Friday, 28 August 2015

The Palaeolithic artist: part 2

Robertson Davies 100th birthday stamp
When we were first together, my wife (Carin Perron, 1957-2003) kept telling me to read Robertson Davies' The Deptford Trilogy, and I kept procrastinating. Finally, she could stand it no longer and read the books to me each night until they were finished. In the nearly twenty years of our marriage, she had never been so insistent about anything. I thought that it indicated only her love of that work. Finally, I realise it is because I, and some of my friends, were within those pages.

Of course, I am not being literal here: we all appeared as fragments. One fragment might have a personality seemingly too close to be coincidental, but with a very different face, or age, or situation, another character might share the same situation, but everything else was different. But Carrie also shared some of these characters: Robertson Davies' Magnus Eisengrim was our mutual friend Nikolai Diablo, who had introduced us. Of course, Nikolai Diablo was not his real name, and neither was Magnus Eisengrim the "real" name of Davies' character. They were both stage names for their Gothic performances. Magnus Eisengrim was the mythological trickster and an archetype. Nikolai Diablo (Scott), is the trickster in human form: a living archetype.

Carrie had captured him, in his younger years, in a poem:

The Magician
After Hours

Great Scott! he leaps,
all purple feet and velvet pants,
as echoing elastic rainbows bound
from his shoulders to his waist
(and such a waste,
his most elaborately vertical self,
billboarded over
by a conspiracy of buttons)
Well, Hello! he shouts, from the magnificent
convexities and concavities of his face,
as his penny-dreadful grin slips,
breathtakingly playful as a guillotine
lurching inexorably down --
and he never stops reverberating
Pity, he's such a magician --
even after hours, nobody sees his hands

When Tim Curry went to Romania to film "Wolf Girl", his "twin" Scott went too, to play "The Amazing Pin Cushion". Scott says he also advised on the carnie life, but Scott also says "Never trust a carnie!" Scott said he got along well with Grace Jones at the time (hmmm.)

When Davies' Liesl takes David Staunton into the ancient bear cave in Switzerland, she is not his Jungian therapist, but he is "reborn" after his emotionally painful experience in the cave (please do not ask for details of that part -- It's "gross").

Liesl was "at home" with the cave. Almost grotesquely as ugly as a gorgon, her very feminine personality was yet magnetic.

Meg had originally introduced me to Scott, and we had all acted together in an experimental live theatre piece called the "Black Castle", the brainchild of Charles Porlier, who is probably best known for his special effect makeup in Jumanjii. Scott and I had the same role, but as Scott was leading his audience toward the end of the sets, I was bringing mine in to the start of them. It was phenomenally popular: the line ups stretched down the block, and it was held over for a second month. Yet, we all had to suffer with half pay at the end because the sets and effects were just so expensive. Scott's take on the character was typically gothic, but I modelled mine as a Cornish version of Gregory Peck's "Captain Ahab". I was a method actor. Many people would catch both versions.

Perhaps this would be the last time I would ever enter that cave. I was in great pain and due to undergo neurosurgery on my spine soon. My G.P. had told me that I had a 50/50 chance of becoming paralyzed from the waist down after the surgery, but I had the best neurosurgeon, and I had great confidence in his skills (Thank you, Dr. Tranmer). I asked Meg to take me up to the cave. I was prepared for a thousand foot climb up the scree to the cave entrance, but Meg knew a kinder route. It was almost magical, we gained that altitude in what seemed like a few minutes. Meg was at one with the mountain. Meg was Liesl, but young and pretty. I was "reborn" after Dr Tranmer's surgery (plus a year's exercises). I could make that climb today, at 65.

There were many other parallels, too, and I found many of my friends in Davies' work. It was only a couple of days ago that I finally "got it", and understood why there were all of those connections. When Carrie read me The Deptford Trilogy, I had not yet started to study Jung, but I had been exposed to his ideas through Joseph Campbell in mythology and through nearly all of the novels of Hermann Hesse. My archetypes had been stimulated and synchronicities had ensued. I had gathered the archetypes' real life correlates around me as friends. When, finally, I started to read Jung in depth. I was at home with it.

So that's how Robertson Davies (and Campbell and Hesse) wrote my life.

Have a revelatory weekend, and on Monday I will take you into the depths of the cave above Canyon Creek, Alberta.

No comments:

Post a Comment