(For a PDF version of this translation, go to The Worldview Annex).
…during the night of the fourth, en route to Zurich, from which I am to fly back to the U.S.A., at my Uncle Zumbusch’s in Chur, where I intended to rest for a few days.
But as my uncle is nowhere to be found in Chur, obviously because, as I realized only today, he is at my guardian’s funeral, I am more or less left to my own resources, preoccupied yet again at each and every moment with Ungenach, with its liquidation, its dispersal, etc…
and am in a room from which, it is clear, Frau Morath, who cooks for me, enjoys a view of the Splügen Pass, and because it is cold (three degrees) and raining unrelentingly and I have no key to the library, or even access to newspapers, preoccupied all the while with my half-brother Karl’s notes, which until yesterday were in the possession of Moro the Notary in Gmunden…
…which notes Moro at my request has handed over to me; and in the midst of my perusal of my half-brother’s notes, which he jotted down partly in Africa, partly at Ungenach, partly en route from Ungenach to Africa or en route from Africa to Ungenach, I have from time to time been jotting down some notes of my own …
…incessantly freezing, because the city of Chur is one of the coldest there is, the gloomiest I know of, and the inhabitants of the Grisons are deeply or feebly or simply perversely averse to gloom and cold, and in Chur, but especially in my Uncle Zumbusch’s house, when it is raining unrelentingly as it is now, people insist on keeping their heat on, even in the summer; but I have pitched up in a room that has no stove, and hence cannot be heated; nonetheless, it is useful to have a place in which to stay.
Deafened by the waterfall beneath my window, I noted: having arrived at Ungenach (April 3), I immediately saw that Ungenach was completely deserted and that, as I had feared all along while at the same time exculpating myself, I had arrived too late for my guardian’s funeral…and I resolved altogether not to go to Ungenach nor hence to Aurach, which is ten kilometers distant from it and where my guardian’s funeral is doubtless now taking place, but rather for the time being, as I certainly had no intention of but merely an unrelenting revulsion from ever seeing my relatives, and I certainly had no desire to converse with them about anything, least of all about Ungenach, to seek out Moro the notary…
…to whom from Stanford I [had] already disclosed my intention of relinquishing, dispersing, everything connected with Ungenach (i.e., inasmuch as Ungenach is nothing but a terrifying burden to me, of getting Moro the notary to undertake the entire aforementioned dispersal, which is probably scandalous enough as it is and will obviously scandalize everybody once word of it gets out), which, in virtue of the untimely death of my guardian and the murder, confessed to a year ago, of my half-brother Karl, has devolved upon me entirely, hence legally and practically, or rather much more practically than legally…
and to whom, as I immediately perceived after the first sentences Moro uttered in his office in the Kirchengasse, my aforesaid intention was already a completely familiar matter and who was even already fully aware of the celerity with which I would require my scheme to be executed.
Moro leaned back in his wing chair and said, “To be sure, although we know that everything[—]the effort, the despair, the dissimulation of life qua insanity[—]is pointless, we intend, you understand, in the words of your esteemed guardian, as a consequence [of this pointlessness, either] to [go] further and thus to walk among the billions of pedestrians with a head that is increasingly suspect to oneself qua one of the billions of pedestrians or, because for us walking now and then, from time to time, with this head grown suspect, [is] no longer opportune, seems simply to be no longer possible, is no longer possible, [to go] headless for long periods…
in certain cases, as we have seen, entire historical epochs rush through entire half-centuries or indeed whole-centuries headless…we are speed-fanatics, therefore creative…laboring in a feverish frenzy of speed, you see, which does not mean that we have heads but that we do not have them…we do not know whether we are headless or not…
which brings me to our business,” said Moro, “this dispersal…,” and “naturally, my dear Master Robert, we surmise that everything is a swindle…your esteemed guardian once put it this way: We take action and make changes, without knowing how to take action or to make changes…and have no time to smash our heads up over it, regardless of whether we have a head or not...contradictions,” said Moro, “incest in the brain, a delicate mechanism of elementary particles of an absurd megalomania…[Morbitage]…for we do not think, nature thinks…on many days we are struck by the insufferableness, we extemporize, we paralyze…a sudden natural intensity succeeds natural weakness, as your esteemed guardian invariably put it: the surrealism of procreation qua the surrealism of nature…
we have,” said Moro, “a noticeably heightened power of comprehension. Our understanding is a criticism. Our head the logical product of a tautology…because everything tends towards annihilation…
apropos of our business,” said Moro, “a revolutionary element, this dispersal…wherein we descry revolutionary elements…but apropos of our business: it is possible that you yourself are finding more or less strange and yet remarkably revolutionary the circumstance that you have been sitting there for two hours already, while your family, or, let us say, those whom you yourself have referred to as the remains of your family, are still at your esteemed guardian’s funeral…but apropos of our business: nature is infamous. And that you imagined that even I was probably at your esteemed guardian’s funeral and thus in Aurach and not here…just where, just when, just as, the human individual is a specter, more and more of a specter, and human beings are nothing but specters…and the spectral life is, to quote your esteemed guardian, a delight qua de-delighting…
If you do intend, as you say, to disperse everything connected with Ungenach, this is an unprecedented [resolution]. Your legal status [is] no less simple than bewildering. Your legal claim a confused one. The facts of the matter unprecedented…I cannot call to mind a previous dispersal on such a colossal scale…
…and if, as you maintain, you actually intend to leave today, to leave for Chur in Switzerland,” said Moro, “then of course the entire thing, meaning its entirety, will have to be certified…at bottom you are acting as your esteemed father would have acted in this situation and under these circumstances…” and then: “such an untimely death as that of your esteemed guardian is of course in reality never an untimely death…a person dies and thereby turns a page…and as everything has of course been expressed ahead of time, it continues…you see…and as I know, there is not the faintest trace of sentimentality between you and your esteemed guardian…but I would prefer not to say [/would not exactly say] that your relationship has ended on a note of especially discreet mutual respect…
…and now that your brother Karl, that is to say, your half-brother Karl, has been excluded”—he did not say “murdered”—“everything is much easier…”
Fräulein Zelter, Moro’s secretary, had brought in a new pile of documents, together with my lists, itemizations, preliminary estimates, etc., which I had compiled at Stanford and had mailed to Moro before my departure, and gone back out, and Moro was beginning to compare the deeds, land register statements, etc. with my lists, itemizations, and calculations.
“Apropos of the comparison,” said Moro, “that is to say, apropos of the comparison…at bottom to be sure it is all, even on such a colossal scale, [very] simple…but the administration of justice requires the imposition of these hindrances on you, it is superstructured on absurd complications…and dependent upon perplexities…
a gigantic dispersal,” mused Moro, “one that is unprecedented, thoroughly uniquely unprecedented…yet when everything tends towards annihilation, to the annihilation of the old living conditions, the exploration of new ones…you know that the news is already a couple of thousand years old for us…history-makers, history-fakers, historical-change-fakers, as your esteemed guardian invariably put it, we believe, we say from time to time invariably in a righteous tone, in a human-righteous tone, my dear Master Robert, that everything ought to be annihilated…
already as a child I was a frequent visitor to Ungenach,” said Moro, “and when your esteemed father was governor of our state, I was [constantly] exiting and entering Ungenach. With my mother. With my sister. On warm summer evenings…you know that once upon a time your esteemed father retained twelve hundred employees in the forest…that was really not that long ago, now that I think back on it, eight hundred farmhands…stable-hands, maidservants,” he mused. What Ungenach was then, before the First World War, is unimaginable today. And even still after the First World War, before the Second World War…and what, as you yourself will see, if you can take the time to read through these deeds, it all amounted to…even your esteemed father didn’t know exactly what it amounted to… alone and uniquely my father knew the particulars of everything pertaining to Ungenach…and then after him I did, but when I took over this office, Ungenach was no longer Ungenach…
…but if one deducts everything that nature, society, etc., whatever we choose to call it, has deducted from Ungenach, in a relatively short time-span, a full quarter of it over the course of three decades,” said Moro, “something that no longer exists here in this region still imperviously remains…
this will be a gigantic dispersal,” said Moro, “of course there have always been changes where Ungenach is concerned, auspicious ones up until the turn of the century, after the turn of the century inauspicious ones, catastrophic ones of course for Ungenach…some of them subtending, others supervening…at bottom Ungenach has always been in motion…your esteemed father, later too your esteemed guardian kept the estate in motion…no kind of speculative element either… to take in at a glance a thing of such bulk,” said Moro, “is not easy for a notary, not to mention for its owner…believe it or not these bundles [of papers]” (all of which are labeled UNGENACH) “are the most interesting ones I have in my house,” said Moro, “without a doubt…Ungenach meant everything to my father, I myself often devote my nights exclusively to studying these papers, if I am unable to sleep or purely out of interest in the subject [of the estates]...these nights have made clear to me many things, all these connections…and the decoding of all these connections pertaining to your family, for one can infer therefrom the diversity and multiplicity of points of the compass from which your family has arrived as well as the multiplicity of points of the compass to which it has departed…these often remarkable representatives of this family, all these life-craving Zoisses,” said Moro, “whence they have arrived and whither they have departed…over the course of centuries…for believe it or not the Zoisses have made history, made this history, the Zoisses exclusively have made this history…and to be sure you qua Zoiss are also making history and making this history…even when you are in America you are making the history of the Zoisses and the history of our region…these bundles are to be sure only a fraction of those that pertain to Ungenach or the Zoisses…your family, as I said, this name Zoiss, as I said, that just like mine too, like Moro, as I said, [has] always [been] so tightly bound up with these papers…many things pertaining to my father, pertaining to my mother, to your father and your mother, to your half-brother Karl, are becoming clear to me thanks to these papers…and over and above that the history of the entire region, this fundamentally completely unintelligible landscape, population, etc…of the Salzkammergut, of the Innviertel, of the Traunviertel, of the Hausruckviertel…this entire population structure, [this] Upper-Austrian existence…which pertains solely to the timber, or let us say, the salt industry…the manufacture of cement, the founding [of iron]…it used to be that the salt and timber industries made genuine history, and the Zoisses of course, as you know, exclusively made the history of this town…this history is grounded in the Zoisses…it is all here, to be read through in these papers, [all] several thousand of them, this history,” said Moro, “that at bottom can no longer be of any interest to you whatsoever…besides, you are on the verge of transforming your temporary residence in America into a permanent one…[this] history is of no interest to you, that is the truth, and we even hear,” he said, while leafing through the papers, “when we listen closely, restive voices, whenever we open the newspapers, etc., [voices] of unrest…the words use of force permeate the columns of the leading articles…in a righteous tone, a human-righteous tone…hollow spaces,” said Moro, “filled with revolutionary cement, as your esteemed guardian put it, you know, cemented with revolutionary cement, as your esteemed guardian put it…hollow spaces are reputedly everywhere nowadays…you know, a person like me does not in a straightforward sense grow weary of a job like mine, on the contrary he devotes himself to it day in and day out with an ever-increasing inquisitiveness and capacity for exertion like a [kind of] statutorily-mandated regimen of the intellect, [he] is obliged on the one hand to set off, secure, segregate himself from other people, on the other hand [and] to a super-constructive extent, my dear Master Robert, to intensify, to strengthen, his contact with other people with an ever-increasing pertinacity… that such an on-the-one-and-other-handedness is taxing, that it indeed often extends to the utmost limit of a person’s capacity for endurance, is easy to conceive …existence is invariably extreme and the effort to exist [is] quite megalomaniacal…but it is a genuine art,” said Moro, “to segregate yourself a hundred percent from other people and the same time to merge with them a hundred percent…but indeed the whole of humanity has been living,” he said, “the longest time in a state of complete exile, it has bowed and scraped itself away, tugged itself away in the most ingenious, because vis-à-vis itself the most thoughtless manner, from nature, my dear Master Robert, you know…and the concept of nature, you see, as we invariably still understand it and as the people to whom we listen, as the newspapers that we open, the books, philosophies, etc. understand and employ and practice it invariably still in the most absurd fashion, no longer exists at all, my dear Master Robert…and who would know this better than a Zoiss,” said Moro, and: “these new tendencies on the other hand, transcendencies, everything still this old concept of nature,” he said, “anarchisms of the old concept of nature, revolutions of the old concept of nature…absurd,” said Moro, “everything is still this old concept of nature, now thus: in order to desire revolution, up until nothing but revolution, of the old concept of nature… and to discover a new natural and spiritual constitution,” he said, “naturally…youth paralyzed pitted against old age…annihilation,” he said, “whereby in every idiotic governmental institution hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of restorations present themselves…this new natural and spiritual constitution of which one hears so much talk these days, but this old concept of nature, you know…products of fantasy that day in and day out are devoured by our crude intellects and naturally out of these heads must be passed undigested into the populace...if we look at history, we see that we are only ever dealing with a colossal swindling of the people…with an obscene shambles of huge proportions…naturally,” said Moro, “we do not exist in any sort of grace period and it is a good thing that we are not mingling with our head during any sort of grace period…indeed, we exist in an age of such elevated, nay, perfervid insanity, in a disordered natural nerve center, thus according to your esteemed guardian, and to be sure, Zoiss,” he suddenly [addressed me as] “Zoiss” and not [as] “Master Robert,” “you see that Europe has once again donned the fool’s cap and bells, the filth must pass over us all once more…all twenty or twenty-five years [of it], but from now on in unimaginable proportions... in the country and in the cities, with which we have dealings, in writings, everywhere we get to, everywhere we come to, pseudo-political infectious diseases are epidemic…the houses, the books, that one enters, goldmines for the collectors of political perversity…the nation-states onanize, Europe as well as America, and we are seeing once again throughout the world an infamous conjugal impotence to make history out of its excreta…governments deplete themselves in vulgar oral propaganda…communism, socialism, democratic [capitalism] risible qua global masochism…soon we shall on the earth, or let us rather say in nature, which we do not understand, on this sadomasochistic spherical substance, I suppose, have no more than two or three hermetically sealed iceboxes, so-called continental refrigerators, in which the past like the future will have been permanently reposited…
to disperse,” said Moro, “thoroughly disperse, because to you, as you say, simply because you have gone to America, in this anachronistic ethnic ordure,” said Moro, “as we now see, because to you Ungenach no longer means anything, Ungenach for you is a prepotent burden, as you put it in your letter…and because there, at Stanford, unfortunately, you teach chemistry, because they did not let you teach chemistry in Austria, because they expelled you with your brain from your fatherland, because they expel all people of genius, whose heads are too big, by which they mean that the contents of their heads are too big for this tiny, absurd country…such a legacy can never be at a premium…
to disperse this monstrosity,” said Moro, “for in point of fact in dispersing Ungenach you will truly be annihilating it, in other words you will be annihilating Ungenach for ever, not only Ungenach…if as I believe, as indeed I can plainly see, while you are sitting there opposite me, you are going to go ahead with this [plan involving] everything connected with Ungenach, this entire history, as I have already once said, in point of fact this entire history, as I believe, once again everything…
but apropos of our business,” said Moro, “if we carry out this dispersal, it will easily take up the rest of the present year, mainly because I of course have to obtain an acknowledgement of receipt of a bequest, etc., from all these people to whom you are dispersing, from all these remarkable, for the most part absurd beneficiaries of dispersal, but of course I do not doubt that any of these people will acknowledge your bequest to him…it will easily take up the rest of the present year, for the wheels of justice turn with punishing sluggishness…we shall thoroughly discuss all this today, and then you will sign a form granting me power of attorney,” said Moro.
“The unfortunate thing is that you have gone to
and that is why this unfortunate thing has now come up…” America
Moro said: “And as I know, it was by no means by chance that you went to
, just as it was not by chance either that your half-brother Karl, that thoroughly unfortunate individual, went to America Africa…that you both left Ungenach, at bottom in order to destroy Ungenach…
but precisely such unfortunate circumstances as your vocational obligation to return to Stanford are annihilating everything…naturally the whole business still requires a detailed correspondence between you and me, we shall have to correspond a few more times regarding this business, for the simplicity that we now perceive is a thoroughly erroneous one, my dear Master Robert, you must yet brace yourself for a succession of vexations, for a dispersal, or [more] precisely a dispersal of such unimaginable proportions, entails the greatest vexations, as you must well imagine, since you are as well acquainted as I am with all these people who must receive something…
…and so in the final analysis those who have brought about revolution and those who have not brought about revolution, have a new natural-cum-spiritual constitution, one diametrically opposed to the old one, as they believe, completely opposed to the old society, as they believe, those who according to them[selves] believe, [in] science, the working classes, etc.
…while we walk through life with the whole perverse history on [our shoulders]…
…these heterogeneous people, [to] whom you are dispersing,” said Moro, “this concept astonishes me,” he said.
“Materialization, my dear Master Robert, is to be sure the destruction of materialization, but we are now bringing about this revolution, they say, because it is our revolution, they say, at certain times this fantastical revolution, at others this inverted and actual one,” Moro said, “and we are obliged to pay heed to revolution, not on account of what naturally follows in the wake of revolution, they say, what revolution ought to aim at, naturally must aim at…actually aims at…and whither it has led and naturally leads…we are bringing about this revolution, they say, because we must bring it about, because there are always grounds for bringing about a revolution…because we are living in a period, in which once again today revolution must be brought about, they say, what has been thought is being brought into being out of thought, they say, we are bringing about a reality that is the actual reality…and because we all must remain arrested together in a period in which we do not think, in which nature thinks and in which we do not rule, but rather nature rules with absolute authority…
this pre-summer,” said Moro, and looked down at the street, “these ever-unchanging goals in nature…this annually recurring worldwide rash, this natural arrogance, theory of color qua natural arrogance…this has all to be sure once again reached its acme…you see, this is all for the benefit of the pure dermatologists of creation,” and then: “for the benefit of your philosophical masochism, Zoiss,” and I thought, at certain times Moro says “my dear Master Robert,” and at others “Zoiss” and in such a way as to impart a completely determinate meaning to it, he said, “this masochistic philosophy, to which in America you have become inured, which you have there developed well…nature to be sure,” he said, “is as you know itself a natural phenomenon etc…and yet,” he said, “absolutely devoid of anarchy, which is human, absolutely human…anarchy/politics/man/nature etc.,” he pondered.
“If I were younger,” said Moro, “and if my name were not Moro, if you were older and your name were not Zoiss…for with time,” he said, “you know, come the forces that one
must bring to bear and rally, simply in order to bring oneself, to rally oneself, through to the next day, my dear Master Robert, whence one cannot help thinking that this is idealistic nonsense, such colossal forces, of which your late esteemed guardian incessantly spoke, of which they who do not think about them, against whom one must constantly develop, constantly renew and heighten these colossal forces etc., are generally incapable of forming any idea, this colossal energy against the vulgar, unqualified, abject, against human nonsense and against human brutality, do you understand, my dear Zoiss, quite apart from the exertion, the mania for struggle against collegial vulgarity, wretchedness, etc., [all of these things being] lethal…
today everything suffers from intelligence, not from poverty, and age stands in opposition to youth, which I am inclined to describe as a thoroughly natural insanity, the repulsive…Whither is one to look in order not to despair? What you are doing, my dear Zoiss is to be sure also a form of resignation and probably a much more shameful one at that…for this dispersal, this, as I see it, colossal dispersal…because this developizing, socializing, national, therefore global, imbecilizing is absurd to such an extent…for in the wake of socialism and communism we are all in a real and precise sense perishing together, as we perished in the wake of the imperial and royal dispensation, because we must perish, for in the final analysis it is for going under that everything has been intended…as communism and socialism are to be sure global depressions, global perversions…but the waves of global depression and the waves of global perversion must pass over us…pass over everything…this has basically been the preoccupying fact of my entire life, under the auspices of which fact I have carried on my entire existence, more or less uninterruptedly…and thus also to see this dispersal, which you like a criminal vis-à-vis his crime, like the condemned criminal over whose head the penalty of imprisonment has hung throughout his life, I am inclined to say, in the greatest possible degree of emotional poverty, for as I see it, you evince not the faintest stirrings of emotional activity… that you [should] liquidate Ungenach, fine… but that you [should] disperse Ungenach and thereby annihilate [it]…
The walk-takers,” said Moro, looking down at the Kirchengasse, “the most sensitive anachronisms, while they are taking walks, the most sensible of the most insensible, as well as the happiest of the unhappiest, possibly, my dear Master Robert, but one is not permitted to tell them that they are the most sensible of the most insensible, the happiest of the unhappiest…one is not permitted to accost walk-takers…who roam about with some or with no piece of business in their heads…above all,” said Moro, “human beings make an enormous production out of staving off boredom…one form of futility pitted against another form of futility…who roam about the forests, they roam along the lakeside, into the gorges, out of the valleys, and as you know, human beings roam about day in and day out unrelentingly in the two thousands of millions…whereby at bottom it completely suffices for them to exhaust themselves in eating and sleeping…very often my father, precisely because I was preoccupied with the Hisamgut here, would go above all with your father for a walk to the Hisamgut…through the Kammerhofgärten…Laudach, Langbath, Grünau, Lindach, Rutzenmoos, Aurach…in point of fact leading to conversations touching on Ungenach…and often also, as it seemed, touching on nothing whatsoever…your esteemed father,” said Moro, “and also my father, were walk-takers, walk-takers through and through and yet for all that not anachronisms, nor for that matter was your esteemed guardian an anachronism either…
walking and thinking, this simultaneity,” said Moro, “I observed in your esteemed father as well as in your esteemed guardian, as well as in my father throughout his life. I myself do not take walks. On account of this more than anything else I aroused the distrust of your father, as well as the distrust of your esteemed guardian…the walk-takers distrust people who do not take walks, who are not walk-takers, the anachronisms and so forth…and so this lovely landscape, this landscape of ours, is permeated in the most remarkable fashion by an unrelenting, in truth an omni-obfuscating distrust, a delicate tissue of distrust of non-walk takers by walk-takers permeates this landscape.”
“Thus friendships between walk-takers and non-walk takers are unthinkable…as is friendship in general,” said Moro. “When I take a look here at your itemization pertaining to Lindach, or pertaining to Hisamgut, I really do think that friendship is impossible, for these two estates have been proving for centuries that friendship is nonsense…in actual point of fact nonsense, my dear Master Robert…by which I mean that when one begins to scrutinize a friendship, looks into its causes, effects, goals, ultimately looks through it, it comes little by little to explain itself, it evaporates into a nightmare, Zoiss, and one sees that it no longer exists at all, that it never existed, and if one is intelligent one is cheered by [this realization…the realization] that it like everything else was a horrible [and] at the same time immoral means to the end…your esteemed guardian often used to put it that way: we are persistently, occasionally insistently pursuing the means to the end…everywhere nowadays maps,” said Moro, “mappings, as your esteemed guardian invariably put it, but reality, the future, [deals with] these maps, mappings, these often far too philosophical mappings, highway networks, as they very scrupulously say[, by] quite simply ignor[ing] them.
