Saturday, March 05, 2011

A Translation of Elisabeth II by Thomas Bernhard

(For a PDF version of this translation, go to The Worldview Annex)


Elizabeth II
No Comedy

God save the Queen

HERRENSTEIN, an industrial magnate
RICHARD, his servant
DOCTOR GUGGENHEIM, a neighbor
FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER, the housekeeper
VIKTOR, Herrenstein's nephew
COUNT NEUTZ
COUNTESS GUDENUS
THE LADY IN THE RED HAT
THE ONE LADY
THE OTHER LADY
HERR HOLZINGER, a manager at Herrenstein's firm
Several servant girls
At least twenty ladies and gentlemen, all of them, including Doctor Guggenheim and Countess Gudenus, dressed in black

A high-class drawing-room dating from the turn of the century
Sparsely furnished
Upstage and center, a pair of double doors leading to a balcony
stage left and right a window
In the left side-scene two doors
In the right side-scene a window
A grandfather clock
A music-box
The Opernring, third floor
Muted crowd noise coming from the street

Scene I

7:30 AM.
Richard is pushing Herrenstein, dressed in a black suit and sitting in a wheelchair, towards the window at stage right

HERRENSTEIN, with prosthetic legs, after a fairly long pause
I've forgotten my teeth
Richard walks upstage and fetches the teeth

HERRENSTEIN
I can't see a thing
After trying to turn round
These horrible people
[That I have been unable to do without]
Richard returns with a tray on which Herrenstein's dentures lie
Herrenstein picks up the dentures and places them in his mouth
Richard hands him a black cane with a silver handle

HERRENSTEIN
I see less and less every day
Richard pushes Herrenstein closer to the window

HERRENSTEIN stretches forward and falls back exhausted
I can hardly breathe
Everything causes me pain
and moreover everything is odious to me
Did you say that Doctor Friedlander
was definitely coming today
tomorrow we shan't any longer exist
How many people are coming to this occasion of horror anyway

RICHARD
Twenty or thirty according to your nephew

HERRENSTEIN
What a revolting individual
At bottom I have always hated Viktor
We wake up
and see nothing but beastliness
Beastliness and feebleness

RICHARD
Fräulein Zallinger is already back from the city

HERRENSTEIN
You read to me too loudly Richard
Louder I always say
but that doesn't mean loud
In Badgastein you also read too loudly to me
To be sure this climate is lethal
But you remonstrated with me
Doctor Friedlander also remonstrated with me
For you Badgastein is lethal you said
lethal you said verbatim
but for that very reason I was fascinated
because you said lethal
Doctor Friedländer also remonstrated with me
but precisely because you and Doctor Friedländer
remonstrated with me
I was possessed by the idea of traveling there
It would have well-nigh been the death of me
People with defective hearts catch their death in Badgastein
but also in Bad Hall
it is even worse for the likes of me
indicates to Richard that he would like to be even closer to the window
Richard pushes Herrenstein even closer to the window
No sooner are we born
than we flee from death
the whole of humanity is merely running away from death
nauseating
the masses are nauseating
[but woe betide us if we deny them]
they trample us underfoot
Do you really believe
that the Altausse does me good
I have always hated the Altaussee
those old houses those old people
everything musty and moldered
everything dank
when we climb into bed it is a dank bed we climb into
I have always felt as though I were being strangled at Altaussee
I have never understood at all why there are people
who voluntarily settle at Altaussee
Writers composers actors
The lot of this riffraff have been buying property there
since before the turn of the century
No sooner do people have money
than they buy themselves those abominable old houses
and demean themselves in the company of butchers and lumberjacks
In the mountains I get no air
What are we doing in Altaussee
we enjoy no variety whatsoever there
No I shall not go to Altaussee
merely because your aunt lives there
tries to look out the window
It's all overcast
It's overcast anyhow today

RICHARD
It's a sunny day

HERRENSTEIN
I can hardly see anything
I can hardly hear anything and I can hardly see anything
but I have got used to this condition
I shall never see these people
Exit Richard

HERRENSTEIN
and once again they are all coming here
an appalling thought
but I cannot refuse
to receive them
then again it is an opportunity
to shake hands with them
and have done with them for years
But they have never done anything but form designs on my life's work
even the oldest of them speculate on it incessantly
I have unequivocally told you
that I shall bequeath nothing to these people
Enter Richard with some newspapers, which he sets down
next to Herrenstein
My relatives have always repelled me
ever more with each passing year
indicates that he would like to be away from the window
It has become apparent
that all these people are worthless
we follow them and observe them
and discern their worthlessness
Richard pushes Herrenstein into the middle of the room
I cannot say
that I could have ever loved a single one
of my relatives
I have never been able to summon up
even the faintest trace of sympathy for any of my relatives
that is the truth
When we take away their hypocrisy
nothing is left of these people
but their loathsomeness
it makes no difference to me
that I am hated
I have become accustomed
to the hatred of other people
In Badgastgein I did not sleep a single night
In Badgastein my hearing is worse
and my vision is worse
but that is entirely my fault
Fräulein Zallinger enters and sets the
breakfast table for Herrenstein and Richard

HERRENSTEIN
We come to grips only with what goes
in people
and are subsequently disillusioned
But they assuredly sleep well
They are healthy
They still have life to look forward to
They are encumbered by nothing
But let them just wait till they turn sixty
and no longer have any painless nights
looks at the floor, traces circles on it with his cane
Their life is passably well-balanced
Their future is not at all mysterious
I see only filth
Everything is filthy
But the floor was polished just yesterday
shouting
isn't that so Fräulein Zallinger
the floor was polished just yesterday

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Yes of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
I see only filth
looks along the wall
I can look wherever and as deep as I wish to
I see only filth
Unbearable to think
that all these people are coming here
today of all days
a shamelessly inquisitive race the Viennese
How many are coming anyway Fräulein Zallinger

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Thirty or forty

HERRENSTEIN
An appalling thought
and this a day before our departure
Thirty or forty
Because I told two or three people
they could come here
and see Elizabeth the Second
And the occasion
is this ridiculous
But I cannot waste my time completely
with these people
I must talk myself into believing
that I shall enjoy it
I never thought any of these people
would ever come back into my house
looks around
Everything is getting dirty
Isn't it revolting
today of all days
when we have to go to Heldwein's funeral
the day before we have to go to the Semmering
I am still not entirely sure
that I shall go to the Semmering
Even when the luggage is all packed
I shall not be sure
that I am not going to some other place
perhaps I shall go to the Carpathians
to see my niece
What do you think Richard
Wouldn't that be a good idea

RICHARD
I have thought about the Carpathians Herr Herrenstein
Indeed I have even recommended the Carpathians to you

HERRENSTEIN
Recommended the Carpathians
When did you recommend the Carpathians to me
you actually mentioned the Carpathians to me
I am forgetting more and more things

Richard is about to read aloud from the newspaper, Herrenstein stops him

HERRENSTEIN
When we have forgotten everything
we have nothing left
then we are dead
we truly exist only
because we have not forgotten everything
Do you know that I have received an invitation to Toronto
I have never gotten one of those
An invitation to Toronto
These people are unaware
that I am incapable of walking
otherwise they would not have invited me to Toronto
unless they invited me
precisely because they knew
that I could not walk
Herrenstein the industrial magnate with prosthetic feet
Most likely one of those vulgar conglomerates
is behind this invitation
I have not yet taken my Lopyrin

Exit Richard to fetch the pill

HERRENSTEIN looking at the floor
I was a wax dummy
always alone
finally I leapt into the fireplace
What terrible dreams we have
most of them we forget
a wax dummy that leapt into the fireplace
into the fireplace of a poor family

Reenter Richard with the pill on a tray and a glass of water
Herrenstein takes the pill and drinks a sip of water
Richard takes the glass and hands it to Fräulein Zallinger

HERRENSTEIN
I dreamt
I was a wax dummy
that suddenly leapt into a blazing fireplace
into a poor family's fireplace
is it not ridiculous
the things we confront ourselves with
Do you ever have such terrible dreams

RICHARD
I can't say as I do Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
So you have good dreams

RICHARD
Not terrible ones
not good ones
but not terrible ones either

Herrenstein indicates that he wishes to be pushed back to the window
Richard pushes him to the window

HERRENSTEIN
The solution is
quite simply to be constantly turning round again all of a sudden
and to walk farther
I say that here of all places
In Rome I thought
I could stand up on my own
I thought I did not need you
I tried to stand up
and promptly fell out of bed
it was no accident
it was an act of vengeance against my resolution

Richard is about to read aloud from the newspaper and Herrenstein indicates that he must not

HERRENSTEIN
That was a time when I was trying to be independent of you
but my attempt miscarried
You know of course that I was laid up
for days on end with those horrible back pains
It is not right for a completely immobile cripple
to take up lodging
in that place of all places
simply because he is used to it
always once again staying at the Hassler
in the final analysis the Hassler is quite simply a loathsome hotel
I haven't the faintest idea why I am always once again saying
the Hassler is lovely
I hate the sight of the Spanish steps
more than anything else
Rome is no longer an option
Lisbon today is like Rome
thirty years ago
we shall visit it as soon as possible
I love that town
Has it never struck you
that in no other place in the world are there so many cripples roaming around
as in Lisbon
on every street corner a face overgrown with cancer
withered noses corroded ears
in Lisbon diseases reign supreme
it fascinates me in all likelihood
Do you call it perversity Richard
I am attracted to corporeal deformities
simultaneously to this city's beauty
and to its mass of corporeal deformities
but naturally there are just as many beautiful people in Lisbon
proportionately you see more of them there than in other large European cities
Way back when I was a very young man
about fifteen years before my unfortunate accident
I took two rooms in the Avenida Palace
to have some peace and quiet
an empty room as a buffer so to speak against the vulgarity of the rest of the world
From wall to wall I will have nothing to do with the company of strange people
the older I get the less I will have to do with them 
 
FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER who meanwhile has set the breakfast table
Can I bring in the tea now

HERRENSTEN
Yes of course bring in the tea

Exit Fräulein Zallinger

HERRENSTEIN
It makes no sense
that I no longer desire anything of the world
I said that more or less without thinking yesterday
I desire so many things so strongly of it Richard
traces circles on the floor with his cane
There are two countries I still wish to visit
I wish to go to England
and I wish to go to Portugal
and naturally to Poland my absolutely favorite country
I was never happier than in Poland
no one understands that
People shake their heads even if they are not shaking their heads
they shake them interminably whenever I rave about Poland
but of course I was in Poland not long ago
When were we last in Poland anyway

