How do we recall a past occurring prior to our visit to the planet? The physicists are busy trying to recall the origin of the universe, and beyond. Meantime, I’ve been busy visiting the Baroque era of the 17th and 18th Centuries. We discover timelines to be arbitrarily drawn. Borges explains in his Kafka and his Precursors, arguing how Kafka influenced Shakespeare, for example. And J. S. Bach, even when played on so called period instruments in a cold church in Saxony, continues to be influenced by Thelonious Monk. It’s best to keep the algorithms confused, guessing.
For some time, Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel The Blue Flower sat buried in the to-be-read stack, even as all her other novels were read, some more than once: The Bookshop, At Freddie’s, Offshore. The problem seemed to rest in the tag historical novel. But couldn’t Offshore also be considered a so-called historical novel? In any case, it was Eric Siblin’s The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece, thoroughly enjoyed, that brought about a reconsideration of The Blue Flower, bringing it to the top of the stack, opened, and listened to.
Here is an example of how Penelope influences the Baroque era of Saxony:
“‘I am not sure about that,’ said Fritz. ‘Luck has its rules, if you can understand them, and then it is scarcely luck.’The Blue Flower, 1995, Penelope Fitzgerald, page 30 in the Second Mariner Books edition 2014.
‘Yes, but every evening at dinner, to sit there while these important people amused themselves by giving you too much to drink, to have your glass filled up again and again with fine wines, I don’t know what…What did they talk about?’
‘Nature-philosophy, galvanism, animal magnetism and freemasonry,’ said Fritz.
‘I don’t believe it. You drink wine to forget things like that. And then at night, when the pretty women come creaking on tiptoe up the stairs to find the young innocent, and tap at your door, T R I U M P H !’
‘There are no women,’ Fritz told him, ‘I think perhaps my uncle did not invite any.’
‘No women!’ cried Erasmus. ‘Who then did the washing?'”
It’s that bit of who does the washing, to cite but one example, which begins her 20th Century novel and remains a motif throughout where Penelope influences the Baroque era that is her setting.