In the majority of faces there is nothing but stupidity, and in all these faces there is conjecturably or searchably or conceivably something other than stupidity to be had…
on account of which the masses have an absolutely stupid face,” said Moro, “for in the billions of pedestrians stupidity is naturally insufferable…but stupidity also has the means, as we are seeing once again right now, thus the strength, the power, my dear Master Robert, to extinguish, extinguish and annihilate, everything that is not every bit as stupid as itself…but while,” he mused, “stupidity and poverty are two completely distinct concepts, they nevertheless both lead to the same goal…if we are to give our opinion about all of the ruling phenomena of the present, we are obliged to say that everything has never before been so grotesque, notwithstanding the fact that all the ages one right after the other have always been grotesque…doubtless,” said Moro, “that is quite beside the point, as your esteemed guardian put it, it is much more lamentable, more abominable, which is to say more unprofitable, as far as nature is concerned to annihilate those detested human beings of a higher order, who are on the point of dying out and who have already been virtually annihilated, than to avail oneself of the common and base ones, in other words to guide them, to introduce them to the higher things, possibly to their own higher essence, which is to say to prime them in such a fashion that the common and base human beings are transformed into beings of a higher order, the higher human beings into still higher ones, etc….but human beings are smitten with the path of adversity,” said Moro, “and democracy, in which the biggest blockhead has the same right to vote and the same weight in voting as the genius, is a form of madness…to this extent the world,” said Moro, “if this term still enjoys general currency, [this world] that always has been on the verge of ending, is today already beyond its end, for the end of the world is a pubescent piece of nonsense…
The distances between human beings are increasing as the isolation of individuals is increasing…human beings,” said Moro, “aim to entertain themselves and in consequence there are these stories, in common life as well as in higher life, that cannot be comprehended without inducing nausea, and there is nothing truer than when a person who understands them says that he is nauseated.”
The Austrian, Moro reckoned, was just such a person, [inasmuch] as, because [such a gesture] could not but pain him, there was no use in directing him to [the examples of] Mozart and Stifter, [of] the insane Raimund and the maddish Wittgenstein, [in] directing him to nature, which doubtless could not but be an Austrian nature…“Nowadays nobody credits us with either the power (and the culture!) that we do not have, or the power (and the culture!) that we once had, or for the most part never had, because for the most part nobody credits us with anything any longer.”
The causes of anxiety, Moro said, if we research them, are perfectly clear, but that still always leaves the question of what anxiety is.
Seen in this light, concepts are the things that stand at the farthest remove from us. In this respect concepts are no concepts.
“Every life is a consistency in itself,” said Moro, “your esteemed guardian quite often said, in every single one of them there is synthesis…and the philosophies, not the philosophers, mind you, philosophize, which is to say, abadumbrate, abacinate, abominate, annihilate…”
Generations of ashamedness are followed by those of shamelessness.
“Your esteemed guardian put it this way: everything goes to show that we are shameless.”
“Spirit, unspirit, reflection of all brains,” said Moro.
“As your esteemed guardian very often used to put it: to enter large areas of space, to enter ever increasingly large areas of space, to enter space [itself] in the final analysis…but to whom are you saying this such that everything is as inconceivable as possible…for we incessantly talk thus, like poor people talking about their property, which they no longer have (or never even had!), the elderly about their youth, philosophers about their philosophies, statesmen about their States, etc…
“As your esteemed guardian very often used to put it: to enter large areas of space, to enter ever increasingly large areas of space, to enter space [itself] in the final analysis…but to whom are you saying this such that everything is as inconceivable as possible…for we incessantly talk thus, like poor people talking about their property, which they no longer have (or never even had!), the elderly about their youth, philosophers about their philosophies, statesmen about their States, etc…
“Apropos of our business,” said Moro, “so then your cousin Linus is to inherit the
in its entirety…” Peiskam Forest
This morning the Simplon Express, according to Frau Morath, has in conformity with tradition collided with a freight train, moreover, two of the eighteen fatalities so far reported hail from Chur.
The exciting thing, Moro reckoned, would be to plunge one’s head, he said one’s own unique head, first into physics, and then into metaphysics and thereby to grow old and waste away first in a physical fashion and then in a metaphysical fashion.
Frau Morath asks whether I have any desire to go into the “courtyard,” but I have no such desire.
“…one must bear in mind that the Kammerhofgärten alone are easily worth two million,” said Moro, “if your cousin Franz Schabinger inherits the Kammerhofgärten, nobody will be permitted to fire a gun within their limits…together with the Kammerhofgärten your cousin Schabinger will acquire some properties in Hungary…I have written all this down in draft, Fräulein Zelter will draw up the final copy later…this is an unprecedented dispersal,” he said, “as far as real estate is concerned, woodlands, agricultural lands, etc., quarries, cement-works, townhouses, pieces of furniture, etc…I suppose I shall catalogue the furniture and other moveables separately…just I shall of course also catalogue the parcels of woodland separately from the agricultural properties…speaking, as we just were, of the Kammerhofgärten, do you know that according to the data from the latest agricultural survey of the district they amount to eight hundred twenty-and-a-half hectares…I often went to Hungary with your esteemed father, [we’d] head up there first thing in the morning and often [not] head back down here till late at night…at bottom the whole business is superlatively simple, because I have prepared it all with superlative exactitude and organized it all quite thoroughly, in connection with which [preparation and organization] Fräulein Zelter has been doing an enormous amount of work, and, I must say, outstanding work at that…do you know that including Ungenach there are only eighteen estates containing large forests in the whole of Austria?” said Moro, “and after this dispersal is carried out, we shall be down to seventeen… the procedural aspect of the law quite often embitters and cripples those people who come into contact with the procedural aspect of the law from the outset, for their entire lives…then we have,” he said, “the Hisamgut and the Wöllergärten, Rutzenmoos and the woodlands on the Grasberg…I must say, your cousin Süssner, who of course is now incommunicado,” Moro did not say: “is now in the Stein Penitentiary,” “always struck me all along as an exceedingly suspicious individual, and my suspicions were eventually borne out…at bottom all these people study medicine only in order to extract money out of those of us whose carcasses have suddenly started causing trouble…don’t let me get started on the subject of medicine!...you are giving Süssner your most beautiful property, I must say, and, mark my words, as I now perceive, also one of the most productive ones…Süssner’s father was the worst doctor imaginable…these people were always suspicious in the highest degree…and Süssner’s mother was what your esteemed father would have termed a tarted-up, sanctimonious country whore…"
In point of fact once many years ago now, a rumor was circulating that my father had had an affair with Süssner and had used to meet him once a week under the pretext of having to [carry the] agricultural survey of the district to Süssner in town, and of Süssner’s having to carry it out of town and back to Ungenach, specifically to the Gmösers’ hut…Moro spoke not a word about the rumor, although I had been expecting him to start speaking about it, because he knows all about the rumor.
“So Süssner is inheriting the Hisamgut,” said Moro, “this lamentable fact [drives home to] me the seriousness of your dispersal…fine,” said Moro, “the whole business will naturally gobble up an enormous sum in [legal] fees, an enormous sum,” he said several times, “not to mention the incredible taxes that all these people will have to pay, these people whom, it now occurs to me, you in the most absurd manner are about to…fine,” said Moro, “you yourself will not lose a penny through this dispersal thanks to the sale of the property at Unterach…what is more I have already paved the way for this sale…quite possibly the whole Unterach business will be settled as soon as next week…once I have purchased Unterach, I shall [be able to] finance this dispersal without a hitch…but naturally this dispersal will entail on your American-residing end a legal form-induced nausea that will overwhelm you without warning, a legal form-induced nausea of unimaginable proportions…by a rough estimate the part of the Hisamgut to the north of the Ager alone is worth a million two hundred thousand, by a rough estimate, but in actual fact it is probably worth a great deal more…but as far as Süssner is concerned,” said Moro, “Süssner of all people…but of course you are not listening, we have now already been talking to each for nearly three hours, and more than anything else we have been talking about Süssner and the people like him, [these] people who live in conflict with the law, [and] to whom you are bequeathing…but you are not listening.”
Life was direct, death indirect, “as your late esteemed guardian put it,” said Moro.
The Moros have always been, as far back as anybody can remember, notaries, solicitors, resident to a man in Gmunden. The Moros’ house in the Kirchengasse is one of the oldest [in town], older than the five hundred year-old pharmacy next door, and certified to have been for more than two hundred years in the possession of the Moros, who came [to Austria] from Tuscany. One of my ancestors hired a Moro from
as his groom. Like everybody [else] in Gmunden, the Moros have [tended to be] sickly but to survive into old age. “One left home, your esteemed guardian once averred,” said Moro, “as if for the purpose of putting oneself on trial, of submitting to a trial, to a trial at an assize court, and it is only after having been sentenced, in every case sentenced,” he said, “often to many years of arduous imprisonment, endarkenment, naturally [of] solitary confinement, that [one] returns home.” Florence
Prospective shareholders of my dispersal:
Schabinger (Kammerhofgärten, Properties in
Ehrlich (Townhouses in
Hufnagl (St. Konrad)
Leaseholders to be compensated as a consequence of the sale of the Unterach estate:
The following [are] notes regarding the prospective shareholders of my dispersal, which I have written down for my own use: Schabinger says in English old growth, broken forest, low bush, talks only, if ever, about woodlands and forests, about wood, types of wood, the export of wood, about the kapok tree, free clearing, regrowth, of defoliation and deforestation, etc…racks his brains during the summer over the winter casualties in his woodlands, which he then describes with his great aptitude for description…in calmly composed sentences developed out of his own outlook he fashions the daily routine of his workers, co-workers on the piece of land whose yield is to be a truthful resolution of the plot in the presence of the listener (Father). Strives, in accordance with his upbringing, his origins, after ever-greater sagacity, classification of reality. Autodidact in geometry, higher mathematics.
Gruber, actor, has “discovered one of the best facilities for living” (Father). Admirer, collector of chests of drawers from the Josephinian period. “Ever deeper stratifying of worlds.” “Infinitude qua concept of age.” Clear form of consciousness. “Death qua natural science juxtaposed with life, life.”
Goi, calm and composed, segregated from all of us during a christening reception at the Fersenagut at the upper part of Brixen, in his father’s library with the philosophical fragments of Kierkegaard, while we in our exuberance made a great illumination in the vineyards…antipathy to all forms of sudden accostation, accostedness. His sisters objected to his wardrobe, consisting of a single Styrian-tailored loden coat. At my father’s funeral, probably also at my guardian’s funeral, he wore this selfsame loden coat with a black cape, a garment originally worn by south Tyrolean shepherds. On that occasion, at the cemetery at Aurach, he invited me to the harvest of the vineyards at Fersenagut, an invitation that I declined, because I was preparing to leave for Stanford. He observes me with a dangerous inner restlessness.
Söllner, twenty-eight, four sisters, all unmarried, older than him, completely isolated from the outside world, his life on the shore of the Langbathsee. (Echolalia, catalepsy, stupor, echopraxia.)
