A girl shrieks: 'Ah, tais-toi, je ne veux plus! Someone is calling. People are running, overtaking one another. A dog barks. What a relief: a dog. Toward morning there's even a cock crowing, and what a boundless blessing it is. Then, abruptly, I fall asleep. I've had enough! Those are the noises. But here there's something that's more terrible: the silence.
I believe that sometimes when a great fire occurs you can get a moment of extreme tension: the water jets slacken off, the firemen no longer climb, nobody stirs. Soundlessly a black cornice edges forward up above; and a high wall, behind which flames are mounting, tilts, also without a sound.
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Everyone stands, shoulders hunched, tense, with the part of their faces above the eyes pressed into into furrows, waiting for the awful crash. That's how it is with the silence here. I'm learning to see. I don't know what it's about, but everything is registering in me at a deeper level and doesn't stop where it used to. There's a place within me that I wasn't aware of. What's going on there I don't know. I wrote a letter today and while I was writing it struck me that I've been here barely three weeks. Three weeks elsewhere--say, in the country--that could be like a day, here it's years.
I'm definitely not going to write any more letters. What's the point of telling anyone that I'm changing? I haven't remained who I was, I'm different from who I was before; so, clearly I have no friends or acguaintances. And writing to strangers, to people who don't know me, is simply not possible. Did I say it before? I'm learning to see—yes, I'm making a start. I'm still not good at it. But I want to make the most of my time.
For example, I've never actually wondered how many faces there are. There are a great many people, but there are even more faces because each person has several. There are those who wear one face for years on end; naturally, it starts to wear, it gets dirty, it breaks at the folds, it becomes stretched like gloves that are kept for travelling. These are thrifty, simple people; they don't change their faces, and never for once would they have them cleaned.
It's good enough, they maintain, and who can convince them otherwise? Admittedly, since they have several faces, the guestion now arises: what do they do with the others? They save them.
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They'll do for the children. There have even been instances when dogs have gone out with them on. And why not? A face is a face. Other people change their faces one after the other with uncanny speed and wear them out. At first it seems to them that they've enough to last them forever, but before they're even forty they're down to the last of them.
Of course, there's a tragic side to it. They're not used to looking after faces; their last one wore through in a week and has holes in it and in many places it's as thin as paper; bit by bit the bottom layer, the non-face, shows through and they go about wearing that. But that woman, that woman: bent forward with her head in her hands, she'd completely fallen into herself. It was at the corner of rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs.
I began to tread softly the moment I caught sight of her. Poor people shouldn't be disturbed when they're deep in thought. What they're searching for might still occur to them. The street was too empty; its emptiness was bored with itself and it pulled away the sounds of my footsteps and clattered around all over the place with them like a wooden clog.
Out of fright the woman reared up too quickly, too violently, so that her face was left in her two hands. I could see it lying there, the hollowness of it's shape. It cost me an indescribable effort to keep looking at those hands and not at what they'd torn away from. I dreaded seeing the inside of a face, but I was much more afraid of the exposed rawness of the head without a face.
I'm afraid. One has to do something about fear once one has it. The Hotel is pleasant and terrifically popular. One can scarcely get a glimpse of the facade of Paris Cathedral without risking being run over by one of the great number of vehicles that must needs go at top speed into and across the open sguare. There are these little omnibuses that are forever ringing their bells, and the Duke of Sagan himself would have to let his carriage be halted if one of these little people who was dying had taken it into their head that they wanted to go straight to God's very own Hotel.
A notable feature of these fiendish little carriages is that they have frosted glass windows which are immensely stimulating and one imagines the most marvellous agonies taking place behind them--the imagination of a concierge could manage that--, and with a more fanciful imagination and striking out in other directions clearly there's no limit to one's conjectures. In the days of King Clovis people were already dying here in what few beds there were. Now there are beds to die in. It's natural mass-production. With such a high number as that a single death doesn't get the same attention; however, that isn't what matters.
Quantity is what matters.
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Who today still cares whether or not a death has been well put together? Even the rich who, after all, can afford to attend to the details of dying are starting to grow slipshod and apathetic; the desire to have a death all of one's own is becoming more and more infrequent. Only a while and it'll become as rare as a life of one's own. It's all there waiting for us.
We come along, we find a life, ready-made, off the peg, and all we have to do is put it on. You want to go, or you are forced to: 'No trouble at all, sir. You die as and when you die; you die the death that belongs to the sickness you have for all sicknesses are known; what is also known is that the different fatal endings belong to the sickness and not to the people who are sick; the sick person doesn't have anything to do, in a manner of speaking. In sanatoriums, where people die so gladly and with so much gratitude toward doctors and nurses, the death which is died is one that is utilised by the institution; everyone approves.
But when one dies at home, the natural thing is to choose the sort of death they have in the better circles of society, where the, as it were, first-class funeral has already been introduced along with a whole train of admirable customs. The poor stand in front of such a house and watch until they've seen all they want to see.
Their own death is, of course, banal and without any sort of fuss at all. They're pleased if they can find one that more or less fits--too big, well one can still grow a bit; it's only if it doesn't meet across the chest or if it chokes that something has to be done to it. Whenever I think back to my home, where there's no one left now, I can see that in times gone by things must have been different.
In those days people knew or suspected that they had death inside them like the stone inside a fruit. Children had a small one in them and grown-ups a big one. Women had it in their womb and men in their chest. They had it and it gave them a particular dignity and quiet pride. My own grandfather, old Chamberlain Brigge, obviously carried a death inside him. And what a death it was: two months long and so loud it could be heard at the furthest corner of the estate.
The long old manor house was too small for this death; it seemed as if wings needed building on to the hose because the Chamberlain's body was getting bigger and bigger and he was forever demanding to be carried from one room to another and got into a fearful temper if the day were still not ended and there were no more rooms left for him to lie in. Up the stairs the procession went, the menservants, maids, and the dogs that he always had round him; the steward led the way and then brought them into the room where his blessed mother had died, a room that was exactly as she had left it twenty-three years before and which no one since had been allowed to enter.
Now the whole mob broke in. The curtains were pulled back and the robust light of a summer afternoon put all the shy, frightened objets to the test and clumsily turned itself round in the wide-eyed mirrors. And the people did the very same. There were lady's maids so consumed with curiosity they couldn't tell exactly what their hands were searching after; there were young servants gaping at everything, and elderly servant-folk walking around trying to recall what tales they had been told about this locked room in which now, at last, by good fortune, they found themselves.
It was the dogs that appeared to be the most affected; a room where everything gave off a smell afforded them an immensely exciting interlude. The tall, lean Afghan hounds occupied themselves running back and forth behind the armchairs, making long dance-steps in their swaying motion as they crossed the chamber, raising themselves on their hind legs like heraldic dogs, resting their slender front paws on the white gold window sill and with sharp, eager, furrowed faces looked to the left and to the right down into the courtyard.
Little glove-yellow dachshunds had seated themselves on the wide, silk-covered easy-chair by the window looking as if everything were exactly as it should be, and a sullen-faced, wire-haired pointer rubbed its back against the edge of a gilt-legged table causing the Sevres cups on the painted top to tremble. Yes, for the absent-minded overslept items in the room, it was a dreadful time. At one point rose leaves, spilling from books that had been hastily and clumsily opened, whirled to the floor and were crushed underfoot; small, fragile articles were seized, instantly broken and then guickly put back; quite a number of things that had been bent were either stuck under curtains or even thrown behind the gold mesh of the firescreen; and from time to time something fell, fell with a muffled sound on to the carpet, fell with a bright sound onto the hard parquet floor, but breaking to pieces here and there with a sharp burst or an almost soundless one, for these things, cosseted as they were, could not possibly withstand any kind of fall.
And had anyone thought to ask what might be the cause of it all, what might have called down this glut of destruction upon this closely guarded room, there would have been only one answer to give: death. For he it was who lay, bulging massively out of his dark blue uniform, in the middle of the floor and did not stir. In his big strange face that no one could recognise any more, the eyes were closed; he didn't see what was happening.
