On Measuring The World: Fear of a Gay Planet
In which The Gay Recluse is once again perturbed.
Have you heard about Measuring The World, the international bestseller by German/Viennese author Daniel Kehlmann? It sold more copies than any other German-language book since Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, and was highly acclaimed by critics everywhere for its playful use of language and magic realism: according to the Sunday Times, “[h]ere for once is a popular hit as sophisticated as it is engaging.” There are many more where that came from!
The book is about two eighteenth-century scientists, one a genius mathematician who figures out many mathy formulas and the other an explorer/naturalist who maps the Amazon. At the end, they meet and don’t really like each other! Both are based on real historical figures, and the explorer–Alexander von Humboldt–was gay in real life, which is to say he was a hot guy who never married and was romantically involved with several men throughout the course of his long life.
And because this is the 21st century and Kehlmann is a progressive young writer, Humboldt is gay in the book too! How do we know this? First he can’t get it up for a young girl who is left in his hut by the village chief to pleasure him. Then he doesn’t have sex for the rest of his life with anyone (or at least that is described in the book), even though right at the end we are told his “brother leaned back and gave him a long look. Still boys?”
Oh and we are told that Humboldt is also really uptight about his sidekick journeyman ever having sex with the locals (which happens a few times in South America) and he’s an emotionally repressed psychopath who spends half the book pining for a small dog he lost in the jungle (the dog even haunts his dreams) but then he locks up a group of dogs in a room of hungry alligators to study “what happens.”
There it is, in a nutshell! What courage and insight! What incredible sophistication! It’s hard to a imagine a more vivid portrait of what it must have been like for Humboldt, one of Europe’s most famous men during his lifetime, to negotiate the waters of same-sex attraction. No wonder critics were astonished!
So you see, this book is a wonderful psychological portrait into a “real” person! You should definitely read it — we can’t wait for the movie! — the end.
Filed under: Drivel, Gay, Literature, Sickness, Stereotypes, The Gay Recluse, Writers-German | 4 Comments
Tags: Alligators, Daniel Kehlmann, Dogs, Measuring the World, Naturalists