Monday, August 25, 2014

A Translation of Die Serapionsbrüder by E. T. A. Hoffmann. Part Three.

The Fermata

Johnann Erdmann Hummel’s serene and sprightly painting Social Life at an Italian Locanda has acquired something of a reputation thanks to the Berlin Art Exhibition of the autumn of 1814, where it was deemed a positive delight to the eyes and the hearts of many a viewer.  A bower, thickly overgrown with foliage—a table brimful of wine and fruit—at the latter, two Italian ladies sitting face to face—the one is singing; the other, playing the guitar--between and behind the pair of them, standing, an abbot who has assumed the duties of a conductor. With battuta held high, he stands poised for the moment when Signora, now lingering over her cadenza with eyes cast heavenwards, rounds out the latter in a long trill; then, he will strike the downbeat, in concert with the guitarist's strumming of the dominant triad. The abbot is the very image of awestricken-ness, of blissful enjoyment—and terribly overwrought to boot.  He would not, for all the world, miss this downbeat by so much as a fraction of a second. He hardly dares to breathe. He would tie fast the wings and mandibles of every bee and gnat in the bower to silence their buzzing.  And to make matters worse for him, their officious host has just come barging in, at this most precious, this most decisive, of moments, to deliver their order of wine.  Behind the bower, a view of an arcade intermittently illuminated by shafts of sunlight—there we see a man on horseback; who, having just now drawn to a halt, is being handed up a dram of the locanda’s vintage.

Before this painting stood two friends, Eduard and Theodor.

“The longer I gaze at this admittedly rather grandmotherly—and yet, for all that, supremely virtuosic—singer, in her splendid costume,” said Eduard, “the longer I savor the solemn, authentically Roman profile and lovely features of the guitarist; the longer I revel in the sight of this most excellent of abbots, the more freely and strongly imbued with actual, kinetic life the painting as a whole seems to me.  To be sure, at a more fundamental level, life is merely caricatured in it, but with what serenity and sweetness! How very much I should like to climb into that bower and uncork one of those exquisite demijohns that are smiling down at me from yonder table.  Indeed, I believe I can fairly smell the noble wine’s sapid bouquet.  But alas: this intoxicating vapor shall not be suffered to mingle with the sober, commonsensical draft that chills us here below.  And so, in honor of this wonderful painting—of art, of gay old Italy, where the love of life burns on undiminished—let us repair thither and crack open a bottle of genuine Italian wine.”

Throughout Eduard's delivery of this disjointed monologue, Theodor had been standing in perfect silence, immersed in his own thoughts. Then, as though waking from a dream, he rejoined, “Yes, let's do that!”; but no sooner had he managed to elude the painting, and—having reflexively trailed his companion's footsteps—found himself at the threshold of the room, than he cast a yearning glance or two back at the singers and the abbot.  Eduard’s proposal was realized effortlessly. They crossed the street and, by and by, found themselves face-to-face with a wicker-sheathed demijohn—a serviceable enough simulacrum of the ones in the wine-bower—in the little blue dining room of the Sala Tarone. “It seems to me,” said Eduard after a few glasses had been drained, to no effect on the score of Theodor's self-immersion, “It seems to me that you were not especially taken with this painting; and certainly by no means as heartily as I was.” ‘Rest assured,” replied Theodor, “I more than fully appreciate the gaiety, the charm—the vitality—of the painting in the highest degree; but the astonishing fact is that it accurately—and, indeed, with the fidelity of a master portraitist in the case of the dramatis personae—depicts a scene from my own life. You will, I trust, grant me that even the sunniest remembrances have an uncanny power to discompose the mind when they catch it unawares, when they suddenly and unaccountably spring forth as if brought to life by the touch of a magic wand.  In just such a fashion has my mind just been discomposed.” “From your own life?” echoed Eduard in astonishment, “You would have me believe that this painting depicts a scene from your own life? I likewise took the singers and the abbot for faithful portraits, but as for the thought that you had encountered them in the flesh? Pray do make some sense out of all this for me: we are, after all, alone; no one comes here at this time of day.” “I would be all too happy to oblige you in that regard; but, unfortunately, to do so would necessarily involve my going back quite a long way indeed—all the way back to the period of my youth.” “Do tell on, and freely,” replied Eduard; “as of now, I know very little of your early history. However long it takes, the worst that will come of it is that we crack open another bottle, which we have resolved to do anyway; what harm can it do anyone, either Mr. Tarone or ourselves?”

“Well: that I ultimately cast all other endeavors aside,” began Theodor, “and gave myself over body and soul to the noble calling of music can come as no great surprise to anyone, for even as a boy I could scarcely trouble myself about anything else, and would plunk away night and day on the keyboard of my uncle’s rickety, jangly old grand piano. Our little town was less than a backwater musically speaking; and there was no one there who could give me lessons, apart from a certain capricious old organist who was basically nothing but a bloodless arithmetician, and who habitually tortured me with the most dismally cacophonous toccatas and fugues. Undeterred by these performances, I conscientiously pressed on with my studies. Oftentimes the old man scolded me with great vehemence; but he never dared to correct my technique in any other way but by playing through the same virtuoso passages over and over again in his idiosyncratic but masterly style, and I soon made my peace both with him and with my chosen art.  What strange states could I be thrown into in those days!--certain passages, particularly in the works of old Sebastian Bach, were like ghost stories to me; and on hearing them I would thrill with such shudders as one willingly surrenders oneself to in one's fantasy-ridden youth. A veritable Eden opened itself to me when, as was wont to happen in the wintertime, the leader of our municipal band of musicians and his colleagues, supported by a couple of feeble sub-amateurs, gave a concert, and I played the tympani in the orchestra, which part I was vouchsafed in virtue of my impeccable sense of rhythm. I realized only much later how insanely laughable these concerts often were. Usually my teacher would play two piano concertos by Wolf or Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, a member of the band would muddle through a bit of Stamitz, and the excise-collector would huff and puff away on the flute with such lung-bursting violence that he blew out both the candles on the conductor’s podium, and they always subsequently had to be relighted. Of vocal music there was nary a trace, a state of affairs much lamented by my uncle, who was an ardent admirer and champion of the musical arts. He still recollected with great fondness the old days, when the four choir-masters of our four churches joined forces in a rendition of Lottchen at Court at the concert hall. In particular, he loved to extol the latitudinarian spirit in which the singers had laid aside their differences for the sake of art, all the more so as the Catholics and Lutherans alike were alienated from the Calvinist community on account of the linguistic schism between German and French; the French choir-master permitted himself no liberties with Lottchen and sang the role--so my uncle averred--in the most charming falsetto that ever had been wrung out of a human voice-box. At that time there subsisted amongst us (i.e., in our town) a fifty-five-year-old spinster surnamed Meibel, who received a niggardly pension allotted to her in remembrance of her services as a much-fêted vocalist at court; and my uncle sagely surmised that Mlle. Meibel could be persuaded, for a certain fee, to be fêted once again, however modestly, at an official recital. She put on airs and allowed herself to be implored on bended knee for a good long while; but in the end, she gave in, and emerged from the wings of our concert hall to greet her devoted public. She was quite an original, to say the least, this Mlle. Meibel. To this day, the image of her haggard, dwarfish person remains vividly etched in my memory. In an attitude of great solemnity and seriousness—vocal part in hand, and clad in a dress woven out of the most garish combination of hues—she took her place at center stage and saluted the audience with a curt bow. She wore a highly curious head-dress surmounted by a nosegay of ceramic Italian flowers; and as she sang, this coiffure shuddered and pivoted itself about her head in a quite peculiar fashion. When she had finished, and the assembly had rendered unto her its more than modest tribute of applause, she handed her part, with a lordly glance, to my teacher; whose duty it was to fetch forth and present to her her porcelain pug-dog-shaped snuff-box, from which vessel she thereupon extracted a pinch of tobacco with great contentment. Her intonation was hideously shrill; she indulged herself in all sorts of ludicrous ornaments and coloraturas; and you can well imagine how these vocal defects, in combination with her preposterous appearance, must have struck me at the time. My uncle gushed forth a stream of plaudits; I could hardly fathom his behavior, and thus forsook his company in favor of that of my organist, who, in taking a pretty dim view of vocal music in general, and being his constitutionally splenetic self, was more than capable of essaying an amusing parody of the silly old girl's performance.

“The more warmly I seconded my teacher's diatribes against vocal music, the more highly he rated my genius for music tout court. With enormous alacrity he threw himself into the task of instructing me in counterpoint, such that soon enough I was competently composing academic fugues and toccatas.  On one of my birthdays (the nineteenth one), I happened to be performing one of these 'compositions' in the presence of my uncle, when the waiter of our finest inn appeared, announcing the visitation of two foreign ladies newly arrived in town. Before my uncle had had time to divest himself of his floral-patterned dressing-gown, let alone don proper day-clothes, the visitors were already entering the room. You are, of course, aware of the electrical force exerted upon the isolated inmates of a small town by the appearance of any stranger in their midst—well, these two ladies, in traipsing so unexpectedly into my life, were tailor-made to exert just such a force on me, as if by the touch of a magic wand. Picture to yourself two tall, slender Italian women, bedizened in the most splendid hues of the latest fashion, marching right up to, of all people, my uncle, and holding forth to him in the most forceful, albeit mellifluous, tones—but what is this curious language they are speaking?—it only intermittently sounds at all like German!—my uncle cannot understand a word of it—nonplussed, taking a step or two backward—utterly stupefied, he points to the sofa.  They seat themselves—the two of them converse between themselves—and their conversation sounds just like music.

At length, they manage to make it more or less clear to my uncle that they are touring singers, that they want to give a concert in our town, and that they have had recourse to him in his capacity as a competent organizer of such musical events.

Now, in eavesdropping on this conference, I had happened to glean the singers' Christian names, and it was accordingly plain to me that, to the extent that I had heretofore been bemused by their apparition as a pair of virtual twins, I could in like measure now properly distinguish them as individuals. Lauretta—to all appearances the senior of the two—addressed my discomfited uncle point-blank, her radiant eyes flashing in all directions, with great ebullience and much animated gesticulation. Though far from tall, she was decidedly voluptuous; and I was completely transfixed by her many and considerable charms, all of them as-yet terra incognita to me. Teresina, taller, thinner, and of a longish and serious countenance, contented herself with supplying the occasional, albeit more intelligible, interjection. From time to time they would, oddly enough, burst into laughter, as if much diverted by the vainly repeated efforts of my worthy uncle—encased in his silk dressing-gown like a snail in its shell--to conceal the yellow ribbon securing his nightshirt, which had a perfidious tendency to wiggle itself out lengthwise from under his lapels at every attempt. Finally, they rose from the couch; my uncle promised to see to it that a concert would be scheduled for the next day but two, and was most civilly invited, along with yours truly—whom he had presented to them under the style of a ‘young virtuoso’—to take ciocolata with the two sisters at lunchtime. We ascended the staircase with great gravity and ceremony, as though setting out on some sort of adventure that neither of us was quite cut out for. After my uncle, suitably girded for such an enterprise, had delivered himself of a great deal of high-flown oratory on the subject of art, to the comprehension of no one present (either himself or the rest of us); after I had twice scalded my tongue on the boiling-hot chocolate—and yet, for all that, grinned and borne my unspeakable anguish with a stoic equanimity worthy of Scaevola9—Lauretta announced that she would sing something for us. Teresina took up her guitar, tuned it, and strummed a few open chords. Never before had I heard such an instrument, whose elusively unresonant timbre reverberated to the core of my very being.  Lauretta entered quite softly with a single note, which she sustained and built up to a fortissimo, before abruptly and audaciously segueing into an intricate figure spanning a full octave and a half. Although I was well acquainted with the opening words of the song—Sento l’amica speme—they now deprived me of the very capacity to breathe, as I had never dreamed they were capable of doing. But this was as nothing to the moment when Lauretta, with unflagging intrepidity, cast off every last vestige of dependence on the score; and when, enfolded as I was in wave upon wave of circumambient sound, my inner music, which had for so long lain dormant and as good as dead, caught fire and burst forth in mighty jets of flame. Ah! For the first time in my life I had heard real music. Next the two sisters joined vocal forces in a rendition of those serious, profoundly understated duets by the Abbot Steffani. Terisina’s rich, pure, heavenly alto voice pervaded my soul; I could no longer contain my inner tumult, and the tears fell liberally from my eyes. My uncle cleared his throat and cast a disapproving glance or two in the direction of my person, but to no avail; for I was in no mere metaphorical sense in another place. This reaction of mine seemed to please the singers, who began inquiring into the precise nature of my musical training; for my part; I blushed at the thought of owning my ‘musical’ busywork under such a head, and with a forwardness imparted by the inspiration of the moment, affirmed outright that ‘today, for the first time in my life, I have heard real music!’. ‘Il bon fanciullo,’ murmured Lauretta in a most fetchingly lovely tone. No sooner had I got home, than, overtaken by a kind of mad delirium, I gathered up my collected ‘works’—all those wretched toccatas and fugues, along with a set of forty-five canonic variations composed by the organist and presented by him to me as a gift in fair copy—and pitched the lot into the fireplace, erupting into great peals of spiteful laughter as the reams of invertible counterpoint crackled and smoked their way into oblivion. I then seated myself at the keyboard and attempted, first, to replicate the sonority of the guitar; next, to plunk out the tunes that had been sung by the two sisters; and, finally, to accompany these purely instrumental efforts at mimesis through the medium of my own voice. Eventually, around midnight, my uncle appeared, exclaimed, ‘It’s high time you left off all this caterwauling and hit the hay!’, snuffed out both my candles, and returned to his bedchamber. I had no choice but to heed his plaint. In sleep—so it seems to me—I was at last vouchsafed the key to the song; for therein I sang Sento l’amica speme with great fluency and feeling.  By the next morning, my uncle had arranged for everybody in town who could play a note on a string or a wind instrument to participate in the rehearsal for the concert. Out of sheer civic pride, he hoped to demonstrate the superiority of our local musical culture. Alas! From the very beginning things took a turn directly contrary to the realization of this hope. Lauretta, from a purely dramatic point of view, put on quite an impressive show; but unhappily she opted to deliver the whole of her performance in a meandering recitative that none of her would-be accompanists knew quite what to make of or do with. Lauretta screamed, wailed, and, indeed, wept in rabid consternation. The organist was then seated at the piano; and upon him she saw fit to let flow a stream of the most vituperative reproaches. Unmoved, he stood up and silently made straight for the exit.  As for the bandleader, Lauretta having flung an Asino maledetto! at his head, he had by now insolently flung his hat on to that same head and slung his violin under his right arm. He likewise headed straight for the back door; his colleagues, with bows fixed athwart fingerboards and mouthpieces upturned, followed his lead.  Now the only local performers left were the supernumeraries, the sub-amateurs, who began casting tearful glances in every which direction; and the excise collector lugubriously exclaimed, ‘Oh God! This has made a changed man of me!’ Every ounce of my bashfulness had by then evaporated; I flung myself into the path of the bandleader, and out of sheer panic begged, besought, and implored him to stay on the security of my pledge to provide him with six fresh minuets with double trios for the public ball. I managed to appease him. He turned round and slowly resumed his place at the podium; his colleagues likewise marched back in; and, in due course, all the requisite instrumental forces were once again assembled and ready to play, apart from the self-evidently still-absent figure of the organist. By then this man was wending his leisurely way across the market square, his progress unhindered by the gravitational pull of so much as a single hand-clap or huzzah. Teresina, in her capacity as a mere spectator, had greeted the whole imbroglio with grimly sardonic laughter; Lauretta, for her part, was now every bit as cheerful as she had so recently been irate. She fulsomely praised me on account of the ‘considerable pains’ I was taking; she asked me if I could play the piano, and before I quite knew what was happening, I found myself seated in the organist’s spot, with the score in front of me.  I had never before accompanied a singer, let alone conducted an orchestra. Teresina sat down next to me on the piano-bench and marked time for me; I received one spirited ‘Bravo!’ after another from Lauretta, and the orchestra fell into line and began playing; everything was going better and better by the minute.  At the second rehearsal everything went off without a hitch, and in the concert itself the transfixing power of the sisters’ voices simply beggared description. It then transpired that the Prince's forthcoming return to the capital was to be attended with much pomp and circumstance; that the sisters had been summoned thither to sing in recital and on stage; and that, pending the necessity of their presence at court, they had elected to tarry a bit longer in our little town: hence they came to grace us with a few further concerts. The adulation of the audience at these events verged on sheer mania. Old Lady Meibel alone dissented in circumspectly taking a pinch of snuff from her porcelain box and opining that such impertinent shrieks as these were hardly deserving of the appellation of vocal music, that a proper vocalist must always sing nice and doose.5  Thenceforth my organist, for his part, would have nothing to do with me; and I, for mine, hardly missed his company. I was the happiest man on earth! All day long, I sat next to the sisters, playing accompaniment and copying out parts from scores for their subsequent use at the capital. Lauretta was my ideal; all her petty sulks, all her horrible temper-tantrums—to say nothing of the round of virtuosic keyboard drudgery she put me through—I bore the lot with exemplary forbearance!  After all, she and she alone had disclosed to me what real music consisted in!  I began to study Italian and to try my hand at composing canzonets. And whenever Lauretta sang—and, moreover, praised—one of these compositions; why, I was in seventh heaven! It often seemed to me as though I had neither conceived nor written the composition in question myself; as though the central idea of the piece could shine forth only through Lauretta’s realization of it in song. As for Teresina—well, I never could quite accustom myself to her presence, as she sang only occasionally and seemed to regard my industry as being of but little account; and from time to time I even found myself wondering whether she were not laughing at me behind my back. At length, the day of their departure drew nigh. It was then that I first became conscious of the nature and force of my attachment to Lauretta, and of the impossibility of parting from her. Oftentimes, when inclined to act the part of a smorfiosa6 to the hilt, she would caress me; which action, notwithstanding the manifestly innocent attitude of the caresser, never failed to set my blood boiling, and I was restrained from embracing her in an access of amorous fury only by the singular coldness with which she consistently contrived to rebuff my advances.

I had a passably decent tenor voice, which, having heretofore allowed to lie fallow, I now cultivated with the greatest assiduity; such that I found many an occasion for collaborating with Lauretta in the rendition of a handful of those tender Italian duettini that number in the thousands. On the very eve of her departure, we happened to be singing one of these duets, which just happened to be entitled Senza di te ben mio, vivere non poss'io. What hardened soul could bear such a coincidence? In despair, I threw myself at her feet. Bidding me to rise, she exclaimed, 'Ah, my friend! Is our parting really so inevitable?' I pricked up my ears in delighted astonishment. She went on to propose that I should accompany Teresina and her to the capital; inasmuch as I must sooner or later travel abroad in any case if I wished to pursue a career in music. Picture to yourself a man plunging headlong into the fathomless pit of despair, a man who has given up for good on life itself; but who, even as he is bracing himself for the blow that needs must spell his utter annihilation, simultaneously finds himself recumbent upon a magnificent bed of roses while a hundred little glimmers of light of a hundred different colors circle round him, each of them whispering into his ear, ‘Dear heart, you have yet to live!’ Such a man was I at that instant. ‘To the capital, and forthwith!’ my soul peremptorily commanded. I shall not try your patience by relating the particulars of the case I made to my uncle for the necessity of my undertaking this expedition of no great distance. Eventually, he succumbed to the force of my argument; nay, he even vowed to accompany me on the trip. What an upset to all of my calculations this was! Naturally, it was out of the question for me to breathe a word to him of my ultimate purpose in traveling with the two lady vocalists. I was delivered from this plight only at the last minute, when my uncle came down with a serviceably nasty head cold. I left town in the post-carriage, but traveled only as far as the first stage, where I tarried in expectation of the arrival of my goddess. My generously-larded wallet stood me in good stead to handle anything that might be in the offing. Being in a romantic, high-chivalric frame of mind, I wished to escort the ladies on horseback like some knight errant of yore. To this end, I procured a none-too-handsome but (so the dealer assured me!) perfectly docile old nag; and, sitting astride the beast, set out at the appointed time for my rendezvous with the sisters. By and by, the little two-seated carriage pulled up, its back seat occupied by the sisters themselves, its boot by their podgy chambermaid Gianna, a sun-burnished Neapolitan. In addition to its human cargo, the carriage was crammed full of an assortment of cases, baskets, and boxes: the inalienable paraphernalia of the itinerants. My salutation of this long-anticipated pair was, incidentally, attended by much yelping in my direction on the part of two minuscule pug-dogs seated in Gianna's lap. Everything went smoothly and according to plan until we reached the last stage, at which point my horse was untowardly smitten by a hankering for his native land. Experience, inasmuch as it had taught me that outright bullying was to little purpose in such situations as this, now counseled me to seek to win my point by the gentlest of all possible means, but the stubborn old nag was obdurate to my genial coaxing. I was all for pressing onwards, he for turning back; and the upshot of all of my pains was that we went round in circles. Teresina leaned out of the cart and laughed immoderately; while Lauretta, with both hands clasped over her eyes, screamed and wailed as though I were in mortal peril. Emboldened by sheer desperation, I dug my spurs into the very ribs of the beast; and at virtually the same instant, I found myself unceremoniously tossed on to the roadside. The horse stood his ground, and, with neck outstretched, glared down at me in an attitude of unmitigated scorn. I was patently incapable of getting up on my own, and the driver hastened to assist me, while Lauretta, herself newly sprung from the cart, resumed her screaming and wailing and Teresina kept right on laughing. As I had sprained my foot, there was no question of my continuing the journey on horseback. What choice did I have? The horse was hitched to the carriage, into whose confines I was now obliged to withdraw. Picture to yourself two fairly sizable women, a downright fat serving-girl, two pug-dogs, a dozen cases, baskets, and boxes, plus Your Humble Servant, all crammed into a tiny two-seated carriage--picture to yourself, moreover, Lauretta's endless whining about the uncomfortable seats, the Neapolitan's equally interminable chattering and Teresina's irremediable sulking; not to mention the unspeakable aching of my foot: then, and only then, will you come fully to appreciate the peculiar charm of my situation. Teresina could not, as she put it, take it anymore. We drew to a halt, and in a single bound she was out of the carriage. She unhitched my horse, mounted him side-saddle and trotted and curvetted him hither and thither in our plain view. I had to admit that she cut quite a splendid figure. And in the offing were still greater proofs of her grace and sublimity of carriage and movement in the art of horsemanship. She called for, and obtained, her guitar; and, with the reins slung round one arm, and strumming open chords by way of accompaniment, proceeded to sing a succession of stately Spanish ballads. The luminous folds of her silk dress glittered and fluttered this way and that, as zephyrs lovingly wafted the white feathers of her hat aloft and aground and aloft again in time with the music. It all amounted to such a vision straight out of the romances of yore that I could scarcely take my eyes off of Teresina; Lauretta, now cast aside, metamorphosed into a perfect specimen of feminine asininity whose impertinence was becoming ever more insufferable. But, luckily enough, we proceeded apace—either because the horse had overcome his former stubbornness, or because he simply found the company of the songstress more agreeable than that of the paladin—and it was only when we had arrived at the very gates of the city that Teresina climbed back into the carriage.

Picture me now in concerts and operas, picture me reveling in every conceivable form of music-making—behold me in my new capacity as a vocal coach, furiously swotting up the core repertoire for piano, for solo voice, for paired voices, for everything else I have ever heard of. And observe, my friend, what an essential, fundamental change I am now undergoing, pervaded as I am by this wondrous new spirit of virtuosity. Every vestige of my small-town boy's shyness evaporates when I sit down like a proper maestro at the keyboard, in front of the score, to conduct one of my donna's performances. All my thoughts, all my sensations, are comprised by a single sweet melody. I am now composing, in blithe disregard of the rules of counterpoint, all manner of arias and canzonets, which Lauretta is only too happy to sing—in the privacy of her apartment. Why will she never sing any of my pieces in public? I cannot get my head around it! But from time to time, the vision of Teresina astride her proud steed, and with lyre in hand--like the veritable incarnation of the romantic ideal in art—spontaneously impels me to compose one solemn lied in the high style after another. To be sure, Lauretta dallies with notes like a perennially shrewish Queen of the Fairies.  How can she but succeed at anything she attempts? Teresina eschews the full trill, opting, rather, for a simple appoggiatura—or, at most, a mordent—but her clear, drawn-out, undecaying notes illuminate every last nook and cranny heretofore consigned to irremediable gloom, as newly-animated magic spirits gaze, with eyes transfixed, into the innermost recesses of the heart. I can hardly fathom how I have managed to live so long sequestered from such bliss.

At a certain point during the sisters' contractually-allotted benefit night, Lauretta and I were performing a rather lengthy aria by Anfossi. I was sitting, as usual, at the keyboard. We had just arrived at the very last fermata of the piece. On this single measure, Lauretta lavished the full panoply of her vocal technique: she warbled in ascending and descending intervals like a nightingale (on sustained pitches throughout), then launched into a most intricate, variegated succession of trills touching on every note of the scale! To be quite frank, the whole thing struck me as being too long by half, and I was beginning to feel a gentle breeze wafting against my shoulders: Teresina, you see, was standing directly behind me. Now, at just this moment, Lauretta was still building up to her final signature hairpin harmonic trill from which she was planning to segue, a tempo, back into the letter of the score. Here (at just this moment), Satan took possession of me: I pounded out the resolving chord of the cadence with all ten fingers. The orchestra followed my lead, forestalling, at the most fatal instant imaginable, Lauretta's execution of that final trill, with which she had fully expected to bring the house down. Lauretta, looking poisoned daggers at me, snatched up her vocal score, flung it at my head (on encountering which obstacle it fell to pieces), and stormed through the orchestra and clear on out into the wings. No sooner had the tutti fallen silent, than I was on my feet and hurrying after her. She wept, she raved. ‘Out of my sight, you malefactor—!’ she screamed at me, ‘—you devil, who, out of sheer spite, have brought this opprobrium upon me: upon my fame, upon my honor, upon my—ah!-upon my trillo! Out of my sight, you heinous son of hell!’ She immediately fled my presence; I dashed through the exit in pursuit. Meanwhile, of course, somebody had had to keep the show going, that somebody in this case being by default Teresina and the conductor, who, indeed, kept it going long enough to placate Lauretta's fury to such a degree that she was persuaded to return to the stage; this time round, however, I circumspectly recused myself from my keyboard duties. In the sisters’ final duet, Lauretta did in fact and at last execute the signature hairpin harmonic trill, which was delivered with impeccable intonation and received with unanimous applause. But as I well knew that I would never live down Lauretta's chastisement of me in full sight of the great wide world, I was firmly resolved to depart for my native city the very next morning. While I was busy packing up my belongings, Teresina entered my little closet of a bedroom. On taking stock of the import of my preparations, she exclaimed in frank astonishment, ‘Do you really intend to desert us?’ I explained that, in light of the disgrace I had suffered at Lauretta's hands, I could no longer remain in their company. ‘Are you really to be driven away so suddenly,’ asked Teresina, ‘by the demented histrionics of such a self-centered silly old goose, which in any case the goose herself now sincerely regrets? Do you really think you can better shift for yourself on your own than with us? Let me remind you that you have it well within your power to forestall any such future outbursts on Lauretta's part, provided you can bring yourself to set her a suitably stern example. But so far you have been altogether too soft, too good-natured, too indulgent for your own good. To put it bluntly, you vastly overrate Lauretta's talent. True, she has a decent voice that carries far enough and then some; but as for all of these outlandish trills and endless arpeggios—why, what do they amount to but so many cheap circus tricks admired after the same fashion as the so-called death-defying feats of tightrope-walkers? Can anything of this lowly sort penetrate our souls or touch our hearts? I can scarcely stomach the harmonic trill that you sabotaged; I find it both nerve-racking and depressing. And what of all of this labored striving toward the stratospheric heights appropriated to the third position of the violin: does it not constitute a perverse transgression of the natural range of the human voice, within whose limits alone that instrument is truly capable of rousing the emotions?  Thank heaven for the middle register!—and the lower one. For me, nothing can quite compare to a genuine, heartfelt, soul-stirring portamento di voce. Strong and steady intonation, unadorned by superfluous embellishment; a direct emotional expressiveness that takes heart and soul alike into its bold embrace: these qualities together comprise the essence of vocal music, and by these qualities alone do I swear in my singing. Suffer, then, no longer for Lauretta's sake, and turn your thoughts to Teresina, who will gladly suffer for yours, provided that—in conformity with your proper calling—you are willing to serve as my composer and accompanist.  Far be it from me to wish to offend you!—but all your pretty little canzonets and arias taken together can scarcely hold a candle to the mighty—’ Here Teresina sang, in her richly sonorous voice, a simple andante setting of a liturgical text that I had composed a few days earlier.  I had never imagined that it could sound anything like this. The notes forced their way into my soul with miraculous ease; my eyes filmed over with tears of mingled desire and delight; I seized Terisina's hand; I pressed my lips to hers a thousand times; I vowed never to part from her. Lauretta jealously, grimly, furiously observed the flourishing of my liaison with Teresina; and all the while she continued to stand in need of my coaching, because, being a poor sight-reader with a shaky sense of rhythm, she was quite incapable of rehearsing anything new on her own. Teresina was an accomplished sight-reader; her sense of rhythm, moreover, was unequaled. Never did Lauretta so fully give vent to the obduracy and vehemence of her passion as when accompanying her sister. Never, on such an occasion, was the instrumental part even remotely up to snuff. She treated her part as one does a necessary evil: you could scarcely hear the keyboard--always pianissimo, and always getting slower and slower--and each measure, as though having spontaneously popped into her head as a self-contained entity, was different in time from the preceding one. By now I could no longer be bothered to humor her; indeed, I engaged in open war with her perversity in telling her quite pointedly that one might as well not play at all as play without energy, and that there was a difference between carrying a song and floating it to pieces against the tide of its basic pulse. Terisina loyally seconded my opinion. I was now composing sacred music exclusively, and reserving the solo vocal parts in my compositions for the alto register. And although Teresina belittled me often enough, I put up with her nitpicking inasmuch as she was more musically erudite than Lauretta and was likewise (so I assumed) more favorably disposed towards German seriousness.

We were traveling through southern Germany. In a small town of that region we happened upon an Italian tenor en route to Berlin from Milan. Both of my ladies were utterly smitten by their compatriot--he, for his part, could not be parted from either of them; but he took an especial shine to Teresina, and to my hardly negligible annoyance I suddenly found myself consigned to playing a bit part in the drama. One day, just as I was on the verge of briskly marching into the sisters' room with a full score slung under one arm, I happened to overhear an animated conversation taking place on the other side of the threshold, a conversation between my two ladies and the tenor. My name was mentioned: I snapped to attention and eagerly pricked up my ears. By now, I understood Italian so well that not a single word escaped me. Lauretta was recounting the tragic events of that night when, by my ill-timed striking of the downbeat, I had cut short her trill. 'Asino tedesco!' cried the tenor.  I was of more than half a mind to burst into the room and throw the puffed-up drama king out the window, but restrained myself. Lauretta continued by saying that she had wanted to send me packing from the beginning, but that out of sheer pity she had yielded to my abject entreaties to take me under her wing as a pupil in the art of singing, and as my teacher reluctantly continued to endure my company.  Teresina, to my hardly negligible astonishment, corroborated this description of me. ‘He is a good boy,’ she added, ‘and as he is now in quite smitten with me he writes only for the alto register. While he is not completely lacking in talent, he has yet to shake himself free—as he must do—of that awkward stiffness peculiar to Germans. I still hope, for my own purposes, to make a composer out of him; to incite him to compose a few trifles for solo alto, and afterwards to let him go. His endless cooing and pining alone render him thoroughly insufferable; but, on top of that, he persistently tortures me with his tiresome compositions, which have so far been consistently wretched in quality.’ ‘Well, I, at any rate,’ chimed in Lauretta, ‘am happily free of such molestation; but I trust, Teresina, that you will recall how this fellow used to nettle me with his arias and duets?’ Lauretta now launched into one of my duets, a composition that, I must emphasize, she had formerly roundly commended. Teresina followed with the second vocal part, and between the two of them, by way of intonation and diction, they executed the cruelest imaginable travesty of my work. The tenor laughed so hard that the walls echoed; an icy shudder shook my frame—my decision was firm and irrevocable. Noiselessly, I slunk from the door back to my own room by way of the window overlooking the side-street. Directly opposite lay the post office. The Bamberg mail-coach had just driven up, and it was now waiting out its loading interval. The passengers were already standing at the gateway, but I still had an hour left. I hastily gathered up my belongings, magnanimously paid our full reckoning at the inn, and hurried away to the post office. As I rode through the high street, I happened to espy my two ladies, along with the tenor, still standing at the window of their chamber; and, indeed, subsequently poking their heads out at the sound of the post-horn. I withdrew into the background and privately gloated over the ineluctably devastating impression to be made by the bilious letter I had left for them at the inn.”

With remarkable aplomb, Theodor quaffed the fiery dregs of the aleatico that Eduard had just poured out for him. “I would never—” the latter said, as he opened another bottle and poured away the layer of oil drops swimming on the surface of its contents,”—I would never have supposed your Teresina capable of such calculating duplicity. I quite simply cannot exorcise from my mind the enchanting image of her sitting astride that horse, and dancing to and fro in those graceful curvets, and singing those Spanish ballads.” “That was her finest moment,” Theodor interrupted. “I myself can still recall how peculiarly I was moved by that very scene. I forgot all my troubles; Teresina seemed then to be the actual manifestation of some higher order of being. It is only too true that such moments cleave fast to one's being and, quite in defiance of one's expectations, assume many a form that time itself is incapable of effacing. Thus, now, whenever I happen to hear a spirited ballad, the image of Teresina starts to my mind in all its original brilliance of color.”

“But,” said Eduard, “Let us not forget the talented Lauretta; and let us accordingly—having set all grudges aside--drink to the health of both sisters.” And so they did!  “Ah,” said Theodor, “how this wine fairly overwhelms me with its enchanting aroma of Italy—how my every nerve and vein fairly glows with new life!  Ah, why ever was I obliged so suddenly to forsake that glorious country a second time!” “Still,” Eduard interjected, “in none of what you have so far related do I discern the remotest connection to our divine painting, and thus do I surmise that you have more to tell me regarding the sisters; for I readily perceive that the two ladies in the picture are none other than Lauretta and Teresina themselves.” “Indeed they are,” replied Theodor, “and, indeed, all my present wistful hankering after the aforementioned glorious country segues perfectly into what I have yet to relate.  Two years ago, when I was living in Rome but about to leave it, I undertook a little excursion on horseback. In the course of this excursion, I came upon a friendly young girl standing in the forecourt of a locanda, and it seemed fitting that I should beseech this pretty child for a draught of the noble grape. I stood there, on horseback, at the entrance of the house, in an arcade illuminated intermittently, from the side, by shafts of sunlight. From some distance away, my ears caught snatches of singing and guitar-playing. I listened more closely, so peculiarly struck was I by the two female voices, inasmuch as they conjured up in my mind the most unaccountably mysterious remembrances, remembrances that yet refused to take definite shape. I thereupon dismounted and, harkening to every note, approached the wine-bower from which the music seemed to be emanating. The second voice had fallen silent.  The first was singing a solo canzonet.  The nearer I drew to the bower, the further the initial impetus of familiarity receded. Now, the voice was lingering over a fermata, in an elaborate chromatic cadenza. It warbled up and down, up and down the scale, and finally alighted on a single sustained note; but then, a female voice—a speaking voice, not a singing one—suddenly erupted into a torrent of frenzied fault-finding—of curses, oaths, and calumnies! A man protests; another man laughs. A second female speaker joins in the melée. With ever-mounting fury, and ever-evident Italian rabbia, the tempest rages on. At length, I reach and hold fast at the threshold of the bower. Thence an abbot suddenly emerges and runs straight into me; and, indeed, practically bowls me over in his exit. He takes one look at me and I immediately identify him as none other than Signor Ludovico, my trusty intelligencer on all musical doings in Rome! ‘What, in heaven's name—?’ I cry. ‘Ah, Signor Maestro, Signor Maestro!’ he exclaims, ‘Save me, I beg you: protect me from this termagant, from this crocodile, from this tiger—this hyena, this demon of a girl. It is true; it is true: I was conducting Anfossi's canzonet and struck the downbeat too soon, in the middle of the fermata; I cut short her trillo—if only I had not looked into her eyes, into the eyes of that Sataness! The Devil take all fermatas, all fermatas!' With remarkable expedition, the abbot and I hastened into the wine-bower; and there, at a single glance, I recognized my two sisters, Lauretta and Tersina. Lauretta was still screaming and fuming, and Teresina was still vehemently remonstrating with her; the landlord, his bare arms folded across his chest, was looking on and laughing as a girl replenished the table with a complement of fresh bottles. No sooner had the singers taken notice of my presence, than they rushed towards me—‘Ah, Signor Teodoro!’—and overwhelmed me with caresses.  All contention was instantly forgotten. ‘Behold,’ said Lauretta to the abbot, ‘behold: a composer with the grace of an Italian and the strength of a German!’ The two sisters now fell into animated conversation between themselves, a conversation touching on such topics as the happy days of our time together, the precociousness of my youthful musical erudition, our exercises, and the superiority of my compositions (they could never have wished for better songs to sing than mine); Teresina rounding out the whole by informing me that she had been engaged by an impresario to sing some leading tragic roles next Carnival season, but she wished to make clear that she would undertake this engagement 'only on condition that at least one newly-commissioned opera by you figures in the program,' for after all, high tragedy was just my line of work, etc. Lauretta, on the other hand, maintained that it would be a pity were I to curb my contrary predilection for elegance, for levity—in a word, for opera buffa. She said that she had been engaged as a prima donna in several performances in that genre, and that it went without saying that nobody but me would be allowed to compose any opera she was to sing in. You can well imagine the curious mixture of emotions I felt as I was standing between the two of them just then.  You will, moreover, have realized by now that the little gathering I happened upon was the selfsame one depicted by Hummel, and that I happened upon it at the very moment when the abbot was cutting short Lauretta's fermata.” “But surely," said Eduard, “they recalled the circumstances of your parting, and your bilious letter?” “They breathed not a word in allusion to either of them; nor, for that matter, did I, for every last shadow of resentment had long since fled my mind, and my adventures with the sisters become a source of private jocular amusement. I allowed myself but one sop to the bad old days in relating to the abbot how I, a few years previous, and likewise in the middle of an aria by Anfossi, had suffered the same calamity that he had suffered today. Brusquely condensing my entire period of collaboration with the sisters into this single tragicomic episode, and deftly sniping at them along the way, I made the two sisters feel the full measure of my superiority to them, and of the years rich in artistic and private experience that had raised me to such a height.  ‘And yet I was right,’ I concluded, ‘to cut short the fermata when I did, for otherwise the thing would have gone on forever; and, indeed, I believe that if the lady had had her way I would still be sitting at that piano right now.’ ‘But Signor,’ replied the abbot, ‘surely no maestro may presume to give orders to his prima donna; and your transgression, in the concert hall, was perforce of a much more criminal nature than mine, in this bower—actually, I was only a theoretical maestro; no one could have supposed me otherwise—and had I not been overawed by the sight of the sweet fire emanating from these heavenly eyes, I would not have made such an ass of myself as I did.’ The abbot's last sentence had a decidedly salutary effect, for Lauretta, whose eyes had begun to let off sparks of rekindled fury during the earlier part of his speech, was now completely quiescent.

We remained together into the evening. The fourteen years since my parting from the sisters had wrought great changes. Lauretta had visibly aged, but she was still attractive enough. Teresina had held up better and retained her fine figure. Both were fairly colorfully dressed, and their mannerisms were the same as before—in other words, fourteen years younger than the women themselves. At my request, Teresina sang a few of those solemn lieder that had once moved me so deeply, but they seemed not to resonate in my soul in the same way that they formerly had done; and it was the same with Lauretta’s singing, which, although her voice had not perceptibly declined in either range or volume, was nonetheless entirely dissimilar to the Laurettan vocal idiom that still resided in my heart. The obtrusion of this contrast between an inner idea and its none-too-agreeable counterpart in the external world was bound to put me out of humor, as the behavior of the sisters towards me—their simulated ecstasies, their tactless fawning, their condescendingly pre-fabricated offers of patronage—already had done. Eventually, the comical abbot—who flirted with the sisters in the sweetest manner imaginable—together with the fine wine, imbibed in copious quantities, restored to me my good mood, such that the evening cheerfully expired in a puff of unalloyed geniality. With the greatest zeal, the sisters invited me to pay them a visit so that we could come to an agreement about the requirements of the parts that I was to compose for them. I quitted Rome without bothering to seek them out beforehand.”

“And yet," said Eduard, "it is to them that you owe the original awakening of your inner song.

“To be sure,” replied Theodor, "and quite a few fine melodies to boot, but precisely for that reason I would have been better off had I never seen them again. Every composer can call to mind some original, powerful impression immune to the ravages of time. The spirit immanent in living sound has spoken to him, enunciating a Logos that has appropriated him to its own ends, awakening the spirit long dormant in his soul and causing it to shine forth with eternally unconquerable radiance. Indeed, in being imbued with such radiance, all melodies that come from the heart seem to us to be the rightful property of the women who first ignited the melodic flame therein. Once having heard them, we commit to paper only what they have sung. It is, however, the lot of us fallible mortals, bound as we are to this mud-heap of a world of ours, to endeavor to circumscribe such etherealities within the pitifully straitened limits of terrestrial actuality. So comes the lady vocalist to be our mistress—nay, our wife!; the spell is broken, and our inner melody, erstwhile herald of the glorious realm beyond, debased into the housewife's lament over a broken soup bowl or an ink stain in a batch of clean laundry.  Fortunate beyond compare is the composer who never sets his terrestrial eyes a second time upon the woman who had the mysterious power to kindle his inner music.  Let the young man be violently racked by the torments and disappointments of love, for once he has been separated for good from his fair enchantress, her image will metamorphose into a divine sound that will perdure in an eternal exuberance of youth and beauty, and from this sound will be born the melodies that are and never can be anything but unchanging iterations of this eternal she.  What, then, is this she, if not the highest ideal, which, in the course of its unceasing emanations from within, contingently finds itself mirrored by some essentially alien image in the external world?”

“Strange, but not implausible,” said Eduard, as the two friends strode arm in arm from Tarone's restaurant into the open air.

Theodor’s friends were unanimous in the conviction that although he had been mistaken in representing his tale as Serapionian in the strictest sense, it could not be denied to possess a certain gay and easygoing charm attributable to his having seen the painting and the people depicted in it with his very own eyes, and such being the case it was not entirely unworthy of admission into the annals of the Serapionian Club.  “You have,” said Ottmar, “you have, my dear friend Theodor, brought to life before my very eyes your efforts to excel in the noble art of music.  Each of us in the old days tried to seduce you into pursuing a different branch of that art.  Lothar wanted to hear nothing but instrumental works from you, I insisted on your writing only comic operas, and Cyprian, as he will now admit, thought you should be writing compositions that were completely formless and flouted every rule in the music teacher’s book; and while each of us was trying to pull you in each of these directions, you were unprecedentedly serving as the confidant of an obscure fourth branch and taking pleasure only in writing serious church music.  Be that as it may, it would seem that at the present stage of music history the composition of a serious tragic opera is a peak that every composer must strive to reach, and it astonishes me that you have not long since undertaken such a work and accomplished something substantial in it.” 

“And who is truly to blame for my dilatoriness,” replied Theodor; “who is truly to blame for it if not you yourself, Ottmar, along with Cyprian and Lothar?  Has any one of you, despite all his begging, pleading, and importuning, yet managed to persuade me to compose an opera?”  

“What an odd fellow you are!” said Cyprian: “did I not discuss opera librettos with you at sufficient length?  And did you not reject the most sublime libretto-scenarios on the grounds that they were utterly impracticable?   Did you not oddly enough finish up by demanding that I should undertake a complete formal course of study of music in order to understand your requirements and only then be capable of satisfying you?  At that point all relish for poetic composition along those lines naturally forsook me, for you had quite patently shown yourself to be what I had never dreamt you capable of becoming: the sort of plodding, workmanlike composer, conductor, and music director who clings for dear life to established forms and refuses to deviate an inch in any direction from any of them.”    

“Which of course,” chimed in Lothar, “is absolutely inexplicable.  Tell me: given that Theodor is a past master of poetic expression, why in heaven’s name doesn’t he just write the libretto of his opera himself?  Why does he expect us to become trained musicians and squander our literary talent on producing something that will acquire life and motion only thanks to him?  Doesn’t he himself know best what his desiderata are?  Is not the vulgar majority of opera composers’ need to lean on the assistance of others entirely attributable to their own imbecility, to the illiberality of their own education?  Is not a complete and seamless fusion of text and music only really conceivable when the librettist and the composer are one and the same person?”  

“Everything you have just said,” said Theodor; “everything you have just said sounds extraordinarily plausible, but for all that it is as far from the truth as anything can be.  It is, I maintain, literally impossible for any single individual to produce a work in which words and music are of mutually comparable excellence.”

“That belief,” chimed back in Lothar, “that belief, my dear Theodor is a mere chimera begotten by either inordinately low spirits or congenital indolence.  The thought of having to churn out hundreds of lines of verse before you can compose a single note of music is so disagreeable to you that you would rather not involve yourself in the libretto-writing at all; but the truth, at least according to my lights, is that any genuinely inspired poet-cum-composer will find his mind crowded with notes and words all at once, in a single instant.”
“Hear! Hear!” cried Cyprian and Ottmar.
“As you have driven me into a corner,” said Theodor, “please permit me to offer to you in lieu of a refutation a reading from a dialogue I wrote several years ago, a dialogue between two friends on the very topic of the desiderata of opera.  At that time, the disaster-ridden historical epoch we have lived through was only beginning.  I then fancied that my very existence as an artist was in peril—nay, in ruins—and I fell into a state of dejection, of insuperably low spirits, whose fundamental efficient cause may very well have been some physical malady. I then procured myself a Serapionesque companion who wielded a sword instead of a pen.  He cheered me up in my hour of heartache; he thrust me plumb into the middle of the parti-colored welter of stirring events and noble deeds by which those glorious days were signalized.” 

Without further ado Theodor began reading, thus:


The Poet and the Composer

The enemy was at the gates; the ordnance was thundering on all sides, and fire-spluttering cannonballs were whizzing through the airWith terror-blanched faces, the townspeople were racing into their houses, and the virtually deserted streets echoed with the hoofbeats of the steeds of the mounted police patrol, who rode along cursing and goading the few straggling infantrymen into the trenches.  But Ludwig was utterly oblivious of the commotion; he sat in his tiny backroom of an apartment, totally immersed in and absorbed by the fantastic, majestic, parti-colored world newly discovered by him at the keyboard of his piano; he had just finished composing a symphony in which he had striven via fixed pitches and durations to capture his soul of soul’s full complement of spiritual reverberations; a work that in the manner of Beethoven’s compositions aimed to hold forth, in the language of heaven itself, on the majestic wonders of that remote romantic realm in which each and every one of us lives perpetually perishing of ineffable yearning; indeed, it aimed at nothing less than to enter into our cramped, shabby like a full-fledged miracle, and with the inexorably sweet voices of the sirens to seduce the listener to proceed knowingly, willingly to his own doom.  Then his landlady burst into the room, incredulously and furiously demanding to know how in the midst of all this terror and danger he could sit there plunking away at his piano, and whether he was seriously planning to have his head shot off here in his pokey little garret.  Ludwig had no idea what the woman was talking about until a moment later a descending cannonball tore away a piece of the roof and blasted a hail of tintinnabulating windowpane shards into the room; whereupon his landlady ran screaming and wailing downstairs, and Ludwig, now carrying his most precious possession—namely, the score of his symphony—tucked under his arm, hurried after her into the basement.  Here his fellow-lodgers were already assembled.  In what was for him an unprecedented access of liberality, the landlord of the tavern on the ground floor had relinquished a couple of dozen bottles of his best wine; the women of the households, still ever-attentive to bodily nourishment and necessity amid all their quaking and quailing, had brought down many a dainty little wicker basketful of toothsome morsels from their larders; everybody ate, everybody drank—everybody gradually descended from the heights of danger-induced panic into that cozily contented mood wherein neighbor nestles against neighbor in fervent and credulous quest of security, wherein it as if one loses command of every single proper little step one has learned in the dancing school of convention, and one joins in the riotous round dance of general humanity, whose simple, uncouth rhythm is pounded out by the heavy iron fist of fate.  Forgotten was the dire, nay, the seemingly mortal, peril they were all in, and merry, lighthearted conversation flowed freely and enthusiastically from their lips.  Next-door neighbors who upon crossing paths on the staircase had barely tipped their hats to each other now sat hand in hand, unbosoming their most intimate thoughts in reciprocally heartfelt confidences.  The cannon-shots were becoming more sporadic, and some people were already talking of heading back upstairs, because, they said, the street seemed be growing safer.  A certain old soldier among us went even further, and was in the midst of proving—thanks to a few instructive words on the art of war among the ancient Romans (with special emphasis on the workings of the catapult), and a downright glory-garnering mention of the more modern contrivances of the great Vauban—that there was no point in worrying, because the building was well beyond the line of fire, when the impact of a descending ball caused the masonry barrier protecting the ventilation shafts to collapse into the cellar.  But for all the architectural damage, not a single living soul had been injured, and when the soldier, still holding his brimful glass leapt up on to the table—from which the wine bottles had been sent tumbling to the floor by the cascading bricks—and bade defiance to every cannonball in the world, however near or distant, the courage of the entire company was instantly restored.  As it turned out, though, they had already had their last scare of the siege; the ensuing night passed without incident, and the next morning they learned that the home army had shifted its position and ceded the town to the enemy.  When they left the cellar, enemy cavalrymen were already ranging the streets, and an official proclamation guaranteeing the peace and security of all citizens’ property had been posted.  Ludwig threw himself into the motley crowd of townspeople who, in their greedy appetite for the pageantry of the new, were running to greet the enemy’s commander-in-chief, who, amid the merry fanfares of trumpets, and surrounded by mounted guards in dazzlingly splendid attire, was just now riding through the city gates.  Ludwig could scarcely believe his eyes when only inches away, amid the general’s adjudants, he espied his intimate old school chum Ferdinand, who, clad in a simple, unadorned officer’s uniform, and with his left arm bandaged, was curvetting past him on a majestic sorrel stallion.  “That was him!  That was him—the genuine article!” he spontaneously shouted.  In vain did he attempt to follow his friend, who was borne rapidly out of view by his swift-hooved steed, and Ludwig broodingly hastened back home to his room; but even within its confines he could not manage to make the slightest progress in his work; his mind and soul were flush with thoughts and feelings inspired by the sudden appearance of this old friend whom he had lost touch with years earlier, and the blissful days of youth he had whiled away in the company of the genial Ferdinand came blazing radiantly back into his memory.  In those days Ferdinand had evinced no militaristic tendencies whatsoever; he lived entirely for the muses, and numerous literary productions of an astonishing precocity proved his true calling to be that of a poet.  It was for this reason that Ludwig found it especially difficult to comprehend the transformation his friend had undergone, and he burned with eagerness to speak with him, without having the slightest notion of how to go about tracking him down.  Meanwhile the town was becoming an ever liveilier and more interesting spot to reside in; for a substantial portion of the enemy army was obliged to pass through it, and at the head of this contingent were a coalition of princes, who decided to permit themselves a few days’ rest there.  The more the coalition’s headquarters swelled with new arrivals, the fainter became Ludwig’s hope of ever seeing his friend again; until finally, one evening, in an out-of-the-way, little-frequented coffeehouse where Ludwig habitually took his frugal supper, he suddenly and quite unexpectedly found the very man he had been searching for throwing himself into his arms with an exclamation of heartfelt joy.  Ludwig for his part remained silent, for this longed-for moment of rediscovery was embittered on his side by a certain feeling of unsettledness.  It reminded him of those moments in dreams when, upon embracing one’s sweetheart, one finds her rapidly changing into a woman whom one does not recognize—a transformation during which the fairest joys rapidly founder on the shoals of derisive chicanery.  The tender son of the muses, the author of many a romantic lyric that Ludwig had attired in timbres and pitches, now stood before him with a plumed helmet on his head and a mighty, rattleable saber slung round his waist—why, in the harsh, clipped tones in which he was expressing his jubiliation, he seemed to be disowning the very sound of his old voice!  Ludwig’s ashen gaze alighted on Ferdinand’s wounded arm and from there flitted up to the row of medals hanging on his chest.  Then Ferdinand embraced him with his right arm and pressed him violently and forcefully to his heart. “I know,” he said, “what you must be thinking and feeling about our running into each other in these circumstances!  My fatherland called me, and I had no choice but to heed the call.  With what joy, with what ardent enthusiasm—the enthusiasm that our sacred cause has kindled in the breast of every man whom cowardice has not earmarked as her slave—did this hand, which had thitherto wielded only the delicate shaft of a goose quill, reach then for the hilt of a sword!  I have already shed some blood; and it was only because chance allowed me to perform this duty in the sight of the prince that I acquired these medals.  But believe me, Ludwig!: the strings that so often resounded deep within my soul, and whose strains so often spoke to you, in the old days, remain undamaged; indeed, after the blood and horror of a battle, at some solitary sentry post, when I am lying huddled around a watch-fire in a bivouac with my fellow cavalrymen, I have in a fever pitch of enthusiasm indited the words of many splendid songs that have elevated and fortified me in the pursuit of my noble calling to fight for the freedom and honor of my country.  As Ferdinand spoke these words, Ludwig felt as though his soul of souls were now free to hold forth without reserve, and when he and Ferdinand stepped into a small side-room, and the helmet and saber were laid aside, it was as though his friend were finally casting off some strange fancy dress costume that he had been sporting only as a joke at Ludwig’s expense.  As the two friends consumed the modest repast that had arrived at their table by then, and clinked glass after glass together in a succession of merry toasts, their hearts and minds were swelled with good cheer, the old days in all their glorious parti-colored splendor sprang back to life all around them, and all those irresistibly alluring phenomena their united strivings in the name of art had summoned forth with the potency of a magic spell now returned imbued with the blazing vitality of the first surge of  youth.

Ferdinand eagerly implored his friend to tell him all about what he had been composing over the course of those many years, and he was greatly surprised when Ludwig confessed to him that he had not in all that time managed to compose and bring to theatrical production the music for an opera, because he had yet to come across a single libretto whose subject or treatment of that subject was capable of inspiring him to set it to music.

“I simply cannot understand,” said Ferdinand, “why you, who, thanks to an imagination of wondrous fecundity, can never want for a subject to write about, and who have the resources of numerous languages at your command, have not since written an opera libretto yourself.”

Ludwig: I am willing to grant you that my imagination may well be fecund enough to dream up plenty of subjects for an opera; nay, that especially at night when a slight headache has put me into that dreamy state that may be termed the no-man’s-land between waking and sleeping, I am often visited not only by full-fledged romantic opera librettos, but full-fledged settings of these librettos to my own music.  What I seem to lack, though, is the gift for holding fast to these fleeting conceptions and writing them down; and in point of fact, among us composers it is by no means a common thing to possess the brute mechanical craft that is necessary to the successful completion of a work of art of any genre and that can be attained only by unflagging industry and incessant practice—in this case I mean the craft of assembling the verses of one’s own libretto.  But even if I had become fluent at disposing a well-conceived subject properly and tastefully among scenes and verses, I would still be a long way from being able to make up my mind to compose an opera.

Ferdinand: But obviously nobody could ever understand your musical tendencies more intimately than you yourself do.

Ludwig: That is quite true; but it seems to me that a composer who sits down to turn a well-conceived opera subject into a libretto invariably feels like a painter who must make a monochrome engraving of the picture he holds in his imagination before he can even begin to render it in the living colors of actual paint.  

Ferdinand: Are you saying that libretto-writing causes the fire necessary to composition to sputter and smolder?

Ferdinand: Indeed, that is exactly what it does!  And in the end even my verses themselves would strike me as wretched things indeed, like the spent paper shells of rockets that only yesterday were blazing and crackling with life and soaring skyward.  But in all seriousness, it seems to me that in no other art is the success of a work so dependent on the artist’s apprehension of the entire piece in all its parts down to the smallest detail at the initial, fire-imbued moment of inspiration, as it is in music; for in no other art is pruning more ineffectual or pernicious, and indeed I know from my own experience that the first melody that occurs to the composer as he is reading a set of verses, the melody that stirs in his mind as if at the touch of a magic wand, is in every case the best melody for those verses and indeed, as far as the composer is concerned, perhaps the only one suitable for them.  


As Márta Hortaványi used to say, "I AM NOT YET COMPLETED."


Translation Copyright ©2014 by Douglas Robertson





A Translation of "Der Kulterer," a Screenplay from 1973 by Thomas Bernhard

“He was the same as everybody else in all his actions; but there was an appalling void within him; he no longer felt any worries, any desires; he viewed his own existence as a necessary burden…”

Büchner, "Lenz"

Kulterer
A FILM


We hear the regular, precisely spaced footfalls of the guards on the square flagstones on the bank of the dried-up riverbed, as the two guards patrolling the outer wall of the penal institution move steadily away from each other; meanwhile we first indistinctly and then gradually ever-more distinctly see the wall of the penal institution and on that wall we see at three-second intervals and for no longer than a second each time the title KULTERER; the title appears on the wall IN CAPITAL LETTERS, and is visible first in the upper-left corner of the screen, then in the upper-right one, then in the lower-right one.  Little by little the wall becomes recognizable as a wall, from which the camera now retreats with great rapidity.  The camera is positioned directly facing the wall, so that it begins by showing a piece of it no larger than a square meter, and it pulls back all the way to the far side of the riverbed, from which spot the penal institution in its entirety can be seen.  The camera is now completely stationary; between the two of them the patrol-guards have compassed all but the last third of the perimeter of the institution; once they have completed the circuit, there is a switch to a view of the ground beneath the camera, and from there the view proceeds slowly along the ground towards and past the riverbed in a straight line, until it pans upward to face Cell 38, in which Kulterer is incarcerated; the windows of the cells along the outer wall of the institute and the numbers under the windows are all clearly visible; through the open cell windows we suddenly hear some institutional crockery breaking and some shouting.  Then silence.  The actor doing the narration, who is also the actor playing Kulterer, says, “The closer he drew to the day of his release from the penal institution, the more Kulterer dreaded returning to his wife.”  The camera suddenly cuts to the left-side patrol guard, who is looking up at Kulterer’s cell, then to the right-side patrol guard, who is looking up at Kulterer’s cell, then to a view from above of both guards, who now turn around and head back towards the lookout tower, which is sited at the midpoint of their circuit.  The camera now looks down from the roof of the institution at the guard on the right; the junior baker is coming around the corner on a bicycle with a bag full of rolls; the guard stops him, and, after a brief exchange of words that we do not hear, points him back in the direction from which he came; the baker gets back on the bicycle and rides off.  The guard resumes patrolling.  Now voices and the clatter of crockery can be heard from the open windows as the camera motionlessly and all the while from high above them films the two guards approaching each other; suddenly it is directed at a boy dressed in black who is blowing a train conductor’s whistle; he gazes over at the hills, then blows again and gazes over at the penal institution and starts running, the whole time he is running along the dam spanning the riverbed; he runs for at least seven or eight seconds, then stops and blows another short blast on the whistle.  His large, puffy face.  The face of Kulterer, who is gazing out the window of his cell.  The inmates are eating their breakfast.  As though his three fellow inmates had asked him something earlier, Kulterer pensively says: yes, yes.  After he has eaten a bit of bread, he says: yes, yes, I know.  The camera shows the three inmates as they eat, shows Kulterer, as the narrator says, “But he really never spoke unless he had just been asked a question, and he would immediately stand to attention upon the appearance of the warden, which was at first merely intimated by the clattering of his truncheon, which seemed to echo through the corridors, then by his booted footfalls, which grew ever louder and more portentous and finally overpowered the sound of the printing-machines.”  At first the images on camera are not at all distinct or obviously correspondent to the state of affairs being commented on; then, after the narrator has said “intimated,” everything finally becomes distinctly visible and recognizable.  Kulterer is standing at a printing machine and counting forms, the camera shows a completely apathetic Kulterer who is performing mechanical movements that are the mechanical movements of the printing machine, as though Kulterer were a part of the printing machine; the camera is stationary; the narrator says, “The warden was very well-disposed towards Kulterer—who had to count, pack, and cord up the forms as they fell out of the printing machine—because in contrast to the other inmates he was a quiescent individual who, it seemed, had no aspirations of any kind and strictly followed all rules and instructions and was even in actual fact quite satisfied with everybody, apart from himself.”  As the narrator is saying the word “himself,” the camera cuts to Kulterer’s face, which is looking into the face of the warden, who is suddenly standing next to him; Kulterer is looking up at the warden; his manner of looking up at the warden makes it plain that the warden is standing next to him even though the warden cannot be seen.  Kulterer: a letter and a package?  Warden, whose mouth is shown: Not only a package, but also a letter.  Kulterer rests his hands on his thighs and says, “Yes, yes, I know, Mr. Warden!”  “All right!” says the warden, whose mouth alone is being shown.  Kulterer, of whom one is now likewise being shown only the mouth: a letter!  The warden’s mouth: all right!  The camera shows the warden from the mouth downwards then pans down to the floor and up Kulterer’s body as far as his mouth; once the camera has reached his mouth, Kulterer says: yes, yes, I know.  The printing machines are now all making a great deal of noise; the camera shows the head of the warden, who is now gazing over and beyond Kulterer’s head into the spacious print shop, in which there are inmates stationed at all the machines, inmates who are performing the same movements as Kulterer; here everything is automated and quickly attains a deafening volume.  The warden passes by one man after another, inspecting the work as he goes.  Suddenly the machines shut down with a jolt; the warden has drawn to a halt; he asks: who has been assigned latrine duty?  Three inmates at the back of the room raise their hands.  The warden notes the identities of the men and strikes himself on the right calf with his truncheon, as he has fallen into the habit of doing.  Then he looks over the entire print shop one more time and exits.  The rattling and stamping of the printing machines are once again deafening, the movements of the inmates once again mechanical.  The camera cuts to the face of Kulterer, who is eating his breakfast.  Narrator: “He led an existence that was completely withdrawn and completely unheeded by his fellow-inmates, and during his free time, which was often much too long, because in accordance with regulations they worked only five or six hours a day at the printing machines, he would write down his ideas, or as he termed them, trifling thoughts, which preoccupied him almost uninterruptedly.  Out of boredom, and because otherwise he would inevitably have succumbed to despair, he would often read aloud to himself tales and stories of his own invention and composition—‘The Cat,’ for example, or ‘The Dry Dock,’ ‘The Hyena,’ or ‘The Landlady of the Inn’s Manageress,’ or ‘The Death Bed.’”  Beginning at the word “printing machines,” the camera shows the hands of Kulterer and his cellmates as they perform the movements involved in eating; this scene must be one of absolute tranquility and continues until a good two or three seconds after the narrator has uttered the word “deathbed.”  Narrator: “The ideas for these stories came to him mostly at night, and in order not lose them he had to get out of bed in the dark and, while his cellmates were sleeping, to sit down at the table, and, in the midst of that terrible darkness, to jot down what had just occurred to him.”  As this sentence is being spoken the entire breadth of the cell underneath the table at which the inmates are eating is shown, and specifically the camera pans from right to left until it has arrived back at the inmates and is showing their legs underneath the table.  Upon the re-stationing of the image, hence upon the stationary image of the inmates’ legs under the table-top, appears a caption reading: BUT OVER TIME HE HAD DEVELOPED A METHOD OF GETTING UP FROM HIS PALLET AND SITTING DOWN AT THE TABLE SO SOUNDLESSLY THAT THEY NO LONGER PERCEIVED HIM EVEN WHEN THEY WERE HARDLY FAST ASLEEP.  Once the text of the caption has been read, the caption disappears; there is movement under the table; Kulterer rises, but only the legs of the rising Kulterer are shown.  The din attending the inmates’ ejection of the remains of their breakfast through the windows of their cells is heard as the camera gives a view from the window of Kulterer’s cell, a view of the landscape on the other side of the wall of this cell.  A truck driving by in the distance, at the weir.  The clamor of children, as though they are flying a kite.  The woods at the horizon as the narrator says, “One could be transferred from one work group to another.  One could be conscripted into a tougher or grubbier sector or a tougher and grubbier sector if one were found wanting in some way, if one failed to fulfill the expectations that had been set for one by the administration.  But initially, on the day of admission to the penal institution, everyone was always assigned to the more pleasant work sectors.”  As this passage is being spoken the camera shows by turns one work group gathering potatoes on the far bank of the river and another one sawing wood on a trestle in front of the shed.  Suddenly one sees the façade of the church, from which eight or nine inmates are emerging with a warden.  The church square is empty; the camera shows the group of inmates first from the vantage point of the building across the square from the church, then from above, from the church steeple.  No sounds but those occasioned by this group of inmates can be heard.  The narrator:  “It was owing less to his skill than to his sheer incapacity to rebel or to participate in any of the plots, the conspiracies against the administration, that everybody was pretty much constantly hatching, that Kulterer had managed to keep working in the printing works from the very beginning onwards.”  The camera remains stationed at the steeple after the group of inmates has crossed the square and exited the frame, until the narrator has finished uttering the preceding sentence.  Kulterer’s face, as though he were observing from the cell window a scuffle involving his fellow inmates on the square below.  Narrator: “When they bandied blows, it seemed as though brutishness alone would prove viable, and everything else turn out to be sickly and obscene.  Then he would gaze into the profundities of this bunglery that was hopelessly, in the most barbarous fashion, incapable of coping with itself.”  The camera now tracks the footfalls, in other words, the trousered legs, of the guard patrolling the right side of the outer wall of the penal institution; once the guard has reached the end of the wall and hence the last flagstone, crows are heard cawing; the guard turns around.  The guard on the left side turns around.  The left-side guard suddenly halts; the camera cuts to a young man in a butcher’s outfit who has half a pig slung over his shoulder.  The guard (both guards are wearing a black fur cape) rebuffs the junior butcher; the young butcher turns around, vanishes.  The two guards, now standing at the foot of the lookout tower, simultaneously light a cigarette.  Smoke, laughter, their profiles, the backs of their heads.  They crane their heads skyward, but the camera shows nothing but a completely lifeless gray.  Narrator: “It was remarkable, they treated him as if he were not quite worth taking seriously, and at the same time they felt a high regard for him whenever they came into contact with him.”  The heads of the guards move away from each other as the guards’ militaristic footfalls begin to be heard.  The sound of crockery being eaten off of emanates from the windows of the institution.  The boy dressed in black is standing on the church square and blowing into his train conductor’s whistle.  Two cyclists in black Sunday clothes looking at the penal institution as they ride very rapidly across the dam spanning the riverbed.  An inmate in a cook’s apron emptying refuse from a bucket into a large vat at the outer wall of the section of the institution devoted to the kitchen.  The director of the institution behind his desk in his office, explaining something with upraised forefinger to an off-camera warden, laughing.  Denying something with a gesture involving both hands.  Rising and explaining something about the map of the institution affixed to the wall.  Two nuns on the square beneath the director’s office crossing the square, entering the church.  The head of a peasant-woman on the dam spanning the riverbed, turning in the direction of the institution, the head of a boy, of a girl, both of them with schoolchildren’s rucksacks slung across their backs, gazing over at the institution.  A tractor with a trailer in which five or six inmates are crouching.  The striking of the clock in the lookout tower within the sound of the tractor.  The left-side guard abruptly halts and looks up at the window of Kulterer’s cell.  In the cell one of the inmates presses another violently down on to his pallet, while the third inmate is washing himself at the washbasin and looking at the two brawlers.  Kulterer in the opposite corner of the cell observing the scene with wide-open eyes.  In contrast to the others’, his uniform is well-pressed and spotless.  As the camera remains pointed at Kulterer, the narrator says: “All the while that amid their mentally unhinged unconsciousness, amid the forgone certainty of their defeat, they were impulsively scheming at the destruction of the elements, he would stand [agonizing] on the sidelines.”  The inmate at the washbasin dries himself off and spits into the washbasin.  A large black beetle on the floor is shown.  The inmate at the washbasin grins ear to ear; he throws his towel into the washbasin and steps on the beetle; the sound of the beetle being stepped on and crushed can distinctly be heard.  Kulterer turns around and looks at the wall underneath the cell window, climbs on to the bench under the cell window and peers out.  The camera shows him from behind and then shows the landscape outside, which is drab and lifeless.  The drabness and silence of the landscape is suddenly broken by the screams of a sizable bunch of schoolchildren.  The left-side guard polishes his shoes with a piece of sackcloth, pockets the piece of sackcloth; the right-side guard with abrupt hand gestures drives away the boy dressed in black, who runs away and halts amid the bushes towards the weir and blows his train conductor’s whistle.  The institution’s curfew bell rings, is shown.  A handcart full of institutional laundry; the cart is being pulled and pushed by four inmates trailed by a guard; the sound of a gate opening is heard.  The camera cuts to the cart disappearing into an open gateway.  The director of the institution goes to the window of his office and looks down at the courtyard.  He takes a canister of pills out of his coat pocket and hastily sticks three, four pills into his mouth.  Then he takes off his coat and hangs it on the coat tree in one of the corners of the room.  He stretches his suspenders with his thumbs, gives the suspenders a couple of tugs, lets them snap back into place, etc.  The boy dressed in black, who all this time has been sitting in the grass amid the bushes, jumps up and runs away.  The left-side guard is shown, one sees how precisely timed the footfalls of his patrol are, sees his fur cape from behind; suddenly one hears the boy dressed in black blowing his whistle, and the guard abruptly turns around, looks over at the boy, as if momentarily transfixed, then resumes marching.  The camera cuts away from the rear-view of the guard to a pan from one end of the institution to the other.  Dogs, cars, a train, can all be heard.  It is striking with what reposefulness the camera is handled; the locales and incidents of the film are completely isolated from a surrounding world that is probably always anything but reposeful.  The film is an incidence of reposefulness amidst the lack of reposefulness, as well as an incidence of the lack of reposefulness amidst reposefulness.  The film is not irritated by its surroundings; those surroundings are not irritated by the film.  From the steeple of the church the camera shows the church square, which is completely empty; after four or five seconds a group of inmates with a warden crosses the square from the left at the same as a group of inmates crosses it from the right.  As the inmates are crossing the square, the narrator says: “In the last few days before his release, days that weighed very heavily on his heart and on his intellect without managing to overwhelm him, and that found their inhumane expression on his face, he tried to establish contact with the inmates, and often in ways that were moving, as he wished to make this contact firm and lasting, for ever and always.”  Kulterer with the warden in the corridor en route to the printing works; he addresses some unintelligible words to some inmates who are cleaning the floor of the corridor.  Kulterer sits down on his pallet and holds up the four fingers of his right hand, as if he wanted to signify four of something to his cellmates.  He polishes his shoes in a corner of the room.  He sits down at the table and writes.  The narrator says: “The invention of thoughts in the human mind seemed to him the most precious gift in existence.”  He lies down on the pallet and pulls the blanket up over his face.  The whistling of a train can be heard from outside.  One of the cellmates says: tell us a story about somethin’; he says it in a menacing tone, but Kulterer does not tell any stories; he has exposed his face and suddenly pulls the blanket back over his head.  Accompanied by the warden, a barber in a barber’s coat enters the cell.  The cellmates jump to their feet; the warden points at all three of them, signs to the barber that their heads are to be shaved clean, then, turning to Kulterer, the warden says:  leave this ’un be.  He’s goin’ home.  The oldest of the cellmates sits down in the chair in the middle of the cell, and the barber begins to shave his head while Kulterer looks on.  The man being shorn by the barber, to Kulterer:  “’sfunny, your waya lookin’ at that.  Barber: what?  The inmate: ’at thar bit with the beer mug.  The third inmate: Ah don’ unnerstannit, but it’s gooood.  The second one: gooood?  The second one: the ape, what’d he do next?  Kulterer: he fell dead out of the tree.  The man with the half-shaved head, under his breath: dead.  And again: dead.  The narrator, while the camera shows the head of the inmate who has just said dead: “He wrote only sad stories.  Sometimes extremely happy ideas would occur to him, ideas that he himself couldn’t help laughing at, but he was unable to write them down.”  The camera is centered on the cell window, looking outwards.  An old man who could be a scissors-grinder standing on the dam with a wheelbarrow and looking over at the institution.  Suddenly the printing machines, loud; the print shop; Kulterer counting forms.  The camera successively shows each of the inmates stationed at the printing machines.  The imposing figure of the warden standing in the doorway of the entrance, surveying everything; suddenly he looks at the clock.  It chimes stridently.  End of the work shift; the inmates coalesce into a group at the center of the print shop and exit together.  The camera remains centered on the group of inmates until the entire print shop is empty, yielding a view of the darkened doorway of the exit.  The director in the courtyard.  He walks up to the branch of a rose bush and plucks a rose and sticks it in the lapel of his coat.  Looks up at the cells.  All is calm.  Then he takes a couple of steps and suddenly pulls the rose out of his buttonhole and throws it on to the ground; once the rose has fallen on to the pavement, he picks it back up and flings it against the wall, from which it falls on to the grass.  He beckons the warden over.  The warden comes, and the two of them exit the courtyard, discussing something as they walk.  The camera shows them once from behind—they both have their hands interlocked behind their backs—and once from the front.  The director hands the warden a slip of paper; one realizes that it is in fact a list of names.  The warden pockets the list.  A sudden burst of laughter from two nuns who are entering the courtyard; the director and the warden follow the nuns with their eyes as the nuns traverse the entire breadth of the courtyard.  The director and the warden draw to a halt.  The director says: Wiesmayr, Neumann!  Pauses, says: Kulterer.  Kulterer also goes on Saturday.  The warden says: a package, a letter.  The director: a package, a package.  Kulterer is sitting at the table in the cell while the other three now shaved-headed inmates squat on the floor and play chess; no chess pieces are visible, but it is clear that they are playing chess, and three-handed chess no less.  Kulterer has paper with him at the table, but he is not writing.  Slowly, sedately, and starting from the center of the table, he traces circles on the table-top with his right index finger.  Once he has traced the seventh circle, and hence the largest of seven circles of ever-increasing size, he suddenly stands up looks out the cell window.  He goes to the washbowl, in which a towel lies, folds the towel, and hangs it up.  Blows into the washbasin, from out which a butterfly takes wing.  The narrator says: “How clear to him in this darkness, in the middle of this suppressed humanity that in virtue of its regimentedness scarcely dared to breathe, were the contours of concepts!  How clear to him here were even the utmost limits of the remote, the repulsive, the impulsive, the inconceivable!”  As the narrator is speaking these words, the camera shows the face of Kulterer, who is observing the butterfly, which flits agitatedly about the room and then flies out the cell window with Kulterer’s eyes still fixed on it.  Kulterer sits back down at the table.  A loud burst of laughter from his cellmates on the floor signals the end of the chess game.  One of the three stands up and goes to the washbowl and spits into it.  Takes his socks off and begins to wash his feet.  At the same time one of the others is relieving himself in the lavatory, but this is not seen; the only sign of it is the sound of the toilet flushing at the end.  Outside in the corridor several inmates run past in their shoddy shoes, which arouses the attention of the inmates in the cell.  The group of running inmates is not shown, but one can hear them running along the corridor once in each direction.  Kulterer has walked up to the door, is listening out.  Suddenly the cell door is opened.  The warden appears in the doorway, calls out: Kulterer.  Kulterer, who is standing to one side of the doorway, snaps to attention.  The warden hands him an envelope and says: read it through carefully.  Read it through carefully.  The warden exits, shuts and locks the cell door.  Kulterer sits down with the envelope at the table.  The oldest of his cellmates says: his walking papers.  Kulterer takes a large sheet of paper out of the envelope, unfolds it, and begins reading it.  The camera shows the dam spanning the riverbed in its entirety; several nuns are walking along the dam towards the right side of the frame, towards the hills.  From the right side of the frame emerges a truck carrying a pen of livestock.  Over this scene one hears the oldest cellmate saying: study each and every word. Fill out each and every blank.  Kulterer repeats: fill out each and every blank.  Fill out each and every blank.  As Kulterer is saying fill out each and every blank twice in succession, the camera shows in quick succession the dam spanning the riverbed, the left-side patrol guard, the right-side patrol guard blowing his nose, the left-side guard polishing the toes of his shoes, the gardener in the garden, the butcher at work in the kitchen, inmates peeling potatoes in the kitchen, inmates stirring large pots in the kitchen, inmates scrubbing the kitchen floor.  As the oldest cellmate is saying: you must fill out every blank on the sheet, every blank, do you hear me?, the camera shows the tailoring shop, in which inmates are cutting fabric, stitching, sewing on buttons, stacking finished garments; the paper bag-manufacturing shop, in which inmates are gluing paper bags.  You must study each and every word and fill out each and every blank, repeats the oldest cellmate.  Someone is heard loudly spitting into the washbasin.  Suddenly the camera shows Kulterer at the table, studying the piece of paper.  The chess-players are gathering up the chess pieces and throwing them into the box in which they are kept, but this is not seen; the bodies of the cellmates are shown, but the chess pieces are not.  Somebody’s always won, says the oldest cellmate.  A view of the back of Kulterer’s head; he is becoming ever more deeply immersed in his perusal of the sheet of paper.  The narrator says: “All words had the same signification for him, but a good many of them plunged him from the very beginning into a mysterious gloom, into the paradise of a primary color and into numbers and numerals, into a prerequisite for the written.”  As this sentence is being spoken, the camera shows nothing but Kulterer studying his walking paper.  Suddenly, from the washbasin one hears the second cellmate saying: fill it out, why dontcha.  Fill it out.  The sound of the toilet being violently flushed.  Kulterer’s face at the cell window; the camera, filming from outside, shows the dam spanning the riverbed as seen in the distance from the window; on the dam a wind-band is playing, as if in celebration of some holiday; as the direction of the wind changes, the sound of the band first increases and then decreases in volume.  Over this scene the narrator says: “He was afraid that once he had been set free and stripped of his prisoner’s uniform he would no longer be able to write anything, no longer able to think anything; he was afraid that in that savage state of imposed exposure, he would no longer be able to exist at all.”  A train pulls into the railway station, stops; the ordinary passengers detrain and board; only afterwards do the newly arrived inmates detrain from the carriage at the very end; on the platform they are assembled and counted.  Three wardens lead them into the station, where they are handed over to three other wardens; this second group of three belongs to the institution.  The camera shows the inmates en route to the institution.  The newly arrived inmates vanish into the gateway of the penal institution.  Kulterer sits down at the table and fills out the walking paper; the warden, heralded by his loud footfalls, unlocks the cell, enters; Kulterer jumps to his feet and hands him the filled-out sheet of paper.  The warden quickly reads it through, says: something’s still missing!, goes to the table, picks up the pencil there, and corrects something.  Right! he says and goes to the cell door and turns around and says to Kulterer: to the director’s office at eleven, exits and locks up the cell.  Regarding Kulterer, the oldest cellmate says: he done got a lucky break, gettin’ to go home lahk this.”  Shrill laughter.  Silence.  Footfalls in the corridor.  New guys, says the oldest cellmate.  In front of the mirror Kulterer combs his hair, parts it.  The oldest cellmate says: we're goin’ bald, goin’ bald.  While the camera remains stationed on Kulterer combing his hair, the narrator says: “Not the least of the benefactors of his thoughts, and indeed of every part of him, were the deprivity and depravity of the penal institution’s system of deprivation.”  Having combed and parted his hair he sits down on his pallet and gazes motionlessly at the cell door.  The narrator says: “Now he took leave of the buildings.  How beautiful and perfectly obedient did he all of a sudden find the lineation of the walls, a lineation much stronger than all those years.”  The entire time that the narrator is speaking his commentary, Kulterer is staring at the cell door and paying no mind to the activities of his cellmates, who are wholly preoccupied with cleaning and tidying up the cell.  Behind a frontal view of Kulterer staring at the cell door, photographs of various parts of the institution are projected.  The narrator says, “One can see very distinctly that this is a cloister,” and a cloister is shown, etc.  The narrator says: “There is of course no difference between a cloister and a penal institution, he thought; the only difference perhaps is that the cloister is a voluntary and the penal institution an involuntary prison; the cloister is something one imposes on oneself and that one can leave whenever one chooses, whereas one is incarcerated in the penal institution compulsorily and cannot leave it whenever one chooses.”  As this text is being spoken, images centered on the architectural beauties of the penal institution that was formerly a cloister are projected behind Kulterer, whom one continues to see sitting on his pallet and staring at the cell door.  The narrator comments on what is being projected: “He discerned the harmoniousness of the irregularities in the masonry, the characterful antiquity of the gables and ledges, the noble munificence of the stairways, the gentle buoyancy of the edges of the windows,” says the narrator.  And he says (as the thing he mentions is being shown): “The chapel, which he had repaired to for mass every day of the entire year-and-a-half, he now suddenly beheld with his new eyes.”  Now, behind the Kulterer sitting on the pallet and staring at the cell door, one is actually shown another Kulterer casting his eyes around the interior of the chapel; this second Kulterer catches sight of the other Kulterer; Kulterer observes himself, and the narrator says: “And above all he noticed the work tools that hung on the walls of the courtyard, that lay on the floor of the shed; the multitude of old-fashioned rakes and gables and ledges!  He had always used to enjoy heading for the meadows and fields.”  Now one sees Kulterer observing himself as he heads for the meadows and fields, watching himself as he crosses the dam spanning the riverbed, clad in only a pair of trousers, with a shovel and a rake, his prisoner’s cap on his head, with several other prisoners.  The narrator says: “But he always found the warmer season here more oppressive than autumn and winter.  One cuts too vile a figure under the warden’s knout when the sun is out!” the narrator says and adds: “And the laughter of the countrywomen that one hears wafting over from the farms is a terrible abyss.”  As the word “terrible” is being spoken the background images vanish; by the time the word “abyss” is being spoken the camera is showing nothing but Kulterer still sitting on the pallet and staring at the cell door.  The camera looks through the cell window at the dam spanning the riverbed, on which a large group of inmates can be seen walking from the right to the left side of the frame.  The narrator says: “He had never worked in the woodcutting crew; he was too weak to do so.  The young people were naturally always worming their way into the woodcutting crew; they were hoping to escape.”  In the background behind the Kulterer staring at the cell door the other Kulterer descries a steel trap in the shed, and the narrator says: “They’ve been catching beasts of prey with such steel traps for centuries, he thought.  How did this steel trap get here?"  While the camera continues to show Kulterer sitting on his pallet, it also shows the warden swinging his truncheon in the courtyard, in the center of the courtyard, during the midday walk; he shouts: “C’mon, c’mon, Kulterer!” which causes Kulterer to quicken his pace.  The narrator says: “The warden is tall and fat and strikes as quick as a flash.  They all call him ‘the rubber sausage’ because he often uses his truncheon to get attention, to get legitimacy.”  “C’mon, c’mon!” shouts the warden; all the inmates start to walk faster; eventually they are running; the warden yet again shouts: “C’mon, c’mon!,” whereupon the inmates run even faster; the camera is stationary, and the running inmates are scarcely even any longer recognizable as running inmates.  Yet again the warden shouts: c’mon!  c’mon!, then the narrator says: “Short, muttered utterances—that is his style.”  At the file of running inmates the warden bellows: incorrigible beasts! and: this is a grave misunderstanding indeed, you bastards!  Kulterer, still sitting and staring at the cell door, now sees himself unpacking the package that has been sent to him by his wife, and the narrator says: “these packages always contained the same items—meat, butter, paper, socks, a letter. He always dreaded unpacking the package, along with reading the letter; he had always been fearful of this, fearful of the distressful state into which the unpacking of these packages and the reading of these letters had always sunk him, fearful of this recrudescence of shame within him.”  He sees himself arranging the contents of the package in front of him on the table.  The narrator says: “During the night he had surprisingly written a story entitled ‘Logic,’ a meditation.  Now, as he was unpacking the package, he asked himself, what sort of word is this word logic anyway?”  The camera, stationed at the opposite side of the square, is pointed at the church, at the church bell, which is being struck by its clapper.  From the clock a view of the square below; an inmate with a music book, accompanied by a guard, enters the church through the right-side door.  Then the two of them as seen from above, as they ascend the spiral staircase.  The inmate sits down at the organ, places his hands on the keyboard, plays the beginning of Bruckner’s AVE MARIA while the guard sits in profile in one of the pews and eats a snack.  As if for fear of being observed by the inmate, the guard turns to face the inmate.  The camera is pointed at the hands of the inmate, who is playing calmly and in the manner of a trained organist.  A nun at the altar, watering flowers. In the right-side rear doorway of the church appears the boy dressed in black with his train conductor’s whistle, which he blows without making a sound that anybody hears.  The camera is stationed on the church square, at the imposing church gate, and is pointed at the slaughterhouse across the square, where a cattle truck has just arrived.  Two patrol guards who are wearing white butchers’ aprons and white butcher’s caps, but who are still immediately recognizable as patrol guards, yank open the rear door of the cattle truck and goad the cattle that come rushing out, four cows and calves, into the slaughterhouse; the sound of this cattle being unloaded from the truck and goaded into the slaughterhouse is now audible through the cell window; the camera is stationed at the cell door and pointed at the cell window, below which Kulterer is standing and holding in his hands the paper in which the package his wife sent him was wrapped.  He folds up the packing paper and stuffs it under his mattress.  Read us something, says the oldest cellmate, and the two of them, the oldest and the other one, sit down on their pallets and wait for Kulterer to read something to them.  Kulterer begins to read to them; he announces the title of the story he is about to read to them: Logic, he says, and the camera exits the cell and heads to the dam spanning the riverbed, moves far into the countryside, and then, as if it has been away as long as the time Kulterer has taken to read his story, it returns to the interior of the cell, where Kulterer is now folding up the sheet of paper on which is recorded his story entitled “Logic.”  The moment Kulterer has finished reading, the narrator says: “He did not allow himself to be tempted into believing that they had been impressed, but he was very happy.”  Kulterer looks up from his piece of paper and says: there is absolutely no such thing as injustice!  His cellmates curl up on their blankets on their pallets.  The narrator: “In his own case no detectable injustice had been done.  He had done what one was not permitted to do, and he was being punished for it.  Where does the border of freedom lie and whence is it arrived at? he asked himself.”  The camera is now in the cellar; inmates shoveling potatoes are shown.  So are inmates shoveling coals.  A group of inmates on the railway embankment.  One sees inmates cleaning a railway car at the freight station, from which the rear façade of the penal institution is shown.  “He never thought of escaping,” says the narrator as the camera shows the inmates cleaning the railway car and behind them the entire penal institution.  The cell door is slammed shut; Kulterer is alone in the cell.  The narrator says: “Initially he had trembled whenever the door of the cell was shut and locked behind him; although he had not had a rebellious bone in his body, he nevertheless found himself in an enormously downtrodden condition on every such occasion.  On such occasions, the word backtalk had used to be written all over his face as a matter of course, but he never uttered it.”  While the narrator is speaking these lines, Kulterer is standing perfectly still at the cell door that has just been slammed shut behind him.  The sound of the door being locked and of the warden walking away is distinctly audible underneath the narrator’s voice.  Kulterer goes to the cupboard and takes out a loaf of bread that his wife has sent him and breaks off a piece of it and puts the loaf back into the cupboard and sits down at the table as he eats the piece of bread.  Now footfalls are heard; the cell door is unlocked; the cellmates enter; behind them the door is immediately shut and locked by the warden.  The narrator says: “In the penal institution there were a large number of more primitive, much less endurable work sectors.  It was not quite clear what the criteria were for assigning a person to one work sector rather than another.  His cellmates had suddenly been assigned to work in the tannery.”  While the narrator is saying this, the newly arrived cellmates are taking off their jackets, then their shirts.  The narrator says: “In all but a tiny minority of cases, the privilege of remaining in the printing sector or in the kitchen could be but of the briefest duration.”  The camera cuts to Kulterer, who observes the three returnees from the tannery from his seat at the table as the narrator says: “If it had ever occurred to him to reflect on the matter, he might have realized that he was the only person who had survived as long as a year-and-a-half at the penal institution’s printing works.”  The camera cuts to the cattle truck in front of the slaughterhouse.  The two patrol guards in long white aprons shut up the loading bed of the truck, jump into the cab of the truck, and take it on one complete circuit around the courtyard.  As the truck is driving around the church square, the organ begins to be played; it is the beginning of Bruckner’s AVE MARIA.  The camera cuts to the hands of the organist, to his forehead, to a view of his prisoner’s jacket that makes it easy to count the buttons on the jacket, to the forehead of the judicial officer who is guarding him, to a view of his jacket like the one we have just had of the inmate’s, a view that likewise makes it easy to count the buttons on the jacket.  The closed eyes of the guarded man and of the guard in succession.  The camera cuts to a bird’s-eye view of the nave of the church.  Suddenly the organist slams shut the keyboard of the organ; the prisoner jumps to his feet in a mechanical fashion, as if he has just received an order to do so.  The prisoner and the guard peer into the interior of the church; then they descend in single file from the upper to the lower level; the camera follows the two of them as they pass through the full length of the nave and through the vestry, then across the church square, and then vanish into the same place that the cows and calves were goaded into earlier.  The face of the director of the institution, who says directly to the camera: a complete absurdity, this ordinance is a complete absurdity!  As he is placing a document on his desk, and speaking into the camera, addressing the warden: a complete absurdity.  Reality is a different matter.  The camera cuts to the warden, who is facing the director.  A close-up first of the warden’s face, then of the director’s face, the of the warden’s face; a close-up of the director’s face, as he says: intelligence knows nothing, my dear man, intelligence knows nothing.  Infamy.  Insecurity, my dear man; as he says this, he leans back, taps his desk with his pencil.  Interesting, very interesting, says the director.  Infamy, insecurity, absurdity, you understand.  After a pause he says: ignore it, just ignore it, you understand.  The camera is always pointed at the warden’s face when the director is speaking and at the director’s face when the warden is speaking.  The organist’s permission to play was granted by me, not by the Monsignor, you understand, says the director, and hands a document to the warden.  The warden stands up, makes as if to leave.  The director says: next time you go to Steyr, bring me back some dog lard, so that I can use it as an ointment, you hear me.  Two large cans.  He laughs.  The warden by way of reply: two large cans.  Exit the warden; the director looks at the door, which the warden has just shut.  Then he delves into Document No. 340697, which bears the heading of KULTERER, FRANZ, and which the warden has self-evidently just delivered to him.  The camera shows Kulterer naked from the waist up as he washes himself at the washbasin; his cellmates at the table observe him.  As Kulterer stoops over the washbasin, the narrator says: “Without knowing himself how it was possible, he was often the one person who was capable of relieving the often considerable tensions between the inmates and the administration, and indeed of subduing the outright open hostility that would sometimes break out between the two power blocs.”  The camera cuts to the inmates, who are playing a game on the floor.  The cell door is unlocked, yanked open; the warden enters and stations himself at the door; he leans against the door and in alternation observes Kulterer washing himself at the basin and the cellmates playing chess on the floor.  Kulterer leaves off washing his upper body, dries himself off, and says to the warden: yes, yes, I know, Mr. Warden.  He puts on his shirt and goes up to the warden, who along with him vanishes from the cell.  As he watches Kulterer leave, the oldest of the cellmates on the floor says: two mo days; then he goin’ home.  The camera remains pointed at the cell door as the footfalls of Kulterer, who is walking down the corridor with the warden, grow ever softer, and as the narrator says: “During that entire time there had not been a single complaint lodged against him, nobody at the penal institution, among either the administrators or the inmates, had ever expressed any grievances against him.  Nobody had ever been less than well-disposed or even rudimentarily ill-disposed to him.”  The camera shows the waiting room of the institution’s doctor, in which three inmates and one warden are sitting the moment Kulterer enters with his warden.  The warden knocks on the door of the surgery, hands in a slip of paper, and sits down with Kulterer on the one unoccupied bench.  The camera cuts to a view of the dam spanning the riverbed, a view extending all the way to the weir, as seen from the waiting room; it is half-past five in the afternoon; the workers are heading home along the roadways on the dam.  The camera cuts to a bird’s-eye view of the two patrol guards, who, having just looked over at the homeward-bound laborers, are just beginning to move apart from each other.  The gardener stops working.  Two nuns enter the church.  From two directions groups of inmates arrive at the church square and enter the penal institution.  The camera cuts to Kulterer who is now jumping to his feet because he has just heard the nurse call his name; he enters the surgery; the, warden, walking behind him, halts at the door of the surgery.  A train pulls out of the railway station.  As the camera shows the departing train as seen from the roof of the penal institution, the narrator says: “Despite the matter-of-factness that at the very moment of his sentencing had come into being within him like an elemental transmutation of the structure of his brain, that had set to work, had begun to dismantle and assemble at a radical level, had begun meting out justice point-blank, he had found it terribly difficult to submit himself to the new powers that be, to the facts, to the state of being a prisoner, a lawbreaker, a fellow destined for a well-nigh immeasurable stretch of time to be a criminal, a penitentiary preparation.”  Dusk.  Four or five laborers are working in the rubbish dump, unloading rubbish; the rubbish is visibly reeking; the car from which the rubbish is being unloaded is of primitive manufacture; one can tell that these are the last inmates who are still working today.  