Wednesday, February 10, 2016
From Passenger to Frankfurt of which Robert Barnard said:
"The last of the thrillers, and one that slides from the unlikely to the inconceivable and finally lands up in incomprehensible muddle. Prizes should be offered to readers who can explain the ending. Concerns the youth uproar of the 'sixties, drugs, a new Aryan superman and so on, subjects of which Christie's grasp was, to say the least, uncertain (she seems to have the oddest idea of what the term 'Third World' means, for example). Collins insisted she subtitle the book 'An Extravaganza.' One can think of other descriptions."
Sir Stafford Nye adjusted himself more comfortably in his seat and listened to the persistent hammering of the Nibelungen, with which the program began. Though he enjoyed Wagnerian opera, Siegfried was by no means his favorite of the operas composing the Ring. Rheingold and Gatterdiimmerung were his two preferences. The music of the young Siegfried, listening to the songs of the birds, had always for some strange reason irritated him instead of filling him with melodic satisfaction. It might have been because he went to a performance in Munich in his young days which had displayed a magnificent tenor of unfortunately overmagnificent proportions, and he had been too young to divorce the joy of music from the visual joy of seeing a young Siegfried that looked even passably young. The fact of an outsized tenor rolling about on the ground in an access of boyishness had revolted him. He was also not particularly fond of birds and forest mur-murs. No, give him the Rhine Maidens every time, al-though in Munich even the Rhine Maidens in those days had been of fairly solid proportions. But that mattered less. Carried away by the melodic flow of water and the joyous impersonal song, he had not allowed visual appreciation to matter.
By the way, Staffy, did you ever read The Prisoner of Zenda?" "Prisoner of Zenda? Sounds very familiar." "Well, of course it's familiar, it's a book." "Yes, yes, I realize it's a book." , "You wouldn't know about it, I expect. After your time. But when I was a girl—that's about the first taste of romance we got. Not pop singers or Beatles. Just a romantic novel. We weren't allowed to read novels when was young. Not in the morning, anyway. You could read them in the afternoon." "What extraordinary rules," said Sir Stafford. "Why is it wrong to read novels in the morning and not in the afternoon?" "Well, in the mornings, you see, girls were supposed be doing something useful. You know, doing the flowers or cleaning the silver photograph frames. All the things we girls did. Doing a bit of studying with the governess all that sort of thing. In the afternoon we were allow to sit down and read a storybook, and The Prisoner of Zenda was usually one of the first ones that came our way." "A very nice, respectable story, was it? I seem to remember something about it. Perhaps I did read it. All very pure, I suppose. Not too sexy?"
''Certainly not. We didn't have sexy books. We had romance. The Prisoner of Zenda was very romantic. One fell in love, usually, with the hero, Rudolf Rassendyll."I seem to remember that name, too. Bit florid, isn't it?' Well, I still think it was rather a romantic name. Twelve years old, I must have been. It made me think of it, you know, your going up and looking at that portrait. princess Flavia," she added. Stafford Nye was smiling at her. "You look young and pink and very sentimental," he said. "Well, that's just what I'm feeling. Girls can't feel like that nowadays. They're swooning with love, or they're fainting when somebody plays the guitar or sings in a very loud voice, but they're not sentimental. But I wasn't in love with Rudolf Rassendyll. I was in love with the other one—his double." "Did he have a double?" "Oh, yes, a king. The King of Ruritania." "Ah, of course, now I know. That's where the word Ruritania comes from: one is always throwing it about. Yes, I think I did read it, you know. The King of Ruriania, and Rudolf Rassendyll was stand-in for the King and fell in love with Princess Flavia, to whom the King as officially betrothed." Lady Matilda gave some more deep sighs. Yes. Rudolf Rassendyll had inherited his red hair from ancestress, and somewhere in the book he bows to the ortrait and says something about the—I can't remember the name now—the Countess Amelia or something like that from whom he inherited his looks and all the rest of it.