The Prose of Alfred Lichtenstein
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The Prose of Alfred Lichtenstein
Max Mechenmal was an independent manager of a newspaper kiosk. He
ate and drank well; he had relations with many women, but he was
careful. Because his salary was insufficient, he occasionally
permitted himself to take money from Ilka Leipke. Ilka Leipke was an
unusually small, but well-developed, elegant whore, who attracted
many men and women with her bizarre nature and apparently silly ideas,
as well as with her actually tasteful clothing. Miss Leipke loved
little Max Mechenmal. She called him her sweet dwarf. Max Mechenmal
was angry all his life that he was small.
Max Mechenmal came from an unfortunately impoverished family. He had
enjoyed an excellent education in an institution for retarded
children until he was forcibly dismissed at a very early age. The
reasons for his dismissal were not available; it seemed to have more
to do with the poverty of Mechenmal's relatives than with the fact
that he was clearly unbearable. For a while he wandered about
homeless, since his family no longer took any interest in him. He
supported himself mostly by petty larceny. Once the police picked
him up and he was brought to a home for neglected children. In the
home he was trained as a locksmith. He knew how to ingratiate
himself with his superiors by showing unusual dexterity and
willingness. He secretly tormented his younger, weaker comrades, or
he set the stronger ones against each other. He had no friends; when
he had completed his training and was released, the others were happy.
The unusual skill that Max Mechenmal, because of his technical gifts,
had developed in making keys and opening difficult locks he would
very gladly have used for breaking and entering, and burglary; he
would have liked to have become an infamous burglar. The proceeds
from the burglaries would have permitted him to dress elegantly, to
show off with the finest women. The sickening, massive fear of being
caught prevented him. He was content to seduce the daughters and
servants of the masters for whom he worked, and to commit occasional
burglaries that involved little risk. His ambition remained
By chance the direction of Mechenmal's life was changed. At the end
of a day's work, tired and in a bad mood, he was walking the streets.
Lights were scarcely visible, although it was very dark. In an
elegant ground-floor room, an elderly lady was arranging the fold of
In front of a basement, dirty little girls were singing the song of
the Lorelei. The windows were etched into the pale, sleeping houses
like black panes with bright crosses. The conglomeration of houses
resembled large, venturesome ships, which lay at anchor or were
gliding to a distant, beckoning sea. The little locksmith thought
about the last six women he had loved. His attention was attracted
by the hideously ringed eyes of a horribly hunch-backed gentleman who
smilingly, with marked pleasure, although somewhat fearfully, was
looking at him. The locksmith thought: hm--for fun, he remained
stopped; with his clear eyes, which shone like polished black buttons
on his face, he slyly watched the even smaller gentleman. Embarassed,
he took his hat off his head and spoke, stuttering, said that his
name was Kuno Kohn, and excused himself--little else could be made
out. The hunchback hid part of his face behind thin fingers, coughed,
and quickly moved on. The locksmith thought: hm, and went on his
Then there was a tug on his arm. He turned his face: the hunchback
again stood next to him, still somewhat breathless from moving
quickly. Kuno Kohn was very red, but he could, without stuttering,
say: Excuse me for causing you more trouble. I always know
afterwards what I want to say." This he spoke extremely loudly, to
overcome his embarassment. Then he said: "Perhaps you have the time...
Perhaps I may invite you to look for a restaurant with me...or may
I assume that you have not yet eaten this evening." The locksmith
was not against the idea.
In a huge tavern, Kuno Kohn ordered food and beer for Max Mechenmal.
He himself did not eat, and he drank little. He enjoyed watching how
pleased the locksmith was. Later, probably, he sometimes stroked him
timidly on the chin. That pleased the locksmith. At first they
spoke of the misery of being alive, of the injustice of fate. After
Mechenmal drank his third glass of beer, he boasted of his beloved.
That was unpleasant for the hunchback. Up to that point he had
permitted the locksmith to talk. And his interest was indicated only
by the fact that he shut his blue eyes theatrically and approvingly,
as a result of which, for a few seconds, only miserable shadows were
visible, or he slowly shook his shapeless head, or he pressed his
nervous fingers sympathetically against Mechenmal's leg. Now he began
to express his own opinions. He cursed women. His voice seemed at
every moment to crack with excitement. He contended that anyone who
had the misfortune to be a woman must have the courage to be a whore,
that the whore is the essential woman, and that relations with women,
incidentally, are more or less degrading. When they left the tavern,
Kuno Kohn placed the hard, miserable bone that was his lower arm upon
Mechenmal's thick, flabby lower arm. A gold bracelet struck the
hunchback's wrist. On the way Kuno Kohn asked Mechenmal to spend the
night at his place. The locksmith agreed to the request.
