A Count de Montmorency once boasted to a Basque about how old his name was, and the history of his nobility and his family. He boasted about the great men from whom he was descended. The Basque answered, „Count, we don’t descend from anyone!“
This is my first encounter with the Pyrenees. The big, smooth, tarred road from Biarritz to San Sebastian snakes it’s way along the coast behind me. On the left, to the east, lie the blue mountains, the Pyrenees. They are not particularly high, their outlines curve gently, sharp ridges are seldom, and the summits are rounded. They are like solid music. The last foothills come down nearly to the sea near Hendaye. We follow the coast. Côte d’Argent is a good name for it. The waves flash silver-white. The coast falls away steeply to the right. Men are looking for birds’ eggs among the scree. To the left, the first cliffs: not particularly majestic, but quite cliff enough for a first welcome. The car purrs around the bends. We are on our way to Spain, to the monastery of Ignatius of Loyola.
Those who have less money than us do not have the material prerequisites to enjoy life to the full. Unfulfilled cultural aspirations slumber certainly in the worker as well, but don’t forget, Herr Counsellor, the lower orders may want to, but they can’t. I ask you, what interests do these people have? Those who have more money than us are idiots. They may well materially have everything they need, but they don’t have our culture. The nouveau riche, Herr Counsellor, could indeed, but they don’t want to. I ask you, what interests do these people have? The poor rich people, they really don’t get a good press.
Encore. The route is through Toulouse, and the little detour is bound to be a pleasure. All the more so because Toulouse is three carats uglier than Lyon. The remains of beautiful architecture have the appearance of museum pieces. Unfortunately, it is also Sunday, and strolling around the streets are: eight hundred francs monthly salary and a new Sunday suit; a fully furnished, cold betrothal; forty-eight years book-keeping with a modest pension and a small private provision – the people don’t really know what to do with their free afternoon. They just stroll around. All in all a town, as Valéry Larbaud put it, où l’on sent tout l’après-midi une désespérante odeur d’excrément refroidi. So: Albi.
He roams the open fields of the stud, the lord of the herd. He doesn’t know that he cost six thousand francs, but he does know that he is the absolute sovereign, the ruler over the calves and all the cows. He never sees a human being. When he feels like it, he runs through the juicy grass, or dry, brown stubble. He rolls in soft hay. He grazes, gazes… That’s how he spends his youth. The one who will kill him one day lives far away, in a town. He inhales the tangy air which blows down from the mountains, and roars
We had Red Gierke for geography. He had a lot of little blood vessels in his face, which gave him a coppery red appearance. To justify his nickname, he had had the decency to grow a red beard. He didn’t like us, and we didn’t like him. He had the reputation of being deceitful and vengeful. The judgements of school classes are always correct, so it will have been true.