At first they'd tried to lay him on the bed, but he had resisted, for he had hated beds ever since those first nights of the last stage of illness. Also the bed here had proved too small, and there was nothing left to do but to lay him on the carpet; for he refused to be downstairs.
Christoph Detlev 's death had already been living at Ulsgaard for many many days now, talking with everyone and demanded- -demanded to be carried, demanded the blue room, demanded the little salon, demanded the large drawing room, demanded the dogs, demanded that people laugh, talk, play games and remain silent and all at the same time, demanded to see friends, women, people who had died, demanded to die itself: demanded, demanded, screaming. For, when night had fallen and those among the overtired servants who were not keeping watch were trying to go to sleep, Christoph Detlev's death would scream and scream again and groan and roar for such a length of time without stopping that the dogs, which at first had joined in the howling, fell silent and didn't dare lie down but remained standing on their long, slender, tembling legs, overcome with fear.
And when people in villages heard him roaring through the vast Danish silvery summer night they got up as they did in thunder- storms, dressing and remaining seated, not saying a word, round the lamp until it was over. And the women who were close to giving birth were moved to beds in the furthest rooms and in the tightest make-do spaces; but they heard it, they heard it as if it were in their own bodies, and they pleaded to be allowed to get up as well, and they came, all large and white, and sat with the others with their blurred faces.
And the cows which were calving at the time were helpless and unresponding and one calf together with all the mother cow's entrails was dragged out dead because it totally refused to come. And everyone did their daily work badly and forgot to bring in the hay because all through each day they had had fears of the night; and because they were so weary from lying awake and from getting up out of fear they weren't able to think properly. And when on Sunday they entered the white peaceful church they prayed that there might be no more lords of the manor at Ulsguard for this one was dreadful.
And what they were all thinking and praying for was said aloud by the minister from up in the pulpit, for he too no longer enjoyed restful nights and he could not understand God. And the bell said it because it now had a fearsome rival that boomed the whole night long and against which even with every bit of it's metal making the peal it could do nothing. Yes, they all said it, and one of the young men dreamed he had gone into the castle and had struck the gracious lord dead with his pitchfork; everyone was so resentful of the lord, so exasperated, so overwrought that as they listened to his tale they looked at him, quite without knowing, to see if he were possibly grown-up enough to carry out such a deed.
That is how people felt and talked all over the area where just a few weeks previously the Chamberlain had been loved and pitied. But although they talked in this way, nothing changed. Christov Detlev's death was in residence at Ulsgaard and would not be hurried. It had come for ten weeks and for ten weeks it stayed. And during this time it was more the master than Christov Detlev Brigge had ever been; it was like a king being known later, and going down in history, as: ' the Terrible '. It wasn't the death of somebody suffering from some kind of dropsy; it was the evil regal death that the Chamberlain his whole life long had carried inside him where it had fed.
Every excess of pride, of will and of dominance that he had not been able to use up himself on his calm days had gone into his death, the death that now sat at Ulsgaard squandering them. What a look Chamberlain Brigge would have given to anyone who deman- ded he die a different death from this one. His was a hard death. And when I think of the others I have seen or heard of: it's always the same. They've all had a death of their own. Those men who carried it in their armour, shut inside it like a prisoner; those women who grew very old and small and then on an immense bed like the ones on a theatre stage, in front of the whole family, the servants and the dogs discreetly and with dignity passed away.
The children, even the really small ones, didn't have just any child's death; they braced themselves and died as who they were already and who they would have become. And what a wistful beauty that gave to the women when they were preg- nant and stood there with their slender hands restingly naturally on the large shape where two fruits were: a child and a death. And that tight, almost nourishing smile that took over their faces, didn't it sometimes come from sensing that both were growing?
I've done something to keep fear away. I've sat up all night writing and now I'm as tired as if I'd been on a long walk across the fields at Ulsgaard. It's really hard for me to think that all of that is no more; that strangers are living in the old long manor house. It's possible that the maids are now asleep in the white room up in the gable, sleeping their heavy, damp sleep from evening till morning.
And one has nobody and nothing and one travels the world with a trunk and a crate of books and, in point of fact, without any curiosity. What sort of life is that really: without house, without anything passed down to me, without dogs? At the very least one should have memories. But who has? Would that one's childhood were here now, it's as if it's been buried.
Perhaps one needs to be old to be able to have contact with all that. I imagine it's good being old. It was a beautiful autumn morning today. I strolled through the Tuil- eries. Hung with mist like a light grey curtain everything eastwards into the sun was bedazzling. The statues, grey against grey, basked in the sunlight of the yet to be unveiled garden. Solitary flowers in the long flower beds got up and said 'Red' in a frightened voice.
Then a very tall slim man came round the corner from the Champs- Elysees; he carried a crutch, but it was no longer shoved under his shoulder: he held it out in front of him, lightly, and now and then he stood it on the ground firmly and loudly as if it were a herald's staff. He couldn't suppress a joyful smile and smiled at everything as he went by, including the sun, the trees. The way he walked was like that of a shy child, but unusually light, full of memories of walks in earlier times. What a little moon like this can do to everything. There are days when everything around one is softly illumined, not yet identifiable in the bright air but nonetheless distinct.
Even what lies nearest is imbued with the tones of distance, is abstracted and only denoted, not revealed; and what relates to distance: the river, the bridges, the long streets and the squares squandering themselves among them are what this expanse has collected behind it to be painted as if on silk. It's not possible to tell what a light-green vehicle on the Pont-Neuf can be, or a type of red that isn't too bold, or even a mere poster on the fire wall of a pearl grey group of houses. All is simplified, carelessly conveyed by a few light-coloured planes in like the face in a Manet portrait.
And nothing is negligible or superfluous. The booksellers along the quai open up their cases, and the new or worn yellow of the books, the violet brown of the volumes, the larger green of a folder: all are attuned to one another, are valid, are part of the whole and form a completeness which lacks nothing. Down below me is the following assortment: a small handcart pushed by a woman; on top and running the whole length a barrel organ; crosswise on the other side a basketwoven cot in which quite a small bonneted and gleeful infant with sturdy legs is standing and doesn't like being made to sit.
Now and again the woman turns the handle on the organ. The little infant immediately stands up again in its basket stamping, and a little girl in a green Sunday dress dances and taps her tambourine up at the windows. I think I ought to begin working on something now that I'm learning to see.
I'm twenty-eight and virtually nothing has happened. Let's go back: I've written a study on Carpaccio, which is poor; a play entitled 'Marriage', which seeks to prove something false by means of ambiguities; and poems. Ah, but poems written early in life don't amount to much. One should wait and gather meaning and sweetness a whole life long--and as long a life as possible--then, at the very end, one might possibly write ten lines that are any good.
For poems aren't, as people think, feelings one has those early enough ; they're experiences. To write a single line of verse one must see many cities, people, things, one must know animals, one must feel birds flying and know the movements flowers make as they open up in the morning. One must be able to think back to roads in unfamiliar regions, unexpected encounters, and partings which one saw coming long before; one must be able to think back to those days in one's childhood that are still unexplained, to one's parents whom one could not help offending when they brought a delightful gift and one didn't appreciate it it was a delight for someone else , to those childhood illnesses which arose so peculiarly and with so many profound and difficult changes, to those days in peaceful and secluded rooms, and to those mornings by the sea, to the sea anywhere, to seas, to nights of travel that swept along high above, flying with the stars; and it's still not enough, even when one's allowed to think of everything one can.
One must have memories of many nights of love--no two nights the same — of the cries of women in labour and of pale, white, sleeping women who have given birth and are now closing again. But one must also have been with the dying, one must have sat in a room with the dead with the window open and random noises coming in. And having memories is still not enough. If there are a great many, one must be able to forget them, and one must have the patience to wait until they return. For the memories are not what's essential. It's only when they become blood within us, become our nameless looks and signs that are no longer distinguishable from ourselves—not until then does it happen that, in a very rare moment, the first word of a verse rises in their midst and goes forth from among them.
All my poems came about in a different way; so they are not poems. And when I wrote my play how mistaken I was. Was I an imitator and fool to need a third person in order to tell of the fate of two people who were making eachother's life difficult? How easily I fell into the trap. And I should have known very well that this third person who figures throughout all lives and literatures , this ghost of a third person who has never existed, has no meaning, and must be disavowed.
He is one of the pretexts of a Nature which forever endeavours to divert people's attention from her deepest secrets. He is the screen behind which a play is acted out. He is the noise at the threshold of the voiceless silence of a real conflict. One would think it had all been too difficult till now for playwrights to speak of the two about whom the action turns; the 'third', precisely because he is so unreal, is the easy part of the task that they all can do.
Right at the start of their dramas one notices the impatience; they can hardly wait to bring him on. The moment he's there everything is fine. But how boring it is when he's late; there's absolutely nothing can happen without him, everything comes slowly to a standstill, and waits. Yes, and what if this jamming up and delay goes on? What, Mr. Playwright , and you, the audience, who know the ways of the world, what if he had been lost without trace, this popular rake, or this presumptuous young man who fits every marriage like a skeleton key? What if, say, the devil had gone off with him?
Let's say that's what's happened. Suddenly one becomes aware of the unreal emptiness of the theatres, they're walled up like dangerous holes, only moths from the padded edging of the loggia whirl down through the unstable hollow space. The playwrights have to forgo the pleasure of living in an exclusive neighbourhood. All public watchdogs search dutifully far and wide for that irreplaceable third person who himself was the plot. At the same time they're living among other people, not the 'third' persons but the two, about whom such an incredible number of things might be said and of whom not a word is ever spoken, though they suffer and do things and don't know how to help eachother.
It's ludicrous. Here I sit in my little room, I, Brigge, 28 years of age and known to no one. I sit here and am nothing. Nevertheless, this nothing, five flights up on a grey Paris afternoon, begins to think and it has these thoughts: Is it possible, it thinks, that one still hasn't seen or recognised or said anything that's real and important? Is it possible that there have been thousands of years in which to look, to reflect, and to record, and that these thousands of years have been allowed to go by like a school break when one eats a sandwich and an apple?
Yes, it's possible. Is it possible that despite inventions and advances, despite culture, religion and worldly wisdom one has remained on the surface of life? Is it possible that even this surface, which at any rate might, after all, have been something, has been covered over with unbelievably boring material so that it has the look of drawing-room furniture in the summer holidays? Is it possible that the whole of world history has been misunderstood?
Is it possible that the past is false because it's always its masses that have been spoken about as if one were talking of a convergence of many persons instead of talking about the one person they were gathered round because he was a stranger and was dying? Is it possible that one believed one had to catch up on what had occurred before one was born?
Is it possible that each and every person had to remember that he had been produced by all that had gone before and therefore knew it and would not let himself be persuaded by others who knew otherwise? Is it possible that all these people have a totally accurate knowledge of what has never been? Is it possible that realities are as nothing to them; that their life is draining away, connected with nothing, like a clock in an empty room? Is it possible that one can know nothing of the young girls who are nevertheless living? Is it possible that one says 'women', 'children', 'boys' and not suspect for one moment irrespective of their education that for a long time these words had no plural but only countless singulars?
Is it possible that there are people who say 'God' and think it's something they have in common with everyone? And after a week they compare the two knives and it turns out that they look only vaguely similar--so different have they become in different hands. There you are, says the mother of one of them, if you will go and wear everything out straightaway. But if all this is possible and if even there's only a glimmer of possibility , then, for pity's sake, surely something needs to be done. The first person to come forward who has had these disquieting thoughts must begin to do what has always been missed; he could be just anyone and it doesn't matter in the least if he's not the most suitable person: there's simply no one else to do it.
This young, insignificant foreigner, will have to sit himself down, five flights up and write day and night: yes, he will have to write; that's what it amounts to. I must have been twelve at the time, thirteen at the most. My father had taken me with him to Urnekloster. I don't know what prompted him to go visit his father-in-law. The two men had not seen each other for years ever since my mother died, and my father had never himself set foot inside the old manor house to which Count Brahe had retired late in life.