Kuno Kohn lived in a large, ordinary room, in a summer-house on a
side street in the western section. However, the bed was
exceptionally wide, almost ostentatious. On the pillow lay yellowish
and red flowers. In front of the window stood a writing-table on
which there were some books--perhaps Baudelaire, George, Rilke. Near
it and on it lay sheets of paper, which were apparently covered with
finished and unfinished poems and treatises. On a shelf at a window
stood volumes of Goethe, Shakespeare, a Bible, and a translation of
Homer. On the table and chairs lay perhaps newspapers and pieces of
clothing. Somewhere lay yellowed photos of old people and children.
The locksmith looked at everything with curiosity.
They soon sat down. The conversation, which was lively at first,
gradually faltered. Kuno Kohn turned the lamp down. Later he spoke
softly and imploringly to the locksmith. Then he offered him the bed.
He himself would sleep on the sofa. The locksmith agreed.
Kuno Kohn arranged for a subordinate position for his friend
Mechenmal at a newspaper publishing office. Mechenmal picked up his
new trade with surprising swiftness, and very soon obtained
sufficient knowledge of salesmanship. He changed positions and
managed, by means of energy and all kinds of dirty tricks, after a
year and a few months, to hold a position of trust as an independent
manager of a newspaper kiosk.
Because he had a pleasant way of speaking as well as a face that
looked like that of an intelligent doll, the former locksmith soon
had won a very large number of steady customers, for the most part
female. In the morning a dozen saleswomen from a nearby department
store, having purposely arrived too early, gathered around his kiosk
to enjoy the dirty jokes and cheerful comments of Mr. Mechenmal. The
bank officer Leopold Lehmann, who always arrived punctually at eight
o'clock, to buy illustrated joke books and theological tracts,
sometimes became impatient, because the cheerful saleswomen disturbed
him as he tried to make his selection. And the school-teacher Theo
Tontod, who tirelessly, and, as a rule, uselessly asked for the
modern newspaper, "The Other A," often got to school too late.
Around noon, almost every day, the choral-singer Mabel Meier came, on
the arm of an old man. She bought colorful, spicy newspapers, or
sentimental ones, with long lyrical poems. The old man, who always
had a whining expression, sighed as he paid. She was reserved with
Mechenmal. At odd hours, Mieze Maier, a teen-ager, also came, and
asked whether Herr Tontod had been there. Once Mieze Maier remained
longer; from that time on she did it more frequently. Sometimes a
fat, agreeable servant-girl of the salesman Konrad Krause was at the
kiosk. She said to Mechenmal that he was good-looking, that he had
passionately dark eyes and a kissable mouth, asked if he had time on
Sundays to go dancing--she liked him very much. Mechenmal answered
that he would not object to satisfying Miss Frida's inclination
occasionally. The servant girl reminded him embarrassingly often of
his promise.--Every Tuesday afternoon a certain Mr. Simon, who lived
in an open sanitarium, and was always accompanied by an attendant,
asked for the magazines for undertakers; if there were not enough
available, he went off peeved, cursing the crematorium.--Kuno Kohn
also came a few times every week, rarely to buy something, mainly to
visit his friend and to make an appointment for the evening
rendez-vous.--Students, ladies, officers, workers bought their
newspapers. Only Ilse Leipke, in spite of Mechenmal's repeated
requests, refused to come to the kiosk.
This was a whim of Ilka Leipke. She had much time for herself and
complained to her beloved many times that the days were more boring
than the nights. Ilsa Leipke also loved her sweet dwarf no less than
in the early days of their acquaintanceship, even though Mechenmal
was increasingly high-handed and nasty in his treatment of her. It
went so far that he enjoyed it when she cried; he was never content
until he had brought her to tears. Then it gave him pleasure to
comfort her. Afterwards, however, he was very good to her; basically,
he loved her. He let Ilka Leipke caress and kiss him. He was a bit
larger than she, but she held him on her young body like a child.
They told stories to each other. They laughed. They kissed. They
often went over the story of the way they met. They discovered
thousands of new details, or made something up because it was fun.
The girl found, a box in which small items lay, a clipping from a
newspaper, which read like this:
A young, somewhat small, very good-looking man, tired of
being alone, is looking for a similarly inclined lady, with
honorable marriage in mind. Money an advantage.
Send friendly replies to Max Mechenmal.
Or Mr. Mechenmal took out of his wallet a blue letter with violet red
spots, which he held out smilingly to the girl. Miss Lepke then read
it well, in a gentle, loving voice:
Very honored gentleman!
