Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Translation of Der Ignorant und der Wahnsinnige by Thomas Bernhard

The Ignoramus and the Madman

The fairy tale is a thoroughly musical genre.

Dramatis Personae

At the Opera

The queen of the night’s dressing room
A vanity table
To the left and the right of the table an unupholstered chair
The father is sitting in the right chair, the doctor in the left one
A clothes rack

DOCTOR with a small stack of newspapers
to what’s been written about the premiere
we’re dealing with
an immortal work
a genius etcetera
The father, almost blind, with blind person's armbands and a white cane, takes a sip from a bottle of spirits
Your daughter’s voice
supremely perfect on the one hand
immaculate on the other
and her technique
every other word is the word authentic
every third word is the word celebrated
the word coloratura machine
tosses a newspaper on to the vanity table
the word phenomenal
the phrase first-class intonation
tosses a newspaper on to the vanity table
the phrase vocal substance twelve times
the word stupendous ninety times
an excellent role
What we hear
are you listening
is nothing but artsy twittering
what we see
a puppet-show
The father takes a sip from his bottle
May I remind you
that you have been drinking continuously
since eleven ’o clock this morning
Naturally you have reasons for doing so
on the one hand are you listening
symptoms of fatigue in the revenge aria
not a single symptom of fatigue in the revenge aria
on the other hand
one must first of all
check the blood count
but until
I have the results of all the tests
on the one hand hurricane-force
the applause
appreciative on the other hand
overwhelming are you listening
in the revenge aria by emphatic
by stimulating penetration
if as I said
the red corpuscles are at a most terrifying rate
while on the other hand the white ones are
at a most terrifying rate increasing
on the one hand the science of medicine has made
enormous strides
on the other hand for the past five hundred years it has been
standing still
we aren’t talking about a science
when we talk about medicine my dear sir
are you listening
what a staccato

What a staccato

DOCTOR discards the newspapers
Always the same rubbish
a man like me is invariably disgusted by
the cornucopia of sentiment offered up daily
by the popular press
rises and paces up and down
Are you listening my dear sir
one cautiously pushes the hemispheres
do you understand
so that the so-called girder the corpus callosum
is exposed to view
next one pulls with one’s left hand mark my words
at the upper
exterior of the left hemisphere
and cuts
with the point of the cerebral scalpel

With the point of the cerebral scalpel

the upper part of the corpus callosum
the word precision isn’t just a word
my dear sir
and thereby opens
with the greatest expediency
the cella media of the lateral ventricle
of which I have already spoken
one takes note of its contents
normally cerebrospinal fluid
occasionally also my dear sir
from hemorrhaging of the ventricle

From hemorrhaging of the ventricle

The hemisphere is raised
and reveals the posterior and anterior horns
the same as on the other side
do you see
with the thumb and index finger of the right hand
one guides the cerebral scalpel
cutting downward
very carefully my dear sir
all the way to the so-called foramina of Monro
slices through the Corpus callosum and the fornix
and peels them back
The father rests both hands on his knees, pulls the armbands down [on to his forearms]
Next one dips the scalpel
in water
because a dry scalpel
has the unfortunate tendency to occlude
one’s view of the sectional planes
the scalpel must during the dissection of the brain
be rinsed as often as possible
next one cuts at a forty-five degree angle
through the basal ganglia
taking care all the while
to avoid the so-called small-brain or cerebellar
The father takes a sip from his bottle
The difficult question to be answered
is whether to recommend institutionalization
or not
on the one hand in institutions there have been mark my words
extraordinary successes
but also complete failures
on the other hand
Are you listening
Vis-à-vis cases of edema of marbleizing
of the basal ganglia
my dear sir
one’s attention is naturally always of the acutest
one’s attention
as well as one’s resolution
as well as one’s inconsideration
all three of these are incessantly indispensable
so as I said
areas of washed-out clear tissue
alternating with reddish areas
The scission of blood vessels necessitated
on such cases may induce blood dots
but the dots may easily be clarified with the scalpel
in cases of congestion
a grayish-red cortex
numerous blood dots in the white matter
in cases of edema naturally
the blood dots
in other words disappear

The blood dots disappear

But in cases of encephalitis the blood is
utterly necrotized
it has been expelled from the blood vessels
and is not amenable to clarification
The father takes a sip from his bottle
the impregnable certainty my dear sir
that your daughter’s influence on you
is effectively null
on the other hand you have on your daughter
not the slightest influence
Everything develops in such a fashion
as we are now witnessing
I find spirits repulsive
my dear sir
but I have not on a single occasion seen you
without a bottle
not once in the entire three years
in which I have known you
this much I know
you have been drinking for a full decade straight
and indeed ever since your daughter
made her first public appearance
you must admit
a colossal development
an utterly and totally astonishing development
when one reflects that your daughter’s voice
showed not the faintest trace of good promise
without a doubt your daughter’s voice
is the work of the extraordinary Mr Keldorfer
of course it’s all a matter of
the raw material falling at the right time
into the right hands
and submitting at the right moment
to the right methods
not everybody has such improbable good fortune
all those majestic voices
my dear sir
who fall into treacherous hands
it’s insane
how hundreds of crafty singing teachers
especially in our academies my dear sir
ruin thousands of lovely voices
these people unscrupulously exploit voices
quite shamelessly squeeze out down to the last penny
the livelihoods of thousands of talents
the academies are inhabited by academic exploiters
are permeated for the most part by charlatanry
one singing teacher in two is a charlatan
my dear sir
or let us say that on the whole singing teachers
or vocal pedagogues as they call themselves
are charlatans
sits down
now one cuts through the Corpus callosum
and forces it mark my words to the left side
so that the pineal gland
behind the Commissura habenularum
is exposed to view
The father slips the armbands off his arms and sticks them in his pocket
we shall make a section of the cerebellum
one cautiously lifts
the cerebellum
thrusts one’s left hand mark my words
under the cerebellar hemisphere
and tips it slightly
rises and paces up and down
so as not to damage during the scission of the worm
either the so-called rhomboid fossa
or the lamina quadrigemina
one holds the scalpel
as if it were a violin bow
mimes the grip

As if it were a violin bow

Moistens it
and proceeds along the median sagittal plane
until one is gazing into the fastigius
as if into a gaping hole

As if into a gaping hole

Next one rotates the scalpel
and elongates the incision
both in front
and behind
next one meticulously inspects
the rhomboid fossa
my dear sir
at this moment one must above all else
be attentive
to changes in the so-called ependyma
sits down
one may already have noticed these in the lateral ventricle
but empirically speaking changes in the ependyma are
more pronounced
in the rhomboid fossa
The father takes a sip from his bottle
hence more easily applied to a diagnosis
your mode of living
is infectious
two hours of sleep the night before
and inordinately preoccupied
throughout the day
when one is as I am
engaged in a so-called scientific enterprise
one is not permitted to indulge in such excesses
on the other hand the idea of letting oneself go exerts
an incredible fascination
naturally your insomnia is bound up with
your mental condition
and your mental condition
is the consequence of this decades-old
unnatural relationship
between you and your daughter
when two completely different characters
who also happen to be father and daughter
are together uninterruptedly
and each of the two is compelled to exist entirely
for himself alone
when I think that while your daughter is sleeping my dear sir
but of course I am obviously actually thinking
while your daughter’s voice is sleeping
her voice
invariably only her voice
while your daughter’s voice is sleeping
you are sitting around in taverns
on the other hand you have such a splendidly solid constitution
the very sort of constitution I lack

You lack it

One cuts into and along the broadest circumference
of the uppermost layer of the cerebellar hemisphere
through which a white medullary ray extends extremely far
all the way to the
and inspects the cerebellar matter
above all my dear sir
the dentate nucleus of the cerebellum
one also proceeds accordingly on the other side
next one slams the brain shut
and rotates it
so that its base and the Medulla oblongata
are turned towards the dissector
next one goes below the cerebellum
one plunges
below it
and slices through the peduncle of the brain
sits down and looks at his watch
it is striking
that your daughter with every performance
arrives at an ever-later time
but in celerity
and consequently in spontaneity
there inheres the utmost concentration
this is not the first time
do you hear that the orchestra is already in the pit
and not a sign of your daughter
not a sign of
Mrs Vargo
The whole time I’m here I listen out
but I hear no footsteps
I hear footsteps
and then everything happens with uncanny rapidity
before the performance a walk
down in the park
a foot-punishing walk
amid the flowerbeds my dear sir
which has become a ritual for her of late
The father takes a sip from his bottle
The dissector always moves along the right side
of the corpse
The head of the corpse must be supported by a wooden block
so that the skin of the throat is stretched taut
The skin of the upper throat area
my dear sir
may not be damaged
because the corpse must be kept presentable
for lying in state

