Saturday, August 02, 2008

A Translation of the transcript of Monologe auf Mallorca (Thomas Bernhard interviewed by Krista Fleischmann in 1981)

Thomas Bernhard
A Provocation--Monologues at Mallorca

I have never had a model or ever desired one. I have always only wanted to be myself and have only ever written as I myself have thought.

1. Mallorca
Mallorca in and of itself doesn't interest me at all. Because it's a country, an island that's like home too. Because of the atmosphere of the city, the harbor, the sea, what I need in order to work. Because I can only work where the climate is healthy for me and here I have both, right? The possibility of tending to my lungs, and of using my brain to make what is to be made out of whatever originates there. And my duty, to myself and to everyone else, is somehow to fetch something out of my head, in other words, to write books, or just string sentences together, thoughts--and they just come better here than up north, right? When I get a kink in my head in Austria then I just come down here--and that's ideal.
And then as far as work goes it's of immeasurable importance, for me at least, of course everyone's different, to be in a country where you don't understand the language, because you have the feeling that people are only saying pleasant things and only speaking on truly important philosophical subjects. And if you understand the language they're simply talking bullshit. And so in Spain bullshit becomes philosophical for me.
At bottom I really only write from the bottom, because a lot of things are unpleasant. Because if everything were pleasant then I probably couldn't write at all. Then nobody would write. You really can't write from a pleasant situation. Besides, you'd be an idiot to write if everything were pleasant, because you pretty much have to surrender to what's pleasant, right? You really are obligated to take advantage of it. And if you're in a pleasant mood and sit down at your desk, then that pleasant mood actually starts to self-destruct. And why should I let it self-destruct? I could even imagine myself living an entire lifetime only in a pleasant mood and not writing anything at all. But since, as [I] said, a pleasant mood only exists by the hour or for only a short time, you always come back to writing.

2. Philosophy

You don't need to worry about your anger towards your fellow men, because most of the time you are indeed annoyed by them. When you're in a coffeehouse and it's quite pleasant, at the end you have to settle up, and basically you're already angry about that in a way--because--why, actually? And when you're crossing the street and a car comes along, you get angry. Why does this car of all things come along when I'm crossing the street? You don't even need to worry about anger at all. It happens! At the moment I'm not angry at all. It's already getting a bit spooky, because there's no anger on the horizon.

How are you feeling at the moment?

It's splashing [only so]...Extremely content, I must say. The water's splashing, the sun is shining. Simple Spaniards and Englishmen who can't be understood. An ideal constellation, but it won't last long. All of a sudden some sort of flash of lightning leads you back to the whole and ruins everything.

I have a totally normal approach to life, like all other normal people too, probably, right? It isn't simply negative, but it's not exactly positive, right? Because you really do encounter everything uninterruptedly. That adds up to a life. [To say it's all negative is of course nonsense. ] But there are people who want to see it that way, to be sure.

It's really quite convenient that they say that so-and-so is a fool, right?--and all his life he's a fool, right? who will always figure as a fool, until the day he dies. And a certain other person is a lyrical, exalted writer from his twentieth year onward, and likewise remains one until the day he dies. And that's the starting point for the critics and the people you deal with, [and generally can't get rid of]. And another person writes some Punch and Judy plays, whether they're stupid or not is again of course another question, or no question at all, and he remains Punch for life.
And I'm probably the Negative Writer for life, but I must say, I feel quite comfortable in the role, because it doesn't irritate me in the slightest. Because people say I'm a negative writer and at the same time I'm a positive human being. And so nothing can happen to me, or[...]? Is this a dangerous position? I don't know. I find it all quite pleasant. Above all, when I'm far from home.