I never saw this remarkable house again because when my grandfather died it passed into strangers' hands. Thus, seeing it now, in a version of my childhood memories, it's not a building, rather it's all split up: a room here, a room there, and here a section of passageway that doesn't link these two rooms but has simply been preserved, a fragment. Similarly it's all scattered about within me, -- the rooms, the staircases which opened onto the ground floor with such great elaborateness and other narrow circular stairways in whose darkness one travelled like blood through veins; the tower rooms, the high balconies, the unexpected galleries one was urged along from the little entrance door: --all that is still within me and will never cease being within me.
It's as if the image of this house had plunged into me from an infinite height and smashed to pieces on the foundation of my being. What is preserved in its entirety in my heart, it seems to me, is solely the dining-hall where we met for dinner every evening at seven. I never saw that room by day; I can't even remember if it had any windows or what they looked out on; each time the family entered the candles would be burning in the heavy chandeliers and within a few minutes one forgot the time of day and everything one had seen outside.
That high, and I presume vaulted, room was more impressive than all the rest; its darkened height, with its never fully illumined corners sucked all the images out of one without replacing them with anything in particular. One sat there as if dissolved, wholly without willpower, without consciousness, without interests, without resistance. One was like an empty space. I remember that at first this annihilating condition almost created a feeling of nausea in me which I overcame by stretching out my leg until my foot touched my father's knee opposite.
It wasn't until later that I noticed that he seemed to understand, or, at least, seemed to tolerate this odd behaviour, even though in terms of the almost cool relationship existing between us such a gesture was inexplicable. It was, however, that light touch which gave me the strength to get through those long meals. And after several weeks of desperate endurance, I, with a child's almost boundless adaptability, had become so used to the eeriness of those meetings that it no longer cost me any effort to sit at table for two hours; now the time went by relatively quickly because I occupied myself observing those present.
My grandfather called it 'the family' and I also heard the others use this term, which was quite arbitrary. For although these four people were distantly related to one another, they didn't belong together in any way. My uncle who sat next to me was an old man whose hard tanned face showed several black flecks, the results, I learned, of an exploding charge of gunpowder; surly and malcontent as he was, he had retired from the army at the rank of major and now carried out alchemical experiments in some room in the house unknown to me and, so I heard the servants say, was in contact with a gaol, which once or twice a year sent corpses to him.
Day and night behind a locked door he would dissect them and prepare them in a mysterious way to resist decomposition. Opposite him sat Miss Mathilde Brahe.
She was a person of uncertain age, a distant cousin of my mother's. Nothing was known about her except that she kept up a very lively correspondence with an Austrian spiritualist who called himself Baron Nolde and to whom she was completely devoted, to the extent that she wouldn't undertake even the slightest thing without soliciting his prior approval or something after the style of a blessing.https://oofs.ru/public/9.php
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She was at that time exceedingly stout, of a soft, lazy corpulence which, as it were, had been poured casually into the loose, light-coloured dresses she wore; her movements were weary and vague and her eyes were constantly watering. All the same there was something about her that reminded me of my gentle and slender mother. I found that the longer I looked at her the more I could detect in her face all my mother's fine, soft traits, which since her death I had never been able to remember clearly; only now, seeing Mathilde Brahe daily, could I again know what she who was now gone from me had looked like; in fact I possibly knew it for the first time.
Only now did the hundreds and hundreds of details compose in my mind a memorial picture that accompanies me everywhere. Later I realised that in Fraulein Brahe ' s face all the details which characterised my mother's features were actually there, --only now it was as if a stranger's face had pushed its way between them forcing them apart so that they were distorted and no longer linked to one another. Next to this lady sat the little son of a cousin, a boy of about the same age as me but smaller and weaker.
His thin, pale neck rose from a pleated ruff that disappeared beneath a long chin. His lips were thin and tight shut; his nostrils quivered slightly; and of his beautiful dark brown eyes only one could move. It sometimes looked across towards me calmly and sadly, whereas the other one remained constantly trained on the same corner of the room as if it had already been sold off and would no longer come under consideration.
