I am reading The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch. I have had this book for like 20 years, but only now have started reading it… very very slowly.
It is delicious. Broch was born in Austria, a Jew, and left during Hitler’s rise to power. The language reminds me Musil, and there is a quality of the book that is very opulent – twilight of the austro-hungarian empire.
I generally am not attracted to rich language, I prefer simple language, but maybe my taste is changing.
The book is an imaginative reconstruction of the last hours of Virgil’s life. Virgil was the poet of the early roman empire, and he wrote the Aeneid, we can call this the founding myth of the Roman empire – and it was commissioned by the first Roman Emperor Augustus. I actually read the Aeneid when I studied Latin, and it is beautiful and rich. This is Aeneid fan fiction.
The Aeneid, when I first read it, seemed to be Homeric fan fiction. Homer’s Illiad, Is the story of war between the greeks and the trojans. The Aeneid, follows the trojans (who lost the war), and their escape and eventual re-emergence of the founders of Rome.
As I started reading the Death of Virgil, I felt that there was something inauthentic or unimaginative. Was I reading fan fiction? But fan fiction is big these days, apart from fan fiction of like LOTR and sailor moon, we have alternate tellings of the love between Achilles and patroclus (The Song of Achilles), we have Hamnet, and so forth. That a book like the Song of Achilles is so popular means that a book like The death of virgil could also find appeal.
I am also reading Joseph and his brothers – a massive tomb by Thomas Mann – that could be called biblical fan fiction.
Is everything fan fiction? Are any stories new? What stories appeal to who? What stories generate the most fan fiction?
The Death of Virgil is about empire and propaganda
The Song of Apollo is about Queerness
We are retelling the old stories from new perspectives and orientations
Even the series ‘what if’ is sort of like this – with the Marvel universe. It is alternate story lines.
Really we are grasping for new stories – we are grasping for a story that can be many stories – The story of today is the story of the individual – not the monolithic story
One thing I am interested in is mapping characters from different stories. telling stories no only from new perspectives but new framing.