Of course, comic material always has to do with something missing, right?--with a deficiency, right? Some sort of spiritual or physical defect, right? You laugh at a clown, say he's completely normal, no one laughs, right? He has to walk with a limp, or be one-eyed, or fall over every third step, or his ass explodes and shoots out a candle or whatever, right? People laugh at that sort of thing, always at deficiencies, and at horrible afflictions. What else has anyone ever laughed at, really? Or some ancient, on-stage grandmother repeats herself every third sentence and is constantly saying "My [Eineizwilling]" or something of that kind, then people laugh. But of course no one in the world has ever laughed at completely normal, so-called normal people. As for laughing on your own, you only do that when you pinch yourself or whatever? Then you laugh up a storm. When my grandmother burned herself on one of her plates in the kitchen, I laughed like crazy, right? And when a week passed without, when a laugh-free week elapsed in our house, it was somehow completely boring. And when it got too boring for me, I would go into the broom cupboard, there was a curtain there, where the brooms were standing, and if I wanted, now my grandmother comes along, I would let my hand fall out from behind [the curtain], she--with a terrible scream, right?--would practically fall over dead of a stroke, because I frightened her. As a child. Because I was bored. But there are always afflictions and horrors.

Do you want to make people laugh?

No, but that happens automatically. I don't need to trouble myself about that. I myself sometimes actually burst out laughing, right? I think to myself I’ve actually made myself laugh. But sometimes people feel—when I burst out laughing, right?—already while I’m writing, or also when I’m reading Correction afterwards, then I do actually laugh out loud, and they don’t find it any great laughing matter, and I really don’t understand that, right? For example, if you read Frost, I’ve always produced plenty of comic material. It’s actually a side-splitting laugh every second. But I don’t know, do people just not have a sense of humor or what, I don’t know? It’s always made me laugh. It still makes me laugh today. If I’m bored or I’m going through some tragic period, then I open one of my own books and that makes me laugh. Or don’t you understand that it’s that way?

I mean that isn’t to say I haven’t also occasionally written serious sentences to make the comical sentences hold together. That’s the glue, seriousness is the glue of the comic project. Now naturally you can also say that this is a philosophically comic project that I somehow or other concocted more than 20 years ago, when I started writing.

Naturally a dry, a purely serious philosophy isn’t funny, is actually just terribly boring. But in Schopenhauer’s company I can also laugh. The glummer he is, the funnier he is. But people take it all so tragically seriously. But how seriously can you take a man who’s married to a poodle. From the outset you just can’t take him seriously. He’s a comic-cum-philosopher. These are the great historical jesters. Schopenhauer, Kant, hence, the most serious of all in the end. Pascal ranks among them too, in his own catholic, mysterious, religious way.

These really are the great comic philosophers. And the lesser ones, the second category, they’re all basically boring, because they just chew the cud that these jester-philosophers have written out for them. And I don’t read them anyway, because if I read anything, I only read the great ones. But it takes a long time for you to slowly figure out what’s great and what’s not so great. You really need a decade for that. No one ever tells you that.

Because in school everything’s categorized in the same way, right? There’s a lumping together of the philosophers, right? They all line up there like a group of package tourists or an army. There are, of course, thousands and hundreds of thousands of philosophers. And, of course, you have to pick out the greatest on your own. And, of course, nobody helps you out. But if you’re a kind of philosophical vulture, as I was quite early on, then you know which of them to pick out. And Kant and Schopenhauer are among those, because of their insane laughableness. Don’t you think so?
3. Innocence

I really only write about inner landscapes and most people don’t see them, because they invariably see almost nothing within, because they think that because it’s inside, it’s dark, and then they don’t see anything. I don’t think I’ve ever, in any of my books, described a landscape. There's really nothing of the kind in any of them. I only ever write concepts. And so it's always about the "ocean" or "mountains" or "a city" or "streets." But as to how they look, I haven't, I believe I haven't, ever described that. I've never produced a description of a landscape. That's never even interested me.

I observe uninterruptedly, when I'm not asleep, even when I am asleep I'm observing. Because a human being really does observe more intensively when he's asleep than when he's awake, in other words, in a dream, or in whatever gets called a dream. And during any given moment when a human being isn't observing, there's pretty much nothing.

I think I was already in school when it occurred to me that everybody actually does have a father, right? I didn’t even get as far as knowing that. In the first place, I never even knew I had a father, because no such person ever materialized. It was neither talked about, nor was any such person present, right? And it wasn’t even allowed to be talked about. And then I thought to myself, I have no organs like the other people who were around me, I never gave any thought to [boys versus girls], that was different anyhow.

