Tuesday, November 06, 2007

fin de siècle

Perhaps because I went to both the first night and last night performance of the recent short run at the Colour House, Hedda Gabler seems to be much in my mind lately.

Thus a propos of nothing much at all, I was struck the other day by the way that Hedda Gabler’s romantic imagining of Løvborg's suicide as beautiful is exactly like Dorian Gray’s ultimate rationalisation of Sybil Vane killing herself in Wilde’s novel.

Both were published in 1890 so it is unlikely that one influenced the other. Maybe it was just a morbid fin de siècle notion that was in the decadent air; Edvard Munch was breathing it in Oslo at the time as well.

And yet, I made a belated start on Sunday on the Amundsen and Scott book that Rob sent me.

The first chapter about Amunden’s youth once he moved to Oslo (he would have been a desultory university student around 1890) added a lot of depth to my understanding of the era and location of play; there are echoes like the maid moving out of the family home to look after him etc.

It is also a timely warning against my tendency to generalise. Decadent is just about the last word you could apply to the first person to reach both the North and South Pole, a man who is recongised as the first to traverse the Northwest Passage, and who was lost in June 1928 on a gallant rescue mission.

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