Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rolling Stones and scary snowmen: An interview with Jo Nesbø, Part I

Jo Nesbø is touring two countries promoting two novels. The Snowman, newly published by Random House Canada (and also out in the United Kingdom) has elements of horror stories, and it continues a theme put forth in The Redbreast, Nemesis and The Devil’s Star of scary characters within the police.

The Devil’s Star, out in hardback in the United States from HarperCollins, brings to a conclusion a confrontation between one of those characters and Nesbø’s protagonist, Inspector Harry Hole.

In the first part of an interview with Detectives Beyond Borders, Jo Nesbø talks about his fascination with Jim Thompson, his early attraction to ghost stories, and Norway’s shaky national identity. He also answers a question posed in a scene long a favorite here at Detectives Beyond Borders: Are the Rolling Stones the world’s greatest rock and roll band?

(Read Part II of the Detectives Beyond Borders interview with Jo Nesbø here.)
==============================
Detectives Beyond Borders: What attracts you about having monsters or psychotic villains within the police?

Jo Nesbø: The enemy within is always more scary than when you have the defined enemy. I’m a fan of Jim Thompson and his title The Killer Inside Me, which may be a somewhat cheesy title, but it’s a title that grabs me. To me it’s a scary idea that the killer is inside you, behind you. Also, I like to write about closed milieus, where you have a society within a society.

Like the Salvation Army (A key setting in The Redeemer)?

Right. That is parallel to the police force. Loyalty is very important, and you have certain rules that enable people to get power over other people. … You can have more dramatic conflict than in open societies.

You liked to write or tell ghost stories when you were young. Is there a connection between The Snowman and that earlier preference for ghost stories?

I didn’t come up with the stories, I told traditional ghost stories, then added a bit.

I think the reason why they asked me to tell the stories, I thought for while it was because I was a great storyteller. Later on, I think it was my big brother who told me the reason why he wanted me to tell the stories was because when I told them, they could hear the fear in my voice.

Are the Rolling Stones the world’s greatest band or the most overrated band?

The Rolling Stones are a great band and the world’s most overrated band.

Why do your novels include so many prominent and thematically important references to music?

People use music in so many ways, to say who they are. … You use a T-shirt to tell the world `I’m the kind of guy who listens to the Doors,’ and that is interesting to me because it’s just sounds, but it isn’t just sounds. They project ideas, basic values. I don’t really like Joy Division, but I wish I liked to listen to Joy Division.

Myself, I like jazz, and I like rock, but I like pop, the smoothest pop music, easy-listening pop music. I love that. [But] I thought it would be too confusing for people to have [Harry] like pop music. You’d have to explain it, so I put in some references. I try not to do it too much.

For example, you read George Pelecanos; to me, sometimes it’s on the verge of being too much. Everybody, every single character, is listening to a special radio channel. Well, they don’t. But then again, I love the references.

Talk a bit about some of the satirical fun you poke at Norway.

We’re a young and, in a way, an insecure nation. … It’s a very young nation, and it is trying very hard to find itself. Like any nation, it needs pillars to build an image of a nation on.

In Norway the most important things are probably the explorers of the South and North Poles, and Thor Heyerdahl, and the war, the myth about the resistance movement during the war.

Up until 1917, Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe. In the Seventies, we found oil, or the Americans found oil, actually, off Norway. In the Eighties were booming times, and Norway quickly became one of the richest countries in the world. It’s like a guy with an inferiority complex that has suddenly had some success and who can’t quite cope with it.

Norwegians are so focused on what's going on in Norway now. If you read the newspapers, it's all local news. So many of the stories are `What do they think about Norwegians?'

It’s pride and insecurity going together. You see that in many countries. Norway has always had the same relationship to bigger countries, Sweden especially, Denmark, maybe the same way that Canada feels toward the United States, like a bigger brother. Canada is a nicer country, but that’s not enough.
==============================
(Read Part II of the interview with Jo Nesbø.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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50 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

Nice interview! I was particularly interested in his take on Norway. As an American, it hadn't occured to me to think of Norway as a young country, it's always just seemed a part of "old" Europe. And I also hadn't realized that oil had made such a change in outlook and fortunes so recently.