RICHARD
Two years ago

HERRENSTEIN
Two years ago
it seems like an eternity to me

Fräulein Zallinger brings in the tea, Herrenstein is conveyed by Richard to the breakfast table

HERRENSTEIN
Always again a higher stage of life
my father always said
what ever did he mean by that
probably as near as I can tell he meant
that man's sole and general misfortune
was that he had been born to begin with
we always pose the most inane questions
we ourselves are also inane
consummately inane
crippled and inane
everyone is crippled and inane
corporeally and spiritually crippled and inane
without exception

Richard sits down opposite Herrenstein, they breakfast, Fräulein Zallinger remains stationed at the door

HERRENSTEIN
It is inane thoughts alone that are ever uttered
They are never anything other than the utterances of a cripple
be a thought ever so well thought
it is nonetheless a crippled thought
be an utterance ever so well worded
it is nonetheless a crippled utterance
ties a napkin around his neck
the entire world is riddled with inanity
the entire world is crippled
but naturally there are skillful cripples
skillful cripples
continuing to eat his breakfast with Richard
Have you never given any thought to an artist's existence
I once wanted to be an actor
but I foundered miserably
I am incapable of memorizing two lines in succession
quite apart from the fact that my father would never have allowed
his son to be a practicing mimic
To be a mimic was the nadir of contemptibility
from then onwards he used the word mimic
whenever he wished to speak of something with the utmost contempt
Have you never been tempted
To become an artist
everyone throngs to the stage
everyone wants to be behind the podium
simply because it is a podium
Thespianizing concertizing intellectualizing
they all throng to such activities
I imagine you would make a great actor
You are a veritable director's goldmine
a director could work wonders with you
You could play a king or a coal miner
You have all the makings
of a great actor
now of course it is too late
A thespian career must be embarked on at a fairly early point in life
not as in ballet when one is four or five years old
but at any rate at the age of sixteen or seventeen
And yet I have always been revolted by the acting métier
whenever a heap of blockheads come running towards each other on the stage
Your very voice is an actor's voice
Have you really never given any thought to joining the circus

RICHARD
Never

HERRENSTEIN
As a veritable tot
I got the idea of joining the circus
like my mother
who ran off all the way to Hungary
with a gipsy circus
she was four years old at the time
A district attorney from Budapest
brought her back to Vienna
for three months everybody had assumed she was dead
But everybody has a hankering to be on stage
a hankering for depravity

RICHARD
I have never felt such a hankering

HERRENSTEIN
You are a reflective individual Richard
controlled disciplined
that sets you apart
you are dependability personified
You are completely un-Austrian
on the other hand you have nothing German about you
if you had you wouldn't be here either
you are a singular individual
your greatest asset is
that you have nothing about you of the contrarian
Twenty-five years in the service of the Herrensteins
I personally shudder at the very thought of it
but it doesn't depress you
You are consistently good-humored
averting your gaze from [countless] trivial risible occasions [for being depressed]
To be sure you also have a kind of father to rely on in me
You are the only person I can put up with
I cannot say why
[but] it is [a] fact my dear Richard
to Fräulein Zallinger
Be honest Fräulein Zallinger
where would you like to travel to
to Semmering or to Altaussee

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
To Altaussee Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
You are all alike
wanting to go to that perverse artists' hole
where death lies in ambush
or at least deathly boredom
In any case I have not yet made up my mind
in the end it is all the same
where I travel to
the main thing is to get away from Vienna
this city is getting more and more unbearable
I hate Vienna and I hate the Viennese
What is playing at the opera today anyway

RICHARD
Andrea Chénier

HERRENSTEIN
That loathsome Giordano
whom I am related to by the way
in three respects
in any case any niece of Giordano's
is also my niece
I find it all too complicated
I no longer go to the opera as readily as I used to
but I would sooner go there than to the Burgtheater
they say there is a new director there
but he is a charlatan just like the rest of them
the Germans come here like a breath of fresh air
and before you know it it's the gaping void all over again
the boring gaping void
How many directors of the Burgtheater
have I already outlived
and at bottom nothing has changed
these perverse play-annihilating machines
the new faces in no time flat become the old faces
and the new spirit becomes the spirit of the day before yesterday
that house has been termite-eaten from time immemorial
crying out
It is in this very thing that the allure of the Burgtheater consists
the fact that it has been termite-eaten from time immemorial
and will remain termite-eaten until the end of time
Every attempt to clear the Burgtheater of deadwood
leads simply to an orgy of dry-rot
I am sick of actors
I would much rather listen to the bone-headed vocalists
in a Mozart opera
When will they next be putting on Così fan tutte anyway

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Shall I find out

HERRENSTEIN
Yes please find out Fräulein Zallinger
the only thing about the opera I ever really liked

Exit Fräulein Zallinger

HERRENSTEIN
was Così fan tutte
I don't care who is conducting
that is music you simply cannot ruin
everything else is simply and invariably atrocious
The nice thing is
that it is only a couple of steps from here to the opera
it would really be too much for me
to have to travel any great distance just to see an opera
I would never be able to stand that
Basically Richard just pushes me across the street
more or less right across the street
to Mozart and Wagner
But I cannot go see Così fan tutte every week

Reenter Fräulein Zallinger with the Press

HERRENSTEIN
When is Così fan tutte?

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Today it's Un ballo in maschera

HERRENSTEIN
Awful
I don't care for Verdi
earwise these Italian tearjerkers
are good for nothing but besmirching one's auditory canal
I go only to Mozart operas
which also bore me
but at the highest level
and to Wagner
When is Così fan tutte going to be on next

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
It is not even mentioned in the listings

HERRENSTEIN
That is just what you would expect of these morons
not putting on
Così fan tutte
the only opera in history worth anything at all
 Andrea Chénier
that piece of sentimental heroic kitsch
to Richard
But you too are no devotee
of Giordano and Company
who positively ooze mendacity
Do you like Giordano or not

RICHARD
Of course not Herr Herrenstein
of course not

HERRENSTEIN
It is unbearable
when you are constantly saying of course not
There are days when you say nothing else
to Fräulein Zallinger
Fräulein Zallinger
you believe the Altaussee is good for me
You have no idea
how bad it is for me
In and of itself the Viennese climate is just fine
on the other hand my condition is getting worse with each passing day
the best air is in the Semmering
at Altaussee I always see the same people
the old countesses who get on my nerves
and their senile husbands and [husbanders]
In the Semmering I never come into contact
with that riffraff
on the other hand isolation is also hell
Do you even know who is actually coming here today
Still I have missed the Queen of England
Because I told my nephew
he could come
forty people are now coming
people who have no excuse for being here at all
looks around
the bad air emitted by these people
is death to me
bright and early today
I had a colossal craving for literature
now once again it has vanished completely
Where did we leave off Elective Affinities anyway

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
In the dining room

HERRENSTEIN to Richard
In the dining room how absurd
things have come to such a pass
that you are reading Elective Affinities to me in the dining room
and also still leaving the book there
absurd absurd
You left them Richard
Until half-past three in the morning you read me Tolstoy Richard
a completely abortive attempt at diversion
today would have been just the day for Elective Affinities
I believe I have by now heard you read Elective Affinities
a full dozen times
this is of course an exercise in feeble-mindedness
but for the purposes of driving away boredom
an ideal style of declamation
with neither an especially ingenious pronunciation
nor an inane one
a reading that absolutely enters both ears
I have spoken only with a soporific accent until now
To Richard
you to be sure do not read
you lucky man
Goethe has not yet spoiled the world for you
gradually he has made the world loathsome to me
on the whole I have made the world into a much darker place for myself through literature
and yet there passes not a week
in which you do not read at least one book to me
and I do not bore myself to death by means of your reading
but I am more at ease with this deadly boredom
than without it
Exit Fräulein Zallinger

RICHARD
May I bring it to your attention
that Herr Holzinger will be arriving shortly

HERRENSTEIN
What he's
coming here today

RICHARD
You ordered him to come here at eleven

HERRENSTEIN
I have no recollection of having done that

RICHARD
But I told you that on Saturday the Queen of England would be coming
On Saturday I said
the Queen of England will be coming
and so you will not be able to receive a visit from Herr Holzinger

HERRENSTEIN
Did you say that
You said it
You

RICHARD
I said on Saturday the Queen of England is coming
and so Herr Holzinger can't come

HERRENSTEIN
And I didn't listen to you
I actually didn't listen to you
this is a genuine catastrophe
indicates to Richard that he wishes him to convey him away from the breakfast table and to the window at stage right, and throws his napkin on to the table
I did not prick up my ears
You said that
And I did not prick up my ears
Richard conveys Herrenstein to the window at stage right

HERRENSTEIN looks out the window
You say it's completely clear

RICHARD
A clear day

HERRENSTEIN
Everything looks cloudy to me
I shall never again see a clear day
and from three in the afternoon onwards I am also extremely hard of hearing
When is the Queen coming anyway

RICHARD
At about twelve according to Fräulein Zallinger

HERRENSTEIN
At about twelve
and at eleven Herr Holzinger is coming
I can't tell you how much that man disgusts me
the way he speaks
and what he says
the clothes he wears
the way he moves
the way he keeps saying abrupt
he's constantly saying abrupt
and I cannot see any reason for it
an abrupt closure he says
an abrupt drop in the interest rate
People get into the habit of using some ghastly word
and never shake it as long as they live
I myself have been saying the word marvelous for years
it's absurd isn't it
but of course we can't avoid revealing our inner habits of thought to the outside world
that is it Richard
breakfast is simply stagnating in my stomach
it has done that for years
but it would make no sense to change it
the suppers behave in the same way
In the end everything gets on one's nerves
And one's nerves fall ill
But there is nothing remotely alluring about the Queen of England
or about the entire royal family
they all look equally moronic
but the people are fascinated by them
I said to my nephew
all right you can come here
[to look at her]
I have no interest in the Queen of England
People like her have never interested me
When the queen comes at around twelve
we will have completely run out of time
and I had wanted to write to Lucius
apropos of the Filipino shipment
I can also write to Lucius from the Semmering
Sixty-eight thousand gun barrels absurd
I shall not allow myself to be vexed
by the thought of them
en route to Altaussee or the Semmering
to be sure it makes no difference which direction we travel
How is your aunt doing
does she still get those cramps in her legs

RICHARD
She is receiving treatment from a doctor at Bad Ischler

HERRENSTEIN
From a doctor at Bad Ischler
but the doctors at Bad Ischler are considered
the worst doctors of all
who kill all their patients on account of some trifle
how old is your aunt anyway

