Where? Underway, because people want to be enchanted in this position: sitting, but in motion, particularly when they know their surroundings as well as the passenger on the number 57 bus at half past eight in the morning. Then he reads his newspaper, but when he goes home, he reads a book, which he has in his briefcase. Ducks are born with webbed feet, some types of people with briefcases. Do people read in the tube? Yes. What? Books. Can they read big, heavy books there? Some can. How heavy? As heavy as they can carry. It can get quite philosophical in trains. Not so much in the bus, that is more for lighter reading. Some people also read on the street, like the animals.
The car drove along Lago Maggiore. The sky was clear blue, downright insolently blue for December.
On the Mosel it was still within limits. We drank our way slowly down the river, on the booze train from Trier down to Bulley, getting off at every third station to see how things were the wine. They were. Once we had established that, we got back on the train, which included a carriage which from the inside looked like a saloon car, from which one could have comfortably waged war, with a telephone on the table a big, fat cigar, and, “His Majesty has just been informed about the assault.” We, however, were not waging war. We pressed the waitress and a bell push appeared, or vice versa, and then we could drink a pure, unadulterated Mosel wine at the long table, while playing dice. The following games were invented during this train journey:
„My clotted heart’s blood“, Siegfried Jacobsohn used to say when he looked at the rows of the red bi-annual editions of the Weltbühne, which he always had in front of him. They contained his work, his love and his whole life. For twenty-one years he dedicated every waking hour to the Blatt, and when he wasn’t dreaming of Mozart, he surely dreamt of finding new authors for it. He gave himself little birthday presents every week. „You little packages, I’m going to put you in the next edition“, and he tasted the quality of the contributions, whose existence was nearly always due to his initiative, his energy and his gentle persuasion, enjoying them in advance. And now we have fifty volumes in front of us. One needs to take two long strides to walk past the long row. It has been twenty-five years. Time to take a little look back.
Sometimes, in fine hotels, the little pages run through the velvet-hung rooms shouting in a high voice, “President Eisenstein! President Eisenstein!“ until some stout gentleman with narrow-rimmed glasses hurriedly rises and scurries behind the page to the telephone… That’s how the world is. And every time, I ask myself, „How does one get to be a company president?”
„I have a strange perfume? What do you mean, I have a strange perfume? I don’t have a strange perfume! Give Lottchen a kiss. I’ve not had a kiss in the whole four weeks you were in Switzerland. Nothing happened here. No, nothing happened here at all! What did you notice straight away? You didn’t notice anything! Oh, Daddy! I’m as faithful to you as you are to me. No, I mean… What I mean is, I really am faithful to you! You fall in love with the chorus of a song if there’s a woman’s name in it! I really am faithful to you, thank God! Nothing happened here.
Once up on a time – it was during the holidays, and it wasn’t all that long ago – I was staying in a boarding house near Lucerne, looking at the grey lake. The weather was dull, and I thought, „That horse race down there won’t be much fun either.“ Maybe it wasn’t a horse race at all, it may have been show jumping. I don’t understand much about such things. If you had seen me ride a horse, you would understand what pacifism is. I know where the horse’s head is, at the front, but that’s all I know, so I will never write one of those fine social novels in which the lower orders forget, and are supposed to forget, their place. Class war? Just hang a hired evening dress below stairs, they’ll soon forget about class war. Anyway, as I was saying, Lucerne.
We were sitting in the lobby of the big hotel, in one of those halls in which it always looks as though it is in a film – that’s all that films do, anyway. It was twenty-five past five; my partner was a neurologist, his surgery had finished, and we were drinking weak tea. It was so expensive that it would have been more correct to say, we took the tea.