Culture vulture

21st November 2003 at 00:00
Chris Kelly explains his monumental passion for long-gone heroes

Grave matters

When I did my A-levels, I read Heinrich Boll's novel And Didn't Say a Word.

It's about a guy who hangs around in cemeteries. He's basking in morbid feelings, but he also finds it peaceful and gets invited to wakes. It got me interested in visiting famous people's graves. Now when I go abroad I do graveyard tourism.

First I went to see Karl Marx's grave in Highgate cemetery in north London (pictured). There's something final about seeing the graves of these people about whom you have read and heard so much. You can go and admire them and pay homage to them.

I've been to the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, which has Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Jim Morrison. I did the composers in Vienna: Schoenberg, Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss the younger, and Mahler. I couldn't get into where Mozart is buried because it was closed, but no one knows his exact grave because he had a pauper's burial.

Favourite composer

I particularly wanted to see Mahler's grave because he was obsessed with death. The beginning of the Sixth symphony ("The Tragic") is like a heavy march, a march through life. It says life is a struggle and you have to be disciplined and march through it.

Favourite films

I am into French film. My favourite is Jean de Florette. Last Tango in Paris was spectacular, so vivid and different. I love that opening scene by the Metro bridge, the Pont de Bercy, where Marlon Brando is suffering great emotional turmoil and he meets someone who is going to transform his life.

I went to Paris with my girlfriend and we re-enacted it.

Treat in store

I want to see Goodbye Lenin, the film about German reunification. I lived in Germany for six years, and there's a lot of ostalgie - nostalgia for the old East - about.

Best book ever

George Orwell's 1984. Because it's so close to how the world could have ended up, and part of the world has ended up that way. It's a work of sheer brilliance, of genius. I know where Orwell is buried, in Oxfordshire. It's next on my list.

Chris Kelly, 30, teaches German at the Anglo-European school in Ingatestone, Essex. He was talking to Karen Gold

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