At the head of the table stood my grandfather's enormous armchair which a servant with nothing else to do would push under him; in it the old man occupied only a very small space. There were those who addressed this imperious hard-of-hearing old gentleman as 'Excellency', while others gave him the title 'General'. And he most certainly bore the stamp of these titles but it had been so long since they had been conferred that the designations scarcely made sense any more.
At any rate it seemed to me that no definite name could be attached to his personality which in some moments was so sharp and yet at other times so diffuse. I could never bring myself to call him 'Grandfather', although occasionally he was friendly to me and now and then would call me to him, trying to add a jocular touch to my name. I should add that the whole family behaved towards the Count with an evident mixture of awe and timidity; only little Erik enjoyed a certain familiarity with the aged master of the house; his movable eye threw quick assenting looks at his grandfather who just as quickly returned them; and sometimes in the long afternoons one could see them appearing at the far end of the long gallery, and then walking hand in hand past the dark old portraits, not speaking a word but clearly understanding each other in some other way.
I used to spend almost the whole day outside in the grounds and in the beech woods or on the heath; luckily there were dogs at Urnekloster and they would accompany me; here and there would be a tenant's house or dairy farm where I could get milk and bread and fruit, and I enjoyed my freedom in a fairly carefree way, at least in the following weeks, without letting myself be worried by thoughts of the evening gatherings.
I spoke with hardly anyone for it was a joy to me to be alone; now and then I would have a short conversation but only with the dogs : I got on marvellously with them. Taciturnity, by the way, was a sort of family trait; I was used to it in my father, and it didn't surprise me that over dinner practically nothing was said. In the first few days following our arrival, however, Mathilde Brahe proved herself to be exceedingly talkative. She questioned my father about old acquaintances in foreign cities, she recalled odd impressions, and she moved herself to tears thinking of female friends who had died and of a certain young man who, she hinted, had been in love with her, though she had chosen not to respond to his ardent but hopeless affections.
My father listened politely, inclining his head now and then in agreement and answering only when it was most necessary. The Count, at the head of the table, smiled continually, his lips drawn down; his face seemed larger than usual, as if he were wearing a mask. As it happens, he would sometimes say a few words himself, addressing no one in particular, in a voice that, though soft, could be heard throughout the whole room.
It had something of the monotonous regularity and indifference of the workings of a clock about it; the surrounding silence appeared to have an empty resonance all of its own, the same for each syllable. Count Brahe meant it as a special courtesy to my father when he spoke of his late wife, my mother. He called her Countess Sibylle and all his sentences ended as if he were asking after her. I felt--I don't know why--as if he were referring to very a young girl dressed all in white who at any moment might enter the room where we were.
I also heard him speak in the same tone about 'our little Anna Sophie'. And one day when I asked about this young woman whom my grandfather seemed so fond of I learnt that he meant the daughter of the Lord High Chancellor Conrad Revenlow, the morganatic wife of Frederick IV whose remains had rested at Roskilde for almost a century and a half. He had no notion of the passage of time; death was a minor incident which he ignored completely and those who were lodged in his memory continued to exist and their dying altered nothing whatsoever.
Several years later, after the old man had died, he was described as having maintained the stubborn notion that the future and the present were one. He was said to have spoken on one occasion with a young wife about her sons and in particular about the travels of one of them; the old man talked endlessly and all the while the young lady, who was just into the third month of her first pregnancy and sitting near him, was almost fainting from horror and fear.
However, on one occasion it all began with my laughing. I just laughed out loud and couldn't stop. It was one evening when Mathilde Brahe didn't show up at dinner. When the old and almost totally blind servant reached her place he, unaware, proffered the dish as usual. For a short while he stayed like that, then when he judged it right he moved along in his satisfied and dignified manner as if everything were in order. I had watched this scene and in the short time it took it didn't strike as being in the least comic. But a short while later just as I was putting food in my mouth laughter rushed up into my head with such speed that I swallowed the wrong way and caused great alarm.
