dream that we dream our whole lives long, the dream that often lifts the oppressive burden of earthly cares upon its wings and silences every bitter woe, every dismal lament of disappointed hope, being itself a heavenly ray kindled in our bosoms both to inspire our incessant yearning and to promise its fulfilment.
(E. T. A. Hoffmann, Princess Brambilla)
It had never in my life occurred to me, before I read this, how fascinating, utterly wondrous, is our capacity to hope and dream. What survival advantage or psychological value could it possibly have? To hope and dream. No other creature hopes and dreams.