Nesbo's up for an Edgar this year too. I'm sorry to say that I still haven't gotten to him yet, but I think I'll like his work when I do.

March 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I knew Norway had been under Sweden's political sway for years, but it had not occurred to me, either, that it could think of itself as a young country. Give me "Norse" on a word-association test, and I'll likely reply "Old," as in "Old Norse," language of the sagas. I also found interesting the connection between oil wealth and insecurity about national identity. That's not the sort of connection I'm accustomed to seeing authors draw between crime and newfound wealth.

I wrote about the funniest of Nesbo's digs at Norway is here: http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2007/08/poking-fun-at-politics-jo-nesb.html The Snowman also has some good ones.

Nemesis, the book that's up for the Edgar, might be a good place to start.

March 18, 2010  
Anonymous Kitty Pittman/OkieReads said...

I love he referenced Jim Thompson as an influence to his writing. Thompson received the Ralph Ellison Award in 2000, http://www.odl.state.ok.us/ocb/pastelli.htm
from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. He also directed the Federal Writers Project in Oklahoma in the thirties. Very gritty writer, interesting personality and I'm happy to point out his Oklahoma connection.

March 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was surprised when I learned that Nesbø cited Jim Thompson as an influence. I'm also surprised to learn of the Oklahoma connection. People think of Jim Thompson as this free-floating chronicler of decay and madness and don't generally associate him with a place or time. Thanks for pointing out the connection.

March 18, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Norway is an old country but a young nation (1814).

The town where my mother grew up, Stavanger, was like a large (and exceedingly dull) village when I first visited it in 1962. Today it is the national center for the oil and gas industries and virtually unrecognizable as that village. As a kid, I remember being struck by how many Norwegian roads were unpaved outside main urban areas until the 1970s. Norway has tried to manage its great wealth and, unlike other oil-wealthy nations, is planning for the time when the oil slows to a trickle through the establishment of a Government Pension Fund but the population is so small (less than 5 mil) vis-a-vis its wealth that they almost don’t know what to do with all the money they have now. My older Norwegian relatives complain that this has made the younger generation weak and lazy; hardly anyone who doesn’t want to work a full week as we in the US know it has to. Norway’s much-admired social values have had a downside as well as positive effect on contemporary life. Most crimes, including rape and murder, have jaw-droppingly short sentences. Stavanger’s once sleepy, quaint, and safe historic downtown area is now the site of regular brawls (many bars remain open all night), window smashings, and knifings.

Re “the myth of the [Norwegian] resistance movement.” I can sympathize a bit with Nesbo’s exasperation with this element of Norway’s national identity. Frankly, it can be as tiresome as our (courtesy of Tom Brokaw) “Greatest Generation” mantra. And since Nesbo’s father fought with the Germans (as did many Finns) and his mother’s family was part of the resistance movement it is certainly understandable that he has mixed reactions to it. But every “myth” has some element of truth and last year I watched a DVD of an old film made by the Nazis during the Invasion of Norway. The film apparently never was exhibited publicly because instead of the expected glorious “shock and awe” rollover it depicted the Norskies fighting the Germans almost to a standstill. On a microlevel, my mother was a girl in Stavanger during the war and the Nazis occupied her family’s house; made them move upstairs the the 3rd floor; took all her toys; ate all the fresh food. One of the Nazis took my mom’s Raggedy Ann doll, hung it by the neck along the stair railing, and he and the others punched it every time they went up and down the stairs. Yes, I know it sounds like a scene out of a US WWII propaganda movie. But one Christmas her family had a poor German enlisted man (antiwar and opposed to the German command) for dinner and he gave little presents to my mother and her sister.

There were notable appeasers and isolationists in the Allied countries, old-country support groups such as the German Bunds in the US, so of course there was no nation which had every citizen standing shoulder-to-shoulder against the Axis nations. Wartime shades of gray. So when Nesbo speaks of a “myth” of Norwegian national resistance I have to hope he means OED definition 1.a.: “traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces, which embodies and provides an explanation, etiology, or justification for something such as the early history of a society, a religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon” and not definition 2. a. “A widespread but untrue or erroneous story or belief; a widely held misconception; a misrepresentation of the truth. Also: something existing only in myth; a fictitious or imaginary person or thing.” Because there is more than a little truth to the “myth” of Norwegian national resistance.

And as for the Rolling Stones... Anybody who caught “The T.A.M.I. Show” (1964) on PBS last week got an idea of the lure of this band. When I first saw the Stones in ’64 it was Goodbye John and Paul, Hello Mick and Keith.

March 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

By the myth, Nesbø does mean the propagation, when it was safe to do so, of the legend that all Norway opposed the Germans from the beginning.

I wrote this about his novel The Redbreast:

"Nesbø has nothing but contempt for the neo-Nazis who plague 1990s Oslo, portraying them variously as apes and as children who refuse to grow up. At the same time, he is (or lets his characters be) just as hard on the "latter-day saints," Norwegians who were quick to declare their love of country — after Germany had been safely defeated. A murder late in the novel re-enacts Quisling's execution. The killer's identity makes clear Nesbø's scorn for the latter-day saints. Norwegians, those enthusiastic flag-wavers, could be just as nationalistic as Germans, he has a character say, and he means it as no compliment."

One interesting aspect of Nesbo's incorporation of music is that he distributes his own tastes in music among the characters and does not give them all to his protagonist.

March 19, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"...the legend that all Norway opposed the Germans from the beginning." Well, that would definitely be a legend all right and I don’t know of any Norwegian who would claim it was a fact. Heck, even the rah-rah WWII Warner Bros film “Edge of Darkness” (1943) with big names Errol Flynn and Ann Sheridan as Norwegian freedom fighters (yeah, right) has its share of appeasers and Quislings.

but then my v-word is hystr so what do I know

March 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ye gods, talk about sexism, v-words and sexist v-words.

You might want to go back and look at some of the posts I made about Nesbo's novel "The Redbreast" or, better, to read the book. The family background you noted helps explain why Nesbo might take special issue with belated claims of heroic Norwegian resistance to the Germans. Among other things, he says his grandfather's experience from a foundation for the Vienna part of the novel.

March 19, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"Nesbo's novel "The Redbreast" or, better, to read the book." It's now 5 from the top in my TBR stack so I'm getting there. I'm going to ask Ma and Pa to read it, too. Esp interested to see what Margrete thinks of it.

v-word = pedtied Some kind of foot fetish?

March 19, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

I don’t really like Joy Division, but I wish I liked to listen to Joy Division.

I like that statement for the way it combines the personal with the social. Are you familiar with Joy Division, Peter?

If not here are some links:

love will tear us apart
dead souls
athmosphere
24 hours
decades

If the above links don't work, here's the long way:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E86n7cihVB4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK7YPVwM2Jo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSh7444zG4Q
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zo4JdTfDw0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMAB3r6EjcM

This might seem like homework, but if you're going to interview a novelist you need to know what he's talking about. Of course, if experience is anything to go by, you probably know all these songs already so please forgive my impertinence.

March 19, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Wow, Elisabeth--I knew you were a great source on Chandler, but I had no idea that you had so much to contribute on Norway as well! That whole Raggedy Ann anecdote makes me very sad.

It's quite clear I need to bump Nesbo up the TBR pile myself.

Oh dear. My v word is not ethereal. It's 'dungi'.

March 19, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, I read Knut Hamsun's books Hunger, Mysteries, Pan and really liked them. Hamsun turned out to be a dedicated Nazi but I still love those books. Does that mean I have Nazi tendencies or can the writing be separated from the writer?

