Of a lost character named D

Wittenberg

On Reformation Day he reflected on the times, the church’s door in Wittenberg, the theses, the peasants revolts, the rivalries, the spies, and yet, the hopes. Lost in the pages were smaller stories: people’s own struggles, love, and death. How he associated D with those times is hard to tell. He had not thought that much about her in recent years, but she was not totally forgotten. Walking in the pale light of October, his steps muffled by the thick layer of dead leaves, he must have recalled other autumns, other storms, and tried to invoke her supple form.

He saw her at first as his alter ego, the sister he never had. She was wise, she had lived many lives, she knew about rites long forgotten. As he wanted to write about her, he sought the right places, the right times. He discovered Q, the long story of what happened after Wittenberg, of Münster, of Venice. She had many disguises, even more lovers. Often he changed her name, often she rebelled: she was not his thing, but a much alive being, even out of his own world. Later, he sought her shadow in the darkened streets of the old city, trying, even in dreams, to remember her scent.

He concluded she was lost, to him. He would have to reconstruct, to follow his steps, back in time, through forgotten paths, hidden from view, away from the living. He would have to read, and understand. Perhaps he would have to become D?

 

Q #AtoZAprilChallenge

Thomas Muentzer.jpg

Q“, authored by the Italian writers’ collective Luther Blissett, now morphed to “Wu Ming“, tells the story of Gert-from-the-Well, a young student from Saxony, in the aftermath of the monk Martin Luther’s ninety five theses, pinned on the door of the Wittenberg cathedral church in 1517.

I am on my second reading of Q, and have read the “sequel” (a misnomer) “Altai” by the same Wu Ming. Q is, in part, straightforward adventure through the troubled times of the various revolts that then momentarily challenged the power of the princes, the massacres of insurgents, the Anabaptists’ heresy and the horrors of the Counter-Reformation/Inquisition. The other face of the novel is a reflection on politics and the meaning of truth, perhaps reflecting the authors’ own questions on the state of post-war Italy.

The book starts in Wittenberg, where Gert meets his mentor, Thomas Müntzer, and finishes in Venice, with Gert now an ally of the rich and at time powerful Miquez family, and lover of Beatriz de Luna. On the way Gert is countered by the one who becomes his arch-enemy, the spy Qoelet, working to the service of Gianpietro Carafa, the future  pope Paul IV. Q infiltrates the insurgency, and tracks Gert to Venice where they finally come face to face. The narrative is fascinating and often puzzling. What was to become Europe was then in the midst of continuous horrendous wars, fought through mercenaries and bands of thugs that terrorised the peasants and extracted what they could from the towns. In the background, violence is fuelled by the rivalries between the Emperor, Charles V, the German princes, the pope, Italian principalities, Venice, the King of France, and, the Ottoman Empire. The Jews have been expelled from Spain, and resettled in Venice, and soon Constantinople. Worse was to come, when the Tirty Year war ravaged most of what is now Germany, and concluded only in 1648.

A good read for those interested in European history, or simply a great adventure novel.

Image: Thomas Münzer By Christoph van Sichem – Das Wissen des 20. Jahrhunderts, Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung, 1961, Rheda, Bd.1 S.395, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26253b

Doña Gracia Nasi’s entry in the Jewish Womens’ Archive

#AtoZAprilChallenge Martin Luther

Лютер_в_Вормсе

 

The early 16th century was the crucible of what was to become modern Europe. The previous fifty years had been marked by tremendous events. In 1453 Constantinople – the last stand of classical Rome, and the heart of eastern Christendom – had fallen to the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. In 1492 Imperial Spain had discovered America.

Then in 1517, in a university town of Saxony called Wittenberg, a monk named Martin Luther pinned his ninety five “theses” on the door of the All Saints church. There was an uncompromising condemnation of the venality of the Church, and of the practice of Indulgences. Then started  a hundred and thirty years period of war of religion that was to shape the sub continent.

Luther was brave enough to challenge the authority of Rome, but he was no revolutionary. Popular uprisings that followed were mercilessly crushed by the princes. The Reformation was to sweep Northern Europe and become the official church of many principalities and kingdoms, from Sweden to the United Kingdom. Luther had support, first and foremost from the Elector of Saxony, and from many other German princes who wanted to challenge not only the Pope, but also the Habsburg Emperor. Rome’s reaction, and the onset of the Counter-Reformation, was to seal the fate of a divided Christendom.

Image: Luther Before the Diet of Worms by Anton von Werner (1843–1915)