Friday, November 21, 2014
how false, how little authentic
At first this was a comment at Séamus Duggan's Vapour Trails blog but it disappeared when I hit publish or post or whatever that button says and therefore I am going to try to reconstruct it here; or think back on it, more likely, since that was several days ago. I had already been saying something about the childishness of Nagel in Mysteries, the naivete of his attention-getting performances (“performance” from Scott G.F. Bailey in those same comments); the kidlike haphazard cunning that he has, how he would rather confound people with lies than cultivate his reputation steadily and slowly with his violining adult skill: “he switched to a weighty, powerful pathos, a fortissimo passage with the force of a fanfare.”
Musicianship means attainment in ordinary forward-progressing chronological time. He feels disassociated; he assures his audience that the disassociation is part of his own feeling, and the reader is asked to wonder what sincerity means when he says, “If you only knew how false, how little authentic it was! But I made it look very authentic, didn't I?”
Conclude that this disassociation is not meant to be casual, helpless, or simply “a result of” some condition apart from him -- urbanisation, the industrial age, "the modern spirit of Norway" (which Hamsun hates in Look Back on Happiness (1912)) -- since he is working to uphold it with his words and actions.
Not "hapless," as Woods says, unless it is a willed haplessness.
He refuses to be known as a violinist. Instead he wants to live inside a state of being not-known, and committing himself to the, you could even say the word job, of embodying the not-known thing, which, in the work of Arthur Machen (who lived around the same time, born in 1863 and dying in 1947, Hamsun living a little longer, from 1859 to 1952) -- was often a woman or a part-woman transported by uncanny magic into a protoplasmic state of existence. See: The Great God Pan, The Shining Pyramid, The White People, and carry over into the prosaic multisex theatricals of The Three Imposters.
Now that I've mentioned Machen I want to decide that Nagel strives to uphold himself as a protoplasm; nobody knows what he is; and he puts effort into his bad disguises that are typically penetrable, but the penetration is always confusing and never revealing. Nagel keeps the potential for conclusions to himself.
The conclusion of Hamsun's protoplasm is the same as the conclusions of Machen's.