Sunday, 1 March 2009

Monkey Business

What havoc can a load of hairless monkeys with the brains of a minor deity wreak on a habitable planet? I was moved to this thought by a coincidence, the same theme popping up in the novel I'm currently reading, and the poetry book:

Oh for far-off monkeyland,
ripe monkeybread on baobabs,
and the wind strums out monkeytunes
from monkeywindow monkeybars.

Monkeyheroes rise and fight
in monkeyfield and monkeysquare,
and monkeysanatoriums
have monkeypatients crying there.

... ...

Macaque, gorilla, chimpanzee,
baboon, orangutan, each beast
reads his monkeynewssheet at
the end of each twilight repast.

With monkeysupper memories
the monkeyouthouse rumbles, hums,
monkeysquaddies start to march,
right turn, left turn, shoulder arms—

monkeymilitary fright
reflected in each monkeyface,
with monkeygun in monkeyfist
the monkeys' world the world we face.

From Monkeyland by Sandor Weores,
translated by Edwin Morgan


The Steppenwolf’s look pierced our whole epoch, its whole overwrought activity, the whole surge and strife, the whole vanity, the whole superficial play of a shallow, opinionated intellectuality. And alas! The look went still deeper, went far below the faults, defects and hopelessness of our time, our intellect, our culture alone. It went right to the heart of all humanity, it bespoke eloquently in a single second the whole despair of a thinker, of one who knew the full worth and meaning of man’s life. It said, “See what monkeys we are! Look, such is man!” and at once all renown, all intelligence, all the attainments of the spirit, all progress towards the sublime, the great and the enduring in man fell away and became a monkey’s trick.

From Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse


The Weaver of Grass said...

My father always used to say that he knew we had sprung from monkeys but that some had sprung further than others. Not sure whether or not this is relevant to your post - but I can personally think of a few people who fit into that category for one reason or another.

BarbaraS said...

Monkeys: have you seen Eddie Izzard's take on monkeys with guns? It is highly ironic and very funny too.

On the second count, a friend of mine loved Steppenwolf so much he went and staged it. It was a real labour of love which few appreciated, and the whole play was fraught with difficulities... but it's an interesting book, all the same.

Totalfeckineejit said...

I'm thinking, is that yerself ating the banana,I'm thinking hear no, see no, speak no, I'm thinking roddy Mc Dowell in planet of the apes, I'm thinking Oo, Oo, Mr Peevley,i'm thinking 2001 a space travesty,I'm thinking the strange synchronicity that I am at this moment munching peanuts(albeit dry roasted) I'm thinking that I can't stop thinking,I'm thinking that I can't stop drinking,I'm thinking ,do monkeys take a pint, does rotting fruit ferment in their hairy bellies, do they wear wellies when the rains fall andthe monkey lands turn to mud-a quagmire of our sanities?

Totalfeckineejit said...

Oh, and yeah, and of course, i forgot , how could I forget? I'm also thinking step on wolf 'born to be wild' Lord knows I've listened to it enough.

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

WG: I didn't know he said that. Perhaps we should value our hairless monkey-ness :)

BarbaraS: Haven't seen the Eddie Izzard. As for Steppenwolf as drama, interesting. I've seen there's a film, too. Not seen it, though: only the trailer on the internet.

TFE: It is I eating the banana. Mr Peevley foxed me at first, although I've now identified him as the zookeeper in the Hair Bear Bunch. I've heard of monkeys drinking tea, but beer - I don't know. Just consumed a quantity of brazil nuts here.
You got me googling "Born to be Wild". I didn't realise that (so it's said) the term "heavy metal" first appeared in the lyrics of that song.

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to feel a little sorry for these innocent simians, maligned by association, going about their business while the inferior hairless species proceeds to unravel their world.

And isn't the first literary use of the term 'heavy metal' in William Burroughs' 'Naked Lunch'?

Dominic Rivron said...

Fair point on the simians, Dick.

As for heavy metal, I suspect this is a grey area. William Burroughs, Born to be Wild, nuclear scientists? There's an interesting piece on the subject here.

This is one of the things I like about blogging - it's unpredictability. you start off writing a post about monkeys in literature and end up researching heavy metal music and the Hair Bear Bunch.