RICHARD
Eighty-seven

HERRENSTEIN
Exactly my age
but if she is active

RICHARD
She [climbed] Mount Katrin a year ago

HERRENSTEIN
You don't say
I would no longer have been able to do that by the age of twenty
But Bad Ischl is loathsome
the people sit in their houses and freeze
and whenever they leave the house they go
to Zauner's pastry shop  
one of the absolutely most tasteless pastry shops of our time
the more egregiously tasteless anything in the Salzkammergut is
the more popular it is
On the whole people who holiday in the Salzkammergut are the most tasteless of all holiday-makers
How does your aunt support herself anyway

RICHARD
She has an annuity

HERRENSTEIN
An annuity
from what

RICHARD
From her husband
who was a tanner

HERRENSTEIN
Tanning tanning
that is a dying trade
nothing stinks more gruesomely than a tannery
but without tanners we would have no lederhosen

RICHARD
She gets two-and-a-half thousand schillings

HERRENSTEIN
That's life for you
that's life
it will always be thus
Have you raised the curtains   

RICHARD
Of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Everything looks cloudy to me
And it's completely clear you say

RICHARD
A completely clear day Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
The proper sort of day for the Queen of England
I don't care for these people
Burberry and Greenfell mannequins
with their stupid smirks
whether they turn up with heads of state
or with their dogs
it is always the same
the whole brood is abominable
But you have been to England several times Richard

RICHARD
Seven times

HERRENSTEIN
At bottom you are well-traveled
possibly better-traveled than me
I have not been to England seven times
I have been to England only twice
not counting two trips to Scotland
the Hebrides are quite fascinating
fascinating rugged rocks

RICHARD
I have also been to Ireland

HERRENSTEIN
Northern Ireland

RICHARD
Northern Ireland and Ireland
and to Wales

HERRENSTEIN
Anyhow it is easy to see
that you have been very often to England and Ireland
What drew you there so frequently anyway

RICHARD
Friends

HERRENSTEIN
Friends
I haven't even got any friends in England
Upstage Fräulein Zallinger is carrying in a table

HERRENSTEIN
At first we want to see everything
then suddenly we no longer want to
but I have always had a hankering for travel
even with these difficulties
An Austrian-wheelchair fate Richard
looks out the window
Don't offer Herr Holzinger so much as
a sip of liquor
these people think
they have to drain their glass
they won't leave before that
I want this man to clear off back to where he came from straightaway
hypocritical creatures the lot of them
but they are necessary to us
without them everything would have come to pieces ages ago
That is the system
a man who holds everything together
and a line of such creatures
who are governed by this man become unscrupulous
more or less
but who is not unscrupulous
to be sure we no longer give a thought to money or property
it has been decades since that was a preoccupation
our actions are habitual
we must keep people on a short leash
and greet them with supreme affability
and tell them that they are indispensable
and all the while menace them with the threat of being sacked
having caught sight of [the reflection of] of Fräulein Zallinger carrying  in the table in the window, exclaims
Fräulein Zallinger
what ever are you doing
why are you carrying that table in here
Richard turns the wheelchair and Herrenstein slightly
HERRENSTEIN
What is going on here

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
It's for the buffet Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
What buffet

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
For the guests

HERRENSTEIN
That's just terrible
the fact that we go so far as to prepare a buffet
for these people
I only hope it isn't from Demel

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
It was all done here Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
People will come here
nevertheless and wolf the whole thing down
The fact that I have invited all these people
is pure insanity
In fact it wasn't I who invited them
They invited themselves
Only my nephew I thought only my nephew
and now forty people are coming
by the end even more than forty will have come

Exit Fräulein Zallinger

RICHARD
Is there even room for forty people here

HERRENSTEIN
I was wondering the same thing
A person
who lives alone throughout the year
only with you Richard
more or less only with you
Fräulein Zallinger of course doesn't count
nobody else counts
and suddenly forty people show up
The Viennese are so off-puttingly inquisitive
They congregate in the hundreds of thousands
to see a monkey walk down the Mariahilferstrasse
they are completely undiscriminating
Enter Fräulein Zallinger with a second table
which she joins to the first
And all this
on the day on whose afternoon we still have to go to the funeral of Heldwein
the late jeweler
we submit even to such an absurdity as that
Köchert Heldwein Fischmeister
they are all dead now
the Viennese jewelers have died out
of course their sons don't count
their sons are worthless
It is monstrous Richard
that we actually stoop to associating with jewelers
At bottom on every day of this season someone whom we know
has died
and so we have had to keep running to the cemetery
on the other hand I have ascertained
that I look best in my mourning suit
do you know Richard
I am a mourning-suit enthusiast
don't you think that it's too much in one day for me
the Queen of England
and all these people
and on top of that Heldwein the jeweler
and on top of that Herr Holzinger
to be sure I could still cancel my appointment with Herr Holzinger
but then I shall have to receive him tomorrow
observing Fräulein Zallinger
Why ever are you dragging that table in here all by yourself
you have girls to help you with that
what is keeping them from here

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
There's no point in bothering them
this is no trouble for me

HERRENSTEIN
All right but don't you be the one to drag it back out
let the girls do some work
it's what they are here for after all

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Yes of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
How many tables do you still have to carry in here anyway

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
We need five tables for the buffet

HERRENSTEIN to Richard
Don't large gatherings of people disgust you
does it really not bother you
so many people in one place

RICHARD
Of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
It is not normal
to be revolted by the masses
people love to flock together
they all strive constantly to be together with each other
I have always wished to be away from everybody
to get away from everybody
that is doubtless my curse
To Fräulein Zallinger
You are wrecking your spinal column Fräulein Zallinger
You will see that you are wrecking it
can't we hear some music
something classical Richard
Fräulein Zallinger would this not be a good time
to listen to music
Fräulein Zallinger starts the music-box.  Two measures of Mozart

HERRENSTEIN cries out
No artificial music
You must play
play something for us why don't you Fräulein Zallinger
a short little classical piece
You play Chopin so beautifully
Fräulein Zallinger stops the music-box

HERRENSTEIN
But it has easily been a year
since you have played anything
I don't know why you don't play the piano more often
all of a sudden you gave it up
it has easily been a year
an etude a sonata anything will do
in the Semmering we won't even have a piano
Don't act like that Fräulein Zallinger
when you are after all a trained pianist
and your father was after all a conductor
one doesn't simply renounce
such a high-compression talent overnight
now go and play
Fräulein Zallinger goes into the music room and leaves
the door half open

HERRENSTEIN
She used to play us something every day
why doesn't she play anymore
a horrible individual
And it was always so pleasant whenever she played
wasn't it Richard
Chopin Schumann
Fräulein Zallinger begins to play
a Chopin sonata

HERRENSTEIN
I don't care for the piano
it is an instrument only for people with perverse tastes
even Horowitz is unbearable
but as a stimulant as a stimulant
Breakfast has upset my stomach
Naturally she is out of practice
whatever we do not constantly practice doing
breaks down on us
In our parents' time the piano was played every afternoon
for years we had a pianist in our employ who would show up
just to play at that time of day
I never played
my brother played
I never did
Fräulein Zallinger played for twenty years
It has easily been a year
since she stopped playing
in a whisper
but she is playing very fumblingly
don't you think Richard

RICHARD
Uninspiredly Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
An abuse of high art
Not that I consider
playing the piano a form of high art
an aural time-killer yes
but not high art
there is something truly peacock-esque about the piano
shouting in the direction of the music room
That's enough Fräulein Zallinger
that's enough
Fräulein Zallinger slams shut the Bösendorfer and
emerges from the music room 



HERRENSTEIN

You aren’t playing as well as you used to
Your father was such a distinguished man
isn’t he buried in the communal cemetery in Salzburg

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Yes Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
He taught conducting at the Mozarteum

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Yes Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
An excellent man your father
How are your sisters doing anyway

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
My sisters are doing fine

HERRENSTEIN
For goodness’s sake are they not all happily married
Two girls carry in a third table and Fräulein
Zallinger helps them

HERRENSTEIN
There's nothing to it really

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Nothing to it Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Do I actually have to be here
when these people show up
when you come right down to it I don’t have to be here at all
I really am completely superfluous
Don’t you truly think Richard
that I am completely superfluous
to these sorts of affairs
And yet I really do wish to see them all
And also Guggenheim will surely come over
Guggenheim my philosophical neighbor
I was already playing with Guggenheim in the Ringstrasse when I was three years old
and also in the municipal park of course
he never should have come back from England
You can’t escape disillusionment here
the Austrians are a degenerate nation
the Austrians hate the Jews
and they most deeply hate the Jews who have re-immigrated to Austria
the Austrians have learned nothing
they have not changed in the slightest
an entire nation epitomizing a thoroughly run-down character type
I shall ask Guggenheim
to visit us in the Semmering

RICHARD
Or at Altaussee

HERRENSTEIN
I don’t think
I shall travel to that nest of Nazis
now I realize why I never get any air
at Altaussee
it has nothing to do with the mountains
it is all on account of the Nazis
that reside there in great numbers
the most scenic spots in Austria
have always attracted the greatest number of Nazis
Salzburg Gmunden Altaussee
are nothing but nests of Nazis
better to bore myself stiff in the Semmering
in Doctor Guggenheim’s company it will be bearable
Was Heldwein a Catholic?

