I argue in this article that now is a good time to revisit J. In its intertextual landscape, we find two real ruined cities Hiroshima and New Orleans that symbolize our two concurrent human-made eschatological threats. And revisiting The Drowned World now offers a timely reminder of the dangers of an anthropocentric worldview. Furthermore, this postapocalyptic story presents at least two ethically sound responses to the human-made crises we are complicit in creating.
The Drowned World remains as relevant now as when it was written more than half a century ago. And do you know what that advice was? Always wear a tail hat on Sundays during term. It is by that, more than anything, that a man is judged. I never saw any difference between them or heard it commented on, but I always wore mine. It only shows what effect judicious advice can have, properly delivered at the right moment. A perfectly respectable school. The very worst is EngKsh literature and the next worst is Modern Greats. You want either a first or a fourth. There is no value in anything between.
Time spent on a good second is time thrown away. You should go to the best lectures - Arkwright on Demos- thenes for instance - irrespective of whether they are in your school or not. Dress as you do in a country house. And go to a London tailor; you get better cut and longer credit. Join the Carlton now and the Grid at the beginning of your second year. In fact, steer clear of all the religious groups; they do nothing but harm. They leave their gowns here and come and collect them before hall; you start giving them sherry. I certainly never changed my rooms; there were gillyflowers growing below the windows which on summer evenings filled them with fragrance.
I should like to think - indeed I sometimes do think - that I decorated those rooms with Morris stuffs and Arundel prints and that my shelves were filled with seventeenth-century folios and French novels of the second empire in Russia-leather and watered silk. But this was not the truth. I displayed also a poster by McKnight Kauffer and Rhyme Sheets from the Poetry Bookshop, and, most painful to recall, a porcelain figure of Polly Peachum which stood between black tapers on the chimney-piece. It was by this circle that I found myself adopted during my first term; they provided the kind of company I had enjoyed in the sixth form at school, for which the sixth form had prepared me; but even in the earliest days, when the whole business of living at Oxford, with rooms of my own and my own cheque book, was a source of excitement, I felt at heart that this was not all which Oxford had to offer.
Collins had exposed the fallacy of modem aesthetics to me: I knew Sebastian by sight long before I met him. That was unavoidable for, from his first week, he was the most conspicuous man of his year by reason of his beauty, which was arresting, and his eccentricities of behaviour, which seemed to know no bounds. A most amusing young gentleman. His brother, the Earl of Brideshead, went down last term. Now he was very different, a very quiet gentleman, quite like an old man.
What do you suppose Lord Sebastian wanted? I, however, remained censorious, and subsequent glimpses of him, driving in a hansom cab and dining at the George in false whiskers, did not soften me, although Collins, who was reading Freud, had a num- ber of technical terms to cover everything. It was shortly before midnight in early March; I had been entertaining the college intellectuals to mulled claret; the fire was roaring, the air of my room heavy with smoke and spice, and my mind weary with metaphysics.
I threw open my windows and from the quad outside came the not uncommon sounds of bibulous laughter and un- steady steps. It was not unusual for dinner parties to end in that way; there was in fact a recognized tariff for the scout on such occasions ; we were all learning, by trial and error, to carry our wine.
But, when all is said, it remained an unpropi- tious meeting. His friends bore him to the gate and, in a few minutes, his host, an amiable Etonian of my year, returned to apologize. He, too, was tipsy and his explanations were repetitive and, towards the end, tearful. It was the mixture. Grasp that and you have the root of the matter. To xmderstand aU is to forgive all. It was someone from out of college. I still frequented the lecture-room in those days, and it was after eleven when I returned to college. Lunt was secreting the last of them in brown paper preparatory to taking them home.
It was typical of him, I reflected, to assume I knew where he lived; but, then, I did know. I told Mr Collins and Mr Partridge so - they wanted to have their commons in here with you. I went there uncertainly, for it was foreign ground and there was a tiny, priggish, warning voice in my ear which in the tones of Collins told me it was seemly to hold back. But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.
His chimney-piece was covered in cards of invitation from London hostesses. I wish I had a scout like yours. He was sweet to me this morning where some people might have been quite strict. There were three Etonian fresh- men, mild, elegant, detached young men who had all been to a dance in London the night before, and spoke of it as though it had been the funeral of a near but unloved kins- man.