And I can still precisely recall how my best friend in those days, he was, I guess, seven or eight years old; I always used to play with him, he was the child next door, Fakler Gusti was his name, Fakler is a Bavarian name, this was in Traunstein. He’s…within a couple of days he was dead: I mean of appendicitis. And then I thought to myself, my God, poor Fakler Gusti, who has to die because he had appendicitis, which I can never have, because I haven’t got an appendix, probably. I always thought that I simply didn’t have whatever can make you die, probably. And so why, and from what, could I die? And so I felt pretty lucky. I think I was already ten years old when it occurred to me that I also have organs that can make you die. And so the idea was, there’s no father and no organs and on the whole nothing near me that’s mortal. I think that was one of my main assumptions for years, I mean for many years. Until roughly the age of twenty. No, not until twenty, because by then I was already deathly ill. If not until then, then until when? Until fifteen, sixteen, right? All right, then, it was then that it occurred to me that “No, no, my dear fellow, you too, right?, you, too, can go the way of all flesh. And death can stretch out his hand toward you and take hold of you at his pleasure, right?" It really was then that I first realized that. But I think that at 14 or 15 I pretty much had no inkling. I didn't know either what breathing was, [or] what lungs were. I pretty much didn't perceive myself physically. Like all healthy children, I imagine. They just don't notice things at all, that's the way it is.

And sexuality?

And sexuality, that this corporeality first first emerges with, to be sure, it's pleasure afterwards, of course, and beforehand, of course, it's simply a feeling of suspense. Sexuality was for me in this respect greatly curtailed, because at the moment when it was first up and moving, right?--and I somehow noticed that, "Aha!, there are these mysterious forces that suddenly carry you along, to specific objects, right?"--then I really did become deathly ill. And so for many years, and starting very early on, it was very much dammed up and curtailed, right? Which is really a shame because at precisely the time when sexuality probably has the greatest allure, namely at its quote-unquote "awakening"--and when "your cock [Schwanzerl] is up and moving" as we say in German, well, then I was in the hospital. Then everything pretty much tapered off, more or less--and I was bedridden indoors and it was simply neutralized. And when I got out I was at first tired and a bit weak. OK, right?--so between the ages of 20 and 30, I imagine, it was entirely regular and normal in that department. Even with great pleasure, with all the ups and downs they talk about in words and images. You [/they] don't need to feel embarrassed about this. At the seaside nobody is embarrassed about anything. Or are you [/they] feeling ashamed? Well, anyhow, look, that kind of thing is all nonsense.

Well, I mean, now and then you certainly felt ashamed, and yet afterwards you think why, really, did you feel that way? It always balances out once again. But you certainly have felt that way plenty of times, right? Because you do unfairly by other people and whatnot. Sooner this shame a sexual shame or whatever else would be utter nonsense. Because to be ashamed of nature, which is as normal a thing as there is, would be an outright absurdity. Although everywhere it’s repressed. [Whenever] they look away [they] are simple people who are ashamed, or feel ashamed, as it’s so nicely phrased. And at bottom everyone goes running around as half portions, because they don’t make the most of their lives. They see it here too. These people are all sitting for a spell, instead of circulating amongst each other and saying, “What do you really want to last?” and--they’re actually disturbing our afternoon peace. They’re an assemblage of "cowards."

4. Perspectives

It’s all a matter of perspective. Everyone has another one. Thank God. And you yourself always have the right one. Even when other people consistently maintain the opposite one. For you your own perspective is always the right one. But other people always make you have doubts. And then you abandon your perspective and then you’re finished. At least in cases where you’ve abandoned it. But why, really, do you abandon it?

In the final analysis, it’s all a swindle. A gigantic one, to put it exaggeratedly. But everybody, as long as they live, feels like they’re in clover in the middle of this swindle, right? That’s how you see yourself, right? You [aneckt] every day in some sort of swindle. Whether it’s a landlord or in a coffeehouse or at the seaside or in the mountains. At bottom everything is a swindle and a self-swindle. But really marvelous. Without the swindle everything would collapse and would cease to exist. The world as a whole is really just one big swindle, right?—and the kingdom of heaven is yet another one, and hell is yet another one. So, you see, there’s a swindle above and below, and a swindle where you live, namely the earth. And when you die, that’s also a swindle. I [have], by the way, still never [been to] a cemetery [here]. Would you like to go with me to a cemetery, in Palma?

