[PDF Notes] Hemingway was trembling and Goethe clutched his arm – Passage

“Calm down, Ernest! Calm down, my friend. I understand you. What you’ve just been telling me reminds me of my dream. It was my last dream, after that I had no more or else they were confused and I could no longer distinguish them from reality. Imagine a small puppet theatre. I am behind the scenes, I control the puppets.

I and recite the text. It is a performance of Faust. My Faust. Did you know that Faust is at its most beautiful when performed as a puppet play? That’s why I was so happy that no actors were present and I alone recited the lines, which on that day sounded more beautiful than ever before.

I And then I suddenly glanced at the seats and saw that the theatre was empty. That puzzled me. Where was the audience? Was my Faust so boring that everyone had gone home? Was I not even worth booing? Bewildered, I turned round and I was aghast: I expected them out front, and instead they were at the back of the stage, gazing at me with wide open, inquisitive eyes.

As soon as my glance met theirs, they began to applaud. And I realized that my Faust didn’t interest them at all and that the show they wished to see was not the puppets I was leading around the stage, but me myself! Not Faust, but Goethe! And then I was overcome by a sense of horror very similar to what you described a moment ago.

I felt they wanted me to say something, but I couldn’t. My throat felt locked tight, I put down the puppets and left them laying on the brightly lit stage that nobody was watching. I tried to maintain a dignified composure, I walked silently to the coat-rack where my hat was hanging, I put it on my head and without a glance at all those curiosity-seekers I left the theatre and went home.

I did not try to look neither to the right nor the left nor especially not behind me, because I knew were they following. I unlocked the heavy front door and slammed it behind me. I found an oil lamp and lit it. I lifted it with my shaking arm and went to my study, hoping that my rock collection would help me forget this unpleasant episode.

But before I had time to put the lamp down on the table, I happened to glance at the window. Their faces were pressed against the glass. Then I realized that I would never get rid of them, never, never. I realized that the lamp was lighting up my face, I saw it by those wide-open eyes that were scrutinizing me.

I put out the lamp and yet I knew that I shouldn’t have done so; now they realized that I was trying to hide from them, that I was afraid of them and this was sure to incite them all the more. But by now my fear was stronger than my reason and I ran off into the bedroom, pulled the covers off the bed, threw them over my head, stood in the corner of the room, and pressed myself against the wall….’

1. Why was Hemingway trembling?

Hemingway seems to be trembling with emotion and excitation. Peculiarly the fictional Hemingway described here behaves very similar to the way American novelist Earnest Hemingway behaved at times. In fact, as we read the entire passage we realize that it is the same historical Heming put in a fictional situation where he could be talking about his anxiety at being persecuted by the public to Goethe, one who had died long before even Hemingway was born.

2. Why does Goethe leave the theatre?

Goethe is intolerably weary of the fact that the public for whom he had been performing the Puppet show is not only indifferent to his art, but also obtrusively interested in his own private self. He is embarrassed of being watched by an audience directly, without the clothing of his art and in disgust with the intrusive public leaves the theatre. The passage shows the longing for privacy of an author and his helplessness after once having been famous. The irony is implicit that the real puppet is Goethe himself and his life a ludicrous puppet show.

3. What do you know about the friendship of Goethe, the famous French poet, and Hemingway, the American Nobel Laureate?

Hemingway and Goethe were historically born in different ages and there was no possibility of their being friends. This is a fictional piece in which the author imagines Goethe and Hemingway talking like contemporaries. By doing so he deliberately shows the agonies of an author regardless of time and space.

4. Comment on the genre of the prose passage. Do you think it is a part of Goethe’s biography?

This prose passage is not a part of any biography for the very impossibility of its being true. It seems to be a piece of post modernist fiction in which reality and imagination, history and fiction have been freely juxtaposed without an apology. Moreover, it is also a philosophical discussion about the comparative importance of an author and his work. It shows the predicament of an author at being treated as a book himself, at the dissipation of his identity as an individual in his public self.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *