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March 16, 2011

Who is the most Zelig-like person in history?

Marc Chagall

Is there a single figure who can be verified as being present at the most number of key historic events, cultural, social and political?
Imagine a dilettante who starts off in New York in February 1913, takes in the Armory Show, stops off at the newly opened Woolworth Building, then crossed the North Atlantic on the Olympic, landing in Southampton before travelling to Paris (perhaps meeting Ezra Pound on the way?), where they attend the riotous first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring on Thursday, May 29. Back in the UK the following month, they attend the Epsom Derby and witness the fatal trampling of Emily Davison. And so on and so on, through events that have only, with hindsight, attained a huge significance. It would be an interesting exercise in dovetailing key events of the 20th century with the people they involved (or perhaps the people who reported them), ploughing through the ‘events of the year’ pages in Wikipedia (1913, 1914, 1915, etc.). Googling ‘real life Zelig’ throws up a few suggestions, plus the obvious fictional counterpart, Forrest Gump, and even the suggestion that Marc Chagall ticks most of the boxes. We’d speculate that a newspaper correspondent from the early twentieth century is probably our man (and it most likely is a man). -- things magazine

Posted by Vanderleun at March 16, 2011 10:34 PM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

The only Marc Chagall I know of was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

I do not think of him as a "person who takes up an art merely for amusement or in a desultory or superficial way". Is there another Marc Chagall?

Posted by: Fat Man at March 17, 2011 6:19 AM

Ah yes, who can forget the 1913 performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, seems like only yesterday…

Posted by: tim at March 17, 2011 8:10 AM

So he may have been present at a large number of historical events....so were a large number of artists. Is anyone saying that Chagall took to mimicking people around him. I can't say that would be the case, looking at his artwork. Besides...Zelig is a movie character. Really, the question should be this: What real life person is Zelig based on?

Posted by: Jewel at March 17, 2011 9:40 AM

I think it's more of a think piece than something that attempts to make Zelig real. Think of it as a literary/cinematic reference. Best not to get too literal.

Posted by: vanderleun at March 17, 2011 10:30 AM

But, what were they thing about? Trying to confuse us?

Posted by: Fat Man at March 17, 2011 11:56 AM

George S. Patton....the historical events he was present for really mattered.

Posted by: Blastineau at March 17, 2011 1:06 PM

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