I’ve always believed in heaven. Since I was a child. The older I got, the more I believed in it. Because heaven is what’s especially beautiful. Because there people always have on freshly washed clothes. There’s no dirt, right?—there’s no chemical industry, no sanitation, because from the start everything is clean and pure. And everything is light and floating. I’m already looking forward to it. You’re completely weightless, you soar along above everything. No philosophy can swindle you anymore, or outwit you. Heaven is the ideal. So, you see, I’m one of the few people who actually believe in heaven. I don’t believe in hell. It’s too dirty, too hot, too black, too ghastly, and heaven is none of those things!

The cemetery was really quite beautiful. Naturally, you can only think of it that way if you’re not lying there yourself. More paper rustles there than in the literary world. But a literary season really is nothing but the opening of a new cemetery. When a hundred thousand new publications are put on display in Frankfurt, it’s like a hundred thousand newly-opened graves, with paper wreaths, everything rustles there. It can’t be helped.

The ladies are talking about fish soup. I’ve always been absolutely horrified by fish soup. And seafood [in general], it’s all a horror. You can’t eat any of that anymore nowadays. It’s all poisoned.

Lettuce salad, mixed grilled. None of that sounds like anything you’d embrace.

So you do have something to embrace?

I have nothing to embrace literally, with my arms.

Love is everything. Love is capable of everything. Because everything that exists in the world can be loved by someone. And so love comprises everything. Next to the word truth it’s something completely different, and that’s not exactly OK. You can’t write a description of love. You can’t write a report on love. You can only write the word love, but you can’t write a description of love. It really is a very simple statement. They just don’t know how to describe love. Not even in cheap romantic films, where love isn’t described at all, but only kitschified. When you describe love, it’s a kitschification. Because love is everything, practically, right? When I look at you, it’s love, right? When I look away from you, it’s love also. When I look at the tree, it’s love, right?

5. Religion

I am very religious, but without any beliefs. In any case, religion has no connection to belief. That’s only the case in proper religions with official charters. In officially chartered religions, they have dealings with belief. But I’ve found it to be absolutely unnecessary. I have no need to be called up as a number. There’s your licensed Lord Thy God for you, right? There's absolutely no need for it. When I was a young boy and a catholic, everyone went to communion, and especially to confession. And every time I entered the confessional box I would go in my pants. Out of panic, in the presence of Almighty God, because I thought, "He sees everything right now and is observing what's going on here." And I was afraid in the presence of the sacred. And every time I knelt down I was already wet all over. And then I was terribly embarrassed because naturally all around me there was, to be sure, an enormous amount of laughter. And then I thought, "This is for God's sake, for God who is now behind me, who sees what this dreadful event has set in motion." All of that had repercussions. Inasmuch as I was supposed to go very far thanks to the church, but, unfortunately, I couldn't, because it was too pee-shy to get me there. It has a human life on its conscience. The church, logically, has its confession booth to thank for having made me go pee. These are dreadful repercussions indeed. The threat of hell and all that to a young child. I’m very grateful, the earlier you’re confronted with abominations, the better it is for you, no? Because you arm yourself, so to speak. You get stronger and stronger. Wherever you get a thrashing you’re stronger afterwards. Scars don’t tear [anymore]. It’s all very much to the good.

Childhood is not only perpetually intimidating, but also [perpetual] intimidation. Children intimidate parents much more than parents [intimidate] children, because children are much more cunning than parents. Parents, even young parents, are pretty much already ossified because the process of ossification begins at twenty. Children are completely raw, they have these veins, and there are no blockages in them, and everything flows through them, and throughout them, like magic. That’s why children see much clearer. Adults live only in their imaginations and children live for real, that’s the difference. Beginning at twenty you live for the most part only in your imagination. You actually live only from books, from what you’ve learned, what’s been told to you. At bottom, people over twenty live from literature, for the most part no longer from reality.

