Stephen Fry and the Schmaltz of Gotterdammerung

Stephen Fry on Wagner. BBC4. 25/5/2010
I don’t understand Fry’s bewilderment at his admiration for the antisemitic Wagner. He believes that his Jewishness must rebel against anything produced by anyone so genuinely racist. If it doesn’t, something is wrong, either with him or with the music he loves, or with his Jewishness and his respect for the Holocaust dead.
But it isn’t at all surprising that he should be moved by Wagner, however detestable his racial opinions. Wagner’s intensely nostalgic nationalism can be expected to appeal to the rootlessness within Jewish culture. The yearning for a divine homeland in a godless time. It is nationalism calling to Zionism, in the nicest possible way.
Fry also misses the point in blaming the nazis for besmirching the memory of Wagner, so that we only see him through the keyhole of the locked fascist door.
Nazism is in a direct line from the romantic nationalistic re-invention of political mythology during the industrial chaos of the C19th. The reinvention of the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne, and the entire NeoGothic and pantheistic fantasies which swept the newly industrialised world in response to mass-production and the emergence of a dangerous army of discontented, de-skilled, disobedient workers. And anti-semitism was also a natural product of that process.
Fry would like to warn Wagner that his single putrid essay would compromise his memory forever. The converse might also be true. If he had not conformed to the conventional racism, Wagner might never have acquired the respectability and wealthy patrons he did, and we might never have heard of him at all, much, since his greatest works would never have happened.
It is sadly clear that even Stephen Fry has gaps in his education. He might like to consult Orwell’s classic text on enjoying the work of the despicable, ‘Politics Vs Literature’.

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