Magnum Opus is the story of the paranoid, unworldly journalist Knoert van Effersneg who’s absolutely sure he’s the stupidest person on earth. After a bizarre meeting with the intellectual Kont van der Parren, a biologist performing forbidden experiments with dogs and nicknamed „the Joseph Mengele of Dogwitz” by the press, Knoert falls in love with Van der Parren’s female assistent and tries everything to meet her again.
To achieve this, he first has to fight his way through Van der Parren’s intellectual circle of friends that is composed of scientists, poets and artists. Knoert’s desperate attempts as „the stupidest person on earth” to connect to „the intellectuals” lead to hilarious scenes in which Knoert more and more gets caught up in his own delusions and paranoia.
I wish I was a pig!
The so-called „Party of the Facts” takes center stage in the story, a big party organized by Van der Parren where the Absolute Truth is celebrated. Here Knoert gets in contact with Joglor Taargstang, a completely self-absorbed bookworm who’s biggest wish is to become a pig.
The ability of mankind to give meaning to life is an obstacle to Joglor because it keeps mankind from leading a life without worries. While mankind is aware that life is useless and all living creatures mortal, a pig is just wallowing in the mud and not knowing he’s soon gonna end in a Tasty Bacon hamburger. It’s not aware of the madness and cruelties of life and that’s why a pig is better off, according to Joglor.
In spite of Knoert describing Joglor as „that guy with that eternal face of eternal misery”, he also recognizes his own misery in Joglor.
In fact, Magnum Opus is just like it’s predecessor Plaagpark a book about pain, inspired here and there by the works of „the philosopher of Evil” Georges Bataille and his intensive studies of the scandalous writings of the Marquis de Sade: Sadism, of course a word derived from De Sade’s name, is the main theme of Magnum Opus. Knoert becomes fascinated by the idea that it must be possible to experience joy from his psychological pains, but this experiment sadly ends disastrous.
The story in Magnum Opus is for the main part told in text blocks placed above the drawings; In this way I spent a lot of time on Knoert’s continuous fears and delusions. His nervous breakdowns are spread over multiple images, with lengthy texts describing what’s going on inside his head. The action is minimal.
Besides, the dialogues are especially carrying the story, so I took the time for the very extensive conversations. Describing the atmosphere during the dialogues was of the biggest importance: The characters are smoking huge amounts of cigarettes and on ashtrays, cups of coffee and cigarette smoke is zoomed-in repeatedly. Even when itching and the need to scratch creates a temporarily pause in the dialogue, it is shown in great detail and spread out over many pages. In this way there’s a lot of distraction, but it gives a very realistic and cinematic effect.
A lot of scenes and dialogues in Magnum Opus are based on own experiences in café’s and on art parties. That’s why some of the characters really do exist, and, lots of dialogues have actually taken place. For example, the character Joglor Taargstang, who wants to be a pig, is a truely existing person. But with another name of course. Truth is stranger than fiction, especially in the artists circuit.