Lent, born in 1931, after his abortive studies in the natural sciences working as a foreman at a quarry. Two children. Exceptional musical ability. (Autism.)
Schrögendorfer, Linus, completely isolated on account of negligence, living in the
. (“I understand nothing.”) Autism. Peiskam Forest
Stadlmayer, born in 1917, had the benefit of my father’s confidence, as well as my guardian’s, superintendent of the Brauching cement-works. Perceives his own children as strangers, his wife as a source of nausea. “Because I am naturally imprisoned within my job.”
Plöchl, Konrad, trauma. Cause of the unfortunate incident on the
Brenner Pass in which his parents were killed was a torrential downpour.
Süssner, Stein Penitentiary
Hippel, Georg, who while relocating from Gemona del Friuli lost his wife and children. A monument has been erected at the site. They had been en route, in a new car, to
, from which they were to travel to Venice . Works as a warehouseman in Neukirchen. Padua
Anschütz, Josef, born in 1941, who was obliged to wrap up his legal career after his father, who was a lawyer in Loifarn, shot himself. Married a Feistritzian timber-merchant’s daughter who died last year. Lost everything in speculative investments.
Hennetmayer, Karl, “natural theologian” (Father).
Ehrlich, Franz, philosopher,
Sinzheimer, Ludwig, forester’s helper whose mother has retired to Tarvis (now located in
). From there his mother journalizes to him, her Reschen-resident son, in weekly letters (printed family coat of arms: two crossed swords, below them a trout) centering on long walks through the Val Canale, on her memories of her first and third husband. She lives with the second one. She often writes about gorges, weird animals, buried treasures, about adulteries, disasters, earthquakes, mentally retarded people. Her hatred of all things Carinthian, Italian. “Ultimately, imprisoned between lofty rock faces, a victim of [her] own solitude.” (Father) Italy
Palant, Franz, temporary worker at Kircham with whom I went to elementary school.
Zumbusch, Churean uncle, philosopher, mill-owner, tollbooth attendant on the
Turegg, born in 1938, scholar of the theater, proprietor of a bank. Studies not pursued to their conclusion.
Dappich, Ferdinand, restlessly [shuttling] between
and Graz . Without a vocation. In possession of an already virtually exhausted fortune. Mother an epileptic. Rome
Köchert, Robert, son of a brewer. Author of an “ichthyology.”
Rosenstingl, born in 1926 in
Schickinger, temporary construction worker. Conversation in the Kammerhofgärten.
Spalt, urban garden-laborer, lives at 23 Am Hochkogl, Gmunden.
Hufnagl, geneticist. Articles on “Induced Mutation Events,” on “Demonstrable Methods of Mutation in Chromosomes and Genomes.”
Pauser, Sergius, philosopher, man of the world, mystic.
Prospective receivers of revenue from the sale of Unterach:
Kulterer, Spiritual Adviser, Vöcklabruck;
Hofrad, August, woodworker at Reindelmühle;
Pius, Ferdinand, journeyman miller at Aschbach
Fabian, Titus, temporary worker, [incarcerated at] Garsten Penitentiary;
Absam, Nikolaus, foreman, [incarcerated at] Suben Penitentiary;
Ritzinger, Viktor, [incarcerated at] Göllersdorf Penitentiary;
Kobernausser, Justin, [incarcerated at] the Steinhof mental hospital.
“When we, your esteemed guardian said, when we were in Hungary that one time, on Corpus Christi Day,” said Moro, “on that indisputably loveliest of all rising grounds in the foothills of the Alps, looking down from such a height upon such a landscape, you see, we think instantaneously about everything that is happening in this landscape, that ever happened and that ever will happen, you understand, my dear Master Robert, the entire past and present and future that pertains to this landscape…it is not possible to look down otherwise upon such a landscape…
…in history we never see anything but particulars, possibly only the most ancillary particulars, as your esteemed guardian put it. We recapitulate, reconstruct the insignificant as history...in the midst of humanity we know well enough how to observe human beings, but we are not as good at studying them and are downright bad at judging them…one must emerge from the position of observation into the position of judgment…approaching the object to be sure, according to your esteemed guardian, draws us away from the object…as we occasionally aim for rest,” said Moro, “occasionally for restlessness…
“so I often spent time in the company of your esteemed guardian, when the opportunity was auspicious, for the sake of hearing such maxims…I admit of course,” said Moro, “in his last days, with the progress of his illness, which he subsequently, not without putting everything pertaining to Ungenach in order beforehand, evaded more or less insensibly…that I was the one who telegraphed you the news,” said Moro, “I qua notary,” he said, “was obliged to [relinquish/send] that telegram, which got me to thinking, my dear Zoiss…in point of fact a colossal confusion at Ungenach began to reign as soon as the death of your esteemed guardian was detected…but as you know, your esteemed guardian had no influence whatsoever on your esteemed father’s will, in which everything was awarded to you and of course to your half-brother Karl…and after the death of your half-brother Karl etc…”
“Your esteemed guardian [was] extraordinarily well-informed and precise in the matter of Ungenach…and since the death of your half-brother Karl you have naturally functioned as sole heir…Your esteemed father, just like your esteemed guardian, hardly ever, as I know, talked about the financial state of the properties…and you yourself have also taken no interest in Ungenach…which of course also accounts for your intention to liquidate Ungenach…for the fact that such a liquidation is even possible…just now you were surprised at how big it all is, and Ungenach today is not more than half of what it once was…and the fact that you refuse to allow yourself to be bested by such an interruption of your travel…and that you are retaining for yourself only thirty thousand dollars on which you plan to subsist…because you believe that thirty thousand dollars will suffice you for the future…I do not even know what America means to you, I myself have never been to America…and I am also through and through a person who could never live in America…who could not live just anywhere in Europe, you understand, who can exist only here in this landscape, which is his own…and how remarkable that both of you, your esteemed half-brother Karl and you, have forsaken this country and have gone away, your half-brother Karl to Africa, and you yourself to America…
because here you were not afforded any possibilities of developing yourselves,” said Moro. “I do not understand,” said Moro, “why this country lets all the people who amount to something run away, expels them, brazenly propels them to other continents…I do not understand this…but of course this country is dominated by the most appalling conditions, conditions that one cannot imagine, an unimaginable feeble-mindedness is winding the key of the machinery of our State…one must concede that much, indeed everything in this country is laughable…pathetic of course, theater…such that one is quite conscious here that one is dying, withering away, [that one] has decayed and must wither away…and such that I shudder whenever I think about it, my dear Zoiss…but everything is help- and powerless…when one cannot sleep under such appalling arrangements, cannot fall asleep and says to oneself that the fatherland is nothing more [or] other than an ordinary, brutal idiom of idiocy…out of shamlessness…the children,” he said and looked down at the street, “play and live entirely alongside events, while the adults are brutalizing, withering away, are actually not present at all any longer…whoever succeeds in writing a comedy or a pure farce on his deathbed has succeeded in everything. Within the insane asylums is the universally recognized insanity, your esteemed guardian said, outside the insane asylums is the illegal insanity…but everything is nothing but insanity.
…I shall never again, this is definitive, go back to
and thus never again back to Accra Africa, the circumstances do not permit a return of my person…
even yesterday, as I was already busy packing up my things, and even during my conversation with Robert, I believed I would still be capable of departing tomorrow, all signs pointed towards my departure two days thence, I also wrote to McDonald in Dakar that I would be arriving on the 24th, also to Stirner and Reitmayer the engineer, and so yesterday I thought that I would be departing tomorrow, that I would go back to where I have been working for the past three years…
pointless, merely to be obliged to ascertain the futility of such work in
Africa…and via McDonald in Atakpame ( ), that I would be resuming my work subsequently next week, when I had left off doing it on the day of my father’s death… Ghana
that it is obvious to leave Ungenach, certainly in consideration of my brother Robert, who is teaching in America, who is also leaving Ungenach once again tomorrow, going back to Stanford…but while I am working for a worthy purpose, Robert is oblivious of any sort of worthy purpose…it is precisely this worthy purpose, along with the whole concept of purposiveness in general, that I have been unrelentingly pondering in recent weeks, months, actually probably years…because I am incarcerated in the notion of simply being able to continue existing in Africa, just as Robert believes in nothing but continuing to live in America…for Africa is my only possibility of existence, I have always believed…that in Africa alone is possible what has become impossible for me in Europe…this notion has possessed me, all the while that I have been completely unqualified, because for so many years totally alone, [alone] alongside my parents, and alongside my guardian, and alongside Robert, to enter into a partnership with McDonald and to accept the position proffered to me by McDonald…because I am suddenly no longer able to bear [the thought] that Robert is in America and is making the greatest headway there…[headway] of the most personal nature…and with what intense enthusiasm did I accept the position offered to me by McDonald…right up until the last instant, from the instant at which I arrived at Dakar, then at Accra, onwards…but today I see that I can never again go back to Africa, precisely because my brother is at Stanford and is going to stay at Stanford, at any rate in America…
and now McDonald is rightly demanding an explanation, I must deliver up a description of the circumstances that have arisen here and that all of a sudden are prevailing here with colossal violence, such an impossible justification…but I cannot explain Ungenach to McDonald, [explain] anything connected to Ungenach, explain where I would have to begin and how…when I simply cannot begin to devote myself to all our connections, which are all lethal connections…but at least to formulate in a telegram the fact that I shall never return, to post an informative communication…and I see that altogether nothing can be made comprehensible, that the method by which we proceed from Ungenach, by which we approach Ungenach, is lethal….and that what I am saying must remain impervious to understanding.
Speaking crassly on my own behalf to be sure…everything is a lack of understanding, because nothing can any longer be made understandable, when naturally everything is in the process of being liquidated, on account of which I can no longer sleep.
That everything was merely an attempt to make themselves understood, while I was literally wasting away at Ungenach alongside my parents as I was alongside my brother and alongside my guardian and alongside everybody else. Or they suddenly do away with themselves, because they can no longer tolerate the rhythm that prevails here, or they become absorbed in a frenzy of reading. In an insane vehemence.
Because I always must infer everything from particulars, conversely to infer particulars from everything. Human existence consists in consciousness of the fact that nothing comprehensible can be made material, in ignoring, in therefore vegetating in consciousness, not in a relatively simple life qua minimal existence.
In point of fact I myself cannot explain why I suddenly can never again go back to
Africa. And to remain in Ungenach, which I know spells insanity (fluctuating insanity).
Never again to go to where my only possibility of existence is, or to remain where there is no longer anything for me, because I believe I must remain at Ungenach…for in truth it was only my reflection at some place or time that I would suddenly have to be at Ungenach again that impelled me to go to Atakpame.
As far as I know, I have never managed to make myself understood to McDonald. The nature of the matter is thus: if I were to say that there might very well come a moment when I would have to return to Ungenach…if it were possible just once to make everything clear to myself, even everything pertaining to me, along just once with everything pertaining to everybody else, in a single unique thought, this [clarification] would naturally signify an understanding.
But for this a third person would be indispensable, indispensable qua neutral brain, which person or thing naturally does not exist.
I tell myself that I ought to go back to
Africa, but I do not go back.
Everything presently and generally amounts to this, that I ought forthwith to return to
Africa, just as my brother is returning forthwith to . America
Everything is an excuse.
I myself am offended by having been overwhelmed in an instant. By myself.
Therefore I shall telegraph McDonald my resolution absent any commentary. For that my conduct will eventuate in a breach of contract, that this conduct of mine is a breach of contract!, is clear to all parties concerned. As I knew nothing and at the same time everything, I committed myself for a period of eight years.And I served for three of those years.
And I have always believed I would be able to attain an always-increasing, and not merely intellectual, intensity. To be responsible. And naturally in the manner expected by McDonald of his coworkers.
And we have always attained the utmost, at the same time, nothing.
To be sure, we are the thinkers and the sinkers.
While I am obliged utterly and completely to abandon my work and the work of my coworkers, in the judgment of McDonald, McDonald who possesses superlative powers of judgment, in retrospect…such that all our exertions have ended in a catastrophic depression (Reitmayer). We have always, time and again, been working ever farther away from this depression. As we have indeed always time and again out of the very selfsame aforesaid depression risen to our feet, and matured ourselves, and dressed ourselves, partaken of food, consorted with women…in the conviction, actuality, not the feeling, of futility.
But the fascination with futility (Reitmayer) has not allowed us to come into a proper [state of] despair.
The entire time I have been preparing an attempt at an explanation, although I know that an explanation is impossible. But however capable of explaining we are, when we think, we ought to explain something, to vindicate ourselves etc….because when we look in that direction, the neutral brain fails to appear, everything [is] a set of stage-sets in the absence of the neutral brain, for which, however, everything is nevertheless intended, as I am obliged to declare…philosophical irreparabilities, inversions qua condition.
…I got out of bed tonight and have been intending to write this letter, but the tranquility that prevails here and that has always prevailed here at Ungenach has made it impossible for me to write to you…lying in bed, I made a rough draft of the letter, but then, when I got up, I was unable to write…and have subsequently time and again been unable to write, whence you will perceive that my situation is an aggravated, if not a hopeless, rest assured a desperate, one…I intend merely to say that I shall never again go back to Africa, I am not permitted to go back there again, it is no longer authorized for me to do so…
You will be unable to picture Ungenach to yourself, [picture] the buildings and this despotism of real estate…the fact that our father no longer exists means that Ungenach no longer exists…my brother is going back to America tomorrow, as you will have learned from my reports, for years now he has been teaching chemistry at Stanford/U.S.A…
This letter would not have presented so many difficulties to me if I had sat down immediately after supper still carrying in my head the sentences that had occurred to me during my father’s funeral at the cemetery at Aurach, where it was so hot that it reminded me of Atakpame…my brother therewith agreed to my not going back to Africa, he recommended that I should go to America…but doubtless it would be impossible for a person like me who, in contrast to my brother Robert, has learned pretty much nothing, to get a firm footing in America…for my brother Robert’s actual return to America is a different matter from my counterfactual return to Africa…we are pretty much of two entirely contrasting natures…Atakpame means something different from Stanford.
But you cannot demand any explanation from me if you also feel it desirable for me to explain things to myself now…the tranquility that prevails here has always killed everyone and everything…but I am also not permitted to go back to Africa on account of the poor state of my guardian’s health.
During the night I [enjoyed] clearer versions of these very thoughts.
Such that, before I began this letter to you, [I began] one to Dr. Stirner (who hails from this area, as you know), in which I request the few personal belongings that I left behind in Atakpame, books, photographs, letters, etc., down to which my emotional and spiritual environment has dwindled in recent months…in point of fact in Africa I have discovered, courtesy of you alone, albeit courtesy of Dr. Stirner’s intervention, what I sought in Europe for so long in vain. [I allude here to] the possibility of room in which to move, which was allowed to expand [from out of] me without interruption in Africa, for in Europe I have not had in a very long time any room in which to move, all the way back to the moment when I met you at Brussels and signed your contract.
Whose contents committed me to eight years, whereas I have served only three of those years.
From this default spring two difficulties, the greatest in my own head…I am scheduled to arrive on Tuesday at
, on Wednesday at Dakar , but I shall by no means leave this place. It is as if I could not by any means ever again leave Ungenach, instantaneously as though it were no longer possible to distance myself from the buildings in which I am accommodated…and I shall in all probability remain at Ungenach for all time to come…as far as Ungenach is concerned, outright lies are true. Accra
The fantastic thing in point of fact…you will rightly have hit upon the idea that I have in the interval gone mad, for nothing is easier than to go mad.
All of a sudden, through these sentences, everything seems erroneous, the errors themselves seem erroneous.
But I am on completely familiar terms with this style of talking of mine, [as] you must know, thus I am capable of talking in my talkative style…if only an explanation were possible, but an explanation is impossible…
To Dr. Stirner
…this familiar atmosphere, Stirner, these horrible people, these old fortifying walls, these lifelong habits, this silence and this megalomania…
I am staying in my old room, in which everything is as it always has been…how, I think, I used to sit in this room often for hours on end, motionless, incapacitated…used to sit in point of fact for hours on end at my writing-desk, which is in reality the writing-desk of my grandfather (my maternal grandfather), for this reason for hours on end…and I did not have the strength to get up, I think, to leave…just as I now cannot leave Ungenach…
without reading something, without being able to write something at my writing-desk, my grandfather called it his thinking desk, in catastrophic fixedness, powerlessness…crushed flat by the complete works of Kant…
How often I have sat down at this writing-desk with the intention of occupying myself; in other words, developing shameful thoughts, incapable of even the most niggling amount of movement in my thoughts…
thoughts developed during walks, thoughts that were absent when I sat down at the writing-desk…when I approached Ungenach in the midst of a thought after a rather long walk often extending as far as the Hausruckviertel, and then this thought would suddenly absent itself as I passed through the courtyard, as I shut the door behind me, as I opened the shutters in my room…on many days I would make great leaps forward, on others I would ascertain nothing. To live for one’s purpose, to make oneself grow, to pay visits, to eat, to receive visits, to talk, and ever again talk about grievances or about indications of grievances…now regarding the causes and now regarding the effects and ever again only against one’s own brain…my dear Stirner, as you know, every day we have the milk that we drink at Ungenach brought up from the town, even though we have a huge dairy, because my stepmother wants all the meat that we eat to come from the town…
When I have been shut in for several hours for the purpose of studying, I dare no longer venture out of my room, because my sojourn in my room has been fruitless…one can spend days, weeks, on end in the company of books, atlases, precision maps, crouching down on the floor to philosophize about oceans and never-seen cities, be alone in one’s room with hated writers, but one must subsequently all of a sudden go out again and thereupon take heed not to go mad.Upon entering my room I immediately thought that everything that I am is closely connected with this room, that I am what I am in virtue of this room, and so on…and that it is so tranquil above the granary…just when I [am obliged] to go to a funeral, to which a crowd of people whom I do not know at all have come from all points of the compass, [all manner of] countries…during these hundreds and thousands of sleepless nights I have been obliged to think, [nights] into which I have crammed far too many senseless thoughts, [nights] in which I have read [deep] into that [heap of] novelistic nonsense written in the nineteenth and in the [first] half of the twentieth century, those unimaginably meaningless and insignificant productions…imprisoned within my four walls, whose smallest and tiniest particulars I have been acquainted with since earliest childhood…recollection in all these roomial irregularities…under the window-seats, over and under the door, lines for my trained eye…[lines] which cross each other, [which] intersect, by which my entire memory is permeated, at which, moreover, I like to stop in order to think.
This contemplativeness I have discovered [thanks] to my innate mathematics. Insufferable midsummer nights. These fissures and incisions, from the time before, from the time after the turn of the century, because we all whitewash our [living-]spaces…where the lines are suspended, have gone under, begun again, etc. qua elements, connections, suppositions…and I heard, I believe, because nobody had the power to do so, everything always alone. As the groom was so far away that he was unable to hear the sound of the walls, the decay, that one unrelentingly hears at Ungenach…
In a corner of the courtyard I discovered today the saddle and harness that my father bought from a farmer in Linz on New Year’s Day 1934…my father said some things, but what he said I no longer hear, always only how he said things, but not what he said…how various other people from Tyrol, as if he were alluding to our relatives in Passau… on account of their nonsensical preoccupations, and all of a sudden I saw Ungenach itself as a thoroughgoing piece of nonsense.
Habitual lying, Stirner, when I suddenly saw, that because my father had died all the shutters were shut and so forth…and when I encountered closed shutters in my room, I got the impression that the shutters had never been opened the entire time that I had been in Africa…and I thought: everything really is completely unchanged: the park, the trees, the branches of the trees…I went straightaway to the park, so deep [into it], that I was capable, in point of fact, of filling it up with living beings, human beings, as I ascertained, with relatives, just as one fills up a subordinate stage with human beings (with relatives)…honest, ductile human beings who incessantly, in compliance with a mise en scène no more determinate than this, walked out of the park and walked back into the park and again walked out of the park and so on…quite distinct[ly] their clothes, their manner of speaking, their accent, Stirner. I know what they are thinking. But all these people, I thought, no longer exist. This mechanism exists, these people do not. Laughter in the park. Depending on their frame of mind they allow themselves to be ordered around well or less well there in the park. Four in front of the fountain, eight behind the fountain, six in front of the fountain, eight behind the fountain and so on…I arranged [it], and it was an utter delight for me. As I step up to the window and actually look out, I ask: what has become of all these people? The unanswerability [of this question] terrifies me…suddenly my attention was exhausted, and the people vanished from the park.
So the park is empty, I see nothing, hear nothing.
My room is lethally unchanged.
My guardian’s wife was not once in my room during my absence, I think. Paintings, miniatures, engravings, incunabula, unchanged,
, Venice , Padua , Bergamot from the Nuremberg Chronicle. The trouser-press, the book-press. Mantua
The many artists that often for a warm meal have painted one of us here at Ungenach. An uncle, children. Fluvial landscapes, details of landscapes like a piece of the Höllengebirge, Totes Gebirge…two grandchildren sitting on the laps of their grandparents, dressed for their first communion… dab-brats, said my father disparagingly. How very little meaning have the higher or highest arts, painting and so forth, had for me, the masterworks [even] less than the dilettantish ones, for example, the painting of my great-uncle Richard, mill-owner and sawmill-worker, versus a famous portrait by Cezanne…[at our commission, paintings of] abbots, bishops, a cardinal, military officers, scenes of revolution, Indians held captive at cannon-point by the English and so on…the ever-popular tumult of slaughter, the ever-popular encirclement by the entire army, demolition of entire nations…all these people, families, this whole reign of terror, out of which and into which I have been begotten qua product of contingency…even as a child I often pondered this terrible word reign qua reign of terror, and I thought that the word reign along with reigning [itself], along with the concept of reigning, in every case signified the reign of terror.
“How we alighted from German upon Spanish, upon French and from French upon Spanish, Italian, German books and authors.” Robert.
“It vexed me to be losing my way in the vitiated modes of intellection that are ubiquitously observable nowadays, I found it repulsive.” Robert.
“Circumstances entail that I shall soon cease to be able to read anything, take note of anything, regard anything as true.” Robert.
“Now I leave home and wish never again to come back home, now I come home and wish never again to leave.” Robert.
“The cause of death is in myself.” Robert.
“While I was mowing at Ungenach at in the morning I grazed the foreleg of the roe standing invisible in the grass and the roe fled into the forest and bled to death…” Robert.
“When I attend to their tactlessness…” Robert.
