fiction

When chatting (on the critics list) about reading the Steiner book Rosicrucian Wisdom (and the peculiar reactions of anthroposophists to critics reading it), Diana and I came to touch upon another topic which I happen to find quite interesting. Diana wrote:

I think we are seeing the mental state [anthroposophists] go into – after years of training themselves to go into it, on Steiner’s instructions, in study groups, etc. – when facing even a snippet of text by or about Rudolf Steiner. It’s the “reverence” thing. Suspend judgment and pretend for a few minutes that this is all true. This is very effective in making a person come to believe, slowly, that it IS all true. It seems to make a person unable to remember, even for just a few moments, what the real world is all about.

I replied:

I occasionally wonder how anthroposophists manage to read and enjoy fiction.

(It might be wise of me to add: I’m not talking about all anthroposophists; I definitely do not think all anthroposophists have a problem with this. But I wonder how anthroposophists like Rafael manage.) Diana wrote (and here’s the point of this post):

That is a really interesting question, on so many levels. I wonder, too. I’d like some information on what fictions anthroposophists read, if they do. Not that I wish to start, or have time for, a whole other big huge interesting topic, but if any of our anthro friends reading this care to chip in, it would be fascinating and thought-provoking.
Anthroposophists, if you’re listening: do you read fiction? If so, what?

It does interest me too — it interests me a lot. What kind of fiction? Which authors? What do you think about fiction in general — is it supposed to have a purpose? Must it be enlightenening or spiritual or can it be justified on grounds of mere pleasure?

I’ve actually been reading fiction myself, that is, not just any fiction, but fiction written by anthroposophists or people who were otherwise inspired by anthroposophy. The influence can be absolutely genial… but only if the author is genial without anthroposophy (is my impression). For example, two days ago I finished writing a mystery-crime novel by André Bjerke (De dødes tjern — ‘The lake of the dead’). He also wrote the lovely little book Das Ärgernis Rudolf Steiner (older post here). I have a feeling that the author’s own experienced conflict between rationality and irrationality contributes to make the crime novel as exciting as it is. Not that anthroposophy is mentioned. It’s not. There are other nordic authors I hold in high regard (the brilliant Jens Bjørneboe), but I won’t add anything about them now. And they’re all dead. (Falk is the only one of the English speaking readers who understands Swedish — so it would be particularly interesting to know if you’ve read anything by Walter Ljungquist, Falk! There’s one book I find particularly interesting, from an anthroposophical perspective, namely Källan — ‘The spring’). Michael Ende was mentioned in another thread today. There’s Belyj, of course, whom I’ve not yet read.

Of course, the above paragraph is a digression from the topic, but I thought it might interesting to include it, too. I’m not interested only in what fiction anthroposophists might be reading but also in fiction written by anthroposophists. Any input? Any suggestions?

12 thoughts on “fiction

  1. I have read a fair bit of nordic crime fiction. What really sticks in my mind is the books of Sjowall and Wahloo which I read more than once. (I can’t imagine I would want to read Steig Larsson more that once though they are clever thrillers. I like very much Arnaldur Indridason and am looking forwards to his next novel. I read Moberg and I still love Astrid Lindgren (Who I managed to read in Swedish). I have tried to read and failed to finish Sigrid Undsett from across the border. Not long ago I read The Winter Book by Tove Jasson, a Finlandssvenskar like your Mum Alicia.
    And , Yes, i love Michael Ende too.
    I have also read a lot of english language fiction, ranging from classics to contemporary. For Christmas I was given ‘Restoration’ by Rose Tremain, which I really enjoyed and loved.
    I was also given ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes. I could see it is very clever but it left me cold.
    The last fiction I read was ‘Death comes to Pemberley’, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, but written by P D James, a very intelligent and subtle writer of crime fiction.
    Right now I am reading, “Mary and Richard; The Story of Richard Hillary and Mary Booker”. Not fiction but a wonderful story.
    Richard Hillary was a young fighter pilot who was shot down and horribly burned in his Spitfire during the Battle of Britain. He wrote a once famous but now forgotten book about his experiences in the Battle and his rehabilitation by the pioneering plastic surgeon A McIndoe. (The Last Enemy).
    He had met Mary Booker in December 1941 and had fallen in love with her. At the time he was 21 and Mary was 41. The story is told through the letters they wrote to each other during the brief period between when they met and when he died in January 1943. Richard was just 23 when he died.

  2. “It’s the “reverence” thing. Suspend judgment and pretend for a few minutes that this is all true. This is very effective in making a person come to believe, slowly, that it IS all true. It seems to make a person unable to remember, even for just a few moments, what the real world is all about.”

    This, once again, applies:

    Waldorf student: “When everyone around you is wearing bad hats, it seems
    normal.”

  3. I really wanted to take up the fiction thread, but I seem unable to participate even in threads I start, lately. I really recommend “The Discovery of Heaven,” by Harry Mulisch. I think of it as an anthroposophical novel, though it is not overtly so; in fact, the narrator makes a couple of rather disparaging remarks about anthroposophy, but the worldview is the same. This is a very long and strange book with a very complicated plot – the type of thing I probably couldn’t get through nowdays, and even at the time (several years ago), I think I lost track of some plot threads. I had lots of complaints as I was reading it – objecting on principle to mystical silliness – but absolutely couldn’t put it down. It isn’t too much of a plot spoiler to note that God talks to the characters at intervals, and is pulling strings in human affairs in a rather silly way.