They always lay early for her. I was lunching with my p-p-preposterous tutor. He thought it very odd my leaving when I did. The rest of us wore rough tweeds and brogues. He had on a smooth chocolate-brown suit with loud white stripes, snhdt shoes, a large bow-tie and he drew off yellow, wash- leather gloves as he came into the room; part Gallic, part Yankee, part, perhaps, Jew; wholly exotic.
He had been pointed out to me often in the streets, as he pranced along with his high pea- cock tread; I had heard his voice in the George challenging the conventions; and now meeting him, under the spell of Sebastian, I found myself enjoying him voraciously. All b-boatmen are Grace Darlings to me.
To Sebastian he said: T think ifs perfectly brilliant of Sebastian to have discovered you. Where do you lurk? I shall come down your burrow and ch-chiwy you out like an old st-t-toat. I rose to go with them, but Sebastian said: He took my arm as we walked under the walls of Merton. Noth- ing except the golden daffodils seemed to be real. Was it the screen? I turned it face to the wall.
It was the end of the screen. Lunt never liked it, and after a few days he took it away, to an obscure refuge he had under the stairs, full of mops and buckets. That day was the beginning of my friendship with Sebastian, and thus it came about, that morning in June, that I was lying beside him in the shade of the high elms watching the smoke from his lips drift up into the branches. Presently we drove on and in another hour were hungry. We stopped at an inn, which was half farm also, and ate eggs and bacon, pickled walnuts and cheese, and drank our beer in a sunless parlour where an old clock ticked in the shadows and a cat slept by the empty grate.
We were at the head of a valley and below us, half a mile distant, grey and gold amid a screen of boskage, shone the dome and columns of an old house. Beyond the dome lay receding steps of water and round it, guarding and hiding it, stood the soft hills. The dome was false, designed to be seen from below like the cupolas of Ghambord.
Its drum was merely an additional storey full of segmental rooms. Here were the nurseries. Long hours of work in her youth, authority in middle life, repose and security in her age, had set their stamp on her lined and serene face. Just Mrs Chandler and two of the girls and old Bert. Still, I suppose Julia must have her enjoyment the same as other young ladies, though what they always want to go to London for in the best of the summer and the gardens all out, I never have understood. Are you studying hard at your books? He found time to study, too, though. Did you see this piece about Julia in the paper?
She brought it down for me. The very Sebastian and the old woman talked on. It was a ebb- ing room, oddly shaped to conform with the euwe of the dome. I usually go down to Mrs Chandler, but we 11 have it up here today. My usual girl has gone to London with the others. She will be upset when she hears. It would have been suck a surprise for her. We must go quickly before my sister gets back. They re so Ldly charming. But am I not going to be allowed to see any more of the house? We came to see nanny. Weil, come and look if you want to. He led me through a baize door into a dark corridor; I could dimly see a gilt comice and vaulted plaster above; then, opening a heavy, smooth-swinging, mahogany door, he led me into a darkened hall.
Light streamed through the cracks in the shutters. Sebastian unbarred one, and folded it back; the mellow afternoon sun flooded in, over the bare floor, the vast, twin fireplaces of sculptured marble, the coved ceiling frescoed with classic deities and heroes, the gilt mirrors and scagliola pilasters, the islands of sheeted furniture. It was a glimpse only, such as might be had from the top of an omnibus into a lighted ballroom; then Sebastian quickly shut out the sun. You must see that. One of these was the chapel. We entered it by the public porch another door led direct to the house ; Sebastian dipped his fingers in the water stoup, crossed himself, and genuflected; I copied him.
You wanted to do sight-seeing ; how about this? Angels in printed cotton smocks, rambler-roses, flower-spangled meadows, frisMng lambs, texts in Celtic script, saints in armour, covered the walls in an intricate pattern of clear, bright colours. There was a triptych of pale oak, carved so as to give it the peculiar property of seeming to have been moulded in Plasticine. The sanctuary lamp and all the metal furniture were of bronze, hand-beaten to the patina of a pock-marked skin; the altar steps had a carpet of grass-green, strewn with white and gold daisies.