March 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Nesbo's novel "The Redbreast" or, better, to read the book." It's now 5 from the top in my TBR stack so I'm getting there. I'm going to ask Ma and Pa to read it, too. Esp interested to see what Margrete thinks of it.

v-word = pedtied Some kind of foot fetish?


Elisabeth, I've rarely been organized enough to have an actual TBR stack. Usually it's a TBR lava flow or a shifting and upheaving TBR tectonic plate.

I'd be interested to hear what your progenitors think of "The Redbreast." Given Nesbo's background, I bet he and they could have an interesting chat.

Hmm, Nesbo is on the West Coast now. He has appearances in San Francisco and Seattle. You should check to see if he has anything lined up for L.A.

March 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Wow, Elisabeth--I knew you were a great source on Chandler, but I had no idea that you had so much to contribute on Norway as well! That whole Raggedy Ann anecdote makes me very sad.'

Seana, Elisabeth is a Chandler maven, though she denies this. She also gave me a list of Norwegian words and phrases to work into my interview with Nesbø. I didn't use any ot them, though I would have known what to say had I inadvertently spilled a cup of coffee, for example.

And the Raggedy Ann story -- as has been said often, you can't make stuff like that up.

March 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don’t really like Joy Division, but I wish I liked to listen to Joy Division.

I like that statement for the way it combines the personal with the social. Are you familiar with Joy Division, Peter?

I like the statement because it hints at the diverse ways one can be attracted to rock and pop music. The only Joy Division song I know is "Love Will Tear Us Apart," which is just great -- a seductive embrace of ... well, of the unpleasant, anyhow. It's great pop stuff. Thanks for the links. I'll gladly do this homework as long as I have no strict deadlines to complete it.

Of course, if experience is anything to go by, you probably know all these songs already so please forgive my impertinence.

No problem. You were rightly surprised some time back when you caught me making a post about the Clash. I may not listen to much rock and roll, but damn, I know what's good.

March 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Peter, I read Knut Hamsun's books Hunger, Mysteries, Pan and really liked them. Hamsun turned out to be a dedicated Nazi but I still love those books. Does that mean I have Nazi tendencies or can the writing be separated from the writer?

Nope, it can't be separated. You're a nazi.

March 20, 2010  
Blogger Susan said...

One, I'm glad that thing with the person in his department continues on from The Redbreast, because that is so chilling, and when it was left uncompleted I thought, ok, there had better be more coming! what an evil person that exists within Hole's department.....so I'm off to get the rest of the series - loved The Redbreast. Since I knew only a little of Norway's history, I was astonished to hear that people fought with the Nazis and were on the front lines also, as well as the resistance movement. The Redbreast is very clever, and fascinating, excellent psychology, and the history and what the killer is doing - certainly one of the best mysteries I've read. I loved this interview with Nesbo, thanks for posting it!

I also love the shout out to Canada! I was thinking as i read the interview that Norway sounds like us, and yes, I'd say our relationship to the US is similar to Norway's to Sweden.

March 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks again for your kind comment. Nesbø is something of a man of the world. Parts of his novels take place in Australia, Thailand and Brazil, among other countries, and he wrote his first Harry Hole novel during a trip to Australia. He also may have been thinking about Canada because we conducted our interview in Toronto, on Bayview Avenue, in the back of that superb crime-fiction bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street. You should drop in.

Nesbø has an interesting family history, with relatives who fought on either side during the war, and he comments on Norway's history and attitudes throughout the books, especially in The Redbreast and The Snowman.

March 20, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, per your "I've rarely been organized enough to have an actual TBR stack. Usually it's a TBR lava flow or a shifting and upheaving TBR tectonic plate." I can't help it; it's a librarian thing. Although I have been known to shift books in the queue, it remains a stack.

And I will continue to deny I am a "Chandler maven" until I really am one.

March 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're the closest thing that I know to a Chandler expert.