    Alicia, you would love it, if you have the time to read a tome of hundreds of pages.

    http://www.amazon.com/Discovery-Heaven-Harry-Mulisch/dp/0140239375

    There is apparently a movie version; one review says flippantly, “God is disappointed with the human race and wants his stone tablets back,” which is cute and basically accurate, but makes the premise seem sillier than it turns out to be.

  4. Sorry, I’m way behind reading and replying…

    I had no idea about Harry Mulish — thank you Diana! I really have to read that one!

    I’m a bit baffled I managed to forget to mention Saul Bellow in my post, so I’ll just mention him now for no apparent reason other than his anthroposophical inclinations. (Humboldt’s Gift.)

    Falk: Tove Jansson is a genius, of course. I’ve read Stieg Larsson — and agree with you. It’s not books I’d read again, they aren’t very good books, but they are good entertainment.

    What fascinates me most about the Bjerke novel is that he’s a decent, even good, writer (much better than Stieg Larsson) but most of all the conflict between the irrational and the rational. There are several characters, but he has the mystic/occultist argue with the rationalist/materialist/scientist (who, in today’s perspective, probably wouldn’t be seen as rational or scientific, as he is a psychoanalyst!). I posted an example on twitter the other day: http://twitpic.com/8h7kgz (it’s in Norwegian). I had not finished reading then, it’s pretty early in the book. Rationality wins, sort of.

    Thanks for all the other names/books!

    Today I’ve been reading Taja Gut’s anthroposophy book. Which isn’t fiction. Every anthroposophist who reads german ought to read it. (I can’t find anything on the publisher’s website, oddly enough. But here’s an article, though in German: http://www.themen-der-zeit.de/content/Anthroposophie.1244.0.html.)

    Sune could learn a few things from reading Gut’s book. You read german, Sune, so come on. You should read it. It’s very insightful.

    By the way, I’ve been trying to entice Sune (on twitter) into saying something about fiction but he thinks it’s just pretense, supposedly a way to evade having to discuss the impressive contents of the links he posted on the racial progression thread. In fact, though, the racism threads are just pretense to get people to come here and then accidentally start talking about fiction and other fun things instead ;-) (There’s some truth to that, Sune. Actually.)

  5. The Mulish book is said to be the best book ever in Dutch!

    I’m very interested in the question how you can communicate inspirational/spiritual experiences and what kind of explanations/theories you build around them. I think the rather intellectual and obsessively detailed world Steiner describes might be better suited for a computer role-playing game than for a novel. All of them have some kind of karma system, and playing different races or even species is just fun.

    It would also be interesting to hear if anthroposophists are more into audiobooks? Because of the value given to listening. Or would that be too technical/materialistic? I once found my way back to reading through listening to Dan Brown way back in ancient times when they were still on CD:s.

  6. “I think the rather intellectual and obsessively detailed world Steiner describes might be better suited for a computer role-playing game than for a novel. ”

    That’s interesting … if Steiner had been born in our era instead of his own, maybe that’s what he would have done. I think you’re right that there’s people just like him today who are channeling obsessions like Steiner’s into creating virtual worlds. Can’t you see millions addicted to “Karmaville” instead of “Farmville”?

  7. Sorry, got too enthusiastic there; had more to say.

    I actually got the Discovery of Heaven in the bookshop today — many pages, very small print (unfortunately; I have problems reading these days…).

    ‘I think the rather intellectual and obsessively detailed world Steiner describes might be better suited for a computer role-playing game than for a novel. All of them have some kind of karma system, and playing different races or even species is just fun.’

    Yes, although you can choose the level of detail. But with all the details intact, it is as you say. I guess fiction writers are truly in the position to pick and choose, though.

    Some Steiner works are available as audio books, but I’m not sure how popular they are. Head-anthro Prokofieff has argued that ALL digital information is ahrimanic and dangerous. So… well. Lots of people don’t take that too seriously, obviously.

    The Steiner Verlag has made the Calendar of the Soul into an iPhone app. Now, that ought to be ahrimanic!

  8. Wow, you really got the book? I’ll have to dig mine out. I’ll be very interested to hear what you think. I recall it as spell binding, though quite bizarre.

    Trying to remember more of my thoughts about that book … I think it convinced me of the plausibility of the world that it created, even though I don’t actually believe in that world. I guess what that really means is that it is successful fiction. The plot is really wild and implausible.

  9. Yes, mr Dog and I went on an expedition to the book shop today and actually got it! I was surprised they had it; thought I would have to order online.

    The praise for the book, published on the book cover (and inside), is overwhelming!

    My eyes easily become very sore from reading now, but I’ll soon have my eye operation (which scares the hell out of me at the moment, but anyway)! I’m hoping things will improve… But the small print isn’t helpful, so we’ll see how it goes…

    ‘I guess what that really means is that it is successful fiction.’

    It must be!

  10. Picking up this old thread again…

    Diana — I’ve begun to read Harry Mulisch’s book. If Mulisch doesn’t have any familiarity with Steiner and anthroposophy, I’d be very surprised! I’ve only read 60 pages so far (and am truly eager to continue — it’s a masterpiece!!). But I see influences everywhere.

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