Once the car has been unloaded, the inmates remain standing amid the rubbish and button up their jackets, then they get into the car and drive to the penal institution.  As the camera is showing the corridors, in which supper is being apportioned, cell doors are opening, troops of meal-distributors busying themselves, distributing bread, a large refectory in the background, so to speak, of this scene, is filling with inmates; these are evidently the prisoners who have been assigned to the outside work crews.  These two settings, the corridors and the refectory, blend into each other, and masses of inmates are shown, masses of inmates who are being fobbed off, a gray voracious crowd of men is shown, a crowed that is in the midst of eating and that moves about in the corridors and in the refectory and in the cells as it eats; eventually, hundreds of eating inmates—their mouths, jaws, hands—are shown; eventually, there seems to be nothing in the world other than eating, than the slurping and gulping of the hundreds of inmates in these scenes.  Crowd shots of men eating and slurping, biting, guzzling, alternate with close-ups of mouth and tongue and chin movements.  The camera cuts to the two patrol guards at the front exterior of the penal institution at the edge of the riverbed as they both move away from the lookout tower and apart from each other; they halt; look up at the cells, from which the sound of eating can be heard; the rubbish dump is shown, the boy dressed in black is shown standing in it, and he blows on his whistle; it emits a shrill, brusque tone; immediately afterwards the two patrol guards at the edge of the riverbed turn around, they halt and turn around and immediately resume walking; their black fur capes contrast starkly and continuously with the gray evening landscape across the riverbed.  A shrill chiming sound is heard in the corridors, is heard outside coming through all the windows.  The camera cuts to a hearse, which is driving across the church square; it eventually crosses the dam spanning the riverbed and drives past the weir.  The doctor walks across the church square in the company of the nurse.  An old-fashioned stethoscope is stuffed in the pocket of his doctor’s coat.  An inmate can be heard screaming in a cell in one of the upper stories; the nurse turns to the doctor as she continues walking alongside him; the doctor takes no notice of the screaming.  Now the immediate environs of the penal institution are shown; first the dam spanning the riverbed and the landscape behind it in a single reposeful take; then, moving to the left, the camera shows the town of Garsten; it soars over the town’s roofs then descends into its streets and squares, which at this time of day present a soothing aspect; shopkeepers are shuttering their windows, the taprooms of taverns are filling with customers; laborers in boiler suits are heading homeward.  A few junior bakers and baker’s apprentices are brawling in one street.  Guild signs.  Windows.  Portals.  Suddenly one sees that the penal institution is in a town that is a so-called heritage architectural site.  A barman rolls a beer barrel into the doorway of a tavern.  Suddenly the camera cuts to the wall of the institution facing the railway station, with its barbed wire fence, then to the lookout tower, with the railway station in the background; freight trains are moving this way and that.  Railway men whistle, tap on the brake blocks.  Old women at the windows.  A railway man hangs his uniform up on a nail with a brisk, expert movement of his hand, stretches out his legs, takes a footbath in a sheet metal washbasin.  These tableaux are shown quickly in succession, over a matter of seconds, and indeed throughout the film all the scenes in which neither Kulterer nor the reposeful landscape is seen must follow each other very rapidly.  Several railway workers, track repairmen, go into the bar of the railway station; the barmaid is shown; she is standing as if impaled on the two brass taps and staring into the barroom.  A view of the crowded barroom, packed with diners, drinkers; in the left corner, next to the bar, a table at which prison officers in full dress uniform are seated.  A prison officer appears in the doorway of the barroom; those at the table rise, exit to the street, climb into a Black Maria.  The camera cuts to Kulterer, who is standing completely naked beneath the cell window and drying himself off.  The oldest of his cellmates says: he got skin like a child’s.  The three cellmates are sitting on their pallets and drying themselves off.  They slip into their prison uniforms as Kulterer remains standing naked at the window all the while.  The narrator says: “He was afraid that once he had been set free and stripped of his prisoner’s uniform he would no longer be able to write anything, no longer able to think anything; he was afraid that in that savage state of imposed exposure, he would no longer be able to exist at all.”  The inmates walk across the church square and into the church.  The church is barely a third full.  The occasion is the daily evening service.  In the first row of pews sit some nuns.  Sprinkled among the congregation of inmates, as if in strict compliance with regulations, sit several surveillance officers.  The organ is being played by the same inmate who was shown playing it earlier.  Down below the inmates begin singing: Hail, star of the sea.  At first the singing is faint and hesitant, and then it gradually swells to a loud drone.  Dawn. The camera pans from right to left across the entire dam spanning the riverbed, all the way to the weir; no people, nothing.  Birdcalls.  The two patrol guards, standing alongside the portion of the wall of the penal institution that faces the riverbed, are huddled together in conversation.  For this take the camera is stationed at the dam.  A view of the cells, of Cell 38, looking upwards from the patrol guards’ perspective.  As the window of this cell is being shown, the narrator says: “Early on the morning of his release he was summoned to the director’s office.  He must now thank the director for his residence in the penal institution, said the warden, who was escorting him.”  A shot of the director’s office.  The door is opened, Kulterer enters.  Before this scene there may be interpolated one showing Kulterer being escorted all the way from Cell 38 to the director’s office, a scene showing the angles and convolutions of the corridors as the warden swings his truncheon; in accordance with the regulations the warden will be walking one pace behind the inmate, behind Kulterer; he will have his truncheon in his hand, not hanging from his jacket.  En route to the director’s office they will run into a so-called cleaning corps, equipped with rags and abrasive brushes with wooden handles, at work.  Or after the scene in the church the viewer may be shown either the inmates in Cell 38 asleep on their pallets as the singing of the congregation of inmates in the church continues to be heard, or Kulterer at the table writing a story, but in either case there will be a shot panning across the entire riverbed-spanning dam all the way to the weir, a shot imbued with the light of dawn, the perfect reposefulness of the landscape, and birdsong; or on the third hand after the church scene one may be shown the previously seen barroom, now filled with drunken laborers, or the boy dressed in black with the train conductor’s whistle, now standing behind the front window of his parents’ house not far from the penal institution, or the boy dressed in black sitting at the kitchen table of his parents’ house and doing his homework late at night; or one may be shown some fairly or very old people standing behind various front windows in Garsten, old men and women in nightdress drawing their curtains; or one may be shown the porter’s lodge of the penal institution as one hears the chorus of prisoners singing, droning, “Hail, Star of the Sea,” in each case one will hear the chorus singing; in the same scene as that in which the porter’s lodge is shown, one will see an officer shutting the drawer below the lodge’s window, a drawer into which he will have just placed two revolvers; he will sit down in his chair and stare out the window at the cobblestone pavement outside; several porter’s caps, which are all prison officer’s caps, will be hanging on  the wall; on the floor a police dog will be lying or crouching.  As the scene in the director’s office begins, the chorus of prisoners abruptly falls silent.  The camera is stationed behind the director and pointed at the door; enter Kulterer, followed by the warden; one sees Kulterer over the director’s head; the director has a head with a bald spot atop which during this take Kulterer’s face is poised, and atop Kulterer’s face the warden’s face is poised in turn; the scene must be filmed in such a way that Kulterer’s face is precisely poised atop the director’s balding head, and the warden’s face is precisely poised atop Kulterer’s face; this image is exemplary and will subsequently be consulted as a reference standard if it is filmed in an exemplary and precise way; when the director says: well, well, well, so now it’s your turn!, the distance between the director and the two men standing in the doorway, Kulterer and the warden, is at least four meters.  Slowly the camera descends to the level of the back of the director’s head, so that one can see that he is wearing a dressing-gown trimmed with silk braid; the camera stops once it has reached the back of the chair, and then one sees only the back of the chair and the director’s shoulders, as the director says: where do I have your file?  Where the hell do I have your file!; these words are accompanied by the successive yanking open and slamming shut of several drawers in his desk; the sound of the opening and shutting is loud, irritatingly loud, as is the sound of the director’s voice, especially when he says: where the hell do I have your file?, after which there ensues a pause during which one hears nothing but the conspicuously loud opening and shutting of desk drawers.  A pause.  Then: ah, here it is!  The director says this dryly, curtly.  All this time the frame is occupied exclusively by the director’s back and the back of the chair.  The camera re-ascends and shows the back of the director’s head, as the director says: Franz Kulterer, born 1911 in Aschbach, is that correct? Whereupon Kulterer, who at this point is completely invisible, says: yes, yes.  The director: married, with no children, is that correct?  Kulterer: yes, yes.  The director says “is that correct?” as if it were a matter of habit for him to say “is that correct?” at every opportunity, to say “is that correct?” to all and sundry.  Then the director, of whom one has yet to see anything but the back of his head, with continuous special emphasis on his bald spot, says: there are no outstanding charges against you.  Now the camera moves upwards to reveal the utterly overawed Kulterer, with the warden standing behind him.  Kulterer is completely motionless, with sunken shoulders, behind him the warden is sweating; there is visible sweat on his forehead.  The director, who can no longer be seen, says: you can actually take your breakfast outside your cell today.  Outside.  The camera is motionlessly centered on Kulterer and the erect figure of the warden behind him, as one once again hears the irritating racket of desk drawers being opened and slammed shut. A pause.  Then the director says:  so what are you going to do once you’ve been released?  Kulterer is unable to come up with any immediate reply.  The camera cuts to the director’s face, which is expectantly awaiting a reply from Kulterer.  OK, fine, says the director, you of course know how you’ve got to behave out there.  The formalities have of course been taken care of.  But just because you’re now being released, that doesn’t mean…says the director.  At the word “released,” the camera suddenly cuts to the director’s face (sic [either an indication of a cut to, for example, Kulterer’s face, has been omitted, or, as the end of the sentence suggests, for “face” we should read “mouth”] (DR)), just because you’re being released, that doesn’t mean…says the director, speaking directly to the camera, and only his mouth is visible.  After the director says the word “mean,” his mouth stops moving as Kulterer is heard saying: yes, yes, I know.  The camera is once again pointed at Kulterer, the warden is now standing to Kulterer’s immediate right with his hands folded in front of him as the director says: the formalities have of course been taken care of.  By me personally, no less.  The director leans back; he is pondering something having to do with Kulterer; then, gazing fixedly at Kulterer, he says: tell me…Suddenly: aren’t you the man with permission to write?  Stories etcetera.  Papers etcetera.  In short, short stories etcetera, says the director.  The camera cuts to Kulterer, who says yes.  The warden casts his eyes around the director’s office; the director’s office is visually itemized as the narrator says: “Regardless of the circumstances, he had always found it most beneficial to be unassuming.  Of course, like every human being, he had often felt a deep-seated need to improve his existence, to extricate himself from certain states of affairs that even he saw as constricting; but he had no desire to exert himself however faintly at the cost of the slightest impression of force, or to impel himself towards achieving anything that he instinctively felt and hence believed was beyond his due.  Throughout his life he had had at his disposal a small and indeed to all outward appearances completely insignificant, infinitesimal, ridiculous space; but he was forever painstakingly attempting to fill this space, and eventually, over time, it was no longer merely with his own intermittently sky-hung dreams that he was qualified to fill, and indeed devoutly decorate, his personal space and time.”  As the narrator is speaking these lines, the interior of the director’s office is shown; on his desk there are pictures of his family, photographs that reproduce the stultified, petit-bourgeois atmosphere in which the director feels at home; along the walls there are objects that assert this stultified petit-bourgeois lineage and atmosphere and present existence.  Once the narrator has finished speaking his lines, the camera cuts back to Kulterer, who has all the while been standing before the director in the same posture, with the palms of his hands flat against his thighs, in accordance with prison regulations.  The camera is pointed at Kulterer as the director says: well, well, that was a very rare perquisite you enjoyed.  To grant permission to write to a prisoner!  Until he reaches the word “prisoner,” the camera is pointed at the director’s face, and immediately after the director has said the word “prisoner,” the camera briefly freezes.  Over this frozen-frame shot of the director’s face the narrator says: “Often it was merely the desire ‘for it to be about a house’ that got him out of bed and sitting at the table; often it was not even a thought of that kind, but rather merely a single word, the word ‘turnip,’ for example, the word ‘altar,’ the word ‘hoof.’  All words had the same signification for him, but a good many of them plunged him from the very beginning into a mysterious gloom, into the paradise of a primary color and into numbers and numerals, into a prerequisite for the written.”  All the while that the narrator is speaking these lines, the image remains frozen and centered on the director’s motionless mouth.  After the narrator has finished, the director resumes speaking; he says: what have you been writing all this time anyway?  Kulterer: oh, nothing to speak of; the camera is pointed at Kulterer as he is uttering this sentence, “oh, nothing to speak of.”  Stories, probably, as the camera continues to show Kulterer; yes, yes, stories, says Kulterer, as the camera now shows the director.  You of course know, says the director; the camera cuts to the walls of the director’s office, and it remains trained on them as he continues speaking, thus: you of course know that throughout your period of employment here the costs of your incarceration have been deducted from your wages; you know that, of course.  Yes, yes, replies Kulterer; the camera unperturbedly continues its survey of the interior of the director’s office.  The government requires you to pay taxes as well; you know that, of course!  Then: do you want to have the money right now, or would you rather have it mailed to you?  Where are you going to live anyway?  Are you going back to your wife now? asks the director.  Yes, yes, says Kulterer.  All right, says the director, you surely must have been given our address as a reference.  It will of course enable you to obtain a position somewhere.  Make sure you apply for a job at a print shop; you’ve got really good prospects in that line of work!  The camera cuts to the director’s face.  It’s astonishing how much people learn while they’re with us!  It’s really astonishing.  A man like you will be missed in our print shop.  The camera cuts to Kulterer; the director quips: so, even though you’re being let go, you aren’t being fired, you’re getting your money.  All right, says the director; the camera cuts to him, and he hands Kulterer a large gray envelope.  Kulterer takes the envelope; in order to do this he must step up to the director’s desk; he hesitates, then he takes three or four quick steps forward, seizes the envelope with a quick, awkward movement, steps back again; again he lays the palms of his hands against his thighs, which he finds difficult to do while holding the envelope; the camera films all this from the side, and it continues to film from the side as the director says: you are to hand this envelope over to your local police department.  Everything after that will happen automatically.  You of course know that you have to report to that department once a week.  Yes, yes, I know, says Kulterer.  The director extends his hand to him; Kulterer takes a couple of steps towards the hand and offers his own hand to the director as the warden remains standing in place.  The camera pans from left to right along the walls of the director’s office as the narrator says: “Kulterer says he is much obliged to him; he is, he says, saying this not in deference to any regulations, but rather out of a genuine, sincere feeling of gratitude.  He was ashamed of having not alighted upon any better words.  He had prepared a sentence of leave-taking for the director, but at the moment when he was supposed to deliver it the sentence had proved irretrievable.  Very well, then, the director says, and he dismisses Kulterer.”  As the narrator is uttering this last sentence, the camera shows the director saying “very well” and dismissing Kulterer.  The camera cuts to a view of the end of the corridor, from which Kulterer, carrying his envelope, is emerging, followed by the warden; as the two of them, walking along the darkened corridor, approach the camera, the narrator says: “In the corridor Kulterer had the feeling that the warden, who was walking behind him, was well disposed to him.  Oddly enough he had never been afraid of the warden, in contrast to his fellow-inmates, who were worried to the point of panic about being forced to be alone with that man in the darkness of the corridors.”  “Juhthank him?” asks the warden as he prods Kulterer around a corner with his truncheon.  Yes, yes, says Kulterer.  The camera now shows the dam spanning the riverbed in the clear light of morning.  The guards on patrol along the walls of the penal institution.  The junior baker rides past the patrol guards on a bicycle with a breadbasket, veers into the church square.  The camera cuts to the playground, to a scene of children tossing a ball about, sliding down an iron slide.  The boy dressed in black is cycling across the dam spanning the riverbed and gazing over at the penal institution.  The camera cuts to Kulterer’s cell; Kulterer is sitting at the table with his face buried in his hands, which are resting on the tabletop.  He is now seeing the things that are being projected behind him: inmates in kitchen aprons and guards in the kitchen, inmates in the corridors, in the courtyard, in the church square.  A patrol guard gazes into a large stockpot; somebody beating an inmate raises his rubber sausage; inmates are taking off their shoes, washing themselves, pulling their blankets over their heads on their pallets; a sheaf of paper falls through the window of the cell; with his face still buried in his hands he sees himself jump to his feet and pick up the sheaf of paper; all the while that he continues sitting at the table, he sees himself laying the sheaf of paper on the table, he unwraps the paper, smooths it out; he sharpens his pencil under the watchful eye of the warden and begins to write; he writes as the narrator says: “How extensively here did everything that elsewhere was ignobly throttled by insensitivity and tribulation disclose itself!  How diffidently, amid this veritable landscape of darkness, which was completely devoid of unnatural sounds and smells, could one think here!   How trustingly could one feel everything in the aggregate here!  To think that here it is possible to say something true that elsewhere would only amount to a lie!  He thought: here I can propound something that in the outside world is inhumane!  And with what daredevil discreetness!  There is a relation to light and to darkness here that can lay claim to truth only here.  If I leave this place, it will die.”  As these lines are being spoken, the camera shows Kulterer with his head buried in his hands on the table, and at the same time, in the projection behind him, it shows him sitting at the table and writing.  The narrator says:  “And if he had not been the most uncommunicative of individuals, the very most taciturn of all the inmates, he might have been constantly muttering to himself, distinctly enough, in order to offend himself and everyone else as deeply as possible, these words: I’m leaving and killing myself, I’m stepping outside and killing myself.  But this is preposterous, he said to himself.”  Before the narrator has finished uttering the words “offend himself and everyone else as deeply as possible,” Kulterer is seen taking his leave of the buildings.  He enters the kitchen, but he does not approach any of the inmates working there; he passes by each of them, looks at each of them, but he does not offer any of them his hand.  He enters the tailoring shop.  All the inmates who are working here know him, and he knows all of them.  They do not stop working; the camera shows Kulterer entering the tailoring shop; once he has reached the center of the room, of the tailoring shop, it shows him exiting the tailoring shop, in other words, from behind; the same in the laundry shop; the same in the cobbler’s shop.  