Something I noticed while reading John Brady’s Kaddish in Dublin … not till the first paragraph of Chapter ten, mind you… but here Minogue comments on the weather, ‘a break in the ceiling of cloud that had muffled the island for a week’:
The air was fresh again. Clouds so white as to be patently silly-looking to Minogue hung themselves from a sky of Blessed Virgin blue. The good burgher Magritte would have stood at his window for hours today, Minogue believed, so delighted would he have been with a sky like this.
Anyone even slightly familiar with the art of Rene Magritte might smile at Minogue’s description of ‘patently silly-looking’ white clouds floating in a perfect ‘Blessed Virgin blue’ sky… it’s like a flash of déjà-vu via Monty Python.
For me, it’s déjà vu on déjà vu, since I’m recalling how in the previous book, Unholy Ground, Minogue received a postcard of Rene Magritte’s Hegel’s Holiday, a gift from his daughter, Iesult.
The postcard, depicting a glass of water balancing on an open umbrella, and its ‘cavil’ (from the Latin verb cavillari, meaning “to jest” or “to raise silly objections”) in reference to the philosopher Hegel, is something Minogue comes back to more than once in the book.
When Iesult gives him the postcard in Chapter eight, she, Minogue , and his wife, Katherine, chat about Magritte’s surrealistic image, and Hegel, and Marx .
A little later, in chapter nine:
Minogue fingered the Magritte postcard. He looked at it again in the yellowing light…
Things inverted, things turned upside down. Very clever boyo, that Magritte. Look at it. The promise of water, all ready to drink in a tumbler, the umbrella skin-tight against its ribs waiting for the water that wouldn’t come. Sort of impossible but possible too, maybe? It was an odd feeling, one that made him smile, a feeling of reordering after that vagueness of recognition. He thought of Magritte’s Key of Dreams, pictures of objects with wrong names.
Seems to me Minogue’s pondering over the “impossible but possible” the “things inverted, things turned upside down” plays into his eventual resolution of the mystery in Unholy Ground. This pleases me no end.
At this point I’m anticipating, hoping for a pattern, but not really trusting my memory, so I check back to the first book of the series, A Stone in the Heart… I thought I recalled mention of another Magritte in the early part of that book… and there it is in chapter two!
A quick set up: Minogue has only recently returned to the force after over a year recovering from a bombing which killed the British Ambassador he’d been assigned to protect. After refusing a disability pension, Minogue has apparently been on ‘light-duty’ until now.
Here, in chapter two of A Stone in the Heart, Minogue has just received a phone call from his superior, Inspector Kilmartin, tentatively inviting him to take on a murder case, the first since his return. He accepts.
So, Minogue thought as he began strolling toward the kitchen. They want to see if I’m the full round of the clock still. He stopped and looked at the copy of Magritte’s Memory which Iseult had bought him for his birthday. Now why had she done that? She had said that when she saw it, she knew it was for him. That was the way young people talked, that throwaway, confident exaggeration. Still, he liked the picture’s coolness and its stillness. It reminded him, for no reason that made sense, of his father playing “The Moon behind the Hill” on the melodeon nearly a half century ago. Minogue had learned that daughters more or less broke their fathers’ hearts effortlessly.
Magritte’s Memory has no ‘patently silly-looking’ white clouds; it’s a much more unsettling image… and all this might amount to a subject worthy of an essay, but I’ve no time for that. Nor you, is my guess.
What I’m about here is exploring the character of Matt Minogue, so for me it’s about making connections. I do tend to enjoy moody sleuths with abiding interests outside the bounds of their profession, particularly when those interests invite my curiosity. I’ll be watching for further references to art, Magritte in particular, in later additions to John Brady’s Matt Minogue series.
I’d leave you here, but I did title this post ‘Minogue, Magritte, Hegel, and horses’…
… so what about the horses?
That reference to Magritte’s Key of Dreams in the first book, A Stone in the Heart (it includes a ‘misnamed’ image of a horse) and the absolute abundance of horses in book two, Unholy Ground… horses tied to gates, horses that give Minogue a fright, horses in dreams, horses from Irish myth… worthy of an essay, surely, but I’ve yet to decided how all these horses figure into my exploration of Matt Minogue’s character. Makes for an alliterative title, though, doesn’t it?
Go count horses. I lost track, there are so many.