…I was quite good at Latin, while my brother is the better mathematician.
…when I was bedridden for two years, Robert instructed me in natural science and English.
…his attempts at steadfast self-sufficiency, in which he succeeded and I did not.
…His glibness in talking, like his writing of letters, which I do not write, the art that he was born to master, and which I have not mastered.
…just as neither of us knows what to begin to do with his money.
To return to Stanford has not been his only way out, but my only way out has been to return to
When our father completely lost his eyesight, he fancied he could see better and systematically, because he all of a sudden began to hear. By dismissing all the doctors he succeeded in intensively seeing everything, albeit pretty much nothing any longer in actuality, through his ears.
The mention of Stirner arouses Robert’s distrust.
We talk about something or drink something or talk and drink: depression qua habit.
Misfortune qua habit.
[The belief] that we had a right to our life, because we knew nothing about it (Father).
…during your adolescence you took on a role that you have subsequently played day in and day out without bothering to choose whether to play a merry or a comic or a depressive role in real life.
you judge people according to your own will, and every thought you have is a thought that I inevitably exclude…
With my eyes incessantly reconstructing upon the topsoil of the forest an Ungenach that no longer exists, in reality never existed, hundreds upon hundreds of meanings qua your future life: [a] natural relationship.
With the untimely death of Father, to whom I was bound throughout my life in a tranquil, [ever-] strengthening relationship of trust, of a natural spiritual kinship.
Two hundred, three hundred meters completely soundlessly, then once again walking while talking ahead of myself into the landscape and answering questions that one is not permitted to answer.
“When we have not talked for some time, we must talk, when we have talked, we must be silent.” Robert.
All these tens of thousands of human beings [whom you safeguard/of whom you take notice] and who ultimately prove to be your relatives.
Always again the unfortunate accident in the Totengebirge, which preoccupies me all the more in that I read about it in the newspaper, along with [news of] the other accident on the Katschberg, which I experienced.
The fascination with empty rooms, completely vacant rooms, in which always again a dead person lies.
With Robert in the Hochgebirge
When quite early in the day, in awareness of the fact that at the end of autumn the days are already much too short, we take walks into the forest and thus into the gorge, we realize in hindsight that it will soon no longer be possible to take walks, to set out on walks that are doubtless much too long, walks that we only very rarely manage to complete, such that having covered no more than half the distance we are already tired and are obliged, on account of the concomitant cause of the weather, all of a sudden [to go] into an inn or even a house that is not an inn, because we cannot make it to an inn…we are incapable of looking for an inn, of asking for directions to an inn, hence of reaching an inn, even though there are a remarkable number of inns in the gorge, that one would easily estimate that every second or third house is an inn. I am familiar with many of these inns, but there is still a tier of them that I am unfamiliar with, that I have as of now only heard about not seen, let alone sought out. When I am on my own, for familiar reasons, I do not seek out an inn, but when I am one of a pair the search for an inn under these circumstances is a constant delight, and th[is] search for an inn is often my sole escape from a total breakdown. There are so many inns here, I say, because it is so dark. Great darkness, I say, equals a great number of inns. Doubtless we are exhausted, we have undertaken much too much, our hasty, reckless, above all self-thwarting walking is to blame for our exhaustion. We have devoted too little attention to the economy of our walking. We walk and think, but do not think as we walk, above all else, that we are walking too quickly while we are thinking, we think and do not observe our walking. We walk but do not think, as in an ever-greater exhaustion. We believe that we are capable of walking faster and ever faster and capable of thinking and imagining ever-more intensively, capable of philosophizing; without thinking that we should have walked not quickly but rather slowly, we walk much too quickly and thereby soon become the victims of our now-catastrophic exhaustion. Our exhaustion, I said, is every bit and in every respect the catastrophe that we fear it to be. We have overestimated our corporeal powers. Stay put, I said to Robert: no matter how many inns there are in the gorge, at the moment we are nowhere near the nearest inn, I don’t believe we have the strength to make it to the nearest inn. For our sake nature irritated us. We [had been] happy for two hours in her lap, now she was depressing us. Then all of a sudden it is as though the droning of the water, the air, the rocks, are unendurable. One supposes that one can hear the birds falling to the ground like rocks. It makes no difference what kind of a house it is, [we’re going to go] into the next house, I said. All [the] houses are empty. Not all of them, said Robert. Nobody in the gorge takes any interest in the tumbledown ruins of former inns. Once upon a time, decades ago, all these houses were inns, a lively, remarkably boisterous, impulsive stream of activity—diluted, admittedly, by the river-water—ran the entire length of the river, of the gorge. Need I say, I said, that all these inn-frequenting people, whether they have vanished by attrition from the inns or not, are related? There are no longer any raftsmen on the river. Decaying millwheels, I said. Holdovers amid the entire madness. Sunlight falls on the bottom of the gorge only twice a year. Here is where it is darkest. But not because the gorge in actual fact is the darkest [place], [but] because the gorge is the coldest [place]. As [I ] was remarking this, we reached the mill built half across the river and half into the rocks, which is to say we had been standing directly in front of this building for some time, but we noticed it only at that moment. In [we go], I said. The building reminded one of a prison. The windows were grated, whereupon I drew Robert’s attention to this fact: the curtains behind the grated windows were drawn. Initially it seemed as though the massive edifice were uninhabited, but a piece of laundry suspended from a broken window-ledge on the second floor incontrovertibly attested to the presence within of [at least] one resident. [We’ll go] no farther, I said, we are too exhausted. Come on, Robert, I said. Let’s go inside, I said. In the darkness we had not noticed that if we wanted to get to the building we had to go over the river. A wooden bridge. Let’s go, I said. The bridge was only a footbridge. I led the way. [What] if he falls, if he falls now, I thought. Robert! I cried. I have often felt, when walking on a dangerous pathway, across a bridge, a footbridge, like this one leading across to this building, that he could fall headlong. I have feared this all my life, that he could fall headlong, to his death. We shall ask, I said, if we can have something to eat and something to drink. I knocked. A short time after I had finished knocking the door opened. We were immediately allowed to enter the house. [To think] that for the longest time only this single human being (the fifty year-old woman) has lived here, I thought, as we entered the vestibule. A great, indeed, an incredible, amount of space separated the doors on either side of the vestibule. On the floor lay heaps of laundry, scraps of laundry. Authentic scraps, said Robert. We were supposed to follow her into the kitchen. Sides of bacon hung on a row of rusty iron hooks. We could have bread, bacon and bread. Spirits. But since we gave her the impression that we were completely exhausted, she offered us only water to drink. She gave me a knife. Robert was obliged to catch in mid-air a loaf of bread that she had flung at his chest. The kitchen was not a place she could put up with being in any longer than necessary, she reckoned and went out into the vestibule, we followed her, Robert behind me. I saw practically nothing, I attended only to the sounds. We suddenly found ourselves in the room opposite the kitchen, which in complete contrast to the other rooms impressed me as being totally dark. On the table there was a bottle of spirits…
In the Human World
To realize propensities, desires, plans, the quest for making [things] possible out of points of rest, without losing the distance…[along] with the capability of forming sentences as they believe it behooves sentences to be formed, as Robert forms sentences, while he is uttering them nonchalantly…
Then again unusually short sentences, which reestablish the equipoise of thought…in unrelenting command of one’s intellectual and corporeal [powers] to speak with reference to the center, to silence appearances, to clarify causes and so forth…to deliver oneself up to childhood qua cause of death…in full consciousness to translate oneself into action.
While things are in point of fact [and] in [and of] themselves without cause and effect.
“My unconscious youth.” Robert.
All of a sudden to surface, after weeks on end of seclusion, into the brain of landscapes, cities, people, indomitability, madness.
The notion that I am little by little working hard towards an achievement into which, as Robert has put it, I shall crawl for refuge when I am older.
And studying the constituent pieces of this achievement as one would the pieces of furniture in a building that one had purchased but not yet thoroughly inspected.
The fundus of his brain.
My memory fails me when my thoughts suddenly preoccupy themselves with myself.
“My attempt to locate people whom I have not seen in a long time and from whom little by little terminal illnesses thrust themselves into the foreground.” Robert.
The older we get, the further our mental hygiene deteriorates.
Perennial course of study: my own head, my own body.
The sudden idea of fashioning my own thoughts out of my antipathy in principle to madness.
[Antipathy] to opinions.
“On the whole, nature is a form of journalism and on many days the brain is a human interest story deleted from the newspaper of nature.” Robert.
“Because I exhibit too much of myself (in myself), which everybody subsequently knows.” Robert.
One day before my embarking on the tanker Cambon
…I see on the floor of the lobby downstairs a pile of luggage belonging to some arriving or departing guests. I want to know what is in the luggage, although I know what is in the luggage, that nothing else is in the luggage and so forth…I go into the lobby downstairs a couple of times solely in order to look at the luggage, and [pace] up and down and await the arrival of the luggage-owning individuals, who are doubtless the proprietors of these suitcases, look on, as they carry their luggage into or out of the hotel or have their luggage carried into or out of the hotel. My manner of contemplation is so conspicuous that it is already preoccupying the doorman…and I ask myself how shall I respond if the doorman, who is probably younger than me, asks me why all of a sudden my person has pitched up just when a pile of luggage [happens to be] accumulating in the lobby…I take immense enjoyment in picturing to myself the owners of these pieces of luggage one by one, in subsequently seeing these owners in the flesh, the lady with the black suitcase, the gentleman with the black suitcase, and so forth…the cripple with the collapsible folding-chair…I look [on] while all these people take up their luggage, carry it out, carry it in, while they order their luggage carried out or carried in, the way they walk and what they are wearing, what they have on their heads, whether they walk with walking-sticks or without walking-sticks…but I have no desire to accost any of these people, I worry that somebody will accost me and so forth…most of the people who alight here are [completely] ordinary, speak only one language, evince a vulgar, primitive philosophy of life…and it astonishes me that such a large number of primitive, vulgar people have all of a sudden begun roaming the earth, that this new community of the vulgar and the primitive is roaming the earth in such great numbers…in the Hotel Impero everyone and everything that comes here, for whatever reason it has come here, alighted here, becomes instantaneously as hideous as the hotel itself, everyone and everything that comes into the Impero instantaneously takes on the hideousness of the hotel, for in the street none of these people is as hideous as [he is] after he has alighted at the hotel, and the longer one stays here, the more hideous one becomes…
(To Robert, unsent)
To Renner the physicist in Vaduz
…whether you remember my father, and if [so], whether you wish to give me a description of the foot-march you went on with my father in 1937 in
, and to be sure from Sitten (Sion) to Leukerbad…my father was always talking yet again about this foot-march, which the two of you took through Raron, about a certain alpine railway line that the two of you could have used but did not use…my father often spoke of a certain mathematical problem that the two of you posed to yourselves during this foot-march and that neither of you was able to solve…and what mathematical problem was it? And in what did the difficulty of solving it consist? Can you recall anything whatsoever about this mathematical problem? It had, I believe, something to do with something significant, because my late father spoke about it so often, because he was always bringing up the subject [of it] yet again…I should also like to know if on that occasion you used the famous ladders behind Leukerbad, on the day of the storm…my father often talked about these ladders, he would link them up with the mathematical problem. Please allow me, esteemed sir, to call upon you to think back on that foot-march…for it was as a foot-march that my father described the excursion that the two of you undertook on that occasion…I should be grateful to you for each and every remark…for the biography of my father, who has now been dead for fully three years, has been enveloped in the deepest obscurity, such that I will do everything in my power, that I have just now returned from Africa in order to impart time and light to this obscurity, with which I have been preoccupied for years…and if you deem many or even most of the circumstances you recall in connection with the trip to Leukerbad to be of no significance, I beg you to remember that for me everything is significant and that for me everything, [and] not only that which pertains to this foot-march, is of the utmost significance. Switzerland
Please understand that I must first of all inquire into everything connected to my father, only after that can I inquire into myself. Everything is requisite to the formation of an opinion, just as everything [may] always be requisite to everything…but it seems to me, my dear sir, that the experience you shared with my father 33 years ago during this excursion, during this foot-march through the loveliest stretch of land in
, probably in all of central Switzerland Europe, is of the greatest importance.