Brideshead often has that effect on me. There is only my father and myself. An aunt kept an eye on me for a time but my father drove her abroad. My mother was killed in the war. My father has been rather odd in the head ever since. He just lives alone in London with no friends and footles about collecting things.
There are lots of us. Look them up in Debrett. The further we drove from Brideshead, the more he seemed to cast off his uneasiness - the almost furtive restlessness and irritability that had possessed him. The sun was behind us as we drove, so that we seemed to be in pursuit of our own shadows. It was one of several parties designed to comfort Hardcastle - one of the tasks that had lately fallen to Sebastian and me since, by leaving his car out, we had got him into grave trouble with the proctors.
In fact, I have the impression you are avoiding me. You know as well as I do that since your - well, since the war, your father has not been really in touch with things - lives in his own world. I got in with some thoroughly objectionable O. But you, my dear Charles, whether you realize it or not, have gone straight, hook line and sinker, into the my worst set in the University.
In fact, I hear all too much. His brother Brideshead was a very sound fellow. But this friend of yours looks odd to me and he gets himself talked about. The Marchmains have lived apart since the war, you know. An extraordinary thing; everyone thought they were a devoted couple. Then he went off to France with his Yeomanry and just never came back. He was in Mercury again last night.
It was true; my room had cast its austere winter garments, and, by not very slow stages, assumed a richer wardrobe. Have you spoken at the Union or at any of the clubs?
Are you connected with any of the maga- zines? Are you even making a position in the O. Your present get-up seems an unhappy compromise between the correct wear for a theatrical party at Maidenhead and a glee-singing competition in a garden suburb. In fact, he ought to, on certain occasions. Already the perplexities of the examination school were beginning to reassert them- selves in his mind. I usually have a glass of champagne about this time. Will you join me? Thus, in broad outline, Jasper sketched the more pro- minent features of my first year; some detail may be added on the same scale.
I had committed myself earlier to spend the Easter vaca- tion with Collins and, though I would have broken my word without compunction, and left my former friend friendless, had Sebastian made a sign, no sign was made; accordingly Collins and I spent several economical and instructive weeks together in Ravenna. A bleak wind blew from the Adriatic among those mighty tombs. In an hotel bedroom designed for a warmer season, I wrote long letters to Sebastian and called daily at the post office for his answers. There were two, each from a difierent address, neither giving any plain news of himself, for he wrote in a style of remote fantasy It is the feast of S.
Mickodemus of Thyatira, who was martyred by having goatskin nailed to his pate, and is accord- ingly the patron of bald heads. Tell Collins, who I am sure will be bald before us. When, many years later, there appeared the first massive volume of his still un- finished work on Byzantine Art, I was touched to find among two pages of polite, preliminary acknowledgements of debt, my own name: My father in his youth sat for All Souls and, in a year of hot competition, failed; other successes and honours came his way later, but that early failure impressed itself on him, and through him on me, so that I came up with an ill-considered sense that there lay the proper and natural goal of the life of reason.
I, too, should doubtless have failed, but, having failed, I might perhaps have slipped into a less august academic life else- where. It is conceivable, but not, I believe, likely, for the hot spring of anarchy rose from depths where was no soHd earth, and burst into the sunlight - a rainbow in its cooling vapours - with a power the rocks could not re- press.
In the event, that Easter vacation formed a short stretch of level road in the precipitous descent of which Jasper warned me. It seems to me that I grew younger daily with each adult habit that I acquired. I had lived a lonely childhood and a boyhood straitened by war and overshadowed by bereavement; to the hard bachelor- dom of English adolescence, the premature dignity and authority of the school system, I had addeS a sad arid grim strain of my own. At the end of the term I took my first schools; it was necessary to pass, if I was to remain at Oxford, and pass I did, after a week in which I forbade Sebastian my rooms and sat up to a late hour, with iced black coffee and charcoal biscuits, cramming myself with the neglected texts.
I remember no syllable of them now, but the other, more ancient lore which I acquired that term will be with me in one shape or another to my last hour.
Is more needed now? Looking back, now, after twenty years, there is little I would have left imdone or done otherwise. I could tell him that all the wickedness of that time was like the spirit they mix with the pure grape of the Douro, heady stuff full of dark ingredients; it at once enriched and retarded the whole process of adolescence as the spirit checks the fermentation of the wine, renders it undrinkable, so that it must lie in the dark, year in, year out, until it is brought up at last fit for the table.
I could tell him, too, that to know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom. I had my secret and sure defence, like a talisman worn in the bosom, felt for in the moment of danger, found and firmly grasped. So I told him what was not in fact the truth, that I usually had a glass of cham- pagne about that time, and asked him to join me. I lived now among his friends, but our frequent meetings were more of his choosing than mine, for I held him in considerable awe. In years, he was barely my senior, but he seemed then to be burdened with the experience of the Wandering Jew.
He was indeed a nomad of no nationality.
An attempt had been made in his childhood to make an , Englishman of him; he was two years at Eton; then in the middle of the war he had defied the submarines, rejoined his mother in the Argentine, and a clever and audacious school- boy was added to the valet, the maid, the two chauffeurs, the Pekinese, and the second husband.
Criss-cross about the world he travelled with them, waxing in wickedness like a Hogarthian page boy. When peace came they returned to Europe, to hotels and furnished villas, spas, casinos, and bathing beaches. At the age of fifteen, for a wager, he was disguised as a girl and taken to play at the big table in the Jockey Club at Buenos Aires; he dined with Proust and Gide and was on closer terms with Cocteau and Diaghilev; Firbank sent him his novels with fervent inscriptions; he had aroused three irreconcilable feuds in Capri; by his own account he had practised black art in Cefalu and had been cured of drug-taking in California and of an Oedipus com- plex in Vienna.
At times we aU seemed children beside him - at most times, but not always, for there was a bluster and zest in Anthony which the rest of us had shed soinewhere in our more leisured adolescence, on the playing field or in the school-room; his vices flourished less in the pursuit of pleasure than in the wish to shock, and in the midst of his polished exhibitions I was often reminded of an urchin I had once seen.
He was cruel, too, in the wanton, insect-maiming manner of the very young, and fearless like a little boy, charging, head down, small fists whirling, at the school prefects. He asked me to dinner, and I was a little disconcerted to find that we were to dine alone. We will drink Rhine wine and imagine ourselves. Not on a j-j-jaunt with J-J-Jorrocks, anyway. But first we will have our aperitif.
Then I will drink it for you. One, two, three, four, down the red lane they go. How the students stare! I am a little out of sympathy with them for the moment. You heard about their treatment of me on Thursday? It was too naughty. Luckily I was wearing my oldest pyjamas and it was an evening of oppressive heat, or I might have been seriously cross. I leaned away firom him in the corner of the hired car. I was reminded of some of those leprous fapades in the vteux port at Mar- seille, until suddenly I was disturbed by such a bawling and caterwauling as you never heard, and there, down in the little piazza, I saw a mob of about twenty terrible young men, and do you know what they were chanting?
We want Blanche in a kind of litany. Such a public declaration! Weil, I saw it was all up with Mr Huxley for the evening, and I must say I had reached a point of tedium when any interruption was welcome. I was stirred by the bellows, but, do you know, the louder they shouted, the shyer they seemed? All the young ladies in London are after him. He came to le Touquet at Easter and, in some extra- ordinary way, I seemed to have asked him to stay. He lost some infinitesimal sum at cards, and as a result expected me to pay for all his treats - well, Mulcaster was in this party; I could see his ungainly form shuffling about below and hear him saying: Have you come to repay me the three hundred francs I lent you for the poor drab you picked up in the Casino?
It was a niggardly sum for her trouble, and what a trouble, Mul- caster. Gome up and pay me, poor hooligan! My dear, they looked too extraordinary. They had been having one of their ridiculous club dinners, and they were all wearing coloured tail-coats - a sort of livery. Put him in Mercury. It would be an ecstacy of the very naughtiest kind.
So if any of you wishes to be my partner in joy come and seize me. If, on the other hand, you simply wish to satisfy some obscure and less easily classified libido and see me bathe, come with me quietly, dear louts, to the fountain. Oh, la fatigue du Nord! Do you know, I went round to caU on Sebastian next day? And what do you think I foxmd - besides, of course, his amusing toy bear? Mulcaster and two of his cronies of the night before.
