Sunday, April 11, 2021

Fortnightly Book, April 11

But that's another story and shall be told another time.

Michael Ende (1929-1995) can be said to have experienced the full range of the twentieth century. His father was a surrealist painter who, banned from painting by the Nazis, painted in secret; but most of his father's work up to 1944 went up in flames in the bombing of Munich. Michael himself, who had already developed a taste for Romantic poetry, became courier for a resistance group at the age of 16. He completed his high school education at a Waldorf School, run by the Anthroposophists who followed the ideas of Rudolf Steiner; there he fell in love with the Expressionist movement. He tried his hand at drama; that largely failed, although it made a lot of travel possible. He wrote a novel, Jim Button, in the 1950s, but struggled to get it published; publishers thought it a weird book, too adult for children and too childish for adults. When he finally did get it published, it became an instant award-winner, which was good for him because by that point he had become completely broke and in serious debt. He continued to do well, but without question the work everybody thinks of when they think of Michael Ende was the one he published in 1979, Die unendliche Geschichte: da A bis Z, better known in English by the title it received with its 1983 translation, The Neverending Story. It could originally only be obtained in a hardcover with red and green letters, like the book of the same title that Bastian steals from the bookshop. I have a paperback, in which form The Neverending Story will be the next fortnightly book. I don't think I've actually read it since middle school, so it will be interesting to come back to it.

In the US, of course, the title evokes the movie of the same name, which is a classic in its own right. Ende himself, while originally excited to be having a movie, ended up hating it with a passion, and actually tried to prevent it from coming out by lawsuit. The lawsuit failed, but Ende never stopped hating the movie, whose changes from the book he saw as fatal -- e.g., the fact that Bastian in the book is fat and insecure about his looks rather than the slim, good-looking boy played by Barret Oliver, and Ende's view that the movie depicts a perversely kitschy and distorted view of how imagination works. In any case, Ende or not, I will probably be re-watching it, as well.

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