OK, I'll call you an erudite and enthusiastic Chandler lover. If erudite is too much, I'll settle for "knowledgeable."

March 22, 2010  
Anonymous Adrian Hyland said...

Thanks Peter - a fascinating interview and series of comments (I do love Nesbo's work)

Cheers

Adrian

March 25, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Much obliged. The American publication schedule for Nesbo's work is slightly different from and well behind the UK and Canadian ones. "The Snowman" has just been published in the UK and Canada, joining "The Redbreast," "Nemesis," "The Devil's Star" and "The Redeemer." Just the first three are published in the US. Which of the books are available in Australia?

And on to the question I raised in my current post: Why is St. Kilda the heart of Australian crime fiction?

March 25, 2010  
Blogger Reg said...

Hey Peter, Great interview with Jo, just discovered it. For you and solo, with regard to Hamsun, I offer the following quote from Isaac Bashevis Singer: “the whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun, just as Russian literature in the nineteenth century ‘came out of Gogol’s greatcoat.’" As quoted in the article by Jeffrey Frank in the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/12/26/051226crat_atlarge

I'm neither a Nazi nor a Jew, and I can recall loving "Pan" when I first read it in Denmark, way before I knew that Hamsun was later a Nazi sympathizer. Any comments?

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the compliment. Singer's endorsement is the most persuasive argument I've heard for reading Hamsun, whom I have not yet read. If Singer was willing to accord the man such a high compliment, readers who might be leery because of his Nazi sympathies ought to think about giving him a chance.

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Reg said...

Peter, Hamsun's best stuff is his earliest: Hunger, Pan, Mysteries -- all show his persona of a diffident, rather arrogant young man, charming and a bit untrustworthy at the same time. Great to read in your twenties, don't know how they would go down later in life. I would say skip Victoria, it's too sentimental and contrived. Growth of the Soil I recall as an excellent back to the land novel, but the old translation was terrible. Maybe it's been redone by now. Penguin has been doing new ones by Sverre Lyngstad, an old hand (also Norwegian, so he understands the original) who had taught Hamsun for years at Rutgers, I think it was. Do check out Hunger and Pan, though. You're still close to your 20s, right?

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"You're still close to your 20s, right?"

I don't really remember them, but I probably have some old pictures.

March 31, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

It's one thing to read something not knowing someone was a Nazi or a sympathizer, although one might notice some ideas being transmitted that overlapped with Nazi ideology.

However, once knowing the person's Nazi background, I could never read books by him, would not want to do it and couldn't...would be too angry and thinking of my grandparents' homeland, relatives and friends wiped out.

I have a tough line on this, no Wagner ever played at my families' house nor mine; the same is true with authors, etc.

Have no problem with this whatsoever.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Reg said...

I minored in German in college and went to the overseas campus in a small wine-growing village near Stuttgart. Local families liked to "adopt" an American student for the 6 months we were there, inviting us into their homes for amazing amounts of home-cooked meals and pastries, local wine, and conversation. I was "adopted" by a barber and hairdresser. He was a native of the area and she was French. Near the end of the term she came out with some pejorative remark about Jews. I left that day and never went back, never thanked them for their hospitality, never wrote to them, nothing. I just couldn't face speaking to them again. This was 1963 and I could see that the WWII generation was still around. It was a shock.

But being of mostly German extraction myself (my family emigrated from southern Germany to the Shenandoah valley in Virginia in the early 1700s), I do enjoy lots of things German -- can't help it. But they really fucked up in the 20th century, so I can understand people who say they'll never set foot in Germany. There are plenty of other things there to learn and enjoy from other centuries, though, including this one. And the younger folks are some of the most radical peaceniks and environmentalists around.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I told my mother with some trepidation some time back that I had listened to some Wagner overtures. Not only had she been listening to Wagner, she said, but she had just seen a splendid production of "Tristan und Isolde," so who can tell how one will react?

