Martin Eden

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I read this künstlerroman about 6 years ago and if I was a few years younger, I would have read it again right now before writing this post but hazy memory will have to do. It’s strange what remains and what gets forgotten, all those words and hours and the most random stuff lives on.

What crosses my mind when I try to recall this book foremost, comes from the moment the relationship between the working-class landlady and the protagonist hero changes. Although he is a Prol just like her, since she sees him writing and in pursuit of the literary, she regards him as something she is not and places him higher. One day, the details are not completely clear, she finds herself with too much ironing work and the protagonist offers to help, having done all kinds of menial labor jobs. When she sees him ironing, not only knowing how to but looking as though he might have even worked in a laundry, her regard for him falls. She sees him like herself, as a Prol. An act of kindness gives his previous class status away, and she doesn’t bother to kiss his ass anymore.

The hero educates himself throughout the novel (Nietzsche) and tries to make himself worthy of this bourgeois girl he falls in love with, and she waits for him but then she starts wanting faster results which is understandable. She wants him to transfer his love of books and writing to the law, in other words, she wants him to settle.

Before eventual success comes, his working-class family and friends reject him (he has to borrow money), the girl’s belief in him starts to waver, his landlady doesn’t look at him in the same way, and everyone just wants him to get a fucking job or enter a stable, respectable profession. He is left to struggle on his own, in his room, waiting for the post. Then one day, he gets published, and then published again, gets paid, gets accolades, and then finally, fame. During this transition, he is still in the same room writing but all of a sudden, the landlady starts to respect him again, his family reaches out to him and invites him over for dinner, strangers invite him to parties, and the girl – well she acts as though she never lost faith. But its all too late, he’s already recognized the general stupidity of humanity. An overwhelming sadness envelopes him and his lone recognition that he was the same person, doing the same thing and no one gave a damn before the fame.

For all the love and attention that finally comes with success, some reap the benefits and others die from the hypocrisy.

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