Where there’s power, corruption flourishes, logically. This is why people who have power are once again deprived of their power as quickly as possible. At the moment when they establish themselves it’s like ivy on a tree. A creeping vine. And if you picture to yourself the state as a tree, that isn’t the sort of government that fosters growth; rather, it stifles it. It’s like that everywhere. Even in a country like ours the individualists are either completely isolated and hence pulverized and rendered harmless, [or declared to] the norm, and you’re free of them. Whether black or red, politicians are always the same riff-raff. Unmusical, businesslike, always abominable, in fact. They only work with hypocrisy, just like the church. And every small-time politician from his churchgoing childhood Sundays onward shows how much you need to go in order to go far. Because every small-town priest demonstrates this to his congregation, when he’s playing the hypocrite to the hilt and acting all sanctimonious, hence outright falsehood and sanctimoniousness: that was what I was first confronted with in church. With histrionics. Maybe it’s not such a negative thing. People need it, so maybe it’s of some use after all. There are indeed millions who are completely helpless without church. It’s like tearing pornographic magazines out of the hands of young people when you confiscate prayer books from the elderly. The way that young people look at naked women and men, old people look at Christ on the Cross. [Who’s] also a centerfold of sorts. One that's lasted for the longest time, up until the present, and with the hugest circulation. My first confrontation with sanctimoniousness was in church, as a child. And every couple of years, I go into a church. But whether because of faith, or because of religious reasons, or just because everything in general is interesting to me, what's going on in there leads me on. So I go into the church, to see what's going on in church.

6. Pope Thomas I

I'd like to be pope. I'd automatically say yes to that. But I worry that there won't be another pope in my lifetime. "Poet" titles are completely out of the question for me. Neither the Duke of Poetry nor the Count of Poetry nor the Baron of Poetry, nor a Poet Plain and Grandly Simple, none of those matter. No--I want to be a proper pope, the true pope. Has there ever actually been a Pope Thomas? No? Then I'll just stick to my own first name: Pope Thomas I.
And the the papal palace, which has always greatly impressed me, is a very simple, building, quite musty up to the second story, hence quite idiotically constructed. And at the back of the palace lives a carpenter. Really! Who doesn’t live there but in a house added directly on to Castle Gandolfo. I always used to think that is isolated and [into the bargain/on purpose] there is the church naturally very [refined/cunning] there the carpenter has his house. And there are hanging, as I was walking by, 15 years ago or something like that, John might still have been [pope] then, downstairs the pope’s underpants were hanging on a clothesline. Behind that was a little railing where the carpenter had hung the carpenter’s underpants. Even underpants, because it’s a very raw climate there, and so they wear long underpants even in the fall. And that made a tremendous impression on me, that the underpants of the pope and of the little carpenter of Castle Gandolfo, who was probably the coffin-maker there, that they were fluttering in the breeze right next to each other. Then I thought that the church, if you take a closer look at it, has always been unrivalled in point of sheer finesse. Which here they’ve put into effect once again. On the one hand [they’re] aristocratic, aloof, grandiose, stately, and yet again they’re [always] pulling in everything they can get on any kind of familiar terms with, completely consciously, in architecture also, as in this case.

The pope and the carpenter. There’s an opera, Czar and Carpenter. A sequel could be written to it. The Pope and the Carpenter, and in the first act, when the curtain rises, the underpants of the pope and of the carpenter are fluttering in the sunshine.

Everything that’s in the world is really a play, right? The pope is really also a great actor. Independent of the fact that he’s committed a vulgar play to memory, he’s also one of the greatest interpreters. The pope and Ronald Reagan and Brezhnev, it’s the same with Bronner, Farkas, and Wehle on a lower level, but at bottom it’s all a kind of cabaret that occasionally degenerates into great theater. But then, insufferably, it occasionally has to shrink [back] down into a cabaret. And there the high and mighty act very nicely as an ensemble. Today it’s Carter, Reagan and Woytila and then it was Il Duce and Hitler and Franco. Every age has its various leading actors. And then once in a while Eva Peron or whoever comes along. The same with Liz Taylor on the world stage. That’s no different either. It’s not for nothing that they call it a world stage, this thing that makes absolutely no sense. It’s all one big theater. Then the villain Khomeni—from stage right, right?—enters. And little Kreisky from downstage, who says, “The horses are saddled.” But it’s all very amusing.

Your role?