RICHARD
Yes

HERRENSTEIN
Then of course we shall have to submit patiently to the whole
litany of Catholic procedures
nothing is more loathsome to me
than a Catholic funeral
Can I still have a glass of water
Richard fetches a glass of water and gives it to him

HERRENSTEIN drains the glass
But if we [thought] uninterruptedly about all these abominations
we should be obliged to stop living in this country altogether
a country wherein we witness
National-Socialist vulgarity and Catholic feeblemindedness
If the Queen is coming at about
Can’t we still make it to
the Döbling cemetery by three

RICHARD
The burial isn’t until half-past three

HERRENSTEIN
The people who go to jewelers’ funerals
are exactly the sort of people I can’t stand
the whole so-called high-society crowd
a veritable gaggle of countesses
Have you brushed down my heavy black [over]coat Fräulein Zallinger   

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Of course Herr Herrenstein
to Richard
We’ll take the Renault to the funeral

RICHARD
Of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Of course Herr Herrenstein
Of course Herr Herrenstein
clutches at his head
Of course Herr Herrenstein
To Fräulein Zallinger
Is it all cold food
All cold food

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Of course it’s all cold food
Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
I have practically stopped eating
I wonder why I am so thin
and I have practically stopped eating
I am suffering from a lack of appetite
I have never been keen on eating
I have never aspired to be an eater
I have always left the eating up to other people
to Richard
Your delight in eating
is astonishing
I have only ever delighted
in watching you eat
I have always thought it would imbue me likewise
with an appetite for food
but quite to the contrary
I have been gradually losing what little appetite I have
please don’t take that for an accusation Richard
But do let me get a proper view of the street
Richard pushes Herrenstein to the window giving on to the left balcony

HERRENSTEIN stretches and looks through the window
I have no idea whatsoever
why the Ringstrasse is so renowned
is it not the most hideous street in the world
nothing but pompified kitsch
the Parliament the Burg the Opera
every single one of them a gruesome case-study in architectural misdecision
a tasteless monument to the grandiosity of some building contractor
a monstrous confection of some wedding-cake baker
each one of them more abominable than the next
and yet oddly enough
we adore them en bloc
You tell me we’re enjoying clear skies today
to me they look overcast
ever since Doctor Funder died
my visual faculty has been deteriorating
a vile turn of phrase no doubt
An invalid will often wax poetic
he will lapse into kitsch with unabashed nonchalance
But suppose he happens to wander into some exquisitely-appointed garden
Why then the catastrophic fact of the matter is
that I shall no longer see anything
that I shan’t see anything ever again
or hear anything ever again
and I shall have to depend on you Richard for each and every trace of intelligence from
the outside world
Enter two girls and Fräulein Zallinger, carrying in a fourth table, setting it next to the other three, and remaining in place

HERRENSTEIN suddenly drawing himself up to his full height
Now I’d like to have my banana
Richard signals to Fräulein Zallinger to go out and fetch a banana, and Fräulein
Zallinger goes out
I think that we shall finish Elective Affinities in the Semmering
then what
Schopenhauer perhaps
or Flaubert
Nietzsche
Kleist
Exeunt the girls
HERRENSTEIN
Actually it makes absolutely no difference
what we read 
I think I shall stop reading Schopenhauer
after all we don’t have to keep reading the same things over and over
you do indeed read aloud very well Richard
as long as I can still hear you
naturally it’s uniform monotonous
someday of course I shan’t be able to hear you any longer
but probably it won’t ever come to that
Enter Fräulein Zallinger with a banana on a plate, and Herrenstein takes the banana and bites off a piece of it

HERRENSTEIN with his mouth full
But it is ridiculous to have Schopenhauer read to you
and to die
with one last sentence of Schopenhauer in your ears
or a sentence from Nietzsche
takes a large bite of the banana
or a sentence from Voltaire
The French were always my favorites
I liked the English least of all
the Russians maybe
chewing
One of Tolstoy’s
or Turgeneev’s short stories tonight Richard
chewing
Turgeneev
Turgeneev
Takes an even larger bite of the banana and chews
One of Turgeneev’s
one of Turgeneev’s Richard

Curtain


Scene Two

Half-past nine
Fräulein Zallinger and the girls are arranging the buffet trays on
five side-by-side tables covered with white tablecloths
Richard is administering a succession of  pills to Herrenstein, who is grudgingly drinking them down

RICHARD
The prescription calls for five pills on Tuesday
Four on Wednesday
Five on Thursday

HERRENSTEIN
After having swallowed half a glass of water
They say
that the Queen of England
is the richest woman in the world
but it is also alleged
that the Queen of the Netherlands
is the richest one
Most likely it is all tabloid bullshit
I have never confided a single secret to my nephew
Why do we never stop being suspicious of our nephew
and must we always be on tenterhooks in the presence of our nieces
All our lives we have nepotiphbobia and neptiphobia
Throughout my life I have had this nepotiphobia and neptiphobia
Parents invest their all in their children
and thereby ruin them
Our age is a horrible one
in that it mollycoddles nieces and nephews
To Fräulein Zallinger
Give [them] the Veltlin from the Wachau
not the other one
No port
continuing in an undertone
I can always still go to the Carpathians
hands Richard his glass
Now even the water is disgusting
The water in Vienna used to be an exquisite source of pleasure
as far back as I can remember
The Proletariat have ruined everything
even the noble Viennese spring-water
directly to Richard
tailgate the Heldweins all the way to the grave site
I want to be situated in front of the open grave
so that we can get back home as quickly as possible
I don’t care what other people think
Jewelers are members of so many clubs
and societies
that there are bound to be a lot of speeches
lucky for me
that I get to sit through the lot
that I can put up with them patiently
If I unbutton my collar
I stop worrying about catching a cold
Most likely these will be the same people
as the ones who came to the funeral of Köchert
and to Fischmeister’s funeral
I have given millions to these people
all of whom pretty much had money to burn
Noble titles drive people wild
In Austria they have been abolished
and yet everyone here is still constantly driven wild by them
what a nation of unteachable idiots
in Austria people respect nobles and comedians above all other kinds of people
whenever some standup comedian dies
they stream in the tens of thousands to his funeral
there’s tasteless humanity for you
You used to write poems when you were younger
don’t you do that anymore
But they say it used to be said you [had] always had a lyrical streak
but you don’t dare
to read any of your own poems to me
but it is all for the best
Reading aloud anything one has written oneself makes one look ridiculous
You are too intelligent
to expose yourself to such ridicule
not everyone is so clever
For the Semmering [trip] you have I trust [booked] the Gasthaus Zur Tenne [/Threshing-Floor Inn]
there you can enjoy yourself
Naturally I don’t [/shan’t] need you at all times
but I [shall] need to know
that you are there during the night
Have you in the twenty-five years
that you have been with me
never thought that you might want to kill me
to strike me dead
from behind
shows him how to do it
but it should be an obvious thought
I have often thought
Perhaps he is going to strike me dead
and yet you haven’t done it
never
although you have quite often had a hankering to do it
not a hankering
you have scented out the necessity
of killing me
a person like me can sense the precise nature of such a thought
I know what you are thinking
when you are standing behind me like that
usually silent
not saying a word
I am sure
You will not kill me
I have been sure on this score for a long time
To Fräulein Zallinger
Has the fact that I think of you as Fräulein Zallinger
ever pained you?

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Of course not Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
You have now been in my service for forty-two years Fräulein Zallinger
to Richard
She broke off her career for my sake
To Fräulein Zallinger
From now on we will play music every day again
You will play a different piece every day
so that you can get back into practice
This used to be for ages a preeminently musical family
in which patronage held pride of place
The Herrensteins made Hugo Wolf great
and poured scorn upon Brahms
as children we had to go out on to the balcony before breakfast
and say in unison
“Wolf is the greatest of all composers
Brahms is a washout”
to Richard
every day Richard every single day
the Ringstrasse waited for us to recite our motto on the balcony
That was our actual morning prayer
“Wolf is the greatest of all composers
Brahms is a washout”
tries to look out on to the balcony
Right up to the end of his life
the Herrenstein family
paid Wolf a pension
amounting to something in the neighborhood of a cabinet minster’s salary
Whenever Brahms was being played at the Musikverein
we would unfurl a black flag
over the balcony here
Even when the Brahms piece in question was merely a bagatelle
we would hoist the black flag
A musical-fanatical family so to speak
I personally have never had a desire to be a patron
and music has never interested me as much
as it did my parents
most likely it is a bad thing that nowadays
the most famous musicians
no longer frequent this place as they used to
Of course I have nothing against art or artists
It’s just that I can’t put up with them
I am ill and old
When we get back from the Semmering
play us again something on the Bösendorfer Fräulein Zallinger
It will do us all good

aside
What a moronic thing
to have said
to Richard
It always stinks after mealtimes at Altaussee
you can’t rid the valley of the stench of kitchens
the kitchen-stench of the entire valley is focused
on the exact site of our house
the people there cook with old lard
and invariably bring only stinky fish to their tables
looking at the floor
I long for fresh air
But where is fresh air [to be found]
neither here
nor at Altaussee
In the Semmering we are pestered by mice
Naturally when the house is continuously unoccupied
it stinks of mouse droppings all day long
and if we try to air out the place we catch a cold
to Richard
Won’t it be better
if I am simply not here
when these people show up
I shall withdraw into my bedroom
It goes without saying that I have absolutely no interest in Elizabeth the Second
on the other hand I could after all
cast a glance at her
what do you think Richard
shall we be present
or shall we be absent
when these people show up
how late is it by now

RICHARD

HERRENSTEIN
When Herr Holzinger arrives
tell him I am not in
That won’t work
I have to receive him
listening
Has the clock actually stopped

RICHARD looking at the clock
You are right Herr Herrenstein
The clock has stopped

HERRENSTEIN
Why then we shall wind it back up
lately we have often been forgetting
to wind the clock
Richard pushes him to the clock and hands him the winding-key
It is this ancient custom of mine
winding the clock
During my childhood I was already winding the clock
Tries to wind the clock but fails
Richard lifts him

HERRENSTEIN
We ought not to forget
to wind it

Fräulein Zallinger and the girls remain standing and look on as Richard lifts Herrenstein [out of the wheelchair] and as Herrenstein, laboriously and amid much groaning and coughing, winds the clock

HERRENSTEIN while winding the clock
Each time it is as though
I am winding myself up
coughs, looks around, laughs
it’s remarkably cloudy today
Richard helps Herrenstein back into the wheelchair and pushes him into the center of the room 

HERRENSTEIN
It is amazes me
That you can constantly put up with me
just as I wind up the clock every day
I wind myself up every day
Fräulein Zallinger coughs, and the girls carry in a large wing chair and set it down next to Herrenstein

HERRESTEIN
Some of them will sit in the wing chairs
the rest will sit in the regular armchairs
I could tell you right now
which of them will sit in the one kind of chair
and which in the other kind
coughs
Five years ago Dr. Friedlaner
gave me three years
but I am certainly still here
in that respect I have already lived two years too long
I refuse to die [and] that is that
To be sure I am constantly saying that I am dying
but I refuse to die
to Richard
Is it possible
for you to put me in the wing chair
stretches his arms and legs out and allows himself to be placed
in the wing chair and falls back
It is truly ice cold
to Fräulein Zallinger
Did you bring that wing chair down from the attic

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
No Herr Herrenstein
from your bedroom

HERRENSTEIN
From my bedroom
looks around
My bedroom
naturally contains my deathbed
naturally everything that comes from my bedroom
is cold
to Fräulein Zallinger
But why ever did you take the wing chair
out of my bedroom
that is positively insane
wanting Richard to pull him out of the wing chair
 and place him back in his wheelchair
to Richard
So help me why don’t you out of the wing chair
out of this ghastly wing chair
out of my death-chair
lift me out of here why don’t you
coughs
Richard lifts him out of the chair