An inconsiderate child
an inconsiderate child
Haven’t you got at least tiny bit of influence over her
enough to make her

One must come to terms with the fact
that an artistic creature
tends to render itself completely self-sufficient
it is generally no longer capable of coexisting
with others
members of its own family especially
but the rest of humanity as well
such a completely artistic creature
a human being that has been transformed into
a completely artistic creature
which in fact is no longer a human being at all
my dear sir
generally can no longer
anything outside itself
there is no longer anything
but me
such a creature says to itself
when it is completely isolated
and has isolated itself
cut itself off
exists conclusively for itself
one need no longer be afraid
my dear sir
one’s fear is completely superfluous
You will see she will walk in here at just
the right moment
and she will enter at exactly the right moment
exactly then
when you can no longer put up with it
and have racked your brains to pieces
so-called ordinary human beings
are always afraid of these creatures
my dear sir
human beings and these creatures are two distinct types of entity
and one of these creatures has only to

It serves her father right
Her father who has yet
to see a penny
of what’s owed to him

The worthwhileness of having such a creature
is indisputable
but the naivety of the crowd
is appalling
the crowd that disowns
the most artificial of all mechanisms
The father takes a sip from his bottle
Life or existence
these are no proper existential questions
my dear sir
But to wrestle with human psychology alone
is equally pointless
Life is a torture session
he who does not comprehend this
and platitudes
do nothing to ease the pain
and in fact only make it worse
has comprehended nothing
on the other hand it is
very much in frightening situations
that we come to ourselves
the cartilageal scalpel is encircled by all five fingers
one holds the cartilageal scalpel
with all five fingers in one’s fist
and now executes the principal incision
from the Prominentia laryngea
to the symphysis
do you see
during which incision one veers slightly to the left
towards the area of the navel
my dear sir
The father turns on the loudspeaker [presumably some sort of monitor or intercom (DR)].  The din from the orchestra pit and the audience grows steadily louder from this point on
in the region of the sternum one presses forward with the incision
all the way to the periosteum
then the cross-section
and cuts through skin
hypodermal tissue et cetera
the anterior abdominal muscles along with the fascia
and presses forward cautiously to the Peritoneum parietale
so as not to damage the latter and the intestines within it
clear serous fluid my dear sir
in pathological conditions my dear sir
the bulk of the fluid can infiltrate
the abdominal cavity


Which points towards a diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver
cardiac congestion et cetera
or thrombosis of the portal vein
it can be present in various forms
a purulent
fibrous exudate


One surveys the Omentum maius
draws the latter away from the Taemia omentalis
of the Colon traversum
apron-esque mark my words
down into the pelvis
in inflammatory processes
in the abdominal cavity my dear sir
there may even be adhesions of the reticulum
the reticulum is warped in this direction
a completely warped reticulum
whence one may ascertain the nature of the outcome
One simply flings the reticulum upwards
and contemplates the situation of the abdominal organs
observes whether the lower liver is grossly distended
to the father while palpating his abdomen
down to here
to this spot
whether the intestinal loops are swollen to the bursting point
the lower stomach grossly distended
poking at his stomach
Gastroptopsis naturally
and whether the spleen is enlarged
looks at his watch
Lately she has been walking with gusto in the park
on the spur of the moment in the park
amid the twittering of the birds
do you understand

Or she locks herself in her room

You yourself say
this is a most peculiar ritual

Which she never used to do

In her room

To the best of my knowledge

With the curtains drawn
But as she herself says not
in order to study her part
quite the contrary by means of
the most varied self-devised stratagems
she distracts herself from her vocal part
pacing up and down
dictating into a tape recorder
she attends
to her correspondence
or she memorizes a passage from a play
she recites entire speeches from Lear
or more recently as I know for a fact
from Tasso
or she sits at the window and rests the palms of her hands
on the windowsill
with her eyes closed
my observations
my dear sir
naturally lead to apprehensions

To apprehensions
to apprehensions

Indeed to apprehensions
The fact is that your daughter has lately
undergone a most alarming change
she is no longer the same
the being we now behold
is an entirely different being
it is the antithesis of the one
that we still beheld a year ago
and yet because we are dealing with an artistic creature
it is also still the same
do you understand
on the one hand she is the same
on the other hand not
this is the great difficulty confronted
by the people around her
that they are dealing first and foremost with a voice
and to be sure a quite specific voice
that is one of the most celebrated
and in actual fact mark my words one of the most beautiful voices in existence
but that they are not dealing with a human being
this is naturally impossible for a father to comprehend
The father takes a sip from his bottle
The doctor sits down
an even greater
an even much greater degree of watchfulness my dear sir
and wariness too
is now advisable
because we are dealing with a perfect creature
housed in an undoubtedly headless subjectivity
The father slips the armbands back on with lightning speed
Enter Mrs Vargo with the crown.  She hangs it on the clothes rack, briefly lingers to look the father and then the doctor over with a reproachful, scrutinizing eye, and then exits 
naturally I ask myself
what kind of individual am I faced with
when I see this person
an excellent person undoubtedly
undoubtedly excellent
Mrs Vargo is undoubtedly a thoroughly
excellent person
See now my dear sir
you can set your mind at rest
Mrs Vargo has appeared
and it will not be long before your daughter arrives
this means that your daughter is already in the house
I realize that you regard the fact
that the crown is now hanging on the clothes rack
as a favorable omen
if we lacked the capacity to distract ourselves
my dear sir
we would have to admit
that we pretty much no longer existed
existence mark my words is invariably
distraction from existence
we exist only because
we distract ourselves from our existence
at first you kept your bottle hidden
then you tried to keep
your bottle hidden
then years ago you stopped making
this attempt
you drink
quite brazenly
and without the slightest scruples my dear sir
and what’s more in your daughter’s dressing room
straight from the bottle
and you are perfectly aware
that you are perpetually intoxicated
but this entertainment mechanism
is only benefited by this condition
one can without further ado
place a person like you in the custody of a science
you have all the good qualities of an object
that is uncommonly useful to someone
in my position
which is in point of fact an excellent thing
if you hate a person
like Mrs Vargo
you gain nothing by it
these people are constantly observing
and make their observation into a pathological condition
from which they are no longer able to divorce themselves
because they are not masters of their own heads
they can be reached only
through surprise effects
by which I do not mean
external surprises
I am once again thinking about the head
but all these people vex themselves so much about it
and as if by way of emphasis they also invariably subsequently 
demonstrate that
they aren’t even wearing a head
hence naturally they pretty much
lack all power of judgment
You walk
now logically now illogically
as you walk
through a completely headless society
and carry history in its entirety in your back
for your entire life you literally
drag history behind you
and see before you mere blockheads not a single real head
and therefore incessantly worry about being
suddenly stricken by a thrombosis
if you picture to yourself the heads of everybody else
as a viscous stinking
or completely odorless mass
as a hydrocephalic mirror
so to speak
out of which [your] own head protrudes
and all the while this head is choking with nausea
by imagining such things the head can only ever summon up lunacy
and never prosperity my dear sir
Is such a head amid mere blockheads
not a pitiable state of affairs
the question every day is
by means of what trick
what new trick every day
am I to make it through the day
this is disgraceful and undoubtedly pathology-inducing
rises and paces up and down
Your daughter is extremely mercurial
also extremely subtle
in her development
terrifyingly so for the people around her
everything about her is different now
If only it were so simple
as recommending institutionalization
but there is no institution
that is recommendable
people are stuck into a course of treatment
for the purpose of rehabilitating them from their sickness
they submit to a course of so-called rehabilitation treatment
but nothing in a human being
can be rehabilitated
and certainly not a fatal natural gift for something
If a person drinks
one must let him drink
witness how he drinks
and where his drinking takes him
if he goes mad
there is nothing we can do about it
If only it were so simple
If we stick a drinker
a madman
a lunatic
my dear sir
into an institution
we are committing a felonious act
we are in actual fact ashamed
in the presence of the supreme court of nature
which shows itself to us at the apex of despair
believe me
your daughter means well
when she says
check back into an institution
submit to a course of rehabilitation treatment
but she is hardly competent
The father turns on the loudspeaker
I can clearly hear
that the musicians
are already in the pit