In the cobbler’s shop he stops in the center of the room and offers his hand to one of the inmates working there.  Throughout this tour, Kulterer has been on his own, without the warden, as if he had already been released.  The equipment in all the shops is incredibly primitive and without the slightest hint of modernity; for example, in the tailoring shop the inmates are sewing by hand, and the shop contains only a single oversized sewing machine; the same in the cobbler’s shop; the same in the laundry shop, where from a large steaming copper boiler laundry is being removed and thrown into a tub filled with cold water; like the scenes in the other workshops, this one is reminiscent of the locales in Dickens’s novels.  The camera shows Kulterer in the courtyard, in complete solitude he walks the entire circumference of the courtyard; the camera shows only brief snatches of this circuit, shows him glancing up at the lookout tower two or three times and at the same time shows the guards looking down at him from the lookout tower.  Up in the lookout tower Kulterer espies the warden with his rubber sausage.  The narrator says: “They all call him ‘the rubber sausage’ because he often uses his truncheon to get attention, to get legitimacy.”  Now the warden enters the courtyard, in which Kulterer is standing.  The narrator says: “He loves to walk his beat in tight trousers; he is tall and fat and strikes as quick as a flash.”  Kulterer is standing at the outer edge of the courtyard underneath the lookout tower and looking at the ground, is if he is searching for something on the ground.  The narrator says: “Rebellion inevitably leads to doubled pain.”  From over the walls one hears music being played on wind instruments, as if a funeral were taking place.  The music is precisely metrical; in time with it, Kulterer takes a few steps of his walk around the courtyard.  Suddenly behind one of the cell windows somebody screams; Kulterer looks up at the window from which the screaming has emanated.  The camera shows the porter’s lodge, in which three guards are sitting and doing paperwork; suddenly the Black Maria arrives and two policemen, guards, leap out of it; they open its rear doors and two new inmates climb out; each of them has a bundle of laundry under one arm.  As Kulterer is walking in the garden, the camera shows him sitting at the table in the cell and reading a story to his cellmates.  But his voice is inaudible as the narrator says: “He wrote hundreds of stories in the penal institution.  His cellmates marveled at the number of them, and he always wrote them at night, while they were sleeping.  In the course of time he had gotten used to writing in the dark.  To writing ‘The Cat,’ for example, ‘The Dry Dock,’ ‘The Swimming Bird,’ for example.  He asked them why it had taken them so long to hit upon the idea of having his stories read to them,” says the narrator.  While he is now being shown walking through the garden, one also sees his cellmates sitting on their pallets and reading Kulterer’s stories; each of them is reading some stories to himself.  The narrator says: “Kulterer was delighted that they were now taking an interest in his stories, whereas earlier they had not evinced even the slightest interest in them; quite the contrary.”  As Kulterer is walking through the garden, the camera first hazily and then more distinctly shows Kulterer sitting at the table and writing while his cellmates sleep.  He rises from the table and walks over to his pallet and smooths and straightens out the covers and goes back to the table.  Now one of his cellmates is observing him; Kulterer is peering into and leafing through a file folder; in this folder he has placed a few of his stories.  He reads to himself the title “The Cat”; the title is shown; then he leafs through some more pages and reads the title “The Dry Dock,” this title also is shown, as are, after more spells of leafing-through, “The Warden,” “The Deathbed,” and “The Director.”  He shuts the folder, pushes it aside, and slides a stack of blank paper into position directly in front of him.  The camera shows him writing the word SOLITUDE on the first sheet.  He pauses for reflection, looks around the cell, in which everybody is either sleeping or pretending to sleep, and begins to write.  Shortly thereafter the warden’s footfalls are heard in the corridor, and Kulterer jumps to his feet and clears away everything from the table and lies down on his pallet; the warden’s footfalls grow fainter, fall silent.  These shots are seen at the same time as, and are superimposed on, the shot of Kulterer walking in the garden.  Now the shot of the cell vanishes; Kulterer is walking in the garden; the camera shows Kulterer standing still and looking all around the courtyard.  A sudden peal of bells, equally sudden silence.  The camera, now stationed on the roof the penal institution, is pointed down, along the outer wall facing the riverbed, at the two patrol guards, who are moving away from each other as they measure out the steps of their patrol.  Outside, on the dam spanning the riverbed, roughly in the center of the frame, one sees the boy dressed in black, who suddenly falls to his knees and blows his train conductor’s whistle.  The patrol guards do not react to the sound of the whistle.  The boy gets up and runs the entire length of the dam from left to right.  Moving from right to left, a flock of birds flies past the weir and then over the entire town.  The camera cuts to the warden, who is walking along the corridor towards Kulterer; only from their silhouettes can one recognize the warden and Kulterer in the almost completely darkened corridor; Kulterer is standing at one end, and from the opposite end the warden is approaching him; the camera shows the two of them in alternation: Kulterer standing perfectly still, and the warden approaching him, swinging his truncheon, whistling curtly; all of a sudden, the warden’s gait has something buoyant, cheerful, about it; the uncouth, militaristic quality his gait has always had is suddenly gone; but just as quickly, a couple of paces away from Kulterer, or better still as early as halfway along his approach to Kulterer, the buoyancy and cheerfulness of his gait is gone, and he is walking in his usual manner; he is holding the truncheon against the side of his leg; just before he reaches Kulterer, he comes to seem even taller in juxtaposition with Kulterer than he actually is, and he asks Kulterer: did you thank them?  Yes, yes, says Kulterer.  It is not clear what Kulterer is supposed to have been thankful for, but Kulterer automatically says yes, yes, because he has always said yes, yes; the warden expects nothing from Kulterer other than a yes, yes, Mr. Warden, and it is quite remarkable that he is suddenly saying just yes, yes, not yes, yes, Mr. Warden, which accords well with his release from the institution.  The camera shows the warden and Kulterer from the side, their profiles; one can see that the floor at the opposite end of the corridor is being scrubbed; inmates with washrags and abrasive brushes with long handles have just come from around the corner.  Suddenly Kulterer says: I was awkward!  The warden asks: what do you mean?  Kulterer says nothing in reply; after a pause the warden says: too stupid, and then: you haven’t had such a bad experience with me, have you?  Whereupon he waits for a categorical reply from Kulterer.  He is impatient because the answer is not immediately forthcoming.  Yes, yes, I know, says Kulterer.  Now the electric lights suddenly come on; everything is brightly illuminated; the camera shows the full series of cell doors along the corridor—from one end, then again from the opposite end.  An inmate in the cleaning corps pours lye out of a bucket; another inmate immediately scrubs the floor with a brush.  The warden raises his rubber truncheon up to the level of Kulterer’s stomach and pokes Kulterer gently in the middle of the stomach.  As if to say: you’re a fine fellow, but he does not actually say it; he says nothing; he turns around and goes up to the cleaning corps: Bastards! Incorrigible beasts!  This is a grave misunderstanding indeed!  Bastards!  As the warden is saying this, the inmates are standing still in silence; at a movement of the warden’s head in their direction they resume working, in the course of which one of them knocks over the second bucket of lye directly in front of the warden’s feet; but the warden ignores the incident; he fingers his truncheon and vanishes.  The camera, stationed below the cell window, is pointed at the door of the cell, which is yanked open; the four inmates jump to their feet; the meal corps is there with the warden; the warden says to Kulterer: you’ll get back the envelope when you leave.  The meal-deliverers distribute the meals.  The warden says to Kulterer: your farewell meal.  To the inmates who are distributing the meals he says: it’s certainly no perquisite, distributing meals.  He says this because the way they are going about distributing the meals is too lackadaisical for his liking. “Move! Move!” he orders them; they quicken their pace of work and scoop lukewarm beverage rations out of a gigantic zinc bucket that two of the inmates are holding by two large zinc handles.  From a cardboard box they distribute slices of bread.  Each prisoner receives four pieces.  The warden says to Kulterer: by this time tomorrow our Kulterer will be sleeping in a nice, clean bed.  Kulterer stands there, with his hands flat against his thighs, and says automatically: yes, yes, Mr. Warden.  Now, as the camera image stops, freezes, the narrator says: “He was convinced that the warden had intended no malice by what he had just said, that to the contrary he is well disposed to him.  It would be out of the question for anyone to bear me any malice, he thinks.”  The camera image is like a photographic snapshot as the narrator continues: “He had of course always been impeccably punctilious, always the model of correct behavior; he had never evinced so much as a trace of the apple-polishing hypocrisy that some people might now be attributing to him.  To the contrary!  He admittedly never allowed himself to utter even such words of praise as these, but he got the feeling that the warden had always been satisfied with him.”  Now the camera once again shows the darkened corridor, shows the warden walking through the corridor, for two, three seconds; then the word rubber sausage is yelled out behind him from one of the cells, whereupon the warden turns around as quick as a flash and dashes into the cell from which the word “rubber sausage” was yelled.  From this cell screams are heard.  The camera cuts to a view of Kulterer in the courtyard; beside him, as one immediately sees, is the warden.  The warden says: I’ll bring you a rope so that you can tie your writings together.  Exit the warden.  Kulterer slowly lifts his head towards the sunlight.  Kulterer’s cell.  The three cellmates are sitting at the table and gazing at a silent Kulterer, who is standing at and gazing out the window; then he turns around and gazes at them.  The camera image is frozen, like a photographic snapshot; the narrator says: “His cellmates were of the opinion that he regarded this day as a day of celebration; they could not know and could not conceive that this very day was the most terrible one in Kulterer’s entire life.”  The camera image begins moving again; from off to the side, at the table where the inmates are sitting, the oldest of them says: “Why the hell aren’t you telling us anything?  Tell us just one more tale before you bugger off!  The camera image has once again frozen into a photographic snapshot; the narrator says: “Now that he had only a few more hours to spend with them, he was all of a sudden shutting himself off from them.  Why?  They certainly had nothing against him, never had had anything against him.”  The film begins running again; from off to the side at the table the oldest cellmate says: Come on: let us keep a couple of your stories!  The second-oldest rises and goes to his pallet.  Let us keep a couple of ’em! says the oldest cellmate; Kulterer turns around and looks out the window.  The camera image is a photographic snapshot as the narrator says: “the things they were saying now had for him the air of some mutually agreed-upon hearty sendoff of his corporeal self, whom they were basically happy to be getting rid of.”  The film resumes running.  They curl up in their pallets.  The camera shows Kulterer in the office of the penal institution’s secretary; the secretary is tall, lean, and one-armed; probably he lost his other arm in the war.  Kulterer hands him the envelope; the secretary opens it; unfolds the large sheet of paper that he has pulled out of it, stamps it, and hands it back to Kulterer.  Kulterer bows.  The secretary lights a cigarette, leans back in his chair, pulls open a drawer in his desk, leaves the drawer open, and with a motion of his hand signals to Kulterer that he should leave.  Kulterer bows again and leaves the secretary’s office; he looks around for the warden, but the warden, who has always escorted him throughout the term of his imprisonment, is no longer there; Kulterer is irritated by the warden’s absence, by the fact that he is all of a sudden alone, bereft of the warden, by the fact that he can move about the corridors and go into the penal institution’s workshops as if the warden were present at his side to keep an eye on him; Kulterer leaves the secretary’s office.  The camera shows him walking along the corridor, then going into the print shop, first from the corridor looking into the shop, then from the front of the shop looking into the corridor: the moment Kulterer enters the print shop the printing machines are loud; the inmates at the printing machines look at Kulterer; the guards who are sitting at the front of the shop immediately jump to their feet, but they sit back down when they see that the person entering the shop is Kulterer; the camera shows Kulterer taking his leave of the individual inmates in the printing shop, shaking their hands; the whole thing is quite brief; he says something, but what he is saying cannot be understood, because the printing machines are so loud that nothing apart from them can be heard; while he is shaking the hand of one of the inmates, the camera image suddenly freezes, becomes a photographic snapshot, over which the narrator says: “Whether they believe it or not he finds it hard to set off.  He would much rather stay.  He finds leaving ‘unimaginable.’  But you can’t stay anymore when you’re being forced to leave, he says.  Even if you were to make an appeal to the courts, such an appeal would be rejected, he says.”  The film resumes running; at this moment the inmates at the printing machines burst out laughing; their laughter is so loud that it can be heard even above the racket of the printing machines.   Again the camera’s view of the print shop freezes into a photographic snapshot, over which the narrator says:  “Kulterer says he wants to give them a present, something for them to remember him by.  Naturally, he says, he has no idea whether they will get even the slightest amount of pleasure from the thing that he has decided to give them, but they might find it useful later on.  I have written something for each of you, he says.  An aphorism for each of you.”  Now the film is running; Kulterer pulls out of his jacket pocket some pieces of paper that he distributes among them one at a time, but the camera shows only two, three of these sheets with which he is preoccupied.  The camera is in Kulterer’s cell, in which all the cellmates are present.  Kulterer hands each of them a slip of paper, which they read straight away; the reading of the slips instantaneously makes them thoughtful.  The narrator says: “And for his cellmates he wrote aphorisms, an aphorism apiece for each one of them.”  Kulterer is consolidating his toiletries.  The cell door is unlocked, and the warden throws in a rope that Kulterer can tie his writings together with; the camera shows this, or it does not show it; but it does show the cellmates helping Kulterer pack up his things; they lay everything on the table and roll it up in a cloth, and as they do so one cannot tell whether the cloth is a handkerchief or a foot-rag.  The oldest cellmate ties up the package containing Kulterer’s writings, pulls the final knot taut, and briefly lifts the package just once up to the level of the table, and says, see, tight as can be, to Kulterer, and sets it down on the table.  Kulterer tentatively lifts the package; the others laugh at his test-lift.  The narrator says: “He felt a powerful sense of foolishness, because his tentative lifting of the package possibly struck them as being funny.”  What are you gonna do with your stories? the oldest of his cellmates asks.  Sell ’em!  The newspapers snatch ’em up like hotcakes!  But will they print yours?  ’Atsa tough question.  Yes, yes, says Kulterer.  The narrator says: “They were very sorry that they would have to do without him from now on.”  The camera now shows the courtyard again, then the cell windows overlooking the courtyard, then the cell windows on the side of the institution facing the riverbed, then those overlooking the church square, which two nuns are crossing; a baker’s boy is running across the church square; the butcher’s truck drives past; on the dam across the riverbed a company of soldiers are marching, singing a song; at the railway station a train is departing; the camera first shows the train station from the penal institution, then the penal institution from the train station; a woodcutting crew with hoes and saws are leaving the premises of the penal institution; a truck with inmates who are engaged to work at a nearby plant-nursery drives past, with the church square in the background.  Kulterer enters the church, climbs up to the gallery, where the organ-playing inmate with his guard is improvising on something by Bruckner.  Kulterer stations himself next to the organist, which the guard initially is not inclined to let him do, as one may gather from his briefly rising from his pew; but in the end he does allow it; Kulterer listens to the organ-playing; now one sees him peeking into the laundry shop, but not going into it; he gazes at the work-tools that are hanging on the walls in the courtyard, at the baroque angel by the staircase; then again at pitchforks, scythes, and sickles; he sits on the stairs and through the open gate, towards the town, on the other side of the porter’s lodge, he observes the boy dressed in black, who is blowing his whistle, but nothing is heard; Kulterer sees the boy dressed in black running away; two nuns enter through the gate, at whose threshold the boy dressed in black was standing just a moment earlier; they approach and pass by Kulterer and proceed to the church, from which the playing of the organ can be heard.  While Kulterer is looking through the gate, the narrator says: “But nobody has yet managed to escape, he thought.”  The camera cuts to the porter’s lodge.  To Kulterer’s cell.  The camera, slowly panning from right to left, now shows individual objects in the cell: the closet, the washbasin, suddenly all the details that had been seen only indistinctly become clear; the cell is empty; all the inmates are away.  As the camera is panning from left to right across the walls of the cell, the narrator says: “There was hardly ever a night, and in the past year-and-a half pretty much not a single further night, in which he had not been awoken by an idea or at least by a thought, by a hint of a thought.”  The camera also shows the floor of the cell, cockroaches, other beetle-like insects, etc.  The narrator says: “He began his conversations mostly with ‘Yes, yes, I know…,” and he would say, for example, ‘Yes, yes, I know, it’s hard…’ or ‘Yes, yes, I know that can turn out badly…,’ or ‘Yes, yes, I know, Mr. Warden…’  But he really never spoke unless he had just been asked a question.”  The camera shows the empty corridors, the completely empty print shop, the completely empty laundry shop, the completely empty cobbler’s shop, the empty courtyard; every place is empty; the church is empty, the church square is empty, etc.  The camera cuts to the dam spanning the riverbed, which is completely empty.  To the penal institution as seen from the dam.  The two patrol guards are standing at the ends of their patrol-paths, the one at the right end, the other at the left end, motionlessly.  The boy dressed in black is crouching motionlessly in the center of the frame, in the church square.  During this sequence the narrator says: “It was in prison that he had first come genuinely to reckon with thoughts, as if with sums to be added and subtracted.”  The camera now shows Kulterer sitting in the kitchen and spooning up soup from a plate.  Then he stands up, then he walks through the print shop, then he walks through the cobbler’s shop; he emerges from the church; he rises from the chair in front of the penal institution’s secretary’s desk; he is an office and being handed a stack of banknotes, which he attempts to count, but he is incapable of doing so.  Yes, yes, says Kulterer and leaves the office with the banknotes in his hand.  The narrator says: “The invention of thoughts in the human mind seemed to him the most precious gift in existence.  From this decisive moment onwards, the world was in his eyes purifying, and readily amenable to the researches of concentration and precisely delimited consciousness.”  Now, as Kulterer is shown sitting at the table—he has his head in his hands, which are resting on the table, and his legs stretched out under the table; he is alone in the cell; he has his belongings in front of him on the table—the camera shows him arriving at the penal institution, the moment of his incarceration; it shows him being shoved out of the Black Maria, passing by the porter’s lodge, entering the corridors, walking through the corridors; the warden appears before him; the warden shoves him into the cell, in which his cellmates are lying on their pallets; over these images the narrator says: “For the first time, from then onwards, there had been solid ground beneath his feet, a sky above the earth, a hell, the rotation of a global axis without precedent.”  As the actor is saying “the rotation of a global axis without precedent,” behind Kulterer sitting at the table the camera shows woodcutting crews, laundry crews, in a confused heap, as if as he sits there at the table Kulterer is once again having a nightmare about arriving at the penal institution.




Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2014 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Kulterer Eine Filmgeschichte  (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1976), pp. 7-91. 

As Márta Hortaványi used to say, "I AM NOT YET COMPLETED."