Read your request for marriage. To my regret I cannot
supply capital. For my part I could do without the
marriage, of which I have no need yet. I am by trade a
woman. I am small (but wow!). I am tired of having boy friends
and therefore am looking for a relationship with a steady
man. If you find my proposal agreeable, please send me
a photo of yourself. I remain your devoted
When they had embraced and kissed enough, they made up games. Ilka
Leipke showed great talent in showing the happily giggling Mechenmal
how her friends would behave in corresponding positions. She bent
herself into the most surprising positions. She grimaced comically.
Mechenmal was able make up fictitious names by the hour, with which
he could make reference to certain parts of her body in the presence
of other people, without their being able to tell what he meant. So
the evenings and the nights that Ilka Leipke had set aside for her
friend went by. Often Mechenmal did not have the time to go home.
Then she got up, if he was still asleep. Made coffee. In her
slippers, dressed only in an old evening wrap, she went out and got
pastry from a baker. She placed a white cloth on the table. She
arranged everything in an appetizing manner. She prepared some
sandwiches for him to take with him. She disappeared again into her
bed, where she slept well into the afternoon. Mechenmal, however,
somewhat sleepy and weary, but in a good mood, hurried off to his
Late evening crept like a spider over the city. In the light of
Kohn's little lamp the upper torso of Kuno Kohn was a bit bent over
the table. On the sofa, breaking the circle of lamplight and
stretching beyond it, lay Max Mechenmal, half in the dark. Windows
glittered in lush, flowing black. Swollen and blurred objects rose
up out of the darkness. The open bed shone with a whiteness. Kohn's
hands held papers with writing on them. His voice sounded gentle,
dreamy, singing with feeling. He often became hoarse, and coughed
like someone who had read much. One could hear: "The old, splendid
stories about God have been slaughtered. We must no longer believe
in them. But the knowledge of misery drives us to need to
believe--the longing for new, stronger belief. We are searching. We
find nothing anywhere. We torment ourselves because
we have been helplessly abandoned. Why doesn't someone come, teach
us non-believers, who thirst for God." Kohn was quiet, full of
expectation. Mechenmal had secretly been amused during the lecture.
Now he broke out. Then he said: "Don't take this wrong, little Kohn.
But you certainly have funny ideas. This is really crazy." Kohn
said: "You have no feeling. You are a superficial being. It is also
certain that you are a psychopath." Max Mechenmal said: "what do you
mean by that?" Kuno Kohn said: "You'll find that out soon enough."
Max Mechenmal said merely, "Ah, so." He was angry that Kuno Kohn had
called him superficial. He thought of Ilka Leipke.
Then Kuno Kohn said: "Death is an unbearable thought. For those of
us who are without God. We are damned to live through it in advance
hundreds of nights. And to find no way past it." He became very
quiet. Mechenmal wanted to show his friend Kohn that he too could
express himself about perverse problems. He thought it over, and
said: I have different version, little Kuno, little Kohn. However,
it is an emotional matter. I also tell myself thank God for those
who have no God. God is nonsense. To waste a word on the topic is
unworthy of a thinking man. But listen, I have no need of God--not
in life, not in death. Death without God is very beautiful. It is
my wish. I think it's wonderful simply to be dead. Without heaven.
Without rebirth. Utterly dead. I'm can't wait. Life for me is too
hard. Too stimulating.."
He wanted to speak further. There was a knocking at the door; Kohn
opened it. Ilka Leipke quickly came in. She said: "Good evening
Herr Kohn. Excuse me for disturbing you." She screamed at Mechenmal:
"So, I catch you here. So, for this you have abandoned me. You're
only using my body. You have never grasped my soul." She wept. She
sobbed. Mechenmal tried to calm her down. That irritated her even
more. She shouted: "To betray me with a crippled Kohn... I'll
report you to the police, Mr. Kohn. You should be ashamed of
yourselves, you swine..." She had a crying fit. Kuno Kohn was
incapable of responding. Mechenmal pulled her up from the floor upon
which she had thrown herself screaming. He said with a changed,
stern voice, that her behavior was unseemly, that she had no grounds
for jealousy, for after all, he had no obligations. Then Ilka Leipke
looked at the hunch-backed Kohn humbly, like a beaten little dog.
She was very quiet. She followed the angry Mechenmal out the door.
When Kohn was alone, he gradually became enraged. He thought: such a
rude person... and at intervals: How upset the cow had become. How
jealous she is of me. One of the few women who please me... and she
goes and chooses the little animal Mechenmal. That is atrocious.
