by Julia Griffin
“‘Deaf’ genius Beethoven was able to hear his final symphony after all
From 1818, he carried blank ‘conversation books’, in which friends
and acquaintances jotted down comments, to which he would reply aloud.
‘The conversation books are going to be a game-changer,’ [the musicologist] Albrecht said.
Among the surviving examples … he has so far found 23 direct references to the subject of hearing,
and estimates that several dozen more will show ‘he could still hear something’.”
Beethoven heard? Apparently it’s true:
His “Conversation Books” have changed the game,
We’re told, disproving everything we knew.
Of course we’re happy for him! All the same—
What is this funny, furtive little peeve?
We’ve mourned so long his stricken genius,
And presto! we’re expected to believe
There was no need? He never needed us?
There’s more at stake. That long-maintained idea
Framed humankind as something grand and dark:
So strong, so breakable! That he should hear
Feels almost like a sacrifice. Then hark,
Ludwig: with all the grace we can deploy,
We hereby give you joy. An Ode to Joy.