Saturday, June 12, 2021

The "sad nostalgic humming" of "Mack the Knife" in Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook"

In Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook", Anna Wulf recalls in the mid-1950s how during World War Two, the German refugee Willi Rodde, her wartime lover in Southern Rhodesia, "would tunelessly hum" Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife". When it became a hit in the mid-1950s, Anna felt a "sharp feeling of dislocation" on hearing it in London. For Willi in Africa, with his "sad nostalgic humming", it was a song from his childhood in Berlin; for Anna in London, it recalled her young adulthood during the war. I feel nostalgia now, too, re-reading "The Golden Notebook" three decades after I first read it in the early 1990s – in Berlin. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 12 June 2021)

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