Thursday 21 March 2013

Birthday boys

Today  is the birthday of Slavoj Žižek, the prolific Slovenian sociologist, philosopher, film-maker and cultural critic, who was born in 1949 and seems to publish a weighty volume at least once a fortnight. My theory is that his name is actually Slovene for Ljubljana University Department of Philosophy, a collective enterprise. My wish is that they'd all take a two-year sabbatical to allow us to catch up.

Today is also the birthday of Vivian Stanshall, whose life overlaps with mine in some unsettling ways. We went to the same school (although not at the same time), from which he was expelled, reportedly for shaving his eyebrows off one lunchtime and therefore, in some way, breaking the rules. I now live in the same steep North London street where he spent his final ramshackle years (at number 23), and where he died in bed in a blaze caused by a cigarette. On my birthday, as it happens.

He shares this violent incendiary end with Dame Barbara Hepworth and the French music-hall star Julien Carette, who featured in Renoir films including La Règle du Jeu, La Bête Humaine and La Grande Illusion. But I am rambling.

Stanshall was an erratic genius much admired by chaps of my age but perhaps less well known today than he should be. He had a beautiful voice. Here are some scenes from his wildly original film Sir Henry at Rawlinson End:

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