And although I found this situation annoying, and although I did everything possible to remain serious, my laughter carried on erupting and kept me completely in its power. My father, as if to blot out my behaviour asked in his full but low voice: 'Is Mathilde unwell? I did happen to notice that he turned round once more in the doorway behind his host's back and by winks and nods signalled to little Erik and to my utter astonishment to me also as if he were urging us to follow him.
I was so amazed that my laughter lost its grip on me. For the rest, I paid no further attention to the major; I found him unpleasant and I observed also that little Erik was taking no notice of him. As always the meal dragged on and on and just as we reached dessert my eye was caught by something moving in the semi-darkness at the far end of the hall.
I thought the door there led to a mezzanine and was always locked but little by little it had opened and with a feeling of curiosity and dismay that was new to me I now fixed my eyes in that direction and saw a slim lady in a light coloured dress step into the shadow of the doorway and come slowly up towards us. I don't know if I stirred or made a sound before the noise of a chair being overturned forced me to tear my eyes away from the strange figure, and I saw my father who had jumped to his feet and was now going towards the lady, his face deathly pale and his hands clenched at his sides.
Meanwhile, quite undisturbed by the scene, she continued towards us step by step and was already not far from where the Count was seated when the latter suddenly stood up, grabbed my father by the arm, pulled him back to the table and held on to him, while the strange lady slowly and absently went across the space that had been cleared, step by step through an indescribable silence in which only a glass trembled and clinked and though a door in the opposite wall of the hall disappeared. At that moment I noticed that it was little Erik who with a deep bow closed the door behind the stranger. I was the only one still sitting; I had sunk so heavily in my chair it felt as if I would never be able to get up again by myself.
For a while I looked but my eyes wouldn't see.
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Then I remembered my father and I became aware that the old man still held him by the arm. My father's face was angry now, flushed with blood, but my grandfather, whose fingers gripped my father's arm tightly like a white claw, was smiling his mask-like smile. Then syllable by syllable I heard him say something although I couldn't understand what his words meant. Nevertherless they must have gone deep into my senses because about two years ago I found them buried in my memory and I've been aware of them ever since. He said: 'You are impetuous, Chamberlain, and discourteous.
Why don't you let people go about their business? No stranger. Christine Brahe. Home About Acquisitions. Have a social new library year! Share this: Twitter Facebook. Like this: Like Loading This entry was posted in Bibliotheek , Frans , Italiaans , Spaans. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Email required Address never made public. Name required. Search for:. Unless otherwise stated, images are by the author, Stefano Giani. Blog at WordPress. Post to Cancel. Prima ed. More information about this seller Contact this seller 4.
Published by Garzanti, Milano From: Di Mano in Mano Soc. Coop Cambiago, Italy. Copertina con macchie di polvere e lievi segni di usura ai bordi e agli angoli. Tagli bruniti e con tracce di polvere. Pagine brunite ai bordi. Nota di dono a penna rosa al frontespizio. More information about this seller Contact this seller 5. More information about this seller Contact this seller 6. Buone condizioni. Collana: I Grandi Libri. More information about this seller Contact this seller 7.
Published by Edizioni Alpes, Milano, Opere di R. Rilke, 2. Milano, Edizioni Alpes , cm. More information about this seller Contact this seller 8. Zampa, mezza copertina muta avvolta da sovraccoperta non removibile illustrata, con leggere e comuni mende da scaffale, fogli in gran parte come nuovi, fitte fioriture ai tagli trasmesse ai preliminari.
More information about this seller Contact this seller 9. Published by UTET Condition: molto buono. Prima edizione. Pagine Collana I grandi scrittori stranieri. A cura di Vincenzo Errante. Volume in buono stato con abrasioni al dorso e segni in lapis al testo. Seller Inventory so More information about this seller Contact this seller Published by Alpes, Milano About this Item: Alpes, Milano, I Grandi Scrittori Stranieri, vol.
A cura di Vincenzo Errante, p. Ottime condizioni. Collana: I Grandi Scrittori Stranieri. Letteratura straniera - In Published by Biblioteca Adelphi About this Item: Biblioteca Adelphi, Condition: Brand New. Italian language. In Stock. Seller Inventory zk Terza ristampa della prima edizione.
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