The subject of Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden is the contract life imposes on a human being as the fundamental condition of its existence. It is explored as the unstated, never negotiated covenant between existence and life; that is, the conditional situation that existence provides to those that live within it, and the necessity in particular of human life to acknowledge and respect the inexplicability and inexorability of the situation it has been given.
The origins and structure of the book are discussed here.
Discussion of specific problems occurs throughout the book.Of discontent, here. Of isolation and belief, here. Of political repression, here.Of civic immorality, here. Of the falsehoods of community, here. Of destruction of the environment can be found here. Of the decay of power, here. Of loyalty, here. Of moral courage, here.
Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden continues the line of discussion initiated in the earlier Caravaggio’s Dagger, which explored the difficulty of knowing how to act ethically in our society — a society that glorifies money and global trade to make the rich richer, that deposits the poor at the outermost edges of community, that stands aside as our heritage disintegrates, that funds wars that dislocate peoples and destroy countries, that supports beliefs steeped in greed but cares nothing about the true value and intrinsic essence of life.
A prime audience for Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden are immigrants and individuals of double or multiple heritage. This demographic has formed an awareness of the impact of war and the stability of peace in a free society. The reader likely lives in Canada, USA, or western Europe; but the book will also be of appeal to English-speaking audiences elsewhere, especially in Africa and India. The reader will tend to be politically and environmentally aware.
The reader is likely to be interested in examining the purpose and meaning of existence, such as what is found in the views of Aristotle, Euripides, and Freud. The reader is likely to be interested in the constructs and applications of religious faith, including poetic exemplars such as Hafiz.
In terms of awareness of art, the reader is likely to be interested in music and its formal structures, especially in the work of Gustav Mahler and Dmitri Shostakovich, but also of Jan Sibelius, Anton Bruckner, Joseph Haydn, Béla Bartók, Johann Sebastian Bach, Frédéric Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Christoph Willibald Gluck; and, in the operatic work of Richard Wagner, Francis Poulenc, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Strauss, Giacomo Puccini, and Giuseppe Verdi.
The reader is likely to appreciate literature, especially social commentators like Charles Dickens, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Goethe, Shakespeare, and Dante; would be drawn to cinema directors such as Sergei Eisenstein and Akira Kurosawa; and would be drawn to great painters such as Vermeer, Velásquez, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Jan Steen, and Albrecht Dürer.
Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden is built upon four successive formulations of this covenant, and spans ten sections. They are titled:
- The Covenant of Mortal Dreams
- Covenant of the Lost Arias
- Courting the Remembrances
- Passacaglia Pier
- The Ferryman’s Obolus
- Covenant of the Golden Shadows
- Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden
- The Underside of Side
- Torn by Victory
- Covenant of the River Valley
Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden contains 78 poems and 110 pages, and was written between June, 2005 and March, 2015. Half of the book’s content has been published in established literary periodicals, including Antioch College’s The Antioch Review (Yellow Springs, Ohio), the University of British Columbia’s Canadian Literature (Vancouver, British Columbia), the University of New Brunswick’s The Fiddlehead and Qwerty (Fredericton, New Brunswick), St. Thomas University’s Nashwaak Review (Fredericton, New Brunswick), Prairie Fire (Winnipeg, Manitoba), Grain (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Descant (Toronto, Ontario), the Federation of British Columbia Writers’ WordWorks (Vancouver, British Columbia), and the Edmonton Stroll of Poets’ Society’s Anthology 2013 and Anthology 2014 (Edmonton, Alberta).