Ash Wednesday, December 19, Doug Dorst, dresden, Ernest Hemingway, Filomena Caldeira, JJ Abrams, Kurt Vonnegut, Le Monde, Slaughterhouse Five, University of Iowa, V.M. Straka, VM Straka, Writer's Workshop
Fn2 in the Foreword mentions a 1935 interview in Le Monde where Hemingway praises Straka. But Le Monde did not begin until its birth on December 19, 1944. That same day, Kurt Vonnegut was captured and became a POW. His experiences there are a wellspring for his writings.
Perhaps we are being pointed toward clues in the relationship and/or writings of Hemingway and Vonnegut.
Hemingway provided frequent fodder for Vonnegut, inspiring a cadre of characters who celebrate war and death. In his sardonic response to this vision of a Hemingwayesque world, Vonnegut espoused kindness and restraint as moral imperatives against the more violent yearnings of human nature, which Hemingway in turn embraced as stoic, virile, and heroic. Though their paths were radically different, Broer finds in both an overarching obsession with the scars of war as chief adversary in a personal quest for understanding and wholeness. He locates in each writer’s canon moments of spiritual awaking leading to literary evolution—if not outright reinvention. In their later works Broer detects an increasing recognition of redemptive feminine aspects in themselves and their protagonists, pulling against the destructively tragic fatalism that otherwise dominates their worldviews.
Notice the spiritual awakening, literary evolution, and the “increasing recognition of redemptive feminine aspects in themselves and their protagonists.” This is symbolized in “S.” by S’s longing to connect with Sola – how he doesn’t even know she exists until the beginning of the book and by the end, he is side by side with her.
Another interesting Vonnegut connection is in the introduction to Slaughterhouse Five where he states…
Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds.
The entirety of V.M. Straka’s life is impacted by the massacre at Calais in 1912, and his book is filled with the names of the victims of evil (including himself) who have the names of birds: Straka, Corbeau, Stenfalk, Ostrero, Osfour, Pfeifer, etc. Vonnegut’s quote could easily serve is an epigraph for Ship of Theseus in its entirety.
V.M. Straka “died” (or did he?) at approximately midnight, June 6, 1946. On this same day, Gerhart Hauptmann died. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912. Like Kurt Vonnegut, he was in Dresden on the day it was firebombed and survived. Dresden was bombed for three days straight (February 13-15, 1945). By early morning February 14, Ash Wednesday, the center of the city was engulfed in a firestorm, which temperatures reaching 1500C.
Also, as Clare points out in the comments below…
Both Dorst and Vonnegut have a connection to Iowa via the U of I Writer’s Workshop. They were there at different times. Kurt Vonnegut taught there and Doug Dorst was a student.
Keep in mind this cannot be an in-book solution to any clues from FXC to VMS, because Vonnegut had not yet written anything. This would be more of an easter egg from JJ Abrams and/or Doug Dorst to us to note one of the points of the book.
For LOST Fans
Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five had heavy influences on the time-traveling character Desmond Hume. Additionally, December 19 is the date of antihero Benjamin Linus’ birth, his mother’s death, and his father’s death years later. This is a nod to the birth of the antihero character in general, especially through Emily Bronte – who gave birth to Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and died young on December 19, 1848. Benjamin Linus’s mother’s name was Emily.