Before I get into explaining the peculiar title, let me just briefly draw your attention to this interview posted on the Every Read Thing website. Brandon over at ERT is a top fella and I’m not only super-grateful for his interest in my writing, but also to be the very first author interviewed on his site. By a curious reciprocity, it’s also my first website-based interview.
Artist Stephen Hutchings has been touring Canada with his exhibition ‘Landscapes For The End Of Time’, a series of remarkable paintings created to accompany Messiaen’s famous suite of compositions, ‘Quartet For The End Of Time’. I was invited to attend the exhibition’s opening concert yesterday by my Russian friend Oxana Ossiptchouk, who would be the violinist.
So Jon and I are sitting there when, how about that? In walks Yann Martel, the local author behind the rudely successful ‘Life Of Pi’. I’ve met Yann before so we kinda vaguely know each other. He sat right next to Jon, from whose other side I said hello and shook hands. Then the presentation began and we settled down to enjoy it. Listening to this awesome composition, amazingly performed, I couldn’t help but be struck by the weird symmetry which was going on. There was an incredible fine-art painter sandwiched between two writers; one an internationally-renowned and successful author, the movie of whose book is playing in 3D right now at a cinema near you, and one who is right at the start of the journey and feels utterly unworthy to even dare think of comparisons. This bizarre concept of painter meat sandwiched between slices of author bread seemed ridiculously funny at the time and it was hard not to laugh, which indiscretion would have at the very least solicited disapproving glances from the assembled turtle-necks and at worse invoked an invitation to ignominious egress courtesy of the security guard. And, the context of culinary comparison being thus massively weighted to one side, I’ll say this; Yann Martel’s got a lot more bread. :-)
Olivier Messiaen was drafted as a medical auxiliary in the French army and in 1940 interred in a German POW camp. There he met a cellist, a violinist and a clarinetist (the anarchist in me wants to suffix that list with the phrase “walked into a bar”). Based on the Biblical book of Revelation, Messiaen composed his well-known suite, inspired by his belief that he was actually going through the apocalypse. Eventually the four of them performed the work for the camp officers, the guards and about four hundred of their fellow prisoners, on broken instruments in the freezing cold. The remarkable and oddly happy ending to this tale is that after the concert the camp commandant invited the four musicians to his office, where he told them that no-one who could compose and perform such remarkable music was an enemy of the Third Reich, and that they were free to go.
And that is all for now. Roger and out, X.