Sunday, April 12, 2009

Existential BOOKITUDE (footnote)

As a teen, I read used books with a sharp Staedler 3H drafting pencil in hand, lightly marking in the margin those sentences that were most meaningful to me. The only book that I found entirely meaningful, so that I could only mark its entirety, was Erich Maria Remarque’s ARCH OF TRIUMPH (D. Appleton Century, NYC, 1945 ) I fell into it like an open window.

I identified entirely with its protagonist, German-exile Ravic (Croatian pseud.) trapped in Paris during the Nazi occupation, working as a ghost surgeon for incompetent French society doctors. Why? You'll have to read the book to understand.

Or see the 1948 film (with Charles Boyer as Ravic, Ingrid Bergman as Joan Madou.) There's a 1985 made-for-TV remake (with Anthony Hopkins, Leslie Ann Down, Donald Pleasance), but I haven't yet seen it. It's been available on VHS at public libraries/Blockbuster, & now it's probably on DVD, too. Hopkins would make a good Ravic. Some people are "Casablanca" (original script-title "Rick's Place") addicts, but I'm an "Arch of Triumph" one.

Remarque wrote many of his novels based on people's actual lives, starting with his own. I've never been the same since I read ARCH OF TRIUMPH; I feel it has & continues to project a life analgous to mine, decade after decade. My (political) hatreds are Ravic's, my losses are also his (Carolin Combs' death, the latest.) My life is still mine.

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