Well, of course I don’t appear at all onstage in the theater of the world. So [my role is] somewhere up above, at the gridiron. You can’t even raise one of the backcloths on your own, but millions or billions of people are pulling on it, right? And so somehow or other the background changes. But this pair of characters in front of it keep performing their parlor drama. And Dignity Personified is portrayed by the pope, right?—with his white gown. And the undetectables [i.e., extras?--DR]—most of them come from the East. And so the Red, the Darks, the Frightened, no? There’s Brezhnev for the time being, already badly beaten up by old age. Then somehow or other the clowns. Everything that exists. So Helmut Schmidt’s one of them, or isn’t he? Next, it’s [the hero’s] boon companions, young comrades who enter, [his] fat cousins. It’s a version of the Everyman play. And the stage is so smooth and round, like the globe. At bottom, when you open up a newspaper, you see the play. That’s why newspapers are so marvelous, the curtain rises every day in them.

7. All Theater

The main reason why I don’t go to the theater, [is] because most ladies who sit near you have hairspray in their hair, and when that mixes with sweat it’s unbearable within a four or five square-meter radius. You simply can’t put up with that for two hours. And Bayreuth, which lasts for six or seven hours, is altogether unbearable, right? Because they all spray themselves with this stuff, and on top of that in the theater you’ve got the vapor of the footlights and the dryness. It’s an incredible stench, genuinely unbearable. The more feathered-up the hairdos at the theater are, the more intolerable theater-going is.
Only in Vienna are there no scourges [i.e., hostile theater-goers or critics?--DR]! It’s because the actors in Vienna are unused to scourges that they’re so bad, right? You only have to go into the theater in Vienna, only retirees act there. At thirty they're already claiming a retirement pension. And the young actors are actually already retirees. Not on the beach at Mallorca but at Ringstrasse Beach, that’s where they act on the stage of the Burgtheater. Even the youngest little girls and boys. Very talented, but unfortunately they already have the retiree’s gait, and they know exactly what they’ve got to get hold of in numerical terms, because even the stage actors’ union stands behind them. And thus [they] put on the worst theater in the world.

Isn't that a bit of an exaggeration?

A prejudice, even. You see, that's the way it is! It's all exaggeration. But without exaggeration you can't say a single thing. Because even if you simply raise your voice, it's an exaggeration, because what are you raising your voice for? If you say anything whatsoever, it's already an exaggeration. Even if you simply say, "I don't want to exaggerate," it's still an exaggeration.

