Sunday, November 18, 2007

henrik ibsen and aphasia

During his long illness Ibsen was troubled by aphasia, and he expressed himself painfully, now in broken Norwegian, now in still more broken German. His unhappy hero, Oswald Alving, in Ghosts, had thrilled the world by his cry, “Give me the sun, Mother!” and now Ibsen, with glassy eyes, gazed at the dim windows, murmuring “Keine Sonne, keine Sonne, keine Sonne!” At the table where all the works of his maturity had been written the old man sat, persistently learning and forgetting the alphabet. “Look!” he said to Julius Elias, pointing to his mournful pothooks, “See what I am doing! I am sitting here and learning my letters —­my letters! I who was once a Writer!” Over this shattered image of what Ibsen had been, over this dying lion, who could not die, Mrs. Ibsen watched with the devotion of wife, mother and nurse in one, through six pathetic years. She was rewarded, in his happier moments, by the affection and tender gratitude of her invalid, whose latest articulate words were addressed to her—­“min soede, kjaere, snille frue” (my sweet, dear, good wife); and she taught to adore their grandfather the three children of a new generation, Tankred, Irene, Eleonora. Next....