„South America is bent.“ Joh. Aug. Galletti (1750-1828)
After six in the evening, couples stroll in the Berliner Tiergarten arm-in-arm, and holding hands, and they’re quite right to do so. It goes like this:
The monkey (of the public): „It’s a good thing they’re all behind bars!“ The old Simplicissimus
„I was just a fresh student teacher at the time“, some people say; it’s what they had read in books. I was not a fresh student teacher at the time, but I can still clearly remember the time after I had graduated, and all the revision for exams and everything was over, sitting at the feet of a great teacher, whose lectures I had disgraced, in the university, and some things suddenly became clear to me. I suddenly understood everything which just three years ago had been completely in the dark; then I saw connections, and paid attention, and didn’t sleep for a second; then I was an attentive and useful student. Then, when it was too late. And that is why I want to be student again.
Now, when everyone is wrapping up the war; when the last memoirs are congealing into books, when the time is very gently approaching in which the heroes of yesterday become the invalids of tomorrow, now, here is someone who wants to unburden his conscience. The midday sun reveals all, it must be said, he has carried it for seventeen years, he can’t carry it any longer. But let’s hear what he has to say:
For Hans M.
I recently ran into a boy from my school class, after so many years. It was just like in a storybook. The poor man was standing outside the fence, begging, and the rich man was inside, brushing the cake crumbs from his jacket. “Don’t you recognize me?“ asked the poor man, gently. And then the rich man recognized his former class-mate, and… I can’t remember how the story ends. Anyway, the boy from my school class, with whom I used to walk around the school playground in deep discussions, has become a government councillor. I probably won’t achieve anything respectable during my lifetime, either. And I have my doubts about afterwards as well.
The unshakeable faith with which every writer assumes they will make an impact on posterity, is very touching. Their feet wade through muddy puddles, but their eyes gaze, calf-like, at the stars of a new age.
It’s not easy with authors:
I am going to go to my grave without knowing what it is that birch leaves do. I know what it is, but I can’t say it in words. The wind blows through the young birches, their leaves vibrate so quickly back and forth that they… what? Shimmer? No, the light shimmers on them. One could perhaps, at most, say that the leaves shimmer, but that is not it. It is a nervous movement, but what is it? How does one say it? What one cannot say remains unresolved. ‚To speak about‘ is really important. Did Goethe say ‘the ripple of leaves’? I don’t want to get up to find out, it is such a long way to these reference books, five yards and a hundred years. What is it that the birch leaves do?
If you want to write a big, fat, best-seller, take the following between the thumb and index finger of your left hand: