Guest Blogger: The Inspiration Behind Beethoven in Love: Opus 139 by Howard Jay Smith
Don’t you just love to learn where authors get ideas to write their books? We have a great guest post today from Howard Jay Smith, author of the literary fiction/biographical fiction, Beethoven in Love: Opus 139.
“Your love makes me at once both the happiest and the unhappiest of men. . . Love me today, yesterday . . . . What tearful longings for you, you, you. My life, my all. Farewell. Never cease to love me. Never misjudge this most faithful heart of your beloved. Ever yours . . . Ever mine . . . Ever ours. . . .”
Thus concludes one of the most famous love notes in history; Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” letter written to a mysterious and as yet unknown woman. Not only did he fail address her by name, he further baffled music historians by simply dating the letter, July 7th, leaving off the year. Outside of Beethoven’s actual music, there is more speculation about the women in his life than anything else.
So who was this woman, this Immortal Beloved, that has been the focus of such fevered study in the nearly 190 years since his death in 1827, when a copy of the letter was found in his apartment by accident alone?
Will we ever know her true identity and give this woman her due? Was she a married aristocrat with whom he had an affair? Or a childhood sweetheart he longed to see once again? Or was she even the mother of a child he never knew?
Speculation is rife, even today, when the descendants of over a dozen women, including the dedicatee of the “Moonlight Sonata,” claim him as their own.
At the moment of his death, in his last seconds of conscious, Beethoven raised his fist and shook it at his Creator. Did he demand to know why it is, that he, whose hearing once surpassed all others in sensitivity and degree had been cast out as history’s cruel joke, a deaf composer who was also denied the comforts of family and the affections of his Immortal Beloved?
For all his creative genius, Beethoven was a flawed man who led a troubled life. In my novel we explore the depths of that love and pain. In that last tick of the clock, our Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him one final wish… One day, just one day of pure joy in her arms. Thus begins a spiritual journey to the borders of Elysium, where Beethoven re-experience each of those precious moments. He struggles to come to peace not only with all the failings of his life but to also to find solace in the embrace of his Immortal Beloved.
Will he succeed? As one of the characters Beethoven encounters on the road to paradise proudly proclaims, “What is a novel but a collection of lies we tell to reveal greater truths?”
About the Author
Howard Jay Smith is an award-winning writer from Santa Barbara, California. BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139 is his third book. A former Washington, D.C. Commission for the Arts Fellow, & Bread Loaf Writers Conference Scholar, he taught for many years in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has lectured nationally. His short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in the Washington Post, Horizon Magazine, the Journal of the Writers Guild of America, the Ojai Quarterly, and numerous literary and trade publications. While an executive at ABC Television, Embassy TV, and Academy Home Entertainment, he worked on numerous film, television, radio, and commercial projects. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Symphony – “The Best Small City Symphony in America” – and is a member of the American Beethoven Society.
About the Book:
At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past.
As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.