The fact that I was until now unable to obtain your address from Accra, where I am presently employed, that indeed I had been unable to obtain it there for the past two or three years, for I really have been wanting to get in touch with you for that long, accounts for the fact that you are only now receiving this letter.
Our name cannot but be familiar to you, indeed, before the last war you were our guest at Ungenach for several days…and also my Uncle Zumbusch in Chur is no stranger to you…in the meantime much has changed…my father is dead, my mother, as you know, died immediately after the end of the war. My brother is in
. As for me, I originally intended to study natural science, but I did not in fact study it at all, [did] not attend any institutions of higher learning, [but] rather looked after the economic well-being of Ungenach, which looking-after was of no redeeming value for me or for Ungenach…admittedly in Africa I have time to devote myself to my natural-scientific avocation, to [my study of genetic mutations]… America
My father throughout his life always perceived Ungenach as a dungeon. Everything here is being changed. My guardian, above all my stepmother, is changing everything…and Ungenach is being transformed into an unparalleled travesty of nature that I am incapable of describing. But I shall not permit myself any unseemly digressions.
Please, I beseech you, do not spurn these lines for their tediousness, but, rather, think to yourself that the man who has addressed them to you has read all your publications with great interest and marveled at them and is now awaiting a reply that to him is of greater moment than all other [conceivable] replies [put together].
What happened that night you spent on the ladders from Leukerbad with my father in a hole of a town? Why had you arranged to meet my father exactly according to custom? My father was then en route to Görz and to stopping over at Cormons in Brieg. And what, above all, did it have to do with the mathematical problem with which, as I know, my father was preoccupied right through to the end of his life? There are many things pertaining to my father of which I am essentially ignorant, and these same things likewise pertain to this foot-march…
…today let us set aside a room for Widmer the actress, so that her presence at Ungenach will always be welcome and we may look forward to the pleasure of her company…we wish her, whenever she comes hither to this thoroughly wintry Ungenach of ours, a lovely, varied summer, in other words the most relaxing distraction, in other words the merriest of moods…I should have liked to call on her in the Josefstadt, but the play in which she was supposed to star tonight has been canceled and no other has been scheduled in its place…and so I did as follows, I had written to her, out of my disappointment at not having seen her, [proposing to go on] a walk [with her] through those parts of Vienna with which I was still unacquainted, from the Josephstadt to Bigittenau and over to Döbling…where, I wrote, I would call on a friend, a certain Hager, a conductor.
To Köchert, jeweler, Altmünster
Why did you talk, as we walked through the woods, about politics, when you know full well that when I am walking through the woods, especially when I am walking through the woods with you, I take no interest in politics, that the woods are no place for political conversation, not even for political conversations with oneself, as instanced by the one you carried on with yourself yet again the day before yesterday…but also the ones you have carried on with me…have you not been carrying on your political conversation for the longest time, for the past two decades?...Just as my esteemed guardian has his philosophical one? Just as my father has been carrying on his philosophical-cum-mathematical one?
As you know, I have been ill for several days and have, while I have been bedridden, taken an interest in prehistoric man of the tertiary period, and also in Peking Man, in the entire fossil record, from this illness I have derived the greatest profit…especially regarding the visual perception of objects, the art of visually perceiving objects. Everything within me is oriented towards this art…
I put on my jacket, I take off my jacket, I put on my trousers, I put on my jacket, I take off my trousers, I put on my trousers, I put on my overcoat, I put on my shoes, I take off my overcoat, I take off my shoes, I take off my jacket, I take off my trousers, etc.
Robert and I could be distinguished from the other children by the ordinariness of our apparel, not by our abilities, disabilities, by the characteristics of our upbringing.
…even though in point of fact Ungenach is situated in the very depths of the flatlands, we had always lived under the impression that its buildings had been erected on a high ground, even though in point of fact Ungenach is situated at a lower altitude than all the buildings that do not form part of Ungenach.
Subterranean corridors run beneath Ungenach.
It is remarkable, said my father, at certain times in the autumn, when one is beginning to open and to peer into old trunks, chests of drawers, etc. because one is starting to feel chilly and one is starting to think of winter clothing, at these times and in these places to happen upon the wedding-dresses of long-dead spinsters.
“The winters were long and cold, the summers hot and short.” (Father.)
From these notes, I get the impression that everything was very much as I described it, that it still is as I am describing it, as everybody else has described and as I myself shall at some point describe everything that lies at the bottom of these notes, and yet not one word of it is true.
January 3, ’66
Moro: “Last night I could not stop thinking about how onerously the legal situation [of the estates] would have evolved if your half-brother had still been alive…what an unfortunate individual, I could not help thinking, these conditions…I am obliged to say [so] out of fear, for politics is more or less nothing but madness.”
We wait in the waiting-room and when we are summoned, summoned by a doctor, we no longer remember what we have been waiting for.
Death makes a dead person into a dead house in which one looks for him, an empty world in which one looks for him…
…I believed that my unease would cease, that at last I would be at ease; now my unease is greater, my solitude definitive.
I listen to Händel’s Suites for Harpsichord played by Christopher Wood, and am happy.
My thinking leads to causes, one ought not, in conformity with Robert’s constant and recurring practice, to bring a philosophical-cum-medical captiousness to bear on Father’s death, to make his death into a pretext for speculation along lines that are now philosophical, now medical, now medical-cum-philosophical, when the actual agents in question are purely and simply human individuals qua culprits…
To my stepmother
…this house, all these houses were in the course of your marriage to my father transformed into your house, into your houses and the landscape into your landscape, into your plain of consciousness, from the moment you inspired my father to enter into this marriage and overpowered Ungenach and my father, the most magnanimous human being imaginable, you rendered him insensible of this rigorous sole mistress, disastrous sole mistress of this Ungenach, an Ungenach which for centuries on end [embodied] an entirely different concept, a concept diametrically opposed to what Ungenach has become today, no sooner had you got Ungenach in your clutches and subordinated it to your schemes and calculations, than with incredible celerity you reached your goal: the destruction of our property, of our autarchy, existence, everything that Ungenach had ever been until your entrance upon the scene of our history. In the year in which you embarked on your project of destruction, two, three years after the death of my mother, you succeeded in making Ungenach, that locus of liberality and humanity and culture and all the superior qualities of our manorial class, [a locus that was] I must say homologous with universal [human] development, into a zone of natural and spiritual havoc and devastation on an unprecedented scale, an inferno of tastelessness, as Robert himself once termed it, in which people such as Sophie, our cousin, a person who, being one of nature’s finer masterpieces qua lost soul, was diametrically opposed to, was no match for, your coarseness, depravity, cunning, monumentality, who before her Ungenach [days] was uncommonly cheerful, then at Ungenach [was] gradually, progressively obscured and obfuscated by all our neglectfulness and mental frigidity and inhumanity, [an inferno] in which such a delicate creature must perish, having first been antagonized, then set aimlessly adrift, [and] finally, literally mortified, lethalized. You genuinely hated Sophie and made this hatred of Sophie and of all of us who had believed we would be at home for ever at Ungenach into a mania, in the final analysis an infamy, into a perverse brutality, which convulses, and which neither I nor anybody I have ever known has been able to come to grips with, and you have discovered your followers pursuing ours…I shall not take the liberty of enumerating here the names of all the people who have on their consciences not only Sophie but also all of us who hunted Sophie to her death. But just like you all these polluted individuals live very well at Ungenach with the consent of my guardian, and they will continue to live at Ungenach for some time to come…The cause of my father’s death is therefore no secret, there is nothing mysterious about his death, nor about the death of Sophie, who was worried to the bone by Ungenach. To be sure I am not excepting myself here and I say quite distinctly: even under the dominion of my proscriptions and prescriptions…the farther away I am from Ungenach, from the theater of all our horrors, the more terribly ashamed I am that that which has mortally wounded me comes to you as a relief. Nothing is easier than to adduce in this letter particulars upon particulars against ourselves and subsequently to fashion these particulars into an accusation directed at ourselves, but [it is] ridiculous to deliver ourselves up to the sentence of our own judgment…But how could such a sentence be passed against you, you of all people, without turning into some kind of comic spectacle? Now Ungenach is completely at your mercy, and every single part of it bears your likeness, wherever one looks, wherever one reaches out at Ungenach one sees something repulsive, one touches something unnatural, your handiwork, you…slowly, with the constant support of my unsuspecting father, you thrust aside everything Ungenach once was, in the final analysis [you thrust it] downwards [and] into the background…[remember] when I said to your face that you [had] brought Ungenach, which once stood at such a lofty stratum, down to the stratum of the dregs, [that] you [had] transformed what [had] initially [been] an abode [for actual people], into a subsequent abode of tastelessness; from [miles] away, long before they ever catch sight of the place, prospective visitors to Ungenach can fairly smell you and your tastelessness…no sooner has one emerged from the thickets of the forest, than one sees and notices this tastelessness, at Ungenach everything is tasteless…the outer walls, on which you have painted your tastelessness, the bay-windows, roof-ledges, that you have pasted over…when one walks into the courtyard, in every cranny of which you have caulked in, and painted on, and nailed down, and set up your tastelessness, one realizes that today Ungenach in toto is an orgy of tastelessness…an Ungenach dumbed down to the level of the boneheaded stylistic criteria of the present…one observes with increasing disgust that by your agency vulgarity, irreversibility has penetrated Ungenach and is penetrating ever deeper, and by your agency Ungenach has been transformed from a nature unto itself into a grotesque artificiality, wherein the very air that one breathes is imbued with tastelessness…but these accusations, I suppose, no longer make any sense, have come too late, no longer have any purpose and are indicative only in a ridiculous sense, a sense that at bottom nobody sees, because those who could see it no longer exist at all…a new era, this era that wipes away everything that is of no use to it, an era of superlatively incredible tastelessness, has exterminated and wiped away all of them…and when I said to your face everything that I am writing to you, [said it] with this composed countenance of mine that cannot but strike you as being incomparably vulgar, vile, nay, illegal, and that you, who fear nothing, fear, your face perforce remained fixed in an attitude of incomprehension, of incomprehension and immutability incarnate…and you said, as you always have said on every possible and impossible occasion: let us proceed to today’s agenda…
…as I come back into the house, I hear that Sophie is dead…a week from now I am leaving for Paris, Robert is traveling to Vienna, Robert is traveling to Vienna and will stay for a year in Vienna, while I shall stay for a year in Paris, whereas we had planned for Robert to travel to Paris and for me to travel to Vienna…I resided in [a] room belonging to Frau Gussenbauer the physicist, read Montaigne in the original French and began, throughout the long winter, to take an interest in socialism and communism…incredible news of a philosophical nature, contact with those whom father termed the famous murderers of history, Marx, Lenin…
…the newcomer to Ungenach first notices Ungenach when he is standing directly before it; he is suddenly standing, after walking for an hour through the woods, before the outer wall, before the locked gate, and it often happens, even when he is expected, that he, even if he attempts to make himself noticed, remains unnoticed for quite a long time and so keeps standing there before the gate and is not allowed to enter… since the death of my father by order of my stepmother the gate has been kept locked and will open only when the extraneous, extramural individual has demonstrated who he is and that he is welcome…but the majority of people who try to get in wait in vain…they are either not heard, or they are heard and not allowed to enter for some other reason…but the arrival of an outsider who wishes to enter Unenach is an extreme rarity, for outsiders are not invited by my stepmother to Ungenach, and thus no outsiders are expected at Ungenach, and anybody who is not expected will not be allowed to enter (or to exit), and if he should after the gate was opened to him, enter, he would nonetheless nowadays without fail get the feeling that he had stumbled upon some perverse scene of horror, not, as he would have done years ago, upon one of the artist Nature’s studios…in either case upon an anachronism whose intrinsic as well as extrinsic cohesion could not but bewilder him, could not but remain at bottom inaccessible to him……wherein everything that we hear, read, write, say, is segregated, concluded. Ungenach: the means of unobtrusiveness for the purpose of unobtrusiveness. Acquired illnesses. Debilitated nature.