I will say that I felt not entirely comfortable in Berlin when a woman screamed: "Halt! Ist rot!" as I tried to cross a small, empty, trafficless street against a red light late one night, so I can understand your stand on this.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's no accident that graduate-level studies in many fields of the humanities require a reading knowledge of German. From, I guess, the 18th through the early 20th centuries, German scholars were the leaders and pioneers in any number of fields and methods. I smiled at the irony a few years ago when, for a course in biblical Hebrew, I bought the definitive scholarly edition of the Jewish Bible and found it had been prepared by German scholars.

At the same time, some German Romantic art gives me the creeps in light of what Germany went on to do in the 20th century. Sure, there was Goethe, but in general, I shudder when Germans dream big dreams.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Reg said...

Peter, better thank that woman for saving you from getting run over by an invisible truck! Ja, that sound can give you the willies. In old Hollywood war films the German dialogue was often gibberish having nothing to do with the scene. Compare softspoken, multilingual Christoph Waltz, one of the most chilling, evil villains I've ever seen on screen.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I didn't know about the German-gibberish connection. I did notice, after I'd learned a bit of Dutch, that the accents in Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspndent" are pretty bad. Movies used to handle foreign languages in what we think of as cavalier fashion today.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

My mother would never have listened to Wagner, even though she was very musical and a fantastic pianist; music was always playing in our house, including opera. There are so many others to choose from.

When I heard that Wagner would put on white gloves before playing any music by Mendelsson, as he regarded him as a "dirty Jew," that did it for eternity.

One thing when stated above about German contributors to arts and sciences (and more), is that German Jews made great contributions in all of this. The Nazis tried to obliterate this, but it is true.

I don't miss listening to or reading any of the German uber-nationalist-related arts or music, etc.

My sister, however, who is a classical singer, does sing German lieder.

I don't wipe out all things German either, just those things related to the worst ideology, etc.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I didn't know that Wagner and gloves. One wonders what circumstances compelled him to play the music at all if he objected so strongly to its composer. I do know that he had some unflattering things to say about Mendelsson's "Midsummer Night's Dream." One wonders in Wagner's case if the feeling was purely musical.

Yep, Germany shot itself in the foot in the arts and sciences and contributed mightily to American postwar dominance by forcing so many of its best minds to flee. Hollywood would not have been the Hollywood it turned out to be without, say, Ernst Lubitsch. And Erwin Panofsky's contributions to art history would have been German ones rather than American.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Wagner thought that Jews were not good musicians, i.e., Mendelsson

Interestingly, Mendelsson's family had converted to Lutheranism, but they were still attacked for being Jewish by those who wanted to promote anti-Semitism.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I knew Mendelsson's family had converted. I don't remember in which generation, though. Maybe in the time of his grandfather, the philosopher.

April 02, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Although I don't have any desire to persuade anyone here to listen to Wagner if they feel strongly opposed to this, I do feel compelled to mention my own first exposure to Wagner. My aunt was and still is very musically inclined. Standing opera tickets and all that. She worked as a secretary in downtown L.A. and took the bus in every weekday. One of her long time commuting friends was a young guy of Italian Jewish descent and their connection was through opera. He was not just a Ring aficianado, he was a Ring fanatic and long before I knew what the Ring really was, I remember hearing my aunt tell of Ross going off to hear the Ring at some far off music festival or other.

Much, much later I watched the James Morris as Wotan production on PBS. I loved it and I thought of both my aunt and of Ross when I saw it. There's no moral to this story, it's just an account. And I don't mean to excuse Wagner for his anti-Semiticism in the slightest. By all accounts, he was a nasty piece of work. How to account for his music? I can't.

April 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, it's a nice account, not least because your aunt's opera friend was Italian. I'm not sure Italians are the world's biggst Wagner lovers.

And no, nothing wrong with having such a pleasant memory associated with Wagner. I can still enjoy the tunes from Die Meistersinger even if Wagner's name gives me the creeps.

