Cultural Inspirations from A Trick of the Light

“There is strong shadow where there is much light”
(A Trick of the Light, Page 10, Trade Paperback Edition)

Jean Guy Beauvoir quotes these words to Annie Gamache at the beginning of Louise’s 7th novel. When asked where the phrase originates, Beauvoir says, “Some German guy said it.”

Johann Wolfgang von GoetheThat “German guy” is none other than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the quote originally appeared in 1773 in his play, “Götz von Berlichingen”. Goethe’s drama focused on the life of Gottfried von Berlichingen, a Knight who fought in the Crusades, lost his arm to cannon fire, and wore a prosthetic “Iron Fist” thereafter.

While the quote itself (“There is strong shadow where there is much light”) seemingly fits perfectly with the title of Louise’s book, like all things in Penny’s work, there is deeper meaning.

iron fistGoethe uses Götz as a symbol of an individual with integrity—be it a free spirit, a rebel, an artist, etc.—trying to live within a dishonest society. Sure sounds a lot like our dear Chief Inspector Gamache, no?

Chief Inspector Gamache had a great deal of respect for artists. They were sensitive. Often self-absorbed. Often not fit for polite society. Some, he suspected, were deeply unbalanced. It would not be an easy life. Living on the margins, often in poverty. Being ignored and even ridiculed. (Page 90)

Goethe’s play was the leading work of the Sturm and Drang literary movement, which was significantly influenced by the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and exalted nature, feelings, and humanity. Three key factors in A Trick of the Light and the canon of Three Pines.

“With all the force, the power, the energy and the beauty of NATURE” (Page 140)

“He’d ask her all about her day, her life, her likes, her FEELINGS” (Page 189)

“…but believed in family and friends, culture and HUMANITY” (Page 127)

Oh, and Goethe’s supposed last words on his death bed; “Mehr Licht!” which translates as “More Light!”

Discussion on “Cultural Inspirations from A Trick of the Light

  1. Lani says:

    It’s such a pleasure to introduce Louise Penny to dear friends who haven’t yet read her novels . Her books fill my cup, and it feels good to spread the joy. Yes I wish there was a reference book or two of hers to have handy when reflecting on some bit of wisdom or something poignant that she has shared…. ( trop beaucoup a compter)…For instance ….The servant who had met Death in the market place of Bagdad and tried to escape from her was fleeing to a city…WHICH city????…I had to look it up…it was driving me crazy….Oh yes….Cimarra!

  2. Bettie says:

    How do I do this? My scraps of paper, loose leaf pages, journal entries add up to a huge file. But how many folders? Louise, you either have an incredible memory or have tapped sources for many years. Maybe it is that you pay attention, to life, literature, etc, and have an amazing way to give what you observe back to us in your writing. I imagine a weekend with you….just talking, as heaven. Meanwhile, I collect my notes as I study the books!

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