HERRENSTEIN
But that really was a crazy idea
coughs
carrying my wing chair out of my bedroom
and putting it here
for the use of these people
coughs
these people can sit wherever they like
but not in my death-chair
Richard places Herrenstein in the wheelchair
Fräulein Zallinger and the girls carry the wing chair back out of the room          

HERRENSTEIN
An outrage
collapses into himself completely
My wing chair
my beloved wing chair at the service of those people
I hate every single one of those people
and to see my wing chair
abused by them
looks around
Does anyone ever give a thought to anything
when he is doing something
Have I taken all my pills Richard

RICHARD
Obviously

HERRENSTEIN
The pill before breakfast
and the pill after breakfast
and the pill before lunch
and the pill after lunch
and the pills in the evening
is this a life

RICHARD
It is a necessity

HERRENSTEIN
A necessity
you say in a world where everything has become superfluous
Push me to the window
I want to look out
I want to see something
Richard pushes Herrenstein to the window at stage right

HERRENSTEIN
I have not felt as bad as I feel today
in a very long time
the weather is making my head feel weird
Saturdays are always the worst
apart from Sundays
All my life I hated Sundays
the world looks so artificial on Sunday
more so than on any other day of the week
people are artificial
nature is artificial
everything is artificial on Sunday
Sundays are unnaturalness incarnate
Looks out the window
Completely clear you say Richard

RICHARD
A completely clear day

HERRENSTEIN
[To be] the Queen of England
horrible
but I do not pity her
she could abdicate
go away
retire
people make themselves into fools under the crown
Monarchs have only ever worn fools’ crowns
When the so-called Negus
came to Vienna
literally a million Viennese
flocked to the Mariahilferstrasse
Viennese inquisitiveness is of course
the most repellent inquisitiveness in the world
In the Semmering I shall
put on my shoes myself
if I have the strength to do so
You shall not be allowed to help me
You must let me do it alone
You are asking yourself
Why does Herrenstein need shoes on his feet
which are after all only prosthetic feet
Just ask yourself that question Richard
Putting shoes on my prosthetic feet
is something that I really enjoy
Nobody enjoys putting his shoes on more than
a man whose feet are prosthetic
directly to Richard
A drunk made me into a mannequin
a twenty five-year-old joke of a person
A routine collision
nothing but a routine collision Richard
There is no need for you to rack your brains over it Richard
because I have already racked my own brains over it
Supposing I had gotten to Altaussee
Supposing I were counting sheep in the millions
out of sleeplessness
I am all for the Semmering

RICHARD
What did you say Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
The bird isn’t chirping
but at this time of morning
the bird always chirps
even on Saturdays it has always chirped

RICHARD
Of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
People have been hounding me with their hatred
as far back as I can remember
sincere reputable people
healthy people
well-to-do rich
They invite me to their houses
but I don’t go to their houses
incessantly they send invitations
but I don’t respond to them
On my birthday I want
all the curtains to remain drawn throughout the day
it will get no response
Congratulations are expressions of derision
No clouds at all you say

RICHARD
It is crystal-clear Herr Herrenstein
HERRENSTEIN
We are compelled
to withdraw into ourselves completely
that is very interesting very interesting
shouting
Fräulein Zallinger
Fräulein Zallinger rushes up to him

HERRENSTEIN
Do you remember
how here on the other side of that window
for the past thirty years at least
the bird has chirped
has the bird chirped or hasn’t it
the bird has chirped

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Even on Saturdays
the bird has chirped
you have heard it
just as I have heard it
You are living proof
even on Saturdays
the bird chirped here on the other side of that window
but now it has stopped chirping
no bird [will chirp for the next three decades/has chirped for the past three decades]
Exit Fräulein Zallinger walking backwards, while the girls carry in and put down several chairs

HERRENSTEIN
It should have been obvious beforehand
that everyone would want to see
the Queen of England
the whole pack
coughs
What is the use
if the dehydration pills don’t help

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER announcing Herr Holzinger
Herr Holzinger

HERRENSTEIN
Yes of course
to be sure I have been expecting him
Exit Fräulein Zallinger; reenter Fräulein Zallinger with
Herr Holzinger
Holzinger remains standing with a file folder at the threshold
of the room
HERRENSTEIN
Looking out the window all the while
So come in why don’t you
the whole thing is fixed and settled
You give me the folder
and I sign
and then you can go back
Holzinger hesitates and then steps into the room and up to Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Give it to me
Takes the folder from Holzinger
To Richard, as he hands him the folder
Read it aloud

RICHARD opens the folder and reads
I request your permission to summon Kreiseleder
to appear before the board of directors
no later than on the twenty-third of October

HERRENSTEIN
It is as simple and awful as can be
Richard hands the folder back to Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Have you got a pen Herr Holzinger
That obnoxious Kreiseleder fellow
Holzinger takes a pen out of his jacket pocket and hands
the pen to Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN signs a piece of paper inside the folder and shuts the folder
That obnoxious Kreiseleder fellow
I thought it was something out of the ordinary Herr Holzinger
it’s only to do with Kreiseleder
he hands the folder back to Holzinger
Unlike on other occasions Herr Holzinger
today I have no time for you
a crowd of people are coming
all of them want to see the Queen of England
do you see what I mean
every single one of them wants to see the Queen of England
looks Holzinger in the eye
Elizabeth the Second
do you see what I mean Herr Holzinger

HOLZINGER
Obviously Herr Herrenstein abruptly

HERRENSTEIN
The Queen of England
doesn’t come to Vienna just every day
probably she will come to Vienna just one time
in her life

HOLZINGER
Obviously Herr Herrenstein abruptly

HERRENSTEIN
We shall see each other when I get back from the Semmering

HOLZINGER
Obviously Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Has your wife recovered her health

HOLZINGER
Obviously Herr Herrenstein abruptly

HERRENSTEIN
An invalid is an inconvenience
a single invalid will wipe out entire families
if he has to
Holzinger bows, turns around, and leaves the room
Fräulein Zallinger follows him

HERRENSTEIN
I thought it was something important
it was only about Kreiseleder
that obnoxious Kreiseleder fellow
but of course everything is important
everything is important
we are constantly forgetting Richard
that everything is important
there is no such thing as an unimportant thing
don’t you think so Richard
that there is no such thing as an unimportant thing
that everything is important
everything boils down to this fact
that everything is of equal importance to everything else
and that is it
Enter Fräulein Zallinger with decanters filled with wine; she puts them down on the buffet; enter behind her Guggenheim, holding a Union Jack flag; he sneaks up behind Herrenstein
People were all much happier
when they knew
that everything was of equal importance to everything else
and so [now] they suffocate continuously in their unhappiness                 
Richard has taken two steps backward because he
has noticed Guggenheim
Guggenheim, standing behind Herrenstein, puts his hands over Herrenstein’s eyes

HERRENSTEIN
I know full well
who you are Guggenheim
please sit down
and don’t make a fool of yourself
I knew that you would be the first one
You more than everyone else want to see the Queen of England
You with your Union Jack
Guggenheim sits down catty-cornered to Herrenstein
Richard dusts Herrenstein’s jacket

HERRENSTEIN to Richard
Ah Richard do please leave us alone for a couple
of minutes
but [while you’re away] sort the mail
and try to find a Baedeker
with a description of the Semmering
Exit Richard

HERRENSTEIN
You have no idea
what an awful situation
I have got myself into
Because I told my nephew
he could come here
and have a good look at Elizabeth the Second
Forty people are going to come
and this [only] a day
before we leave for the Semmering

GUGGENHEIM
But weren’t you planning to go to Altaussee

HERRENSTEIN
No
I shall never again travel to that nest of Nazis

GUGGENHEIM
But you have that lovely house there

HERRENSTEIN
That makes no difference to me
I also have a lovely house in the Semmering
We can’t very well travel to every place
where we have a lovely house
and who says that these houses are all lovely
most of the time I
find these houses hideous

GUGGENHEIM
Your house in Altaussee is really lovely

HERRENSTEIN
My dear Guggenheim
I have always detested
houses from the turn of the century
Verandas wooden balconies
Mountain views
which make them all the more horrible
At bottom I feel most comfortable here in my
Viennese house
But from time to time I have to get away
The Viennese are still the most bearable kind of people
country people repel me
you can’t talk to them about anything
they don’t understand a word you say
they just gape at you
and think about [all] the money
that they can [suck] out of you
From this point onwards the girls carry in as many [desk] chairs and armchairs as possible

HERRENSTEIN
Every time I arrive in the country I think
this is something I have done out of necessity
Above all else I miss you Guggenheim
There is so much talk about helping out one’s neighbor
the two of us put it into practice
one time you come to me
another time I come to you
we have never run out of things to talk about
Just picture it forty people if not more
and these people [being] the very ones I hate and despise [the most]
people I have wanted to have nothing to do with
for ten years running
For the sake of all these people would it not be a shame Guggenheim
They are all just waiting for me to croak
But of course you know that these people aren’t going to inherit a thing
I have taken good care that they won’t
leaning over to Guggenheim
You don’t know about this yet
But Richard has threatened
to leave me
an attempt at blackmail probably
probably an attempt at blackmail
He told me some story about America California
I have been living under this threat for weeks
It should have been obvious all along
that this liaison was going to fall apart someday
I offered him an enormous raise
oddly enough he wasn’t impressed
But without Richard I am finished
Exit Fräulein Zallinger, who has been doing a bit of dusting

HERRENSTEIN
I believe he has even begun
a new liaison
I am quite sure of it
I even know who the person is
But of course you are acquainted with this Doctor Schuppich fellow

GUGGENHEIM
Schuppich

HERRENSTEIN
Exactly that Doctor Schuppich

GUGGENHEIM
You mean the one who was in Australia for three years

HERRENSTEIN
Four years
I once had him under contract
not unsympathetic but dangerous
Richard takes advantage of every opportunity
to be alone with Schuppich
Imagine Richard taking off
and leaving me stranded
I have promised him more or less
half my estate
he had given no consideration whatsoever to this
when he was turning a deaf ear to everything I was saying about it
nothing but artful cunning Guggenheim

GUGGENHEIM
I cannot imagine
Richard leaving you
after all he has been with you for twenty-five years

