Friday, August 01, 2008

The Pamela Widmerpool of Central Europe

I think there is no chance I am actually going to read this multi-volume Mahler biography, reviewed by Hugh Wood at the TLS, but I am tickled by Wood's description of the relationship between subject and digression:
[T]his is not just a biography: it is more of a Mahler-Lexicon, almost a history of the age. De La Grange has found himself irresistibly drawn down every avenue that offers itself, and his interests are wide. By the time one has read through all thirty-three of the Appendices, and has discovered in the last one the recipe for Mahler’s favourite dessert (Marillonknödel – and it sounds delicious), one feels not only triumphant but replete.


  1. Of course you had me at the post headline . . .

    This passage is chilling in its starkness:
    "Often she is the only witness, and the biographer has to depend on her while doubting with every sentence her capacity for telling the truth. Everything that passed through her hands must be regarded as tainted."

    And something I read recently--maybe Gary Indiana's Do Everything in the Dark--featured someone yammering about an Alma Mahler simulacrum? Odd . . .

  2. My own first exposure to Alma was via Tom Lehrer in the early sixties. As a teen, the idea that people had actually had sex all those years ago and that a person would be prominent for adultery and such was spellbinding!

    I will also not be reading the four volumes of Mahler's life but I think the world is a brighter, better place for the effort.

    As the TLS article points out, "Luckily, not everything did pass through her hands. A recent discovery was immune from Alma's revisionism. De la Grange was given access to a collection of some 3000 letters that she wrote to her lover Walter Gropius, together with the drafts of some of Gropius's replies"

    I suspect Mahler will benefit from the unexpurgated version as she will suffer a bit.

    It took me some time to find out Pamela Widmerpool was fictional.

  3. I was reading the TLS article when I came across this post (BTW, did you know that a search for 'Pamela Widmerpool' yields your post upfront?).

    But I can't for the life of me remember which one was Pamela in Powell's novel. More than one femme fatale comes to mind.