a life at the mercy of a flip of a coin...
and yet, a chance to avoid the ill-fated flight...
why should it be?
and, though it may not seem to be much to you, get this: among the four passengers who gave up their seats in albuquerque and thus survived was virtuoso violinist joseph szigeti. in 1939, to escape the war and nazi persecution of the jews, szigeti emigrated with his wife to the united states, where they settled in california. (a year later, bartók also fled to america, and just two days after his arrival, he and szigeti played a sonata recital at the library of congress in washington, d.c.) though this performance had already occurred prior to that flight in 1942, it wasn't until 1947 that he published his memoir, with strings attached. in that memoir he ever so briefly mentions the flight:
"when, walking my dogs in the company of some friend on the golf links adjoining our home, i catch myself making that widely sweeping, slightly comic gesture toward the almost neapolitan blue of "our" bay (a gesture implying that i have proprietary rights in all this beauty surrounding us), i have to smile inwardly. barely five years ago the whole region was unknown to us, and now this feeling of having our roots here. ... a summer vacation that perpetuated itself. a california interlude between a spring and a fall tour that became a thing of permanence. a thing of permanence in which, now, the tours have become the interludes in the real business of living.
that proprietary gesture of mine would be so much more fitting coming from my wife. for she, giving so much of herself to the soil surrounding our house - planning, digging, planting our garden by the sweat of her brow - can rightfully have a feeling of earth-nearness and of root-taking. indeed, i myself never saw this home of ours (which my wife had bought and furnished while i was on tour) until one memorable day in january 1942 - memorable because, only five hours before my arrival, i had left the plane at albuquerque in order to make room for some ferrying pilots; and that was the plane that crashed shortly afterward, carrying carole lombard and all those young pilots to their deaths! rodzinski, in his telegram of congratulation, called this day my "rebirthday" -- as indeed it was. inevitably the coincidence made a deep mark on me and heightened the feeling of bindung between the soil and myself.
anything that helped one to overcome the depression that followed and persisted after may 1940, that helped one to bear the torturing uncertainty about one's kin in europe, about one's home and belongings, all at the mercy of the invading oppressor, becomes a part of oneself in a very special way. settling down somewhere in happier days, with the choice of the whole world spread out before one's greed, could never have this quality of inevitableness that persists even after one is free to roam the world again."
and it would be still more years before he wrote szigeti on the violin.
ah, chance. why should it be?
*i recently watched the movie to be or not to be (1942) which starred lombard and while the script has its flaws, it's very interesting to see a movie about the polish underground resistance against the nazis which was written, filmed, and published before the extent of the nazi crimes was public knowledge. it's a weird dynamic with a comic farce taking place in such serious surroundings. i naturally liked the use of hamlet and its play within a play device as well as the use of merchant.