Created: 12/6/2019; Updated: 8/5/2020; Status: In progress; Confidence: likely
The first time I heard about Hannibal Lecter was back in 2018 by watching The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The second time I heard about Hannibal Lecter was in February 2019 by watching the Hannibal TV Series. Then I read the books but I was already fascinated by the TV series.
You spend a lot of time building walls, Hannibal. It’s natural to want to see if someone is clever enough to climb over them.
Hannibal represents what Nietzsche called The Ubermensch. Much of Nietzsche’s reasoning is tied to the decay of theistic belief that he describes as The Death of God. The Ubermensch is a structure one can use and replicate to find a distinct moral path that celebrates life as opposed to rejecting it. The Ubermensch absorbs life’s sorrows and delights alike and accepts hard facts and truths without complaint. His will is creative, fueled by ambition, life-affirming, and tirelessness. It is about striving to become the highest possible self.
The way you move, eat, speak, sing, play, wink, read, type, sneeze, work, cook, roast, sit, walk, sleep, think, act, live — all tied to striving to reach perfection in every single aspect of life you choose to be interested in.
I want to start by posting short fragments I took out the Hannibal Rising book, the one that outlines his becoming. I hope the specificities will bring me clarity for further analysis. Mind your reading/skimming, as these quotes are totally random and picked up by myself at a speedy peace. My favorite Hannibal is the one portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen — so I might be a little biased by the TV series.
Hannibal was a child prodigy. He almost reached comic-book supervillain levels in both the books and the TV series. And there’s a monstrous amount of subjects and areas he’s an expert in such as:
The door to Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s memory palace is in the darkness at the center of his mind and it has a latch that can be found by touch alone. This curious portal opens on immense and well-lit spaces, early baroque, and corridors and chambers rivaling in number those of the Topkapi Museum.
Everywhere there are exhibits, well-spaced and lighted, each keyed to memories that lead to other memories in geometric progression.
Spaces devoted to Hannibal Lecter’s earliest years differ from the other archives in being incomplete. Some are static scenes, fragmentary, like painted Attic shards held together by blank plaster. Other rooms hold sound and motion, great snakes wrestling and heaving in the dark and lit in flashes. Pleas and screaming fill some places on the grounds where Hannibal himself cannot go. But the corridors do not echo screaming, and there is music if you like.
The palace is a construction begun early in Hannibal’s student life. In his years of confinement he improved and enlarged his palace, and its riches sustained him for long periods while warders denied him his books.
- Hannibal Rising (Prologue)
What I find fascinating here is the ability to construct a world inside one’s mental apparatus and simply start living there. Of course, you will still need physical support from the outside world such as food, clothes, and toiletries. But you will never have to use your smartphone *wink* again as your ability to transcend reality and live just by mending your garden i.e. your memories will take care of the boredom pit we’re all stuck in. First, you will have to create those memories that will eventually assist you in times of need.
He was considering it for a display in his memory palace, to record a complex dissection of the throat. Displays in a memory palace must be well lit, with generous spaces between them.
Hannibal went to the center of his own mind and into the foyer of this memory palace. He elected for music in the corridors, a Batch string quartet, and passed quickly through the Hall of Mathematics, through Chemistry, to a room he’d adopted recently from the Carnavalet Musem and renamed the Hall of the Cranium. It took only a few minutes to store everything, associating anatomical details with the set arrangement of displays in the Carnavalet, being careful not to put the venous blues of the face against blues in the tapestries.
Ability to absorb, synthesize and purposefully use information
He follows several trains of thought at once, without distraction from any, and one of the trains is always for his own amusement. Seeing Popil’s hat in Lady Murasaki’s hands, Hannibal estimated the size and weight of his head at 19.5 centimeters and six kilos. Hannibal was thinking about the figure and thinking, as young men do, about the shapes of peaches and pears. “It is true that you read through your textbooks once and then return them to the bookstore within a week to get all your money back?” “Do you really return your books?”
“Then you can remember everything in the books.”
Momund was in there. Hannibal could smell him.
“Hannibal Lecter, said the professor, why are you not drawing the specimen?”
“I finished it, sir.” Hannibal lifted the top sheet and there was the frog, exactly rendered, in the anatomical position and circumscribed like Leonardo’s drawing of a man. The internals were hatched and shaded.
Since his grades were exceptional, he knew teachers did not really care what he was going, as long as the other pupils did not see and follow his bad example.
Freed to sit alone in the very dark corner of the classroom, he was able to manufacture ink and watercolor washes of birds while listening to the lecture with half and ear.
