Typically these entries on books are essentially notes to myself. Perhaps even moreso for this one, in which I’ll collect people and things of interest to Europe Central readers that I find myself looking up. Broken down by section:
Women With Dead Child
First, musical accompaniment:
Dimitri Shostakovich, Prelude and Fugue No. 14 in E flat minor, 1951
The section title refers to recurring artistic obsession of German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867 - 1945), whose sculptures, paintings, and perhaps most of all wood-cut prints, continually reflect this theme of loss and anguish. As well as loss and anguish in so many other forms.
Käthe Kollwitz, The Parents, 1922-1923.
Käthe Kollwitz, Mother and Daughter, 1919.
Käthe Kollwitz, Hunger, 1925.
Käthe Kollwitz, The Volunteers, 1921-1922.
Käthe Kollwitz, The People, 1922-1923.
Now, why are we listening to Shostakovich’s dystopian prelude? The Vollmann story concerns Kollwitz’s 1927 trip to Russia for a show of her work. Though Kollwitz never committed to the communist party in Germany, her portrayals of the working class resonated with the Communist Party at home and abroad. During the 1927 show, her work was pointed to as a record of the suffering of the workers in non-communist countries (of course, nothing so universal as the loss of children occurred in the U.S.S.R.). During the trip, she found herself disturbed by a preformance of a modernist symphony by Shostakovich:
Dimitri Shostakovich, Scherzo in E-flat major for orchestra Op.7, 1923-1924
The prelude and fugue at the top of this post came later (but seemed most apt here), after Shostakovich’s fall from favor, but the scherzo above was from the height of his success. 10 years later, in 1934, just before censure for his opera Lady Macbeth, he composed his Cello Sonata in D-minor, op.40, dedicated to his mistress, Elena Konstantinovskaya (or so Vollmann attributes it, but he’s writing a novel, however well researched):
Dimitri Shostakovich, Cello Sonata in D-minor, op.40, movement 2, 1934
More notes soon, perhaps.