Out of Resentment

“It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it’s seldom successful”

Ralph Ellison
The Invisible Man

 
 

Photographs by Duane Michals

An Invisible Man

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

Ralph Ellison
The Invisible Man

 
 

Photograph by Duane Michals

I Might Live in Freedom

“I was born free, and that I might live in freedom I chose the solitude of the fields; in the trees of the mountains I find society, the clear waters of the brooks are my mirrors, and to the trees and waters I make known my thoughts and charms. I am a fire afar off, a sword laid aside…”

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Don Quixote

 
 

The Skinny Dipper’s Song, Duane Michals, 2008

Setting Limits

“Commissions suit me. They set limits. Jean Marais dared me to write play in which he would not speak in the first act, would weep for joy in the second and in the last would fall backward down a flight of stairs.”

Jean Cocteau

 
 

Gabrielle Dorziat and Jean Marais in Les parents terribles of Jean Cocteau. Production of Alice Cocea. Paris, Theatre of the Ambassadors, November 1938. Photo by Roger Lipnitzki. Getty Images

The Only One Bad Thing About Sleep

“All I know is that while I’m asleep, I’m never afraid, and I have no hopes, no struggles, no glories — and bless the man who invented sleep, a cloak over all human thought, food that drives away hunger, water that banishes thirst, fire that heats up cold, chill that moderates passion, and, finally, universal currency with which all things can be bought, weight and balance that brings the shepherd and the king, the fool and the wise, to the same level. There’s only one bad thing about sleep, as far as I’ve ever heard, and that is that it resembles death, since there’s very little difference between a sleeping man and a corpse”

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Don Quixote

 
 

1The Sleepwalker, George Platt Lynes, 1935

In The Shadow of Goethe

Vorlesung aus Goethes „Werther“ (Reading Goethe’s “Werther”), Wilhelm Amberg, 1870

 
 

Thomas Mann‘s 1939 novel, Lotte in Weimar: The Beloved Returns, or otherwise known by Lotte in Weimar or The Beloved Returns, is a story written in the shadow of Goethe; Thomas Mann developed the narrative almost as a response to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, although Goethe’s work is more than 150 years older than Lotte in Weimar. Lotte in Weimar was first published in English in 1940.

The Beloved Returns is the story of one of Goethe’s old romantic interests, a real historical figure by the name of Charlotte Kestner neé Buff, who has come to Weimar to see him again after more than 40 years of separation. Goethe had romanced Charlotte when they were young, but she had already been engaged (and then married) to another man whom she truly loved. Ultimately, the romance ended unconsummated; afterwards, Goethe wrote a fictional depiction of these events, with some artistic changes, and published it under the title The Sorrows of Young Werther—a still famous book, which brought early renown to Goethe. The real Charlotte became inadvertently and unwillingly famous, and remained so for the rest of her life to a certain degree.

Her return in some ways is due to her need to settle the “wrongs” done to her by Goethe in his creation of Werther; one of the underlying motifs in the story is the question of what sacrifices both a “genius” and the people around him/her must make to promote his/her creations, and whether or not Goethe (as the resident genius of Weimar) is too demanding of his supporters. Most of the novel is written as dialogues between Charlotte and other residents of Weimar, who give their own opinions on the issue of Goethe’s genius. Only in the last third of the book, starting with the internal monologue in the seventh chapter, the reader is finally directly confronted with Goethe and what he himself thinks of the entire affair.

Lotte in Weimar also echoes in subtle ways Mann’s and the world’s concerns with German military aggression and social oppression.