HERRENSTEIN
That means absolutely nothing
When we stand in greatest need of a person
he abandons us
I can’t bear the presence of a stranger
by my side
Richard’s dependability
leaves something to be desired
There is not a moment that goes by without my catching him
getting something wrong
but I don’t say anything
I say absolutely nothing
he must never think that I am aware of these [slip-ups]

GUGGENHEIM
But didn’t Schuppich write that book

HERRENSTEIN
Yes
the one in which I come across as such a lout
under an alias
but it comes through nonetheless
authentic details
that he could have picked up only from Richard
At first I was quite eager
to sue the man
then I perceived how ridiculous it would be to go through with such a thing
Passing it over in silence is the only method
I would only have injured myself
injured myself more by suing Schuppert
than I had been injured by the contents of Schuppert’s book
I have no interest in the Queen of England
that is something for young people
who fatuously live in grand style
and for the old-school high society riffraff

GUGGENHEIM
I of course am excited
that Elizabeth the Second is coming here
and that I shall be able to see her
I was at Oxford for twelve years as you know
I owe to England nothing more and nothing less than
my existence

HERRENSTEIN
I had not thought about that
In Guggenheim’s ear
Richard wants to go to Altaussee
because Schuppich has a house there
The Schuppiches are an old Nazi family
Schuppisch’s father was a lieutenant colonel in the SS
But I shall go to the Semmering
I hate the Semmering and yet I am going to go there
As a child I already hated the Semmering
Naturally Altaussee is a beautiful locale
but I shall not go to Altaussee
for all these reasons Guggenheim
I shall go to the Semmering
even though I dread the thought of going there
Nowadays the feral proles
in their suspenders and baggy trousers roam about the Semmering
nowadays every hotel is a trade-union hall
So Richard would find it very convenient
to leave me in the lurch on the terrace at Altaussee
and go gadding about with Schuppich  
What if Richard really leaves
I imagine he is just threatening me blackmailing me
That tale he told me about America
is completely made up Guggenheim
Fräulein Zallinger places a large bunch of flowers on the buffet

HERRENSTEIN to Guggenheim
Fräulein Zallinger is planning to go to Lourdes
calls out
When are you leaving for Lourdes Fräulein Zallinger

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
On the twenty-first

HERRENSTEIN
On the twenty-first of November
not October
because then of course you will be in the Semmering
When were you at Fatima

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Three years ago

HERRENSTEIN
People make a pilgrimage
and are convinced
that it is going to help them
to Fräulein Zallinger
Your grandmother went to Lourdes right

FRÄULEIN ZALLINGER
Yes Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Old Man Zallinger was
as you may not know
one of the most distinguished conductors
unfortunately he was constantly ill
not in the first rank
but well and truly distinguished
He never conducted at the Vienna State Opera
but he did quite often at the Volksoper
and at the Bavarian State Opera at Munich
a great pedagogue for years
His daughter has inherited his talent
Today for the first time in many years Fräulein Zallinger
has given us a sample of her art
a short piece by Chopin
Enter Herrenstein’s nephew, who halts after taking two steps
Fräulein Zallinger indicates to him that he should approach Herrenstein, and he approaches Herrenstein, who refrains from offering him his hand

HERRENSTEIN
This is the inevitable event that I have to look forward to
forty people coming here
to see Elizabeth the Second
I said that you could see her
I said nothing more than that
and now forty people are coming
You are putting me in a terrible position
you know full well how ill I am
instead of treating me with respect
you are consigning me to these people
I hate all these people as you know
On top of that today we have to go to Heldwein’s funeral
You will be going to it as well obviously

THE NEPHEW
Obviously

HERRENSTEIN
Not once this week have you
checked in on me
I could have croaked
I am sitting here and I have a perfectly healthy nephew
and I am going to wrack and ruin
If I didn’t have Guggenheim
to Guggenheim
there’s no relying on Richard these days
to his nephew
You used to come every two days
which was of course too often
but you could visit your ailing uncle
at least once a week
to Fräulein Zallinger
Isn’t that right Fräulein Zallinger
Fräulein Zallinger nods
HERRENSTEIN
One can’t simply take
one must also give
but the youth of today give nothing
they only take
they snatch up everything
and give nothing
You are lucky Guggenheim
to have no nieces or nephews
and therefore to have no nephew or niece problems
takes a pill out of his jacket pocket and swallows it
We cram everything [we have] into the young people
and they disdainfully reject it
to his nephew
It’s safe for you to sit down you know
When Richard leaves me I thought
I shall at least have you
You heard aright
Quite softly but distinctly
Richard intends
to go to America
with this Doctor Schuppich fellow
with whom he is having an affair
leaving me looking like a fool
Guggenheim has stood up; subsequently four ladies have entered

HERRENSTEIN
to his nephew
Richard meets up with this Schuppich fellow
in Altaussee on weekends
I have proof of this
and of course they meet in my house
I am traveling to the Semmering
I hate the Semmering
but I shall travel to the Semmering
come hell or high water
Richard has entered with a Baedeker on Lower Austria
and is greeting the ladies

HERRENSTEIN
to his nephew
Just think
of what you are in for
in the end you are the only person
I can still trust
Naturally Fräulein Zallinger is
in cahoots with Richard
They make common cause with each other
I’ve been having the most horrible nights
not sleeping a wink
what with these spasms and self-accusations
Why did your mother have to die so early
Everybody has died off
the survivors are spared nothing
greeting the ladies
Please do sit down
please take a seat
there are plenty of places to sit
aside
I am in no condition
to engage in conversation
But of course my nephew is available
to his nephew
Now go and attend straightaway
to our titled guests
The nephew pours the ladies drinks, and they all sit
down upstage

HERRENSTEIN to Richard
Who in the hell is that tall woman

RICHARD
Countess Ergens

HERRENSTEIN
Not Countess Gudenus
she looked like Countess Gudenus  

RICHARD
Countess Ergens
and the Weisweiler sisters

HERRENSTEIN
I just realized that
That Ergens woman
is downright sickening
You can’t get any stupider
than the Weisweiler sisters
Four ladies enter and are greeted by the nephew

HERRENSTEIN
Is it really this late already

RICHARD
It is almost half-past eleven

HERRENSTEIN
All this time I have had this pain
here
points
in my chest
look Richard here
Richard draws closer
Here

HERRENSTEIN
Here Richard here
that’s right there
there that’s right
that’s right there
Richard is obliged to touch the spot

HERRENSTEIN
An ominous location
I hope Friedländer can be got hold of
Don’t forget
That he is [supposed to] stop by
before we leave for the Semmering
I haven’t yet made up my mind
but I really don’t care for Altaussee
I hate the Semmering
But I imagine I shall go to the Semmering
we always go to the places
that we hate
we never get to
where we want to go
Have you heard any more news from America

RICHARD
No new news

HERRENSTEIN
It would be awful for me
if you jilted me
Truth to tell I am not very long for this world
why don’t you just stick it out for this brief spell
Consider what America has to offer you
An old man in his mid-fifties
at your age a person cannot go to America
and start his life over
such a project is naturally doomed to failure from the start
attempting to take a look over his shoulder
at the new arrivals
I can see only silhouettes
in a confidential tone
you say that’s the Countess Ergens
the divorcee
ever since she published her cookbook
she has been insufferable
I have never had a worse meal than at the Ergens residence
Two gentlemen and two ladies have entered and sat down, and Fräulein Zallinger has subsequently whispered something into their ears

HERRENSTEIN
What will become of me
if I shake the hands of all these people
I am to be sure half dead
I don’t need to pretend to be half dead I am the genuine article
beckons Richard towards him until their faces are almost touching
Everyone envies me my life
this wretched existence
What does Countess Ergens have on anyway

RICHARD
A yellow dress with a black floral pattern

HERRENSTEIN
Yellow with a black floral pattern
Silk

RICHARD
Of course Herr Herrenstein silk

HERRENSTEIN
Silk silk
a black floral pattern

RICHARD
And a black hat

HERRENSTEIN
A black hat
probably because she too is going to Heldwein’s funeral
I suspect they are all going to it
I suspect that I shall see all these people again
at Heldwein’s funeral
Each and every one of them is destined to make himself at home in whichever chair he chooses
until the Queen arrives
I hope she arrives soon
the punctuality of monarchs is proverbial
proverbial proverbial Richard
The Viennese are an inquisitive people
off-puttingly inquisitive
These people are really making things easy for themselves
first they come to my house
to see Elizabeth the Second
and from here they will go directly to the jeweler’s funeral
The jewelers have always been a rich lot
but not as rich as us
A fact which has always embittered these sorts of people
You can do whatever you like at the Semmering
But don’t leave me on my own
I am entirely reliant on you
it is not merely a matter of decades of habit
tries to get hold of Richard’s coat
Enter three gentlemen, who are invited to sit
down in three chairs by Fräulein Zallinger  

HERRENSTEIN
Suddenly they are all showing up
How many are here so far anyway

RICHARD

HERRENSTEIN
But there are supposed to be forty
tugs at Richard’s coat
I have always counted on you more
than on anybody else Richard
If I were healthy
I would gladly go with you to America
but probably America is just a ruse
that you have foisted on me
a cunning, foistable ruse
You have always deceived me Richard
In the final analysis you are an alumnus of my school
suddenly raising his voice
Viktor
Viktor
Herrenstein’s nephew approaches him

HERRENSTEIN to his nephew
Open the window just for a moment
The nephew goes to the window at stage right

HERRENSTEIN
Not that window
The the the left window
The nephew opens the window at stage left, and nothing other than
ordinary street noise is heard

HERRENSTEIN
Shut the window
it’s not letting in anything but bad smells
The nephew closes the window

HERRENSTEIN looking at the clock
I can’t tell how late it is

RICHARD

HERRENSTEIN
Richard hands him the Baedeker

HERRENSTEIN
Right about now I am usually sitting there almost half-asleep
and you are reading to me
to his nephew
Don’t just stand there
look after our guests
in the final analysis they are your guests
your guests
aside
not mine
The nephew withdraws
I must have been really annoyed with him
what is the use of that
coughs laboriously
In Badgastein I could have died in no time
I didn’t listen to you
Neither to Friedlander
nor to you
Enter three ladies, one of whom, the Lady in the Red Hat, heedless of everyone else, immediately walks up to Herrenstein and stations herself directly in front of him

[THE LADY IN THE RED HAT]
My dear Rudolf
how well you look
I heard you had been in Badgastein
you lucky fellow
have you heard [the news]
Freundsberg has bought the Aschenhöhe
now we are rid of it

