At the end of World War II, the composer Richard Strauss, whose final work was an opera titled ‘Capriccio’, wrote: ‘The most terrible period of human history is at an end, the twelve year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany’s 2000 years of cultural evolution met its doom.’Strauss described the government sanctioned anti-semitism as ‘the basest weapon of untalented, lazy mediocrity against a higher intelligence and greater talent.’ Assia Gutmann, whose father was Jewish, was one of the many victims of this period in history. At age six, she and her family were driven out of Berlin by the anti-semitic policies of the Third Reich. Mercifully, their exile saved their lives, but Dr Gutmann’s family perished.
The Meaning of ‘Capriccio’ In 1990, Ted Hughes, England’s Poet Laureate, published a collection of twenty poems, entitled Capriccio. The volume was illustrated by artist Leonard Baskin, and published by his Gehenna Press in a limited edition of only fifty copies. At $4000 each, and filled with richly coloured engravings by Baskin, the beautifully boxed leather volume was a […]
Today is the 46th anniversary of the deaths of Assia Gutmann Wevill, and Shura Hughes Wevill. They both died on 23rd March, 1969. Assia was 41 years old, and her daughter Shura was four. After a fraught phone conversation with her lover, Ted Hughes, Assia took pills, turned on the gas, and lay down to die with her daughter, whom […]
A Link to Ein Gedi Was Hughes personifying his lover, Assia Wevill, as the mythical Leopard? In many of the poems in his sequence, ‘Capriccio’, from which I’ve taken the title of my novel-in-progress, he describes Assia as a predatory animal, yet sometimes he’s tender too.