By the way, did I ever mention the time I visited some friends in Frankfurt and, being unable to join me one evening, they recommended a restaurant? Its name was -- and I'm not making this up -- Adolf Wagner.

April 02, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Well, he was Italian-American.

If I'd owned the restaurant, I believe I would have changed its name pretty fast.

But what am I saying? I would never own a restaurant. I don't even like to cook for myself.

April 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But Jewish, which is of some interest.

I was thinking about "Adolf Wagner." "Adolf" is an old German name (it sounds Gothic or Frankish) and is probably less shocking to Germans than to us.

I did read a few years ago, when "leadership" was a popular buzzword, that German business schools and businesses hestitated to invoke the word's German equivalent (die Führerschaft) because of its historical associations.

April 02, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I doubt if the name "Adolf," is much used in Germany any more, since WWII.

And to each his or her own on the Wagner thing. I just could not enjoy music with that past association.

I know from hearing anecdotes years ago that survivors of the Holocaust would be traumatized hearing Wagner played and my first sympathies go to them.

April 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One of the major Israeli orchestras, the Israel Philharmonic maybe, refused to play Wagner for years and perhaps still does. I don't know what they did about Richard Strauss and Carl Orff, though.

April 03, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I remember in the mid-eighties, an attorney I knew, told me that a visiting orchestra went to Israel and played a piece by Wagner.

I'll never forget this anecdote. He told me that when the orchestra played that piece, Holocaust survivors ran down the aisles, screaming, yelling and crying, pulling off their shirts and showing their numbers from the camps.

That will always stay with me.

Their reactions and feelings supercede an orchestra's choice; thousands of other musical choices were available.

Anyway, on that note, will go back to a John Harvey mystery.

April 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John Harvey, who works music into his mysteries, I think. Incidentally, how many authors work classical music into their stories? I can think of one: Roz Southey.

Speaking of gloves, I have seen a statement attributed to Mendelsson that "one should wash one's hands after touching one of [Berlioz's] scores." This has nothing to do with the current discussion, but it does indicate how heated up musicians can get.

April 03, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Just a PS to my noting a bit about my mother's life in Norway during Nazi occupation and subsequent comments... In later years she became a high school German language teacher, so she harbored no lasting grudge or anger towards the German people.

April 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds as if your mother might enjoy a chat with Nesbo. In "Nemesis" he muses on personal and national thirst for revenge. I don't think he thinks much of it.

April 07, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

For years I couldn't deal with anyone buying Volkswagens or any Germany products.

Then I met some young people from Germany in 1980 who totally refuted their parents' past Nazi sympathies and were very angry about it all.

So I changed my mind and decided not to paint all Germans as guilty.

And then I read some novels by Binnie Kirshenbaum about Jewish characters dealing with Germans overseas and in the U.S. And I emailed her.

She said she goes back and forth to Germany and knows a lot of good people there who totally reject the past.

So she won me over.

And then I have friends who've gone there and met kind, open people, who are opposed to the past crimes.

Although--I can relate to Bette Midler who was performing in Munich and while on stage, said to herself, "Why am I, a nice Jewish girl, in Munich"? And she took the fastest plane she could out of there.

April 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suppose I can relate to Bette Midler's discomfort. I can even have some sympathy for Germans, especially from after that time, who must live with the enormity of what their country did.

April 09, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes. Agreed.

I just couldn't travel there although, as I said above, I have friends who have, but none of them are Jewish.

None of my Jewish relatives would have ever gone there--anywhere but there.

One friend did go to Poland and visited the monuments to the resistance. Others did that in the Netherlands.

Anyway, back to "Death Wore White," a British police procedural someone in the library recommended.

And about to pick up Denise Mina's new book from the library
and putting more early Hitchcock and pre-WWII movies on reserve.

This is exciting.

April 09, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's inevitable that Germany will be not be an entirely restful or comfortable place, given its history of the last century. One may visit Berlin to see its stunning museums or enjoy the bustle. I would not recommend it as a destination to calm one's nerves.

April 09, 2010  

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