HERRENSTEIN
I have never been to the Aschenhöhe

THE LADY IN THE RED HAT
But of course [you have] Rudolf
On New Year’s Eve of thirty-six
At about four in the morning you took off
because my husband had waved his rifle at you
Everyone was always [terribly] jealous of you
How well you look Rudolf
don’t you think he looks well Richard
Rudolf looks marvelous
You are a veritable poster boy for healthy living Rudolf
And is everything else going well

HERRENSTEIN
I have never been to the Aschenhöhe
and your husband never waved his rifle at me
I have never even heard of this Aschenhöhe place

THE LADY IN THE RED HAT
Good Lord Rudolf
you always must have your little joke
when is the Queen arriving anyway
does anybody know exactly

RICHARD
At about

THE LADY IN THE RED HAT
At about
of course that’s it
Good Lord I’m famished
that buffet’s looking like just the thing for me
Rudolf I am so glad to see you
walks to the buffet

HERRENSTEIN
Was that the Gudenus woman

RICHARD
Countess Winterhalter

HERRENSTEIN
Countess Winterhalter
I thought she was Countess Gudenus
who always has those gaudy rings on her fingers
Do you think
they will all leave
when the hullabaloo is over

RICHARD
Yes of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Yes of course Herr Herrenstein
These people are often quite hard to dislodge from their seats
opens the Baedeker, tries to read, and shuts it
We invite them to spend the morning here
and they lounge about until four in the afternoon
that has always been my experience of them
You don’t know how much my thorax is bothering me
Have I taken all my pills
Did I not mention the chirping of the bird
My nephew
Is he dressed decently
as befits my heir apparent

RICHARD
Yes of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
If I had my druthers I’d leave nothing to anybody
leave nothing but a heap of ruins behind if I had my druthers
it makes no difference to whom we bequeath our estate
the whole thing is always nothing but a bunch of perfidious nonsense
I have always detested the Catholic charities
Fräulein Zallinger stumbles and drops a large tray of full wine glasses; a general uproar ensues

HERRENSTEIN
What was that

RICHARD
Nothing nothing at all
Fräulein Zallinger just stumbled

HERRENSTEIN
Silly girl
Her eyesight is even poorer than mine
She has come a cropper too many times for my liking
Fräulein Zallinger has stood back up; the girls
are picking up the shards of glass

HERRENSTEIN
Fräulein Zallinger is a Jill of all trades
apart from the useful ones
The silly girl gives not a thought to my needs
For all she knows even I might
fancy a glass of wine

RICHARD
But Doctor Friedländer

HERRENSTEIN
To hell with Doctor Friedländer
people like him are nothing but killjoys
a single glass of wine never hurt anybody
Now go get it straightaway
white white
Richard fetches a glass of white wine, and Herrenstein drinks half of it

HERRENSTEIN
In the final analysis to be sure we cannot
renounce everything
Two gentlemen have entered and stationed themselves
at the buffet

RICHARD whispering into Herrenstein’s ear
The Bartenstein brothers

HERRENSTEIN
Shameless
I shall pay Viktor back for this
The Bartensteins in my house
they are doubtless exploiting this as an auspicious opportunity
for casing me and my house
they are such horrible people the Bartensteins
mostly aside
Those swine
to Richard
What are the two of them wearing anyway  
are they dressed in black as well

RICHARD
Yes of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
That goes without saying
they are also going to Heldwein’s funeral
First they go to Herrenstein’s
to the old swine’s house as they put it
and then the  Queen of England will show up
and then they’ll dog old Heldwein
Jewelers have always been big shots
in Vienna
the advent of the republic made no difference in that regard
the Proles buy the most jewelry
lately even the men have been wearing
gold chains the length of sausage strings around their necks
When you visit the baths at Krapfenwaldl
you see the socialist cabinet minister
diving into the water
with a ton of gold chains around his neck
Probably the Gudenus woman will also come
I am certain of that
then she won’t be able to escape
When everybody is here
I could of course say a few words
or not
what do you think Richard
is it seemly
I find nothing more tiresome
but it doubtless behooves me
At the Semmering we shall get a break from all this
Since my return from Badgastein
I have on the whole ceased to be able to abide the presence of people
I cannot abide their smell
Così fan tutte would also have to be more or less
a performance just for me
because I can no longer abide other people’s perspiration
But they won’t put on Così fan tutte
the new general manager of the opera is a washout  
First he announces they’ll be putting on Die frau ohne schatten
then he postpones the premiere
then he postpones it again
and yet again
and then he cancels Die frau ohne schatten altogether
Singing yes talking no
I can’t abide spoken drama anymore
But you quite like going to the theater right

RICHARD
Of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
The opera is less of a strain on my nerves
I myself have actually written a play
I wrote it at the age of thirteen
The Battle of Ludwig
good Lord it is so easy to write during puberty
beckons Richard towards him until their faces are almost touching
What do you think
should I say something to these people
apropos of Elizabeth the Second
or would that be absurd

RICHARD
Perhaps you should say a word or two

HERRENSTEIN
A word or two
but what sort of word or two

RICHARD
A word or two of salutation

HERRENSTEIN
Of inconsequential salutation
Three ladies and four gentlemen have entered

RICHARD
A single sentence would suffice
Any old sentence

HERRENSTEIN
You are right
I should just say a single sentence
any old sentence
I have always detested speeches
Nobody ever says anything but absolute nonsense in them
Count Neutz has entered, and he walks directly up
to Herrenstein and greets him, but Herrenstein refrains from
offering him his hand

HERRENSTEIN
I shan’t offer you my hand
it’s possible I have
a contagious illness
Are you Count Croy
Richard whispers something into Herrenstein’s ear
You are Count Neutz
I thought so
My nephew tells me
You have sold Kurring is that correct

NEUTZ
Yes Kurring has been sold

HERRENSTEIN
At a loss no doubt
Do you still own the Trautensee
I quite often used to fish there
not a good lake for fishing
but the surroundings are pleasant

NEUTZ
The Trautensee is still in the family

HERRENSTEIN
What does still mean
Are you planning to sell it

NEUTZ
Certainly not
not as long as my Aunt Elivre is still alive

HERRENSTEIN
Elvire
I thought she had died a long time ago
Richard whispers something into Herrenstein’s ear

HERRENSTEIN
Elvire is the older sister
the younger Neutz sister is dead

NEUTZ
She is indeed mortally ill

HERRENSTEIN
What the
That doesn’t mean
that she is bound to die soon
she used to be quite beautiful
but not at all my type
stretching out his hand to him but not offering it to him
Please do find yourself a cozy spot
before the queen arrives
We have that Jochinger Veltliner
that you have always enjoyed drinking
give my regards to Berta
Richard whispers something into his ear

HERRENSTEIN
Elvire
give my regards to Elvire my dear Neutz
Neutz joins the others

HERRENSTEIN
In point of fact out of sheer stupidity they really have
lost everything
even the Trautensee
Enter three ladies
Of course it’s a lie
that he still owns it
Why do these people lie
I cannot comprehend what possesses these people
to lie incessantly
Neutz has perniciously bad breath
haven’t you noticed
The Neutz sisters were always odious
interchangeably odious
a comical pair
they ran around in powder-blue dirndls
beckons Richard towards him until their faces are almost touching
You surely must know
what one is supposed to say at a moment like this

RICHARD
Just say a single sentence
no matter what it is
looks at the guests as if he is counting them


HERRENSTEIN
Why the hell not
when the time comes spin me round quick as a flash
so that I can see all of them
and I’ll say my one sentence
we’ll get it done that way
Why do we have to make everything so complicated
beckons Richard towards him until their faces are almost touching
Do you think I can forgo seeing the dentist
my dentures are loose
at the Semmering I shan’t need any teeth
my nephew will drive us there
and fetch us back
Nothing will come out of Altaussee
you need to get [all hope of] that out of your head
Dr. Schuppich is after all the man
who published that book
in which I come across as
Nothing that Dr. Schuppich
has written about me in his book is true
and yet
How long have you actually known Doctor Schuppich
But of course you have known him for ages
Has Schuppich won you over to America yet
I don’t mean to pump you for answers
but in the final analysis I do take an interest
in the concerns of the person
who is closest to me
[and] in the ultimate final analysis that is you Richard in the ultimate final analysis
tugs at Richard’s coat
you do know don’t you Richard
how I stand with you
Tries to look into the drawing room, turns
away from it
I see nothing but a grayish-black mumbling mass
Incomprehensible rubbish bullshit
To be sure I don’t need to tell you
Enter three ladies and two gentlemen
how very fond of  you I am
to be sure that is hardly news to you
but perhaps it needs to be said
at least once
If you leave me you will kill me
Without you I am worthless you know that
without you I am nothing but a cripple
moreover a lifeless cripple
What does it matter if I bequeath to you my house at Atlaussee
it is after all a token [of friendship]
But you are after all not an unworthy individual
At the Semmering I shall amend my will
in accordance with your wishes Richard in accordance with your wishes
Everybody has sat down

HERRENSTEIN
In a hushed tone
You can have everything I own
if you stay everything
literally everything

Enter TWO OLD LADIES, who nonchalantly walk up to
Herrenstein and exclaim in unison
Rudolph
It’s incredible how well you look
They offer Herrenstein their hands, but he refrains
from accepting them  
Viktor invited us
what an enchanting nephew

THE ONE LADY
In point of fact I am supposed
to be in Salzburg at my sister’s right now
but I couldn’t let
the Queen of England slip past me
no certainly not

THE OTHER LADY
A once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity

THE ONE LADY
I am quite beside myself
how well you look
Badgastein has done you good Rudolf
it’s plain to see
good old Badgastein
Fräulein Zallinger
the same as she ever was and will be
what would the Herrenstein household be
without Fräulein Zallinger
the two of them simultaneously
How well you look
no really fantastically well
they withdraw and join the others



HERRENSTEIN

This is what is torturing me
I have been out of touch with
these people for years
and now they are all here
To be sure I know why
I cut off
severed
all ties with this pack
severed all ties with society
I did it out of necessity
The guests all burst into a peal of uproarious laughter
Bone-headed riffraff

Curtain

Scene Three
After
The guests are all laughing as the curtain rises
Herrenstein is staring at the window and apparently seeing nothing
through it

RICHARD
What a lovely day it is Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Nothing is lovely to me anymore

NEUTZ standing in contrast to all the other guests, such that they all can hear him
Whereupon the Kaiser simply said
If yah wanna piece o’ me
help y’self