It was pleasant to be away from school, to be looking at good pictures. After an afternoon of sketching boats on the pond, Hannibal was thinking about water, the problems of depicting water. He thought about Turner’s mist and his colors, impossible to emulate, and he went from picture to picture looking at the water, the air over the water.
Hannibal at eighteen was rooting for Mephistopheles and comtemptuous of Faust, but he only half-listened to the climax.
Hannibal working alone.
Hannibal held himself to a moderate pace.
Hannibal wiped his shoes on the mat and stepped into the house.
Hannibal was calm. His pulse was 72.
He did not carry grotesque images of the dead and half-dissected into his sleep, nor the criminals, cleaved or hanged.
Hannibal could see the pulse in her temple. He could hear his heart.
The peaks and valleys in the ink lines are constant. No increase in blood pressure, no increase in heartbeat, respiration constant and calm.
Hannibal blocked the blow with the fork in his fist, the tines digging into First Monitor’s knuckles.
Hannibal’s voice was rusty with disuse, but the butcher understood him. He said “Beast” very calmly. It sounded like taxonomy rather than insult.
The inspector scanned Hannibal’s face for something. He did not find it. He did not find anything, so he asked another question.
She was difficult to read, a quality Hannibal found refreshing much of the time.
Hannibal folded his cot in the living room early in the morning and bicycled across the Seine to the Jardin des Plantes, where he made another of his frequent inquiries at the menagerie.
Hannibal dug a grave and lined it with all the wildflowers he could find. He filled in the grave and patted down the dirt with his hands. He covered the grave with pine needles, leaves and twigs until it looked like the rest of the forest floor.
Here is a row of crude crayon drawings above the successive beds. Above Hannibal Lecter’s bed is an excellent chalk and pencil drawing of a baby’s hand and arm. Hannibal sleeps, his eyelids twitching. His jaw muscles bunch and his nostrils flare and pinch at a dreamed whiff of cadaverine breath.
Hannibal rose early and washed his face at the bowl and pitcher on his nightstand.
Hannibal Lecter, thirteen, his hair slicked down with water.
Knowing Hannibal would not come until he was scrubbed and groomed, she waited in his room.
Out of courtesy he bowed his head at the alter for a moment.
Hannibal wrote without looking at the pad, counting both the beats and the metronome and those of the clock at the same time.
Hannibal arrived at the chateau in the rosy dawn and cut some flowers before he went into the house, arranging them for height in his fist.
Lady Murasaki conducted her life with a certain elegance which she achieved by application and taste, and she did it with whatever funds were left to her after the chateau was sold and the death duties paid. She would have given Hannibal anything he asked, but he did not ask.
Soon he hoped to have the funds for a birthday dinner, and he was looking for sear urchins.
She took Hannibal, fitted to perfection in the count’s dinner clothes, and she could not resist a question. “Young man, my husband tells me you were the youngest person ever admitted to medical school in France.
The walls around and over his desk were wild with images, drawing of dissections, anatomical illustrations in progress.
Hannibal took a quick bath in the tank and did his laundry.
Hannibal volunteered to work in the jail dispensary and petitioned the court to allow him to return to medical school.
He would use his access as a patron of the arts to stand backstage and look out at audiences, their rapt faces glowing in the stage lights, and read and read and read.
Hannibal: He was experiencing a sharpness of vision, with edges of refracted red like ice on a window or the edge of a lens.
Hannibal: You owe a certain lady a written apology. Write that you are sorry, you realize that you are despicable, and you will never look at her or address her in the market again.
Hannibal: You inquired about her pussy, I believe.
Hannibal: Or more tangential to the spine?
Hannibal: Would you like to see my drawings?
“Inspector, you will never know anything about my taste.” — Hannibal Lecter
Also adding one Hannibal description I found on Reddit. This one really resonates with the macro.
He is humanity as a whole in one transcendental person suit. He encompasses all of mankind's best and worst traits, like us he is full of artistic and cultural genius, intellect and scientific curiosity. Like us he is empirical and philosophical at once. His capacity for compassion is matched only by his cruelty. Like us he reveres some lesser creatures and consumes others with all the brutality of a factory farm. And like us, he is alone in the universe wondering if there's anyone out there that can relate.
He can't be viewed as a recognisable and relatable person because he can't be defined, the canon itself tells us that. The same questions that can be asked about mankind collectively apply to him. Is he a psychopath? Is humanity? Is he evil? Is humanity? Is he kind? Is mankind? Is he capable of love? Are we?