The Second Ring: Music

How to BuyIn The Second Ring, music plays an important role in the characters’ lives. Axel loves music of the great masters, whom he defines as Franz Lehár, Emmerich Kallmán, and other operetta composers. Of all the Strausses to choose from in the opera houses, spelled with one ‘s’ or two, his favorites are Johann and Oscar.

While staying at an ancient inn in Northern Norway, he finds a gramophone that happens to be in barely working order, and a disc of one of his favorite melodies, the waltz from Die Lustige Witwe, that is, The Merry Widow.


This version is sung by Mme. Marcella Sembrich about 1908. Axel would like it much slower, almost a dream-like waltz of the mind.

A Song Book specially written and printed for the Fallschirmjäger:

The Fallshirmjäger Song Book

The Fallshirmjäger Song Book

And one of the songs in it is “Rot scheint die Sonne” (Red shines the sun)

Of course, Lieder is important to Axel as well, since such so-called “Art Songs” were part of every German boy’s upbringing, and such gems as Schumann’s Dichterliebe would be in his brain almost constantly. Listen to this excerpt with the great Fritz Wunderlich singing – particularly the third number (“Die Rose, Die Lilie”) and the seventh, (“Ich grolle nicht”– at 7:00 in). One is the lightest, most schmetterlingest thing one can imagine, so short that music teachers used to ask students to sing the whole thing in one breath (that is a feat!); and the plaintive, passionate “Ich grolle nicht” (which means ‘hey, I’m not complaining!’ – but once the singer says that, all he does for the rest of the piece is … grolle.).


The Second Ring: Recipes

How To BuyFood is a strong part of The Second Ring, where its sensuality lures the main characters into a feeling of comfort and comradeship. Some of the dishes mentioned in the novel are a delicious repast for anyone to try:

Eingemachtes Kalbsfleisch (Veal In Gravy)

  • 6 veal shanks
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed chicken broth
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth
  • 5 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme


  1. Sprinkle shanks with salt and pepper
  2. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat
  3. Working in batches, cook shanks until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer shanks to plate
  4. Add onions, carrots and garlic to pot and saute until golden brown, about 10 minutes
  5. Stir in wine, tomatoes, chicken broth and beef broth
  6. Season with rosemary and thyme
  7. Return shanks to pot, pressing down to submerge
  8. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover, and simmer until meat is tender, about 2 hours
  9. Remove cover from pot. Simmer about 20 minutes longer
  10. Transfer shanks to platter, place in a warm oven
  11. Boil juices in pot until thickened, about 15 minutes. Spoon over shanks

Delicious recipe from the heart of Germany

Zwiebel Schweinebraten mit Knoedel

1 Pork Loin Roast (about 3 pounds) or a boneless pork shoulder roast, which is less expensive
2 large yellow onions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
1 8-oz. box of good quality Beef Stock
Olive Oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan)
Kosher Salt & Pepper, to taste
Equipment needed:
oven proof heavy skillet


  • Bring the Pork Loin Roast to room temperature (about 30 minutes)
  • Pat the roast dry, and then season with kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper.
  • Rub a thin coat of olive oil all over the roast. If using the caraway seed, distribute evenly on the roast and gently press into the meat.
  • Preheat the oven to 450F.
  • Drizzle enough olive oil to the coat the bottom of a heavy bottom skillet.
  • Turn on to medium-high heat, and watch closely for when the olive oil begins to ripple and just starts to smoke.
  • With tongs, add the pork roast into the pan and leave, undisturbed, for about 3-5 minutes. You want to see a golden and crispy outside. Sear the roast on all sides until evenly seared.
  • Drizzle about 1 Tablespoon olive oil over the sliced onion and mix to evenly coat.
  • Spread the onion alongside the pork roast and cook into the oven, until cooked— about 40 minutes. Check for an internal temperature of 145-150F.
  • Remove the roast and cover with foil.
  • Remove the caramelized onion, and set aside.
  • Return the roasting pan to the stove top on medium high heat
  • Simply deglaze the pan, by pouring the beef stock into the pan, scraping to loosen up the brown bits from searing the meat.
  • Taste the sauce, and season with more salt & pepper, if needed.

Schweinzbraten TS


The Second Ring: – Dante

gustav_dore_goettliche_komoedieAxel is very taken, as a young man, by a large book in his family’s library of Dante’s Inferno, Illustrated by Gustave Doré. The engravings in it not only horrify him, but excite his rather baroque mind in a way he never previously conceived.  The writhing, naked bodies of the tormented speak to him as though he were one of them, suffering along with them as a group.

He learns that Dante’s vision of the Inferno was a series of circles through which one wended to get to the center, where Beelzebub sits, frozen in ice.

The first circle is Limbo, where pagans and the unbaptized remain for eternity, but it is in the second ring of hell that he discovers the Lustful spend their endless hours.

pricerAmong them is Paolo and Francesca, who are flung through the air, endlessly whipped with wind. He makes the connection between the Inferno and the inferno of the war, and the care, even pity he feels for the men of whom he is in charge, seems to him as though he is helping the lost souls in the second ring of Dante’s hell.  What is more important, and what seems to slip Axel’s imagination, is that over the gates of Dante’s vision of hell is the famous sign – “Lasciate ogni speranza, tutto ch’entrate” — ABANDON EVERY HOPE, YE WHO ENTER.  Grim words that speak directly to Axel’s inability to find any happiness in the chaos of war.