Beethoven and the meaning of life: what can my satirical speculative thriller “Eternal Life” tell us about both?
The meaning of life
I wrote a while ago about “A breakthrough in longevity: my thriller “Eternal Life” explores immortality“.
I said that the meaning of life would emerge around 80% of the way through the book; and that it involved “Come Celebrate with Us” and “The Kiss”.
Wiener Secession, 2015 – Photo: Leigh Turner
Beethoven and the meaning of life
I live in Vienna, where the climax to Eternal Life takes place, and was delighted to find that the wonderful Secession building built in 1897 by Joseph Maria Olbrich had got a new basement. That basement houses Gustav Klimt’s magnificent Beethoven frieze, based on the Ninth Symphony, which, to quote Wikipedia, “illustrates human desire for happiness in a suffering and tempestuous world”.
Isn’t that the meaning of life?
Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze
Gratifyingly, the three themes of Klimt’s frieze – the Yearning for Happiness, the Hostile Forces, and This Kiss to the Whole World – echo the themes of Eternal Life. The hero of Eternal Life, Jake Parker, listens to Beethoven’s 9th at the start of the novel. He is heading off to execute the ill-fated termination contract for ‘Time-expired Jennifer. Later in the book, he will listen to the Grateful Dead. Finally, Jake may, perhaps, find that what he has been chasing all his life will not bring him happiness; but love just might.
The parallels between Klimt, Beethoven and Eternal Life are not entirely surprising. I conceived the story in Vienna; Klimt was Viennese; and while Beethoven was born in Bonn (where I lived in 1998-99) he is buried in Vienna’s magnificent Central Cemetery.
Life… and death
I visited the Central Cemetery, or Zentralfriedhof, on All Saints, or Halloween night, in 1986, and wrote a piece expressing my emotions on seeing the countless elderly people, mostly women, who were out lighting candles on the graves of their loved ones. Despite its name, the cemetery is miles out of the city, and I remember humming Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the edge of town” to myself. If you ever get a chance to visit Vienna, I recommend the cemetery, the ceiling of whose chapel decorates the front page of this blog.