So off they went. I expect they were drunk. I was at school with him. Everyone in pop Hked him, of course, and all the masters. I expect it was really that they were jealous of him. He never seemed to get into trouble. He was the only boy in my house who was never beaten at all. I can see him now, at the age of fifteen. He never had spots you know; all the other boys were spotty.
Boy Mulcaster was positively scrofulous. Or did he have one, rather a stubborn one at the back of his neck? I think, now, that he did. Narcissus, with one pustule. He and I were both Catholics, so we used to go to mass together. He used to spend su k a time in the confessional, I used to wonder what he had to say, because he never did anything wrong; never quite; at least, he never got pxmished.
Perhaps he was just being charming through the grille. It was disconcerting to find how observant that mild old man proved to be. It was a lesson never to trust mild old men - or charming school boys; which? Something different, some bloody, old Burgundy, eh? You see, Charles, I understand all your tastes. You must come to France with me and drink the wine. We will go at the vintage.
I will take you to stay at the Vincennes. It is all made up with them now, and he has the finest wine in France; he and the Prince de Portallon - I will take you there, too. I think they would amuse you, and of course they would love you. I want to introduce you to a lot of my friends. I have told Cocteau about you. He is all agog. You see, my dear Charles, you are that very rare thing, An Artist. Oh yes, you must not look bashful.
Behind that cold, English, phlegmatic exterior you are An Artist. I have seen those little drawings you keep hidden away in your room. And you, dear Charles, if you will understand me, are not exquisite; but not at all. Artists are not exquisite. Stefanie de Vincennes really tickled me four years ago.
My dear, I even used the same coloured varnish for my toe-nails. I used her words and lit my cigarette in the same way and spoke with her tone on the telephone so that the duke used to carry on long and intimate conversations with me, thinking that I was her. It was largely that which put his mind on pistol and sabres in such an old-fashioned manner.
My step-father thought it an excellent education for me. Poor man, he is very South American, I never heard anyone speak an ill word of Stefanie, except the Duke: It came floating back to him, momentarily, with the coffee and liqueurs. There are five distinct tastes as it trickles over the tongue. It is like swal- lowing a sp-spectnim. Do you wish Sebastian was with us? Of course you do. How our thoughts do run on that little bundle of charm to be sure, I think you must be mesmerizing me, Charles.
I bring you here, at very considerable expense, my dear, simply to talk about my- self, and I find I talk of no one except Sebastian. Well, anything you like. And Julia, you know what she looks like. Who could help it? Nothing greenery-yallery about her. So gay, so correct, so unaffected. I doubt it; all she wants is power. There ought to be an Inquisition especially set up to burn her. Nothing is known of her yet except that her governess went mad and drowned herself not long ago.
So you see there was really very little left for poor Sebastian to do except be sweet and charming. My dear, stick a pair. How does Lady Marchmain manage it? It is one of the questions of the age. You have seen her? Very, very beautiful; no artifice, her hair just turning grey in elegant silvery streaks, no rouge, very pale, huge-eyed - it is extraordinary how large those eyes look and how the Kds are veined blue where anyone else would have touched them with a finger-tip of paint; pearls and a few great starlike jewels, heirlooms, in ancient settings, a voice as quiet as a prayer, and as powerful.
And Lord March- main, well, a little fleshy perhaps, but very handsome, a magnifico, a voluptuary, Byronic, bored, infectiously sloth- ful, not at all the sort of man you would expect to see easily put down.
And that Reinhardt nun, my dear, has destroyed him - but utterly. He is the last, historic, authentic case of some- one being hounded out of society. No one else goes near him. She never went near the Lido, of course, but she was always drifting about the canals in a gondola with Sir Adrian Person - such attitudes, my dear, like Madame Recamier; once I passed them and I caught the eye of the Fogliere gondolier, whom, of course, I knew, and, my dear, he gave me such a wink.
She came to ail the parties in a sort of cocoon of gossamer, my dear, as though she were part of some Celtic play or a heroine from Maeter- linck; and she would go to church. Well, as you know, Venice is the one town in Italy where no one ever has gone to church. Lord Malton put him and his valet into a dinghy, my dear, and transhipped him there and then into the steamer for Trieste. It was her yearly holiday.