I always beat time down there with my toes when I'm speaking up here. Haven't you ever noticed? Naturally, you can hardly keep your mind on your foot and your mouth at the same time. For me [the one] is perfectly contrapuntal to [the other]. I have to do this, because I'm a musical person. I beat time to everything I say, my time with my feet. You simply can't do this when you're lying in an operating room and strapped down, right? But you're also not so talkative there. Haven't you heard it? The time-beating down under? All right, I have to be musical. I've already said that. When I can hardly speak a word, without giving time with my toes, I have to be musical. It’s become part and parcel not only of my flesh and blood, but also of my hand and foot, right? I do it with my thumbs as well. But that’s a quirk of mine [.] Look: ‘Ei’ is always with the thumbs apart, [for] ‘O’ I close [them]. You learn that in your foreign language classes. O—that goes down, ‘Ei’ and ‘I’ is up. But you don’t see what the foot’s doing with that. It’s holding the whole thing together. The same way with everything I say…has something symphonic about it: always. Don’t you think so?
Supposedly everybody dies with music in their heads, I once heard. When everything’s gone for good, mind, people, memories, there’s always still music. And when a person’s clinically dead—[it’s even been] proved, you know what that means, “clinically dead”?—there’s still music in him. First and foremost the maggots come then and keep the music going. They come first into the corner of the eye. How many players there are in that orchestra!—on this person who’s already been dead how long, right? Because the first maggot hops in there, into the corner of the eye, already at the first second of death. But it can’t precisely be ascertained whether [it’s] the left or the right one. And that’s the crux of the problem for the coroner, because they’re still quarrelling today about that, about whether the first maggot springs into the left or the right corner of the eye. And there are symposia on it, that’s very fashionable nowadays, there are these Symposia on the Corner of the Eye.
I’ve been trying the whole time to be serious. Since I’ve been [here], for 14 days I’ve been trying to be genuinely serious. And in fact I am serious. I’m totally serious, actually. The totality of seriousness. But you look at me like that, and somehow my seriousness…slips into unseriousness. So I suffer, right? Because I’m only happy when I’m serious. But this happiness, in fact my greatest, right?—you follow me, right? Only with your Palma-glance, right? I love seriousness. Not the serious master, but seriousness as master. An Austrian master, not the German master. Again, it’s death. It’s always the shadow of death that always accompanies me, and I love it because it guarantees me seriousness, right? Death for me is like a train. One that I pull behind me whenever I’m walking. That is to say, I don’t pull it, it clings to me, and I draw it along behind me. Unfortunately, again, that’s not serious. You rob me of my seriousness.
I generally don’t think about death, but death is constantly thinking about me. When should I carry him home [/will I be carried home]? That’s of course from an entirely different perspective. But I go home so unwillingly. To go home is the same thing as to die, and so to be dead [Totsein] is to be at home, to be dead [tot sein]. Pascal has already said this. When you’re at home, you’re dead. Eternal rest, eternal at-homeness, is death. That’s why I travel home so unwillingly. Because I have the feeling that when I get home, he’ll be standing there with his black hand, and I enter the doorway and I always see him, when I enter the doorway at my house, this hand of Curd Jürgens. That’s an actor, you know him. Death in Salzburg with those skeleton fingers. And I enter and then, “Cr-r-r-a-a-ck!” I feel this constant pressure here. Because of that I also have, if you look closely, a sunken shoulder here, because of this pressure of death. It can’t be taken away from me, or operated away either, at bottom. It’s my fear, which sits on my right shoulder. Like the bird of death, which has taken a permanent perch there. What I meant [can] also be put very seriously. If you simply say “death” instead of “bird of death.” Meager concepts that you can [reduce] with a single word to a cup of coffee, although, yet again, that’s not serious, right? Because if you can compare death to a cup of coffee, it’s again not entirely serious, although naturally you can compare everything to everything.
8. Truth
They’re absolutely right when they refer to a truth as a falsehood and when they refer to a falsehood as a truth, truth and falsehood really do play the leading role in the world’s law-court. And with their [i.e., philosophers’{?}] point of view they never get through it. A philosopher has nothing to testify before a court of law. Because for philosophers the judge is an envious little man, under a heavy—the cheapest possible, but still heavy—black cowl. And who hates everything apart from himself because everything depresses him. So they [i.e., philosophers {?}] don’t get very far. And if he has a sore throat, well then, they get an extra year; if he has a headache, they get two extra years; if he’s got cancer, they get a life sentence, because he’s so hopping mad. And if he’s in a good mood, then they get off with the minimum sentence. But because all judges are always in a bad mood, and I’ve never seen a judge in a good mood, it’s almost always the maximum sentence. Because they’re all suffering from cancer, because their wives are always putting it into their heads that “Just you wait and see, you’ll come down with cancer.” It’s the ruination of the world.
There really are only prejudices. My judgment can only be a pre-judgment. There are at bottom only prejudices, because even judges who pass incontestable sentences are at bottom only prejudices. A judgment is really no such thing. I mean, you’re continually passing judgment on people and circumstances as judgments, but they’re all only prejudices. Alas! Alas! Alas! And so you’re always prejudging the entire world, and it’s only a prejudice.
You can exchange everything. That’s the allure or the magnitude of nature. There’s drama there, there are generally people there, so that you aren’t fixed to [a certain] idea just because of upbringing and bad education and, above all, literature, but rather, nailed down to ideas. Everyone has nailed-down ideas in their brain and so they’re constantly raving at [/tearing through] their surroundings. That’s the real drama of the world, right? Writers are [especially] like this. Everywhere nails and ideas. Death, life, love, chastity, lechery [/lust], all of that. That’s the real drama. Here, some cross their fingers, and I hold my tongue.
Oh yes! I forgot about that. The immortal remains, naturally. I forgot about my immortality just now. That’s true. That sets my mind at rest, time and again, because I know I am, after all, immortal. Right?
And how!


Translation Unauthorized but © 2008 by Douglas Robertson

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