…fearlessly to seek out unfrequented theaters, to be in cities, on ships, in the company of human beings…in observation of all possible human beings [,] present in virtue of absence, inaccessible.
My life qua consistent digression from my life
Predilection for comedy: mortal terror.
In order not to be obliged [utterly] to despair, I have time and again been running to and fro between the gamekeeper’s house, in which he was put to lie in state, and the vestibule, in which my relatives were sitting or standing around or walking up and down, all of them together comprising a nervous funereal congregation. I have even been counting my steps between the gamekeeper’s house and the vestibule. Repeated standstills that occasion stabbing pain in the back of the head. My mental condition has deteriorated. Although the viewing of my father’s corpse has become a compulsive habit for me, today I have all day long been obliged to think about his description, opinion of the relationship between him and me, me and him and between Robert and him and vice-versa and among all three of us…I have been able to bring his notebooks into my room, agitated, in constant fear of being discovered. The difficulty of conveying his notebooks into my room was so great because the house is populated with so many people and all possible people are walking up and down the corridors…a hundred thirty notebooks in all…apart from this I was constantly fearful of being discovered by Robert. The mechanism of the house has been driven to exhaustion since the arrival of the mourners, of the Italians, Portuguese, Poles, Russians, Bavarians. Father: “Thought Number One: Into my brain I can cram everything. Thought Number Two: From this brain I can extract everything.” Whereas a completely empty brain signifies an as yet-incomplete painlessness. “My brain, in which I look straight down.” Father.
“The discovery that my brain works soundlessly.” Father.
In my father’s notes descriptions of his life incessantly alternate with descriptions of his death.
“Lethal objects.” Father.
I read: “I feel like a thought-criminal…how many people I have spoken to merely for the sake of hearing their voices, whereby I have rendered myself unintelligible to them. Judgments. Mass graves in my brain. My head is as light as all of humanity.”
Robert managed to write an amazing description of our family. His high intelligence was especially in evidence in his characterization of my father. He is absolutely uncompromising. What he sees tallies with what is. Reckless orchestration of his thoughts. Forgone conclusion in the confusion of connections, thoughts, capacity for orientation, etc…his manner of speaking: clarity even when he can employ it only for the purpose of clarifying our bitterness. He elevates everything to the level of a matter of confidence. He said, “Your cerebral sensitivity,” and so forth. He observes everything, other people observe nothing. Father’s death came as no surprise to him. Let death not come as a surprise.
In connection with Father’s death
Shortly before I was awoken by a noise coming from the room adjacent to mine, the room assigned to the Portuguese gentleman.
I thought I could hear the Portuguese gentleman pacing up and down his room, at length I heard him opening the window, then shutting it, then opening it again, then shutting it again and so forth. This noise suggested that the Portuguese gentleman was in a nervous frame of mind. I got up and began likewise to pace up and down my room, and all of a sudden I [realized] that I was pacing up and down my own room in perfect synchronicity with the Portuguese gentleman in his room. This [realization] left me standing still and straining to hear the noises that the Portuguese gentleman was producing in the course of pacing up and down. In so doing, I noticed that my sense of hearing had attained a painful, astonishing, and yet alarming, degree of precision. The natural relations in Ungenach encounter my will and thereby enhance the precision of my instruments of thought and feeling in the most valuable fashion. I saw the Portuguese gentleman, even though I only heard him. When he suddenly emerged from his room and went down to the library and paced up and down the library…all this suggested that he was the only person other than me who was not sleeping…now he was pacing slowly, now quickly, now on the right side, now on the left side of the library…from time to time he stood still, and I pictured him to myself while he was standing still. Now he is standing before Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, I thought…he must have taken a book off the shelf…so he’s reading while standing still and while walking, I thought…I did not know that this Portuguese, who is a fluent speaker of German, could also read German…at length I could no longer stand to be in my room and I went down to the library and asked the Portuguese gentleman what he was looking for in the library in the middle of the night. “I don’t know,” said the Portuguese gentleman[:] “nothing, [I guess].” He spoke German impeccably. I saw that the Portuguese gentleman [had] been unable to stand being in his room any longer, and it occurred to me that his room was situated opposite the gamekeeper’s house, in which my father [had] been put to lie in state. And I said to myself that the door of the gamekeeper’s house was open and that two enormous candles were burning [in there] and that the Portuguese gentleman [had] probably [been] irritated by these burning candles. “You can hear the murmur of people praying [in there],” said the Portuguese gentleman. “First I shut my window, and that sufficed, and I fell asleep, but then I woke up again, and to no avail I drew together the curtains.” He [had been] unable to sleep with the curtains drawn. “I have been lying awake in bed all night,” said the Portuguese gentleman. It was a. m. “Probably it’s a nervous reaction,” said the Portuguese gentleman.
…I am still reading about father in the newspapers. I hear myself incessantly debating with Robert the costs of the funeral..I hear about how the undertaker’s men changed the ice-blocks underneath the corpse, which was frozen solid, twice a day, how the house was filled with all those people with whom I have no relations, but who are nonetheless all related to me, as I now know.
January 4 Brussels
We ask, but we receive no answer. We ask time and again. Surely life in its entirety consists of nothing but questions, inasmuch as time and again we do nothing, although to be sure we keep asking but receive no answer, but continue to exist. The fact that I exist because I ask, receive no answer…I feel the energies that I have doubtless been storing up…it could very well be that man is nothing but the [appointed] observer of nature, not its judge, [and] hence has no jurisdiction over it…
P. S. In the morning the famous instrumental ensemble is paying a visit to the Sablon.
Four thousand eight hundred cases of drugs counted, lists of contents verified. Muggy. My people are restless, they are not working, they are talking about the murder in Marketsu. Two letters. One from
, where McDonald is laid up in hospital, the second from Gmunden, a check from the Raiffeisen Bank. I put my head in order, I put my room in order. Vice versa. Father’s maniacal devotion to order. Antipathies. Nausea. Cortisone. Dakar
Atakpame. With Stirner. Conversation about Robert Walser.
I hear that our people, Hiller, Reitmayer, Nikisch, have been killed…we drive to the site, into a rainforest at Manso, and we find our people. With their heads bashed in. They hacked off the engineer Reitmayer’s arms and legs[,] and his penis…
The police are punctilious. On the recommendation of the authorities in
the bodies are being conveyed first to Salpont, and subsequently to Winneba. Telephone conversation with McDonald. I’m afraid, I say. No news of Stirner. Accra
We children, Robert and I, had to hold our tongues when we knew more than the adults, I said, [we] were permitted to speak where and when the adults were unafraid in our presence. No news of Stirner.
Park. Avenue. Accuracy: manor-house, farm buildings. The dank ground-floor rooms, the arid rooms above them. The absence of dogs and cats, even though in former times dogs and cats occasionally reigned supreme at Ungenach. Monotony qua cause, qua effect, understanding qua investigation into [the etiology of] an illness. The total medical practicization of all concepts. The three pools, the three fountains in the three pools. The competing, fairy tale-telling grandmothers. Funereal studies. Courses of treatment in religion. A wearing-out of strong attachments, aversions, etc.
The sudden entrance of the huntsmen, the piles of trophies in the courtyard.
Thunderstorms, thunderstorm moods. Poaching, leukemia among the young huntsmen. Infections caught during the hunt. How people have dealt with the war at Ungenach. Time has only ever measured out days for thinking about death. A few personal instances of salvation. Infamy. We describe ourselves completely naturally. (Father.) History. Lack of understanding. Whenever we have traveled elsewhere, it was always in preparation for returning to Ungenach.
My Uncle Zumbusch has come back to Chur and told [me] about the funeral ceremony.
Throughout the ceremony all eyes were, naturally, according to Zumbusch, pointed at me. At the absent one.
We went to a tavern, did not discuss Ungenach.
He brings me to
Never going back.
Collingwood’s Despatches and Correspondence.
“Materials of a death.” (Father.)
Moro: “…this humidity, hard water. Illness-inducing qualities. To be obliged to exist, even to meditate, in detested surroundings, portends unease, incessant confrontation with loathsomeness, unnaturalness, with injustice, with the chaotic, as far as nature is concerned; as far as human beings are concerned, with their pathology of death, with their existential dilettantism.
One wakes up and awakens into vulgarity and into baseness and into dullness and into weakness of character and starts thinking and thinks in nothing but vulgarity, baseness, dullness, weakness of character. In nothing but the pathology of death and existential dilettantism. One hears and sees and thinks and ages, each according to one’s innate fashion[,] in loneliness, incapableness, shamelessness.The notion that life is a dialogue is a lie, and the same goes for the notion of life as reality. Although not fantastical, it is nevertheless a misfortune qua infamy, a period of horror that, [regardless of its brevity or longevity / sooner or later], is composed of melancholy and the begetting of discontent…merely in the billions of walking causes of death, effects of death…we are dealing here with a colossal intolerance of creation that renders us ever-more depressed and bitter and ultimately kills us. We think we have lived and in reality we have died. We think that the whole thing has been an apprenticeship, and yet it has never been anything but sheer drivel. We look and we ponder and are obliged to keep looking all the while that that at which we are looking and that which we are pondering eludes us, and the world, which we have undertaken to master or at least to change, eludes us, and the past and the future elude us, and we elude ourselves, and in the end everything becomes impossible for us. We all exist in a state of mental catastrophe. We are constitutionally predisposed to anarchy. [With] everything [with]in us standing permanently under suspicion. Where there is feeble-mindedness, where there is no feeble-mindedness, there is insufferableness. At bottom the world, from out of which we also gaze at it, is made out of insufferableness. The world is always insufferable by us. Our endurance of this insufferableness is the lifelong capacity for sorrow and anguish [possessed by] every single one of us, a pair of ironically [twinned] elements within each of us, an irrational idiom of idiocy; all the rest is slander.”
Translation unauthorized but © 2011 by Douglas Robertson
Source: Ungenach (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1969)