This was the December selection of our book club. Our meeting was
cancelled due to inclement weather so I’m unsure of members’
reactions to the book.
It was published in 2000 and is shelved in biography. The title is a
little unsettling, but the book is indeed about Beethoven’s hair. It was
housed in a locket for many, many years—–Beethoven’s Locket? no.
Beethoven’s Locks? no.
It’s too bad the meeting was cancelled on Dec. 17th because Beethoven’s
birthday was Dec. 16th.
A lot has been written about Beethoven and his ill health and growing
deafness. It’s absolutely amazing that he produced the amount of
wonderful music that he did under debilitating circumstances.
Two collectors bought this particular lock of hair at Sotheby’s in 1994–sharing
the cost of about $7300 and then agreed to split it up. An agreement on terms
was rather difficult to come up with, but finally, Che Guevara said that after
consulting his “heart and his pillow” he would agree to own a small part of the lock
with the remaining hair going to the museum of Ira Brilliant.
DNA studies were immediately initiated and the conclusions to date have
indicated that Beethoven was likely suffering from lead poisoning for much
of his life. It would account for his exact symptoms of his maladies.
Russell Martin’s writing is not technical, and we are led through the general
history of Beethoven’s life–sometimes repeatedly so–but I usually welcomed
the repetition as a refreshing reminder.
I found the part of the book which zeroed in on the Danish effort to aid Jewish
refugees to escape to Sweden most fascinating. And it was sometime during that
struggle and flight that someone handed over that lock of hair to a Dr. Kremming
who was deeply involved in the effort to save hundreds of Jews.
There are still mysteries surrounding the exact history of the lock of hair from
its initial cutting the day after Beethoven’s death in 1827, and its journey to Sotheby’s.
The whole concept makes interesting reading.