No one ever knew how they heard Lady Marchmain was there. And, do you know, for a week Lord Malton slunk about as if was in disgrace? And he was in disgrace. The Principessa Fogliere gave a ball and Lord Malton was not asked nor anyone from his yacht - even the de Panoses. How does Lady Marchmain do it? She has convinced the world that Lord Marchmain is a monster. And what is the truth? They were married for fifteen years or so and then Lord Marchmain went to the war; he never came back but formed a connexion with a highly talented dancer.
There are a thousand such cases. She refuses to divorce him because she is so pious. Well, there have been cases of that before. Usually, it arouses sympathy for the adulterer; not for Lord Marchmain though. And she meanwhile keeps a small gang of enslaved and emaciated prisoners for her exclusive enjoyment. She sucks their blood. There are five or six others of all ages and sexes, like wraiths following her around. You know, when I hear him talk, I am reminded of that in some ways nauseating picture of '"Bubbles'". Conversation should be like juggling; up go the balls and the plates, up and over, in and out, good solid objects that glitter in the footlights and fall with a bang if you miss them.
But when dear Sebastian speaks it is like a little sphere of soapsud drifting off the end of an old clay pipe, anywhere, full of rainbow hght for a second and then - phutl vanished, with nothing left at all, nothing. Within an hour of tumbling drowsily to bed I was awake again, thirsty, restless, hot and cold by turns, and unnaturally excited. I had drunk a lot, but neither the mixture, nor the Chartreuse, nor the Mavro- daphne Trifle, nor even the fact that I had sat immobile and almost silent throughout the evening instead of clearing the fumes, as we normally did, in puppyish romps and tumbles, explains the distress of that hag-ridden night.
No dream distorted the images of the evening into horrific shapes. I lay awake and clear-headed. Once during the hours of darkness I brought to light the drawings in my sitting-room and sat at the open window, turning them over. Everything was black and dead-still in the quadrangle; only at the quarter-hours the bells awoke and sang over the gables. I drank soda- water and smoked and fretted, until light began to break and the rustle of a rising breeze turned me back to my bed.
When I awoke Lunt was at the open door. As I went to my bath, the quad filled with gowned and surpliced undergraduates drifting from chapel to hall. As I came back they were standing in groups, smoking; Jasper had bicycled in from his digs to be among them.
I walked down the empty Broad to breakfast, as I often did on Sundays, at a tea-shop opposite BallioL The air was full of bells from the surrounding spires and the sun, cast- ing long shadows across the open spaces, dispelled the fears of night. I ate my scrambled eggs and bitter marmalade with the zest which in youth follows a restless night. In the Commarket a party of tourists stood on the steps of the Clarendon Hotel discussing a road map with their chauffeur, while opposite, through the venerable arch of the Golden Gross, I greeted a group of undergraduates from my college who had breakfasted there and now lingered with their pipes in the creeper-hung courtyard, A troop of boy scouts, church-bound, too, bright with coloured ribbons and badges, loped past in unmilitary array, and at Carfax I met the Mayor and corporation, in scarlet gowns and gold chains, preceded by wand-bearers and followed by no curious glances, in procession to the preaching at the City Church.
In St Aldates I passed a crocodile of choir boys, in starched collars and peculiar caps, on their way to Tom Gate and the Cathedral. So through a world of piety I made my way to Sebastian. I read the letters, none of them very reveal- ing, that littered his writing table and scrutinized the invitation cards on his chimney-piece - there were no new additions. Then I read Lady into Fox xmtil he returned. How was dinner with Antoine? What did you talk about?
Tell me, did you know him at Eton? I know Mummy said something about it when I told her he was a friend of mine. Anyway, no one objected to Antoine - much, 1 gather. He claims to have had an affair with her. Why all this interest? Do you know he spent the whole of yesterday evening trying to turn me against you, and almost succeeded? My next allowance was not due until October. I had started the term with my battels paid and over a hundred pounds in hand.
AH that had gone, and not a penny paid out where I could get credit. There had been no reason for it, no great pleasure unattainable else; it had gone in ducks and drakes. His own finances were perpetually, vaguely distressed. Anyway, I never seem to get much.
Of course, mummy would give me anything I asked for. Now Sebastian had disappeared into that other life of his where I was not asked to follow, and I was left, instead, forlorn and regretful. How ungenerously in later life we disclaim the virtuous moods of our youth, living in retrospect long, summer days of unreflecting dissipation.
There is no candour in a story of early manhood which leaves out of account the home-sick- ness for nursery morality, the regrets and resolutions of amendment, the black hours which, like zero on the roulette table, turn up with roughly calculable regularity. Thus I spent the first afternoon at home, wandering from room to room, looking jfrom the plate-glass windows in turn on the garden and the street, in a mood of vehement self- reproach.
My father, I knew, was in the house, but his library was inviolable, and it was not until just before dinner that he appeared to greet me. He came to me now, with the shuffling, mandarin-tread which he affected, and a shy smile of welcome. When he dined at home - and he seldom dined elsewhere - he wore a frogged velvet smoking suit of the kind which had been fashionable many years before and was to be so again, but, at that time, was a deliberate archaism.
Did you have a very exhausting journey? They gave you tea? I have just made a somewhat audacious purchase from Sonerscheins - a terra-cotta bull of the fifth century. I was examining it and forgot your arrival. Was the carriage my full? The great Schule is closed, like the Bethaus , two houses away. It looks renovated however and I would learn later that it contains magnificent murals. We eat in a Romanian inn. We have a delicious mamaliga with mushroom sauce and a large plate of black radishes.
A group of young Romanians arrive. They also do some shopping. In all the restaurants, there is music, disco or more traditional, and in general it is turned up a little when we arrive, in our honor. This also happens each time we get into a taxi. When we leave, the owner tries to detain us a little longer. He kisses the ladies' hands. The elegant girls of the Herrengasse.
We realize that he is headed in a completely different direction than the familiar route downtown. Marianne had made a mistake, and given him the name of a village on the Romanian border. The driver turns around and we find ourselves once again on the familiar route past the Volkagarten and the villa neighborhood, and finally get to our rendezvous: The memory of the city's eras, he makes it easy for us to meet people.
I don't know what we would do without him. We head towards the high schools: The door on the street side is locked for vacation. We go through the courtyard. The superintendent asks us what we want. Felix explains and he lets us in right away. Felix says that this was the old German Lycee.
According to what my father told me about its location, I would have thought it was the liceu real orthodox , but I trust my guide. We go into one of the rooms, today the staff room. Maybe my father sat there once too. For in fact, my intuition and my information were correct. The building was indeed the real orthodox and not the German Lycee. We then visit the German Lycee, located on the next corner. It is a somewhat smaller building. Marianne's and David's parents studied there. He lives in the Landhausgasse, that under Soviet rule became the Schors, named for a Ukrainian politician.
Today it is Scheptinski street, after a Ukrainian cardinal. Josef Burg was born in The new society for Yiddish culture which he directs is named for Steinbarg. His picture, next to Sholem Aleikhem, facing the portrait of Franz-Joseph hang on the walls in the room where we meet. In fact the meeting is fascinating. Josef Burg tells us the story of his geographic and intellectual peregrinations, which ends with the sad but cutting observation: The first text is about the sacrifice of Isaac, the second about Ruth the Moabite.
I find our house again, which has become my landmark. We go up Dreifaltigkeits gasse where Marianne's mother's apartment was located. We meet the current occupant on the comer. She recognizes Marianne and waves to her. A little later, I ask Felix whether the people own or rent their apartments.
I couldn't help thinking that a good number of these apartments had not cost the State much since the Jews living in them had fled from one day to the next. Like many other streets, it is paved; on either side there are trees, chestnut or acacias, and small houses surrounded by little gardens.
Marina, Felix's Ukranian wife, gives us a warm welcome. The house is old and the furniture is in no particular style. The story is amazing.
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He tells us all about the Soviet and post-Soviet period. The language barrier makes us a little tongue-tied. She knows bits of German and a few words in English. We mostly smile expansively at each other. I don't know whether I will have time to go to Sadagura, the birthplace of the Ruzhyner Hassidic dynasty. In any case, this trip has given an extraordinary depth to the work I have been doing all these years on the city. I know now that I will come back I have the impression that I owe a great deal to Marianne and Leo.
