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:
„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:
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.
If someone borrows a book from the library, let’s say Marx: whom does he want to read? He wants to read Marx! Whom does he most certainly not want to read? He certainly does not want to read Herr Posauke. But what has Herr Posauke done? Herr Posauke has scribbled all over the book. Shame!
There is currently a small, very interesting, exhibition in the Paris National Library, to which even the fine people come, in their automobiles. The press has, justifiably, spoken a great deal about it, although it really isn’t very big. It contains a selection of exclusive treasures of the library: manuscripts, first editions, autographs, bindings, medals and old maps. And among these Renans, Lafontaines, Dantons, Bouchers, gold coins and leather bindings, I suddenly read in a glass case:
Whenever one turns a corner in England, it looks different from how one expected, and that’s how it is with the old district around Shepherd’s Market, just behind Piccadilly. One can best recognize that it belongs there by the fact that it doesn’t fit in at all. And there is an already half-demolished house, with something black on top of it, like a roof tarpaulin. The whole thing makes a sad impression, and there are curtains behind some of the windows, so it is occupied. Still occupied downstairs and already demolished upstairs? What is that all about? It’s about a stubborn-headed man.
In Wells… No, not Wales – Wales is when he is well-dressed. In Wells… although, no, not that either: well is what the English say just to get a sentence going, because nobody here starts a sentence with what it’s about. What it’s about is in the subordinate clause.
The car drove along Lago Maggiore. The sky was clear blue, downright insolently blue for December.
One should really write down what the people say. Naturalism can’t get near it. It is true that the authors of some plays do do their best to copy real life, but always with the necessary epic contraction, as Fontane called it, when he found it lacking in Raabe; always slightly stylized, tailored to the needs of the book. But that’s not what I mean.