My own child
is always incredibly inconsiderate

Your whole life
is the most inconsiderate thing of all
my dear sir
The father turns on the loudspeaker again
but you will see
when the three ladies enter
and the serpent is slain
your daughter
already dressed
for her entrance
the most reliable things in this house
are without a doubt the stage-managers
I have always remarked of this place
here though chaos may defy
on the stage-managers you may rely
set your mind at rest
Remember the impassibility
of a person
like Mrs Vargo
and keep in mind
your daughter’s zealous professionalism
she would never allow herself
to arrive too late
later and later to be sure
but never too late
Walking through the door at the last minute
gives one an enormous advantage
no matter what the situation is
a tactic [borrowed from diplomatic] conferences
the best tactic
a couple of coloraturas in the staircase
a couple of footsteps
and your daughter will be here
and you will no longer need to be in the state of anxiety
in which you always find yourself at moments like these
it is always the same
Mrs Vargo hangs the crown on the clothes rack
and your nerves my dear sir
are stretched to the breaking point
art and everything having to do with it
is taken to be the whole
a colossal nervous tension
The father turns on the loudspeaker again
when she loathes the conductor
as she does this one
her singing is at its most reliable
and its best
and she loathes nobody more
than the man
who will be conducting today’s performance
this man should have become a butcher
not a conductor
my dear sir
when you hear him you’re hearing
a butcher
probably your daughter
is downstairs at the cafeteria
and drinking a cup of hot tea
but I’m sure she’s already in the house
that trip last year
to the Teatro Fenice
during that performance of Falstaff my dear sir
it happened then
her transformation dates from that point
because she suddenly wanted to see
the most beautiful theater in the world
and moreover hear a certain to my mind quite mediocre colleague sing
one must simply
take everything into account as a possible cause
anything can be a cause
quite possibly it was a terminal illness
my dear sir
that she caught at the Teatro Fenice
but I am convinced
that this illness
will not
or at least not in the next five or even ten years
have any effect on her voice
this loveliest of all talents my dear sir
will continue to develop for another five or even ten years
if afterwards it suddenly stops short
that won’t matter a jot my dear sir
without a doubt it is
like when a machine is thrown out of gear
sits down
the day before yesterday she had an argument
with her coach
this argument injured
her voice
The father takes a sip from his bottle
We have
and this is appalling to consider my dear sir
invariably only effects before us
the causes we do not see
on account of these stupid effects
we fail to see any causes
Moreover the essence of Rokitansky’s methods
is the preservation to the utmost extent possible
of the normal physiological integrity
of the individual organs
for thanks to crude scissions
integrities that are normally present
that are often of great diagnostic significance
on the other hand
either we eviscerate entire internal organs
stands up
and dissect [them] on a table
or we [acquiesce in] Virchow’s
renunciation of organic integrity
[and] separate
alienate etcetera
my dear sir
for the prevention of infection
the wearing of rubber gloves
is useful
but on account of the impairment of the sense of touch
one refrains from this practice
we distinguish between
and detailed description
the proliferation of external changes
is recorded with great exactitude
for example
during forensic postmortem
or in the case of an individual who has been found dead
and is unidentified
for instance
an exact description of tattoos of scars
of the teeth
including all their fillings
may be required
we distinguish then
first and foremost
between male and female corpses
Something of great importance
is the ascertainment of the corpse’s weight
this can under normal circumstances
play an important role
for example an unusually thin corpse
a sure sign
of a poorly ingested diet
of a consumptive illness
caused for example by the constriction of the esophagus by
a malignant tumor
my dear sir
and the consequent impedance of swallowing
the simplest method
is to weigh the corpse

To weigh the corpse

Otherwise the weight
is estimated and one declares
whether the corpse is
or corpulent
a Falstaff type
a jodhpur type etcetera
the ascertainment of the length of the body is important
because it may allow
one to infer abnormalities
in the condition of the body
the length of the body is quite basically appraised
relative to the median bodily length of the population
in our region one meter sixty-five centimeters
is the median bodily length
ramifying from this median
are certain extremes
if an individual is longer than one meter eighty centimeters my dear sir
his condition is termed tallness
whereas a bodily length in excess of two meters
is termed gigantism
paces up and down
in connection with an individual under one meter twenty centimeters
one speaks of dwarfism
but along with the length of the body
its proportions must also be considered
especially the proportions of the skeletal frame
which is the principal determinant of the length of the body
in many very tall individuals the bodily length is not evenly distributed
for example very long legs
Lower-body length
my dear sir
is the distance from the symphysis to the Planta pedis
Upper-body length
the distance from the vertex
to the upper edge of the symphysis
This alone is often the actual cause
of the so-called underlying disease
my dear sir
without a doubt your daughter’s greatest source of delight
to which she has now grown accustomed
is the fact that for years
she has been coming and going to and from opera houses
and singing her celebrated coloraturas
I myself by the way
as perhaps you don’t know
used some twenty years ago my dear sir
to dabble at singing in a not uningratiating bass
and I have at private performances
notably at the house of a citizen of this town
the head of a very famous shipping company
alongside simple loveable people
who took all that stuff very seriously
sung the Speaker and Sarastro
and there is not a church in this town
in which I have not
at least every other Sunday
let my bass be heard
It is empirically certain that music
is an art for which physicians have a particular soft spot
and one doctor in two plays a violin or a piano
in the evenings
and if you take a look around the dwellings of doctors
you will discover whole galleries of piano scores
for every conceivable opera
and as you know the best musicians
hail from long-established medical families
Whenever a virtuoso appears
you can safely say
he comes from a medical family
or that he is one of these butchers’ children
who matriculate in droves at our conservatories
or academies
The father turns on the loudspeaker, applause from the audience, overture [to The Magic Flute]
The overture
I can clearly hear it
the overture

The overture

MRS VARGO [offstage]
The overture

These never-ending
involving my daughter

Tallness in excess of the normal limits
is a feature of many disorders
of the genital glands
eunuchoid tallness
is characterized by an excessive lower-body length
Many individuals when sitting
appear to be normal my dear sir
but they are actually
too short
You yourself are a perfect example of this
You have excessively short extremities
but your torso is normal
This is signally a feature
of chondrodystrophic dwarfism
The father methodically slides the armbands up his arms.  Enter Mrs Vargo stage left, followed by the queen.  The doctor, having leapt to his feet, kisses the queen’s hand while the father remains apathetically seated.  The queen walks up to him and kisses him on the forehead.  

Late my child
late my child
this is inconsiderate
How patient I have been
but this father deserves
an inconsiderate daughter
All the world marvels at you
but I am ashamed of you
I am mortified by my daughter’s

DOCTOR to the queen
Your father has been at the opera house
for two hours already
You are aware of his nervousness
he is impossible to calm down
so I have been telling him about my professional activities
I marvel at your father’s ability to pay attention
The queen kisses her father on the forehead once again, then exits stage right with Mrs Vargo
You see
she’s here
and it’s also the last minute

Always at the last minute
it’s inconsiderate
the overture
takes a sip from his bottle
it’s always the same

You’re overlooking something
you always forget about
Mrs Vargo’s skillfulness
it all gets done very quickly
a brief routine procedure involving the costumes

It’s inconsiderate
in extremely difficult conditions
to send one’s daughter off to study
then in extremely terrible conditions
of a perpetual witness
of her inconsiderateness

I can’t let you get away with saying that
my dear sir
Your daughter is extremely disciplined
If only you knew
how incredibly sloppily
this house is run
and not only this house
It’s a wonder
that your daughter
can make it onstage at all
in these terrible conditions
in this madhouse
and that she has managed to forge ahead
to do so she has had to go abroad
now that she is famous
she can
hold her own
if she had not gone away
she would not be
what she is today
had she stayed here
her colleagues would have walked all over her
she would have become embroiled in intrigues
she would have given up a long time ago
at best she would be
[singing] nothing but operettas
or she would have been degraded to the position of the general manager’s
by being more inconsiderate to herself than to anyone else
she has become the most famous of all female coloratura singers
active onstage today
just think of how much it has cost her
to overcome the unbelievable nervousness
that as recently as five or six years ago
still used to afflict her from time to time during her exercises
has produced impediments
naturally the people around her
suffer as a result of it
as a result of what
she is today
but you must admit my dear sir
that she has made the people around her
what they are [today]
The people around her could not ask for anything more
You have a daughter
that sings the most famous coloraturas in the world
if this isn’t enough for you
you have no choice but to give up all hope
consequently you have no choice but to kill yourself
what is happening
here in closest proximity
to your daughter
is without a doubt
a sham and a shambles
but the people around her will without a doubt have to put up with it
we are dealing here with an astonishing form
of theater
with a theatrical Antarctica my dear sir
not with some half-baked dog-and-pony show
it is quite clear
that all the people in the orbit of such a phenomenon
especially when this phenomenon
is a coloratura soprano
as famous as your daughter
are condemned
to motionlessness
and to meaninglessness  
Naturally one cannot but recoil in terror
from its notionlessness
The fact of the matter is
that your daughter has changed
Her manner of speaking
is different
Her movements
but this is of no interest
to medical science
just as pretty much everything human
is of no interest to medical science
do you understand
this delusion my dear sir
because medical science is pretty much incapable
of taking an interest in anything human
will never comprehend this
and will naturally my dear sir
run completely aground
medical science takes pretty much no interest whatsoever in human beings
it is interested in organs as such
not in the organs
of human beings
the fabric itself is the interesting thing my dear sir
not what lies beneath it
or behind it
or as always
the tools of the trade are utterly unphilosophical tools
Your daughter’s voice
admittedly has
not changed
in any case the public
has not taken notice
of such a change
the public
always thinks a certain point of time has just been reached
when it has long since passed
on the whole the public has no ear
for changes
but I am sure that you can see as well as I do
that nature has trapped your daughter
in a process
that has changed her root and branch
root and branch
Your mistake is
to regard whatever you are thinking about
as always the same thing
That is without a doubt your most basic delusion

When I tell her
that I have walked around
for three hours without armbands
she doesn’t believe me

Between you my dear sir
and your daughter
there is nothing but distrust
the cause of every conceivable illness
my dear sir

That I have walked
without armbands
through all these streets
and past
hundreds and thousands
of people
to be sure I am well acquainted with these streets
as a child I walked along all these streets
although they are all completely different today

The pattern of the streets is the same

the pattern is the same

Streets that one has walked along as a child
that one often walked along in childhood my dear sir
or really any streets
that one has walked along with any frequency
my dear sir
are streets that one can even walk blind
If you blindfold me
I can find my way from any part of town
to the house of my infancy my dear sir
That presents me with no difficulties whatsoever

Naturally she believes nothing
that I tell her
she has never yet believed a word I’ve said
Her mother and her
my daughter
my dear doctor
were never anything but a conspiracy against me
a [rapprochement with] the two of them
was always unthinkable
hence from the beginning
I was weakened
after the death of my wife
her mother
I thought there would be
an improvement of this situation
on the contrary
an exacerbation of this situation commenced
she thought
if she kissed me on the forehead
that would suffice
all her actions
are directed against me
her father is suffering
for the inanity
the iniquity
the inhumanity
of her mother

A man who feels the passage of time
as keenly as you
and takes everything so seriously
naturally suffers
with every breath he takes
that is quite a gift
for this reason your natural constitution
is an unbearable one
without a doubt people like you
should be pitied

My reward
is always
which is the cause
of my drinking
as you know
all day
and half the night

In the end one must
surrender control
for the external world is a comedy
that is in reality
a tragedy
my dear sir

Two bottles
a day

If you were deprived of
your two bottles
you would fall to pieces in a most pitiful fashion

It has become habitual for me

One flees
into senseless activity
one from a certain point onwards
drinks ever-increasing amounts
or paces to and fro
or spends all one’s time unfolding maps
or reading
one’s own palms
my dear sir
or writing letters
or perusing the writings of madmen
or every time one wakes up
one takes a pill
in order to fall back asleep
and one carries on like this for years
for decades my dear sir
for often enough
one’s craziest conditions
an eternity
one minute we believe
in literature
the next we believe
in music
the next we believe
in human beings
but there is no remedy

The most perverse part of it is
that for the longest time I have been drinking
nothing but the cheapest spirits available
I couldn’t care less about
what is in the bottles

On the other hand dipsomania is
an artistic medium
Enter the queen with Mrs Vargo.  The queen is already in costume but not yet wearing any make-up or the crown, which Frau Vargo arranges on the clothes rack
to the father
Between scenes some thought
obtrudes itself on your daughter’s mind
This is a highly remarkable novelty
my dear sir
that I find incredibly fascinating
The queen seats herself at the vanity table.  Mrs Vargo hastily makes the queen up

QUEEN to Mrs Vargo
Make sure the crown
doesn’t wobble on my head
The complaints
you suffer from
are nothing but figments of your imagination
You are the healthiest person in the world
I’m sure of it
sings a coloratura
I’m sure you are ashamed
of being healthy
You see it as a disgrace
sings a coloratura

Then she is
she goes through a long period of being
it is quite striking
her favorite word is the word air
very often she uses the phrase change of scene
also the word autocratical
and the words situation and condition
crop up at every turn
in her utterances
moreover she no longer seems to set
much store by the German language
she is constantly using numerous
English and French words
today she will sing the queen of the night
for the two hundred twenty-second time

I have reserved a table
at the Three Hussars

Your costume has been brushed
your crown has been polished
the assistant director apologizes
for his impertinent manner of address
I have called off
the philharmonic society’s reception

Call off
call off
we must call off everything
from now on call off everything
do you understand
we will call off everything from now on
won’t we doctor
henceforth we will call off everything
we used to be on call everywhere
now we will call off everything
we won’t go anywhere ever again
we have already seen everything
heard everything
everything in the world is
old hat to us
we are well acquainted with it
we no longer need anything
sings a coloratura
We have already heard everything
We have already seen everything
sings a coloratura
to her father
haven’t we
we are well acquainted with everything
everything is well-known to us
We are acquainted with every opera
every play
we have read everything
and we are well acquainted with the most beautiful places in the world
and secretly we loathe our audience
don’t we
our tormentors
sings a coloratura
we make our entrances
and execrate
those familiar faces

It’s inherent in the nature of the thing

Right you are Doctor
it’s always inherent
in the nature of the thing
The father takes a sip from his bottle
As long as I produce coloraturas
I make my entrances
sings a coloratura

The most famous of all coloraturas without a doubt
The queen sings a coloratura
Your father went
on a three-hour walk
through the town
and believe it or not
he wasn’t wearing his armbands

QUEEN sings a coloratura
Don’t believe a word of it
everything he says is a lie
a blind man
without arm bands
can hardly get very far
people will run him down
they’ll trample him
to her father
sings a coloratura
Your esteemed father is absolutely credible

sings a coloratura
sure he is

I gather
that you won’t be going
with me to Paris

I am exhausted
no really
I am exhausted
my father is a dipsomaniac
and I am exhausted

A trip to Paris
with absolutely no strings attached
believe it or not
on a trip like this
you will regenerate yourself completely

QUEEN glancing at her father
What about him

In my opinion

I can’t possibly leave him by himself
you yourself can plainly see
that he can’t be made
to listen to reason
he refuses to listen
to anything anyone
tells him
now there are two bottles
six months from now
there will be three
I have no need of a trip
quite the opposite Doctor

One of these days I shall wait in vain

These constant asseverations
get old
sings a coloratura
get old
nothing else
to Mrs Vargo
more rouge on my cheeks more rouge
on second thought
make my cheeks white
stark white
make them white white

White always looks good


Naturally white
white naturally
the queen of the night
looks good in white
heavy white
to Mrs Vargo
you’re right about that
really heavy white
you’re being awfully quiet doctor

I was giving a run-through of an autopsy

Do sit down

I was on the point of talking about
Sigaud’s classifications you know
the Typus digestorius
the Typus muscularis
the Typus cerebralis

The Typus cerebralis
the Typus muscularis
the Typus digesorius

my dear sir


DOCTOR to the queen
Your esteemed father
takes an interest in my work
he is as attentive listener
as one could wish for
The father takes a sip from his bottle
This afternoon
during his walk
he peremptorily insisted
on having the dissection of the brain
explained to him
but I was pressed
for time
I had to attend to something at the Institute
but I promised
to give a lecture
before the performance
here in the dressing room
and since we were kept waiting so long
I had the opportunity
to adduce
several details
that I had not
adduced before
In the cafeteria
where we bought his bottles
your esteemed father avowed
his deep affection
so as to avoid having to say the word love
to you
he is dependent
to the very core of his being
on his daughter

Shall I crown you

Not now
not yet

Or fetch the belt

Yes fetch the belt
Mrs Vargo goes to the cabinet and produces from it a brightly spangled belt with a twice-as-brightly spangled sash and hangs it on the clothes rack

And so several times I said
the word peritonitis
to your esteemed father
because on account of the sudden outbreak
of a loud chaotic argument
outside the dressing room
it probably had to do with musicians
with musicians in the orchestra
he could not understand what I was saying
in another system of classification
I said
we distinguish among
the pyknic typus
the leptosome typus
the athletic typus
in the pyknic typus
a highly developed abdomen
a compact thorax
adipose deposits etcetera
The queen sings a coloratura
an extreme form of the leptosome typus is

QUEEN in unison with him
The typus asthenicus

QUEEN sola
Also known as the habitus phthisicus

The subcutaneous fat
next to the abdominal area
but also in the area of the extremities
The queen sings a coloratura
must be inspected
in people with especially thick subcutaneous fat
we infer
The queen sings a coloratura

DOCTOR in unison with the
That they had a disorder of the endocrine glands

QUEEN sola
Of the pituitary gland for example

Adiposogenital dystrophy etcetera

QUEEN sings a coloratura
to her father
All this drinking
and this roaming around
this incessant
two-sided togetherness
has got to end sometime
sings a coloratura
to the doctor
My father is a complete degenerate
sings a coloratura
because I caved in
sings a coloratura
because I went soft
and although I knew full well what it would lead to
took him along
on my trips
to America
and to Australia
my biggest mistake
was to take him with me to Scandinavia
sings a coloratura
it was there that he picked up the habit
of drinking spirits
not a day since
without this incessant drinking
from the bottle
sings a coloratura

Usually there’s no
in taking a dipsomaniac’s
bottle away from him
in depriving him of the possibility
of drinking
a drinker
can’t be helped

QUEEN sings a coloratura
to Mrs Vargo
If only you’d pin up
my hair
every time even under
the crown I think
that my hair is falling out
a horrible feeling
a truly
horrible feeling
sings a coloratura

If your esteemed father
at least for a few weeks
were to go to the mountains
where I know you have
that lovely house that’s totally isolated
and far off the beaten track
in the fresh montane air
The queen sings a coloratura
If your father were to pass his time there
doing simple work
ordinary chores for example
like chopping wood
or plucking berries
nothing intellectual
in any case
if he were allowed to occupy himself
with books or even with philosophy
his condition would undoubtedly
to walk about in fresh air
and adhere with special care
to a regular meal-schedule
and naturally in full consciousness of the fact
that you are constantly thinking about him
wherever you are
be it at the most distant of distances

QUEEN to Mrs Vargo
If any flowers come
send them immediately
to the old people’s home
If anybody asks about me
give them no information
if there are any invitations
decline them
if any letters are delivered
file them
but don’t nag me about them
I shall sign no more autographs
I find nothing more loathsome
Sings a coloratura
moreover we are all out of tea
buy some tea
and sew the buttons
on my winter coat
to her father
You keep struggling
but nothing changes
sings a coloratura
How hard I keep struggling
but nothing changes

If one can
such a misfortune
a dilapidation
from inside

QUEEN to the doctor
You yourself have said
isn’t it horrible
to sing the same part
over two hundred times
To be hounded
through every opera house in the world
by Magic Flute coloraturas

It is a pinnacle                  
an absolute pinnacle
to the father                                                 
a pinnacle
my dear sir

A pinnacle                                          

The genius
the practicing artist
is a disease
such a development
is the progress of a disease
that the public follows
with its undivided attention
the crowd observes
a voice
a coloratura voice
like your daughter’s
as if that voice is on a tightrope
in perpetual fear
that it will fall
as if as far as we are concerned
the whole thing has nothing to do with a human being
except as
an emotion
to the father
such a voice
is an object of value
my dear sir
and hardly to be encountered every day
Thousands of them are trained
but in the end
we marvel at only a few of them

I myself had
a miserable childhood
whereas my daughter
was always spoiled rotten

But only until the moment
when she began studying
at the academy

She got
a free ride
a full scholarship
from her first semester onward
The president of the academy
knew that
he had a talent
to be reckoned with
in my daughter
He takes a sip from his bottle

But it must be
enormously satisfying
your certainty
in possessing a mechanism
for a daughter
or a daughter for a mechanism
so famous
and incomparable
one that bewitches
the theater-going world

She is uncivil
and inconsiderate
and unteachable

But just think of
your daughter’s beauty
it’s without parallel

MRS VARGO to the queen
Your esteemed father oughtn’t to drink so much

Well the doctor has also
said his piece on that
namely that
you can’t change nature
sings a coloratura
everybody’s always saying
the same thing
over and over again

If only the two of you
could make up your minds
to go your separate ways
at least for a little while
your esteemed father
would separate from you
for his health’s sake
The queen sings a coloratura
you would separate
from your father
for your art’s sake
because constant nervous tension
when it cannot but be termed senseless
weakens the voice
then one day all of a sudden
you’ll no longer be able to sing
with such astonishing facility

QUEEN to Mrs Vargo
Put on more white
lots of white
my face
must be a completely artificial face
my body
an artificial one
everything artificial

As you know Mrs Vargo
we’re dealing here
with a puppet theater
no people act here
Here everything moves
which is the most natural
thing in the world
The queen sings a coloratura
The heaviest white
Mrs Vargo
don’t be stingy
with the make-up
don’t be stingy
The father takes a sip from his bottle
heavy white
really heavy white

Heavy white

It accentuates
her artificiality
it accentuates
her natural artificiality
QUEEN to Mrs Vargo
Are the seams firm
is it all firmly stitched together
I am constantly worrying
when I raise my arm
the costume will tear
[that the whole thing] will tear to pieces
it’s horrible
the costume tears under my arm
and the audience bursts into laughter
it tears
[the whole thing] tears to pieces
suddenly this movement
very quickly raises her right arm and her costume noisily tears
under that arm
Once again it has torn
once again it has torn
I just raise my arm

Now Frau Vargo

You see doctor
time and again I say
sew it all firmly together
and it tears

This is a disaster
right before your entrance
your costume has torn

It’s the same thing every time
right before my entrance
it tears
this is just silly
this is vile
Mrs Vargo
time and again I say firm seams
make the seams firm
then I raise my arm
and the costume tears

before your entrance

This is inexcusable
Mrs Vargo
Mrs Vargo tries as quickly as possible to sew up the tear
under the right arm; the doctor lends her
a helping hand

Haven’t you got
any premium thread
Mrs Vargo

How many times I have said
pick yourself up
a spool of premium thread
but the same thing always happens
the costume is stitched together with
ultra-cheap thread
and naturally tears
at the most important spot

This is why my daughter is
so nervous
this is why she occasionally screws up
a coloratura

And the entire performance
is imperiled
Mrs Vargo

Why the hell haven’t you
from the beginning sewn together my costume
so that it won’t tear
so that I can move about in my costume
as I please
this must be the hundredth time it has torn

As if such tearing of costumes
were acceptable at the opera
to the father
this has of course got
to make your daughter nervous

Always the same routine Doctor
I raise my arm
and the costume tears
this is what
is driving me crazy
nobody understands
my nervousness
and so this tearing of my costume drives me
nobody knows the things I put up with
how incredibly unreliable the people around me are
everybody here is unreliable
these theaters and opera houses are teeming
with unreliable people

Here dilettantism reigns supreme

Along with Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude naturally

Mrs Vargo is finished sewing, and the
QUEEN slumps forward in despair, but then immediately rights
It’s horrible Doctor
no really
it’s horrible
very quickly raises her left arm and her costume very noisily tears

A catastrophe
a catastrophe
Mrs Vargo
Mrs Vargo sews up the tear under the left arm as quickly
as possible
You must hurry
do you hear me Mrs Vargo
you must hurry
The overture

The overture
in my haste
I didn’t even hear the overture
any second now the three ladies will be

Always too late
and always at the last minute
a catastrophe every time
this is inconsiderate
my child

And on top of all this
to have a father
who understands nothing
and who secretly hates
what you do

You must hurry
Mrs Vargo
The queen sings a coloratura
In today’s opera houses
there is an indispersible
atmosphere of catastrophe
in every type of theater
nothing functions
quickly Mrs Vargo
the three ladies
are already onstage

The three ladies
the three ladies

The three ladies
are already onstage
my child


At the last minute

At the last minute

Now none of it can
ever tear again

nothing but concentration
is the most crucial thing
The queen sings a coloratura
Her coach should step up the pace
of the afternoon sessions
The queen sings a coloratura
Then one wonders
The queen sings a coloratura

MRS VARGO to the queen
Raise your arm
so as to put your mind at rest
The queen sings a coloratura and raises first her right
then her left arm
You see
nothing is tearing
everything is tight and firm now
Mrs Vargo
has stitched it all together
as firmly as possible
I personally observed
how firmly she stitched up the seams

The three ladies
are already onstage

In fact the serpent has already been slain
The queen sings a coloratura
These unpleasant tenor voices
a totally unbearable Tamino
The queen sings a coloratura
a totally unbearable tenor
and a totally unbearable conductor
The queen rises and steps forward and raises her head as high
as possible
and the most significant opera
in the history of opera
The queen makes for the door

The crown
don’t forget the crown

MRS VARGO appalled
The crown
naturally the crown
takes the crown down from the clothes rack and sets it on
the queen’s head

DOCTOR to Mrs Vargo
Fasten it on
so that it can’t fall off
Mrs Vargo fastens on the crown and buckles the belt around
the queen’s waist
Queens of the night
have been known
to lose their crowns

My lovely child
Exit the queen of the night

Just imagine
if on the stage
if right in the middle of the stage
your daughter’s costume tears
under the arms
first under the right arm
and then under the left
undoubtedly a catastrophe
I regard this
trial arm-raising as an
unconditional necessity
The father turns up the loudspeaker
To be obliged to act
in that
which one hates
because one has talent
in certain cases genius
my dear sir
or because one is forced
to do so in every conceivable case
for example by a father
is horrible
the recitative “Oh tremble not, beloved son,” is now heard from the loudspeaker
The theater
and in particular
the opera
my dear sir
is hell
[The queen’s first] aria is heard from the loudspeaker
The doctor and the father motionlessly listen to the entire remainder of the aria


At the Three Hussars

The queen of the night, the father, and the doctor, seated at a circular table
Two side-tables with lamps
Winter in the background
An outstanding performance
The mise en scene
Apart from the conductor
Such apathy
towards the score
Beckons Winter over
the audience’s
incapacity to react
poverty of imagination
downright crippling stupidity
The queen says something unintelligible to Winter, who is standing immediately behind her.  Exit Winter.
constant anxiety
uninterrupted anxiety
Like at Covent Garden
Like at Covent Garden
How easy it is
to disorganize a production
to the point of insufferableness
no exactitude
aptitude on the part of the actors
of the singers
but no exactitude
it’s no use
it’s absolutely no use

QUEEN to her father
You hear
you don’t see
but you do hear

And he hears
the most insignificant things
with incredible fidelity
A person who cannot see
hears incredibly clearly

Today’s performance
was about ten minutes shorter
than the premiere

This incessant anxiety
believe me
outstanding seats
regarding Fritz Busch

Every time I think
this is the last time
that I’ll put up with this
that I’ll go through with this
then it happens again
and again
and again
then suddenly there’ll be no more agains
ever again

Enter Winter with a bottle [of wine], which he pours for the doctor, the queen, and her father in turn; then he tops off the doctor’s glass and exits

What we miss
is the precision
the exactitude
the inconsiderateness
the extremity of artificiality
like [that of] the score
but what we read
in the newspapers
is reported
by an appalling simpleton
something that has not been studied
and therefore not comprehended
such effrontery
my dear sir
Enter Winter with the entrees, which he serves
my dear sir
to Winter
If you Winter
have come to grasp
the fact that everything
is exceedingly questionable
that one cannot
rely on anything
that everything is grounds
for distrust
and for contempt
If you act
with eyes wide open
and perform an inconsiderate dissection
the opposite
of a philosophical state of affairs

WINTER to the queen
An absolutely extraordinary success
The newspapers

DOCTOR interrupting
Lies Winter
all lies Winter
of incapacity
each one of them a mouth
that unremittingly
to Winter
You know
Gevrey Chambertin
not too cold
not too warm
to the queen
on the other hand it’s such a wasteland
without newspapers
to Winter
please bring the gentleman
some white-bread
Exit Winter
The air
in the opera house
is bitterly cold

I am always worried
that the fire curtain
is going to come crashing down

Your old dream
about being crushed
by the fire curtain
Enter Winter with toast
The doctor to Winter
Do you hear this
is still forever worrying
that she will be crushed
by the fire curtain
You remember

WINTER serving the father his toast
Madam has always
talked about this

It’s true
that at the Metropolitan Opera
the fire curtain did once fall down
during a performance
but nobody was injured
Exit Winter
I believe it was during a performance
of Fidelio

With Kirsten

With Kirsten Flagstad

Twelve years ago

A performance
conducted by Fritz Busch

Who was substituting
for Bruno Walter

I remember
Busch was substituting
for Walter

QUEEN calling out
Enter Winter
Bring me some mineral water
Exit Winter
Every time I say
the last time
call it off
make no more entrances
bow out
for good

If you are talking about
at the pinnacle
bowing out
at the pinnacle
of your vitality
of your art
of your disgust with art
well you haven’t
reached that pinnacle yet
Enter Winter with the mineral water

QUEEN to Winter
If only I could confide in somebody
but there is nobody
in whom I can confide
my days of being a confidence trickster’s dupe
are over
and done with
to Winter, as he pours the mineral water
This I believe
I believe that that is mineral water
nothing else
I believe nothing else
absolutely nothing else
looks Winter in the eye
nothing else whatsoever
that what you’re now pouring me
is mineral water
Exit Winter

A blind person naturally
grows tired
more quickly
and more intensively
than other people
but the gaucherie of the masses
is a given
to the queen
witnesses your art
with greater

after the performance
when everything is over
this insatiable appetite

[But] when one is dining with good reason
at so famous a restaurant
as the Three Hussars

QUEEN calling to Winter, who is offstage
Did you hear that Winter
When one is dining with good reason
at so famous a restaurant
as the Three Hussars

It’s not just a meal
it’s an extravaganza

This remark is
typical of you doctor
The consommé
and a philosophical topic
The beefsteak tartar
the idea of self-annihilation
for example

The difficulty
of always singing exactly [right]
in a great variety of conditions
of always singing the same part
exactly [the same]

Variations in temperature
variations in [degrees of] consciousness

In cold water
more taxing
or not as taxing
as in warm
in Paris more taxing
than in Buenos Aires
or vice-versa

Or vice-versa

My daughter
is fully conversant with
the variations
in nature

A step too many
or too large a step
a lapse of attention
of the most risible sort
a lapse of attention on her partner’s part
and everything falls to bits
my dear sir

She imagines herself
in the craziest situation

One time it is
an Italian
the next time a Spanish
next an English
next a German conductor

She has made herself
into a specialist

A specialist

As her anxiety
and the hugeness of her reputation
as her fluency
and her insecurity
and her inconsiderateness increase
so do her guarantees

her guarantees are increasing

But now
her villas her numerous houses make her

What one wants
to begin with is
what one subsequently doesn’t want at all
The doctor and the father laugh

At the Three Hussars
it is mandatory to eat
fried beef and onions in gravy or
a beefsteak tartar

Fried beef and onions in gravy or
a beefsteak tartar

It assembles
Winter knows
what I mean by that
shouting out to Winter
Don’t you Winter
you know
what I mean by that

A reliable fellow
who never steps out of character

Also a Scorpio
like me

My father always sits
in the twelfth row
in the middle of the twelfth row
he always sits
in the same place

In the twelfth row
I hear best

Left and right of him
nobody sits
for his arms and hands
he needs
the two places on either side

A person like
your esteemed father
has an uncommonly well-trained sense of hearing

He hears everything


Such a strong coloratura voice
after several days starts to bother him
then he says nothing
falls silent

When one has staked one’s entire fortune
on such a voice
and all
one’s bets have paid off

He always used to dream
of my singing the queen of the night
at Covent Garden
and now so far I have sung twenty times
at Covent Garden

Twenty times

Once we have achieved something
even something of the highest order
we see
that it is nothing


In the end
It is sheer torture
my dear sir
and one’s intellect
a formidable one
Since my father
started wearing armbands
I have not worried about him
as much

is extremely inconsiderate
if a person evinces a weakness
this weakness is
taken advantage of
everything is based on that
to the queen
When you are walking up and down
in the park
before a performance
aren’t you thinking all the while
that you might just
break down
that you suddenly
won’t be able to sing
your coloraturas
When you step into the opera house
that you will unleash a scandal
when you all of a sudden
cease to be master
of your art
Artists exist
I believe
in perpetual fear
of the instantaneous loss
of their artistic powers
a singer
worries that he will suddenly no longer be able to sing
an actor
that he will all of a sudden
forget his lines etcetera
I myself would without a doubt
be incessantly afflicted by this fear
and would be hopelessly unfit
to follow an artistic calling
it deliberately aims
to soothe its practitioner
is pretty much unacquainted with
the concept of fear
to the father
May I pour you
some wine
my dear sir
pours the father some wine
Medicine is
But why bother trying to explain
when of course pretty much nothing
can be explained
when pretty much nothing

Before the performance
I naturally
give a wide berth to my role
I distract myself
I listen
I hear

