THE MADMAN OF ROBINSON'S GILEAD

This topic contains 17 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Clement 2 years, 9 months ago.

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  • 01 Apr 2015 at 10:04 pm #6832

    Peter Josyph
    Member

    (Hums theme song from THE PRODUCERS)


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    02 Apr 2015 at 7:49 pm #6834

    Glass
    Member

    I hope it is okay to add this bit of as-lived historical detail regarding Franco-Prussia and German history (wars, religious persecution) as recounted in my family history by Oscar Edward Meinzer, called the father of modern hydrogeology. He was my great-great uncle or something. He called the family history In the Land of Freedom. I’ll post a few grafs from it in a subsequent post or two, which I hope are relevant to Robinson, religion, etc. The bottom line, from what I’ve been told and from reading this history, is that my family left Germany and came to America because it was sick and tired of war and religious persecution. A couple of bios on the author, who, along with his two brothers, held university doctoral degrees, a highly unusual achievement given their personal circumstances. (Cool photos at the Wiki page)

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Edward_Meinzer

    http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2830902895.html


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    02 Apr 2015 at 8:08 pm #6835

    Glass
    Member

    “The village was founded in the twelfth century. The name Neureut, originally Neureuth, means “New Plowing”; that is, a new tract brought under cultivation. The outstanding event in the history of the village, which has made it different from other peasant villages, was the coming of the Waldenese, who were protestant refugees from France. They were followers of Peter Waldo, who started a reform movement in the Twelth Century, long before the time of Martin Luther. They were persecuted at many times during their history for their religion, and in the latter part of the Seventeenth Century many of them fled across the Rhine River. Neureut was a protestant village and hence in 1699 it gave refuge to some of these persecuted people, and made arrangements for them to settle in the Neuret locality…
    “There was doubtless Waldenstein blood in our Mother…The Waldenstein blood coursing through our veins doubtless accounts in part for the strange spirit that pervaded our family — a spirit of religious idealism, an independent and intensely democratic spirit, and an inborn urge for learning and achievement.” (In the Land of Freedom, Meinzer, pp. 2-3)


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    02 Apr 2015 at 8:19 pm #6836

    Glass
    Member

    In the Land of Freedom, continued:

    “The year 1850 was the year of revolutions in Europe, when in many countries attempts were made to overthrow the heriditary monarchs and to establish republican forms of government, with guarantees of personal rights and freedom. The struggle for a more liberal government had been going on in Baden for some years, but in 1848 it broke out in the form of a revolution, and by 1849 the Freischaar, as the supporters of the revolution in Baden were called, had the Grand Duke (Grossherrzog) virtually beaten, so that he fled from Karlsruhe.

    “There was at that time no German empire, as the empire was not established until after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, but Prussia was already a war-loving country which gloried in its military prowess. The Grossherrzog appealed to the King of Prussia and soon Prince William, who later became emperor William I, was on his way to Baden with his well-trained and ruthless troops who promptly suppressed the Freischaar and disposed of hopes of freedom and the republican government in Baden.” (pp. 3-4)


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    02 Apr 2015 at 8:32 pm #6837

    Glass
    Member

    Final bit from In the Land of Freedom:

    “Our Mother’s Father, Michael Meinzer, was a glasser, or cabinet maker, by trade. He was about 30 years old at the time of the Freischaar movement and was intensely interested in it. His brother was at that time the Burgomaster of Neureut and was implicated on the side of the revolution, but was released on taking an oath of allegiance to Grossherrzog.”

    “Glasser Michael then turned his face toward America, which ever after he called the land of freedom. He sold his house and farm acreage, consisting of seven small separate strips. The proceeds, after paying for his passsage and that of his family to America, were converted into gold coins. Our Grandmother made a strong belt into which she secured the coins and then she sewed the belt around her husband’s body. Then he carried their earthly belongings to this country. They left early in the Spring of 1850, going on a boat from a port near Karlsruhe, down the Rhine River, to Rotterdam. There they embarked on an ocean sail boat and crossed the Atlantic to New York in about thirty days, which was considered reasonably good time.” (p. 4)


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    02 Apr 2015 at 10:55 pm #6840

    Mike
    Member

    I am definitely a bit out of place in the current dialogue, but I would like to share a few thoughts. After reading the first third of “Gilead”, I couldn’t read much more. Robinson’s prose is as fine as I’ve ever read in the past 10 years. However, Ames is a painfully tragic figure. He immediately conjured within me the idea of the anti-Walt Whitman or disemboweled Walt Whitman, no intestinal fortitude or confidence in who he is a man, kind of like the Un-Transcedentalist. The narrative seems as if it is a tongue-in-cheek example of how not to live your last few years…

    As usual, I shared my thoughts with the employees at Moe’s on Telegraph and they gave me a friendly comeuppance for not reading “Housekeeping” first, which is apparently the house favorite. Yes, she is a writer no doubt, but the pain of being with Ames was pretty too much for my Spring Break. Because Robinson is a true poet, I’ll definitely do what I can to read “Housekeeping” sooner than later.

    Mike


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    06 Apr 2015 at 6:33 pm #6881

    Peter Josyph
    Member

    I’ve just reread for the 7th time the section of GILEAD (pp. 41 – 43) in which Ames proves that he is mentally deranged by discussing the Spanish Flu as if it were a sign from some just and merciful creature who speaks in signs that kill 500 million people in order to save lives! Then it struck me that this “Lord” of whom he keeps speaking is not the master of some estate or a ruler at court, but for Ames, “Lord” means a god who lives somewhere and with whom he is in close enough touch for these signs to be divulged to him. Wow. Holy crap. So this Ames chap is two-ways out of his head raving!

    Am I wrong in thinking it a strange book for people in this century to read?

    It’s one thing for a protagonist to be a Master of Quaint, quite another for him to persist in some medieval notion about a god who sends signs and appoints men to be his/its ministers on earth! I mean, that’s just, like, beyond Squaresville, man. Is this cat for real? This leads me back to my original question: Is the point of the book that he’s a madman? At the end I’ll find him safely tucked into a nice asylum?


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    • This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by  Peter Josyph.
    06 Apr 2015 at 7:53 pm #6883

    Clement
    Member

    Yes, you are wrong to think it is a strange book for people to read in this century!


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