The guests all burst into a peal of uproarious laughter that is slow to subside

HERRENSTEIN
Fop
Stupid nitwit
He has squandered his entire fortune
to be sure the Trautensee has belonged
to the Fürst of Scwhwarzenberg for years
The Neutzes oughtn’t to dare to show their faces in public these days
detestable wiseacre
beckons Richard towards him until their faces are almost touching;
meanwhile Neutz is telling another joke

HERRENSTEIN
We shall talk over everything at the Semmering

RICHARD
Of course Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
I mean the will
Naturally I can amend it however I choose
Naturally my nephew need not get everything

RICHARD
But you said that

HERRENSTEIN
Every day I say something different
you are very well aware of that Richard
that is indeed the terrible truth
I firmly make up my mind to do something
and then change it back completely
it has been that way for years
looking around
It is time for the Queen to arrive
Don’t you think
that the rainy season is about to arrive
as it has been clear for such a long time
It starts to rain in the middle of October
and never stops after that
the rain turns into snow
and Christmas marks the nadir
Uproarious laughter among all the guests

HERRENSTEIN
This really disgusts me
And to think it’s actually happening in my house
I didn’t think about Neutz
If I had known that he was coming
I would have called off the whole thing
Isn’t Countess Gudenus in the group

RICHARD
No

HERRENSTEIN
Many women remain beautiful
no matter how old they get
Countess Gudenus is crazy about jewelry
which is to be sure a repulsive quality
but she is the only woman
with whom I can converse
even about Nietzsche
isn’t that so Dr. Guggenheim

GUGGENHEIM
Yes Countess Gudenus

HERRENSTEIN
You and her really could have been [/could be] an item
You and Countess Gudenus
She has got a keen intellect
she married into the high nobility
an absurd idea
The Countess has always had her eye on you Guggenheim
You are a widower
and she is a widow
the only person who isn’t a chatterbox
Enter Countess Gudenus just as the guests have
once again burst into uproarious laughter

HERRENSTEIN
They are laughing at literally everything
That Neutz says

RICHARD
Here she is now

HERRENSTEIN
Countess Gudenus
Countess Gudenus walks directly up to Herrenstein,
and Herrenstein kisses her hand

COUNTESS GUDENUS
I couldn’t resist
I just had to be here
Guggenheim kisses her hand
My dear Guggenheim
I have already finished reading your book
the second part was outstanding
An apocalypse simply spectacular
in every sentence I can tell
that you were a professor at Oxford
a magnificent book
No doubt you worked
on it for years
every detail a delight
After you die the Guggenheim line will be extinct
thoroughly philosophical
the whole of it permeated with the essence of the English mind
What do you think Herrenstein
Is our emigrant [friend] not an exceptional brain
these brains are dying off
there won’t be any left when our Guggenheim dies
Universally uproarious background laughter among the guests

COUNTESS GUDENUS
Once again Neutz is basking in the limelight
to Guggenheim
Wouldn’t you rather have stayed in England

GUGGENHEIM
Certainly not I feel quite at home here

COUNTESS GUDENUS
So you say
A dreadful country this Austria
surely you can’t much care for it
you who lived for such a long time in England and at Oxford to boot

GUGGENHEIM
No no my dear Countess
here I remain and here I shall die

COUNTESS GUDENUS
Guggenheim is our Ur-Austrian
isn’t that right Herrenstein
Universally uproarious laughter in the background

GUGGENHEIM
It has gone through two printings

COUNTESS GUDENUS
That is astonishing
for a philosophical opus
which generally at most and best
sell only a few hundred copies
think for example of the Tractatus Logicus-Philosophicus

GUGGENHEIM
The youth of today are more actively preoccupied
with philosophy than young people ever used to be

HERRENSTEIN
Don’t get me started on the youth of today
they are thoroughly sentimental
and anti-intellectual
at the slightest suspicion of a thought they turn tail and run

COUNTESS GUDENUS
I must admit you are right about that Herrenstein
Good Lord my own grandchildren
read scarcely a passably written sentence in an entire year
at most they [glance at] the Press

HERRENSTEIN
That obnoxious rag

GUGGENHEIM
To which you happen to have a subscription

HERRENSTEIN
Because my family has subscribed to it
for almost a hundred years

GUGGENHEIM
But you actually read the Press every day

HERRENSTEIN
This is true
and annoying
that paper is truly awful
and I read it every day
but everybody is like that
every paper is like that
they are terrible
and yet they are read

COUNTESS GUDENUS
I believe the Queen is running late
my dear Herrenstein
she joins the others

HERRENSTEIN
There’s something indefinable that fascinates me about that woman
I don’t know what it is
I hate everything about where she comes from
and yet she fascinates me
make no mistake I mean her alone
everything else from this perverts’ kitchen I find repulsive
Universally uproarious laughter again

NEUTZ very loudly
Whereupon the Archduke Ferdinand simply said
I’m sorry your Majesty
but I’m wearing nothing but my underpants
Universally uproarious laughter

HERRENSTEIN to Guggenheim, who has sat back down
next to him
Ah Doctor Guggenheim
what would I do without you
the old guard
they have all died out now
There is nothing I would like more than to take you with me to the Semmering
takes his hand
I am inviting you Guggenheim
I am inviting you
Pack a few things
And come with me to the Semmering
there is nothing keeping you here
in this hellish town
we’ll take up a topic of conversation
and chew away at it
while we let ourselves get nice and toasted

GUGGENHEIM
Yes if that is what you want

HERRENSTEIN
Of course it’s what I want

GUGGENHEIM
Yes if it has to be

HERRENSTEIN
Now pull yourself together
and pack up your minimum necessities
and ride with us tomorrow to the Semmering
we’ll make ourselves as comfortable as possible up there
All the guests again burst into uproarious laughter
Viktor will be our driver
Viktor will be our escort
to Richard
How late is it anyway

RICHARD
Almost half-past twelve

HERRENSTEIN
Almost half-past twelve
In that case there’s something decidedly spooky about all this
to Guggenheim
Perhaps you could bring along that edition of Hegel
that you so warmly recommended to me
the Semmering is a good spot for some Hegel
or some Montaigne
it makes no difference to me
as long as it’s something great
Countess Gudenus bursts out laughing by herself

HERRENSTEIN
Young people are absolutely worthless
and yet they grow up
and the world doesn’t fall to pieces
it’s just crazy don’t you think
to Richard
Listen up Richard
the instant these people are gone
drive me to the Döbling cemetery
to Guggenheim
of course you know
Heldwein the jeweler died
it’s funny
just this year the man
had them build him a showcase
that looked just like a coffin lying in state
exactly just like a coffin lying in state
and I said to Richard
what a fine showcase for a corpse
and now the man is dead
Countess Gudenus got on with him famously
I’m not keen on jewelers
You lucky fellow
You really don’t have to go to Heldwein’s funeral
People like you
really hardly ever have to go to the cemetery
because you have never been chummy with any of
these loathsome people
But the proprietor of the firm of Herrenstein
is obliged to go to all these funerals
take my word for it it’s nothing short of horrifying
There is a steady crescendo of jubilation rising
from the Ringstrasse via the windows 


HERRENESTEIN
I believe it is as far as

The guests have all leapt up and are all thronging on to
the balcony, which Fräulein Zallinger has opened, she has opened the doors
of the balcony all the way and remains stationed at the threshold
Everybody is thronging on to the balcony
The jubilation rising from the Ringstrasse continues to crescendo

HERRENSTEIN
to Richard
How many do you think that is
anyway
that must surely be more than forty people
it sounds almost like a hundred
more than a hundred

RICHARD
Eighty or ninety

HERRENSTEIN
Unbelievable
Fräulein Zallinger also steps out on to the balcony

GUGGENHEIM
I believe
this is the first time Elizabeth the Second
has come to Vienna

HERRENSTEIN
I assure you she has never been here till now

RICHARD
Shall I push you on to the balcony Herr Herrenstein

HERRENSTEIN
Whatever you like Richard
the whole thing is of no interest to me
it’s only for the scum of the earth
looks at the floor
Repulsive riffraff
with whom I have definitively severed all ties
this is the last time
that these people
will ever be in my house
of all the people in the world they are the most abominable
they are exactly the kind
that I most deeply detest
this salubrious riffraff
To the Döbling cemetery
immediately after they leave
My dear Guggenheim
sleep all this off and ride with me tomorrow
to the Semmering
it will do you good
Fresh air is indispensable to philosophy
Nothing is more important for philosophy than fresh air
fresh air is the thinker’s perfect food
my dear Guggenheim
you are the philosopher of my life
the philosopher of my existence
The Semmering is a philosophical locale
unlike the Salzkammergut
in which only imbeciles flourish
second and third class people
not first-class people like at the Semmering
But you are every bit as familiar with the Semmering as I am
Nothing is more fashionable nowadays
than to go to the Semmering
which is no longer a haunt of the super-elderly
that is precisely why I go there

GUGGENHEIM
Every year when I was a child
we went to the Semmering
to the Hotel Panhans
is it still there

HERRENSTEIN
Everything is still there Guggenheim
But you won’t recognize any of it
Socialism has let everything at the Semmering
go to wrack and ruin
But I like the socialism at the Semmering
and the socialists at the Semmering
a thousand times more than the National Socialism
and the National Socialists at Altaussee
Now get out on to the balcony Guggenheim
and pay your respects to your Queen
With Union Jack held high Guggenheim joins the others
on the balcony, in the background he says
God save the Queen
The jubilation wafting up from the Ringstrasse becomes indistinguishable from the
 jubilation emanating from the crowd on the balcony

RICHARD turns the wheelchair so that Herrenstein is directly facing the threshold of the balcony
Don’t you want to see
Elizabeth the Second also

HERRENSTEIN firmly
No
The jubilation reaches its climax
A repulsive spectacle
A sudden din and outcry from everybody standing
on the balcony; the balcony breaks off and tumbles
below stage
Herrenstein clings to Richard’s coat
Richard slowly pushes Herrenstein all the way to the threshold of the balcony
HERRENSTEIN peers below stage
The dust has settled
Richard pushes Herrenstein a bit farther forward

HERRENSTEIN after a pause
Most likely they are all dead

RICHARD after an equally long pause and over the sound of  the 
ambulances and fire engines that are already approaching
Most assuredly

Curtain

THE END


Translation unauthorized but ©2011 by Douglas Robertson

1 comment:

Savoring the Narrative Arts said...

This is wonderful! Thanks for your work. I've read all the translated Bernhard plays I could find, so this is much appreciated.

If you know of any likeminded folk who've translated Bernhard's play Immanuel Kant, I'd love to know about that too.