But naturally
distraction is impossible

QUEEN looks at her father
I give him a wide berth
I simply avoid him
when I avoid him
I calm down
to her father
It’s all been settled
you are going off to the mountains
I am determined to make this tour alone
to her father
If it’s something important
he doesn’t hear
suddenly he loses his hearing
as well
suddenly cries out
enter Winter

A telegram Winter
write this down
Winter readies pen and paper
Royal Opera Stockholm
Royal Opera Stockholm
Winter writes
did you get that
Winter nods
Royal Opera Stockholm
Owing to sudden
owing to sudden
to the doctor
listen to this doctor
Owing to severe sudden
to Winter
owing to sudden severe illness
fulfillment of obligation
fulfillment of obligation
to Winter
listen up
to doctor
Listen up Doctor
to Winter
fulfillment of obligation impossible
deeply regret cancellation etcetera
Send it off
at once
exit Winter

But surely you’re

Not actually ill
you were about to say
I am not actually ill
not the slightest bit
but I shan’t be traveling to Stockholm
not to Stockholm
not to Stockholm
nor to Copenhagen
nor to Copenhagen either
cries out
enter Winter
Send another telegram this time
to Copenhagen
write this down
Winter writes
Royal Opera Copenhagen
Owing to sudden severe illness
fulfillment of obligation impossible
deeply regret cancellation etcetera
send off both telegrams at once
exit Winter
to the doctor
I shall travel with my father
to the mountains
To the mountains doctor
no coloratura
I know that my father
cannot stand
the awful stench of the people
who sit next to him at the opera
he hates the perspiration of the opera-goers
it stupefies him
and to such a powerful extent
I think
because of his alcoholism

an alcoholic finds
the perspiration of his fellow human beings
especially at the theater
or at the opera
quite appalling

I have never yet
called off an appearance
but all of a sudden

Although this first time
you are lying
someday you might
possibly actually have
a fatal illness
The queen and the doctor laugh

Being contradicted is something she cannot brook
She cannot brook being contradicted

One must have strength
to call off
to break off something
that has become habitual
to call off an appearance onstage


Or in the middle of such an appearance
for example in the middle of the revenge aria
to stop singing
let one’s arms fall
ignore the orchestra
ignore the other actors
ignore the audience
ignore everybody
to stand there
and do nothing
and stare at everybody
stare at them do you understand
suddenly hold one’s tongue
The queen and the doctor laugh
at first to call off engagements formally
by telegram
but then
quite suddenly
for example at the Metropolitan Opera
or at Covent Garden
during the most telling passage naturally
to unleash a scandal
derail a performance
to clap one’s hands
and hold one’s tongue
and exit the stage laughing
laughing do you understand
The queen and the doctor laugh

My daughter is unique
she sings
the most complicated and the most beautiful
coloraturas in the world
she is justifiably famous

But being famous doesn’t mean
that one can’t indulge oneself
in a prank every now and then
The queen and the doctor laugh
your daughter
is the most famous
she has
no peer

on the audience
looks at her father
not in front of him
in front of him no

Why don’t you just
say what you want to say
Your father obviously
will accept
whatever you do
as we’re all after all
in a pretty mellow mood by now

In a mellow mood
calls out
enter Winter
what do you do
when you want to say something
and can’t say it
because it will hurt you
or at any rate someone
looks at her father
Winter is at a loss for a reply
To spit
in the audience’s face
loudly laughs
bring it now
you know
exit Winter
coloratura machine
coloratura machine
do you hear me doctor
coloratura machine
The doctor laughs
when there is pretty much no occasion for it
none whatsoever
that is why I dream
that I always see myself
at the apex of my pinnacle
unleashing a scandal
it’s monstrous
but natural doctor
as perverse as can be
but as natural as can be
or suddenly
at my pinnacle
going insane
Parents are bearers of blame
not inspirers of confidence doctor
to be thrust by one’s parents
into a single monstrous
[never-ending] round of racketeering
When we have sacrificed ourselves
to our discipline doctor
totally sacrificed ourselves
The great artist at the pinnacle of her art
I know
What a staccato
what a staccato

You should have seen
my daughter in Florence
The newspapers wrote
that with her every entrance
her art attained
a higher level of perfection
the highest demands
the highest demands imaginable
it is because of these that each and every one of us
must exert ourselves ever harder
to such an extraordinary extent Doctor
especially artists
who now must exert themselves
as they never used to have to
nowadays artists are
put to the test
more than ever before
in no case may any consideration
be shown
artists show no consideration
for the public
and the public likewise
shows no consideration for them
Anybody who has reached the finish line
is naturally
wretchedly unhappy

DOCTOR to the father
Because you see
or practically nothing
you hear all the better
my dear sir
a person who sees poorly
hears well
just as a person who hears poorly
in certain situations my dear sir
sees well
but good ears
can naturally never
take the place of bad eyes
or vice-versa
The queen laughs
If only you could see your daughter
she is lovely to behold
my dear sir
When one tries to keep
all these people
whom she loathes
at arm’s length from your daughter
the mass of humanity grows ever more disquieting
we have of course for the longest time
been walking in exclusively through back doors
we walk
we do not walk alone
everything we do is
under surveillance
only when we seek refuge in a private room
in the Three Hussars for example
and are behind locked doors
but we are always stared at my dear sir
you yourself notice this most terrible of all conditions
[though] possibly not with such clarity
we contrive to sneak out
but the audience always drags us back in
we catch our breath
and the audience mobs us
right into the nearest corner
Your daughter’s voice today
was more perfect than ever before
Listen up my dear sir
more than anything else we mustn’t
forget about the Brunetti chisel
the double rachiotom
to the queen
I promised your father
that I would continue my lecture
on postmortem dissection
at the Three Hussars
to the father
don’t forget about
the dural forceps
The queen coughs
More than anything else your daughter
must take care not to catch a cold
the human body
is always on the brink
of every illness
in constant fear
in mortal terror
the queen coughs
We wake up
and think
we are doomed
one pain
my dear sir
one painful movement
and we believe
we are at the end
to the father
it is a single step
enter Winter with a bottle of champagne
the desire
to be dead
whence the fear
in face of the end
Winter opens the bottle; a pop is heard
the present moment
is always the most propitious one
the present moment is
always propitious
Winter pours the champagne
Whether we are among actors
or singers
my dear sir
we are among schemers
it has been necessary
to shelter such a creature as your daughter
such an artistic creature
from the artistic world
The queen coughs
to Winter
What time is it anyway Winter

Half-past one

Half-past one

Half-past one
exit Winter

intellectual inconsideration
in every case
a lethal process
my dear sir
all drink their champagne
If we experience for a very long time
these conditions
and circumstances
and suddenly drop dead

Drop dead

We see a theatrical artist
we hear a trained voice
a coloratura soprano
my dear sir
on a dung heap
my dear sir
Culture is a dung heap
on which theatricality
and musicality
pours everybody champagne from the bottle
One can prolong this unnatural condition
that we call existence
or human nature
my dear sir
but of this there is no necessity
on the other hand I do intend to continue
my scientific work
to complete one of these days
the book that I have been working on
for the past twenty years
then without a doubt everything will unravel
your daughter’s existence
The queen coughs
is essential at a high level
to this work
that has monopolized me
to this twelve-volume opus
on the human body
my dear sir
most likely it is the existence of your daughter alone
that will allow me finally and ultimately to complete
this work that I had already abandoned
years before I met
your daughter
and you my dear sir
our mode of procedure is naturally
a dilettantish one
on the other hand everything falls to pieces
everything deteriorates
in your daughter’s orbit
the cause of greatest force
suffers no competitors
right now she is signing
as she has never before
my dear sir
nothing but hecticity
along with the insanity
that is inextricable from this hecticity
Your attention please
my dear sir
one opens the pericardium
as one makes near the cardiac apex
a tiny incision
with forceps and intestinal scissors
or with the cerebral scalpel
an incision that one extends
my dear sir
along both sides
in a V-shaped pattern
One should note the contents
of the pericardial cavity
The queen coughs
Normally one finds
a small volume
of opaque liquid
in pathological cases one may find
a serous or purulent exudation
or transudation
my dear sir
In concretio one must dissect the heart
along with the adhering pericardium
One uses as a point of reference
its resemblance
to the right fist
And so to the cardiac incision
my dear sir
one grasps the anterior wall
of the right chamber
one draws the heart
slightly downwards
and thereby acquires
a straight line
Winter appears and remains in the background
The so-called Rokitansky incision
facilitates the opening
of the left ventricle
my dear sir
one grasps the
apex which is situated much farther to the front
between the third and fourth fingers
of the left hand
and proceeds with index finger and thumb
into the opening of the left ventricle
and draws the entire heart thus prepared
The aorta lies
immediately beneath the apex
in the septum
the Rokitanskian method of incision
has the advantage
of preserving the Aorta pulmonaris
but the Septum membranaceum is destroyed
along with the conductive system
The queen beckons Winter over.  Winter approaches behind her.  The queen whispers something in his ear.  Exit Winter.
As for the excision
of the tongue
and of the throat
one removes the block of wood
over which the neck
is being stretched
to begin with
using the cartilagial scalpel
one dissects the hypodermis
of the throat largely ad libitum
then using the lingual scalpel
one penetrates beneath the skin

Penetrates beneath the skin

One lays the scalpel flat against the skin
and guides it carefully

The queen coughs

Forward into the median plane
until one runs into the lower jawbone
The queen coughs
Then one raises the scalpel
in one’s grip
and enters the oral cavity
with a clearly palpable jolt
my dear sir
and cuts through the floor of the oral cavity
along the horizontal
mandibular branch
it is a classic structure
my dear sir
The queen coughs
mark my words
a classic structure

A classic structure

One proceeds
in the same way on the other side
to the queen
Your father undoubtedly once had the makings
of an outstanding [medical] practitioner
many people suffer
all their lives
as a consequence of having
been obliged to break off some vehemently embarked-on course of study
A good anatomist
needs to have a healthy physique
next one pulls the skin of the throat
inside-out and upwards
One grasps the tongue
with the second and fourth fingers
and pulls it with thumb and index finger
Enter Winter with a bottle of champagne
The pharyngeal structures are now connected
only to the rear wall of the pharynx
which must now be cut in half
To this end one applies the lingual scalpel
identifies by sight
or touch
my dear sir
by touch
or by sight
the boundary between the hard
and soft palate
A pop is heard
thrusts through
and presses on all the way to the rear wall of the pharynx
The queen coughs.  Winter pours everyone champagne
Now one guides the incision
outwards in an arc
and all the way to the spinal column
then one cuts in half the Fascia praevertebralis
all the while keeping the edge of the scalpel perpendicular
to the spinal column
and making the dividing cut first to the left
then to the right
to Winter
it’s getting late
if you [open] another bottle for us

[But] madam          
Fine fine Winter
Exit Winter
While applying continuous pressure
to the tongue
through which one offloads the pharyngeal viscera
from the spinal column

Offloads the pharyngeal viscera
from the spinal column

Now using the intestinal scissors one cuts
through the tonsillar ring
and enters the esophagus
in the median plane
in doing which one holds the scissors
at a slightly sloping angle
and first rotates them within
and cuts through the esophagus
in the median line
Now one can excise
all the pharyngeal organs
en bloc
In cases of lymphatic leukemia
the tonsils can be
extremely enlarged
to the queen
If your father
had not fallen ill
fallen ill
really much too young
and not also gone
almost totally blind
we would be dining now
with a real medical authority

A real medical authority

A head like the head
of your esteemed father
is at bottom
a thoroughly medical head
And you can see for yourself
how keen
his interest
in medicine is
even though he already knows everything
he is always in the mood
for a refresher course
a refresher course
in special procedures
in the field of medicine
Believe me
such unflagging interest
is unheard-of
among physicians
in them we encounter
nothing but arrogance
Before one
sets about dissecting the abdominal organs
one checks to see
whether or not less subtle changes
have taken place in the site of the abdominal organs
such as for example adhesions
between the liver and the intestines
The queen coughs

Between the liver and the intestines
Enter Winter, who walks up to the small side-table on the right and turns off its lamp and vanishes

Or between the gall-bladder
and the intestinal loops
but most important of all is the comportment of the great omentum
which in inflammatory processes
in the area of the stomach
of the intestines
of the gall-bladder
of the uterus et cetera
is warped in the direction of the process
a sure prognostic
violent distension of the stomach
in cases of arteriomesenterial intestinal stoppage
The queen coughs
a distension that can be so extreme
that the stomach extends all the way to the symphysis
A violent dilation of the large intestine
Hirschsprung’s disease
my dear sir
Recessus duodeno jejunalis
Recessus intersigmoides
Recessus retrocoecalis
Recessus ileocoecalis
Recessus paracolicus et cetera
The queen coughs

Recessus paracolicus
The queen coughs.  Enter Winter, who turns off the lamp on the side-table in the background and vanishes.  It is slowly getting dark

On to the dissection of the liver
listen up please
my dear sir
normally the surface of the liver is
There may be
alterations of this surface texture
Zahnian grooves
Grooves caused by constriction
In cases of hepar lobatum one finds grooves
cicatrized inspirations
my dear sir
Postal package-shaped
caseous mucosities
tuberosity et cetera
of the liver
in the depths of the grooves

Caseous mucosities
postal package-shaped

Postal package shaped
caseous mucosities
in cases of parenchymatous degeneration
dark brown
in cases of senile atrophy
pale yellow in cases of fatty liver disease
green in cases of jaundice
nutmeg-esque in cases of congestion
For this procedure one takes the cerebral scalpel
and makes the principal incision
in other words one cuts in
at the place where the curvature of the liver is
most pronounced
on both the left
and the right lobes
The queen coughs
[taking care] however not to cut them apart

Not to cut them apart

QUEEN adjusts her father’s armbands
These armbands
are a source of comfort

the law forbids a person
who is not completely blind
to wear armbands on both arms
and your father is not completely blind
The queen coughs

Not to cut them apart

Not to cut them apart
The structure of the liver
is always attributable
to the fact that there is a discrepancy
between the center
and the periphery of the acinus

How about that [other] dissection

One spreads the legs of the corpse
my dear sir
takes up the cartilageal scalpel
gives a slight downward tug to the penis
with one’s left hand
thereby stretching taut the skin of the symphysis

Stretching taut the skin of the symphysis

And beginning at the extreme left
cuts downward
with one’s right hand
in an arc
my dear sir
all the way to the latitude of the rectum
and anus
and draws the penis and scrotum
aside to the left
The queen coughs
one makes the same incision
on the right side
with short sawing motions
cuts in two
the spongy cellular tissue
all the way to the free end of the symphysis
and there inserts the cartiageal scalpel
and cuts through in an arc
the connective tissue of the floor of the pelvis
Having reached the median line
one produces the same division
on the other side
not in a single incision
lest one damage
the urethra
which is near the symphysis
through the opening thus made
the penis
and scrotum are passed
[and] drawn upwards
and the two arc-shaped incisions
[are] united with a single diagonal incision
At this point the genitals are attached
only by the tissue of the promontory
my dear sir
from which they are [to be] detached
[a procedure whose] demonstration
requires the utmost circumspection
With regard to the stomach
one pulls down the entire small intestine
and Colon traversum
and initially contemplates the stomach
from the outside

QUEEN to her father
The doctor
is [famed as] an authority
throughout Europe
he is highly respected
his books
and his articles
have been translated
into all
[the European] languages

The world always
expects something
from an authority
there is nothing more strenuous
than being an authority

All my life
I have longed for a career
in the background
but by nature
I am not cut out for one

For the rest of the night
I shall be incapable of getting
my coloraturas
back out of my head
My dread of
and aversion to
having to do with
grand opera

[To think] that they are all invariably
either intellectual
or artistic
[and] make infamy
their theme
my dear sir
For a long time
we have managed
to shelter your daughter
to shield her
my dear sir
The queen coughs
from a smut-bespattered public
from its lethal
The theater
and in particular the opera
is no place
for a natural human being
The queen yawns
When we reckon up
the feeblemindedness
that reigns supreme among this artistic breed
my dear sir
with the vulgarity
of the spectators
we arrive at a state of madness
The queen coughs
and of ignorance
my dear sir
we are too intelligent
The stage slowly darkens
[The doctor] turns to the father
but you
my dear sir
fail to notice this
because you have been perpetually
and for quite a long time now
an entire decade
I believe
or even longer
in the kind of darkness
that is now
Such an existence
is without a doubt
a definitive one
Few are they who exist
with such intensity
is a disaster
the stage is completely dark
Like on the public stage
my dear sir
thanks to which everything is
supremely insecure
The queen suddenly loudly crying out
Enter Winter, but he cannot be seen
The queen, after a pause
Did you send the telegrams
the telegrams to Stockholm
and Copenhagen

Naturally, madam

It’s good
that you sent the telegrams
that puts my mind at ease
I am content
I am quite content

QUEEN after a pause
nothing but exhaustion
Glasses and bottles are overturned on to the table

The end

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Stücke 1 (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1988)

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