There was one line in last night’s Shivering of the Rose that stuck out at me: a line about how thousands of young people from Kosovo had their organs sold in the international organ trade. I don’t deny that organ trafficking may have happened, and may even still be happening in Kosovo. But the reference to “thousands of young people” is something I have never come across. The rest of the play was perfectly politically correct, inclusive of all of the suffering peoples of the Balkans, but this one line stuck with me as inaccurate and reductive (especially considering what we know about the Batajnica and Raska mass grave sites).
Then I spoke to someone after the play about this line, who said something that helped put things into perspective: “They need their own story.” I may not agree with this story, but I recognize that all stories have their omissions and their redacted versions.
There’s a significant amount of editing involved not only in national tragedy, but in those of individuals as well. Last night’s performance of Muzë, while highlighting the work of women composers and musical pieces inspired by women, chose to simply celebrate (a valid intention in its own right), without getting into the historical and social context that kept countless women of artistic talent quiet.
Gustav Mahler forbid his wife, Alma Mahler, from composing early on in their marriage. She suffered from serious bouts of depression, but it wasn’t until Sigmund Freud took an interest in her work that her husband began to allow her to express her talent. Clara Schumann tirelessly promoted her husband and his work, while teaching, composing, and taking care of their home and children. After her husband’s mental deterioration and death, she refused to take any charity and spent the rest of her life teaching and going on concert tours to support their eight children – a rarity at the time.
There are probably many other women of “Great Men” who don’t even have the dignity of a Wikipedia page to commemorate their lives and work. Let us now, at least, begin to know them.