I feel very attached to this couple who I in fact still hardly know. It's nice to speak Hebrew with David. Up to now I hardly ever used it in my work. But the places are there and their evocative pull is strong. With an intensity of feeling that even disturbs me, I really have the feeling that part of me belongs to this city. The hotel discotheque blasts its techno music under my windows. I wanted to see the post office because apparently my grandfather was the postmaster. The building is being renovated and scaffolding hides part of the facade. Inside, the imposing crystal chandeliers must date back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Apparently in October , the authorities realized after a few days that it was impossible to squeeze everyone into the perimeter of three or four streets that delimited the original ghetto and it was then made bigger. Marianne found her uncle's house where 25 people crowded in.
Marianne's parents, who at that time were engaged, were married there. They went outside the house, Marianne tells, found a rabbi and asked him: So they got married at the Town hall. This is exactly the way Marianne relates the events. It is immense and in a piteous state. A building, today completely dilapidated, ihust have been used for fimeral orations.
Inside, the names of community figures is engraved on a stone slab. David looks for the tomb of his grandfather. He has seen a picture that showed the name on a large black marble tombstone just behind it. He finds it quickly, he rips the weeds off the tombstone of David Kessler, rabbi of the community at the turn of the century. Without the picture, he never would have found it, because it is very small.
He copies the inscription. Before coming, Marianne had done research to locate the plot where her grandfather must be. I assume that the graves of my great grandparents, the Herschmanns, must be here. I am not looking for anything in particular. I wander around the gravestones. Almost every name makes me think of someone and their story. Very old gravestones, with Hebrew inscriptions, lie next to tombstones from the interwar period where German and Hebrew both appear — there is absolutely no Romanian — then recent tombstones with Ukrainian or Russian inscriptions, I can't tell the difference.
Each period produced a clearly differentiated style of tombstones. I go off in towards the other side. I take a few steps and then suddenly, the grave of Leib Herschmann. The stele is made of black marble and is very high; the inscription is in German and Hebrew. Apparently he was an important figure in the community, the list of his titles finishes with an etc. The tombstone is overgrown with brambles. Suddenly I realize that the tomb has a rusted iron fence around it. There is a second grave.
The second tombstone is covered with weeds. David and Leo start to pull the weeds off and we discover the tomb of Ettel Herschmann, his wife, a tiny tombstone, with her name beginning to wear off, and the date of death, At first I'm surprised, but I then understand why the tombstones are so different in size. In there were no members of the family left in the city. The plot existed and the gravesite was reserved but the tombstone could not be as fancy as the one for her husband who died in Only an old woman and a young, strangely ugly boy follow us.
There I look through her collection of old post cards. I then realize why the address was 2a. At the beginning of the street there was a one-story house, a space, and then our house. Since then a third house has been built between them. Peter Rychio is an amazing person. Marianne provides me with the key to the mystery: Lydia Harnik died three years ago. I try to make a first attempt at summarizing everything I have experienced in these four days. A voyage of initiation.
The impact was stronger than I had expected. My familiarity with the city as well. I have the feeling I have lived through an entire life story. A painful feeling as well to have met the last survivors of the former community, while the memories are so fresh in my mind. Can a book bring a place back to life? I feel I have absorbed the sights, the sounds, the smells and the emotions garnered here. The archives are housed in the Jesuiten-Kirche. The archivist who helps me can speak some German. Obviously they will not open the files for me.
I need to fill in a request with the name and the date of birth of the individuals whose records I am interested in. In the flurry of our last day here, I forget dates of birth and I make a mistake on a first name. So I am not sure I will be sent anything concrete in Jerusalem. What is kept here are the ghetto archives. But in fact maybe my grandparents were not deported from the ghetto but directly from their apartment on Residenzgasse, like Paul Celan's parents. If she finds something, she will write. On the way I photograph Celan's house on Masarykgasse he was born on Wassilkogasse.
Leaving the archives, I notice a bulletin board with documents on city figures, a photo of Celan and a report card not very good in French! The bulletin board, that normally does not attract anyone's attention, starts to elicit a great deal of interest from passer'bys.