Early the next morning Kuno Kohn stood in Miss Leipke's drawing-room,
trembling like an actor with stage fright, When the maid brought Kuno
Kohn's card, Miss Leipke was reading the forbidden pamphlet, "The
suicide of a fashionable lady. Or how a fashionable lady committed
suicide." Her eyes were filled with tears. When she had finished
reading the entire pamphlet, she freshened her make-up. Finally,
covered only by a silk morning-coat, she appeared in the drawing-room.
Kuno Kohn was red up to his ears. Groaning, he said that he had
come to apologize for yesterday's scene, that Miss Leipke did him
wrong, that she knew him too briefly. He had, after all, inner worth.
Then he spoke in praise of his friend, the worthy Mechenmal; but he
did not disguise the man's lack of a refined inner feeling about life.
Miss Leipke looked at him with beguiling eyes. He turned the
conversation to art. Then he turned the conversation to her legs;
she said frankly that she too liked her legs. She had lifted her
morning-coat somewhat. With his shy hands, Kuno Kohn carefully
lifted it higher-That evening Kuno Kohn sat dreamily in his room. He
looked out through the hole made by the open window. In front of him
the gray inner wall of the house dropped a short distance. With many
quiet windows. There was no sky, only shimmering evening air. And a
gentle, occasional breeze, which could scarcely be felt. The wall
with the windows was like a lovely, sad picture. Kuno Kohn was
surprised that it was not boring. He stared steadily and deeply into
the wall. It seemed kind. Friendly. Full of loneliness. Secretly
he thought: the wind against the wall is doing this. He sang
inwardly: Come, be... loved--a bell startled him.
The postman brought him a letter from the Clou Club. The Clou Club
requested Mr. Kohn to read from his works on a certain evening.
Eight days before the appointed evening a placard went up on the
city's pillar for notices. On it was written:
Kuno Kohn will read from his own works at the
Clou Club. Young girls and lawyers kindly requested
not to attend.
As the evening approached, Kuno Kohn became increasingly agitated.
Two hours before he had himself shaved. When the man asked whether
the gentleman wanted powder, Kohn shook his head no, but said: "yes."
An hour before Kohn went into a police station and asked for ten
five-pfennig stamps and a ten pfennig postal card. (tr.--thinking
that he is in the post-office).
When Kohn stepped on the podium, he became calmer than he had
expected to be. First he made a slip of the tongue, but then his
voice gradually became firm and clear. Very few people were in the
little hall, but some critics from the large, influential newspapers
were in attendance. The next day one of them declared, in the widely
circulated Alten Buergerzeitung, that the poems the poet Kohn, who
enlists our sympathy because of his physical handicap, brought to the
attention of a sparsely attended hall were not yet ready for
publication; however, one might expect something from his muse when
Kohn has matured. Another declared, in the Journal for Enlightened
Citizens: the overall impression is pleasing, but the poems are not
all of the same quality. In addition, the poet had not read well.
But the first line of the first verse of the poem "The Comedian" was
movingly pithy in expression and feeling.
After the reading, the president of the club, the gifted Dr. Bryller,
thanked the poet, whom he called a budding genius. One of the few
whom he personally knew. In spite of the ban against young girls,
Ilka Leipke had somehow managed to gain entrance. Mechenmal, who had
at first said that he would not come, also appeared. At the break,
however, he said that he was hungry, that he was going, and hadn't
she had enough of the nonsense. If she did not want to come with him
she could stay. She seemed suddenly interested in Kohn's hunch-back.
He wished her much luck, asked if he should play the pimp, and left.
Ilka Leipke cried a bit, and remained until the very end. She
applauded enthusiastically. On this evening she loved Kohn. In a
strange mood she took him to her place.
Towards morning a small, hunch-backed gentleman skipped like a ballet
dancer along grey, uncertain streets...
Kuno Kohn from now on avoided meetings with Mechenmal. He no longer
invited him. He bought newspapers in another kiosk. That suited
Mechenmal just fine. His beloved had told him, with a provocative
smile, that she had spent a lovely night in her bedroom with the
The hump had not been unpleasant for her; it was not as big and
hateful as it seemed to a superficial observer. One could easily
become accustomed to the hump.
Mechenmal was furious at Kohn. He was gentler and more indulgent
towards Ilka Leipke. He did not show her his jealousy, and never
mentioned the rival's name. Ilka Leipke was happy. She no longer
thought of the drunken night with Kohn. Kohn was now no less
repugnant to her now than he had been before; she rejected further
attempts by the poet. She acted towards Mechenmal as though she were
still very much in love with Kohn. Once, however, she could not
repress making an unseemly joke about Kohn and his hump. Mechenmal
Sadly, Kohn went to the shore. A publisher had made an unexpected,
favorable offer, and paid an advance. Mechenmal happened to find a
poem that Kohn sent from the shore to Ilka Leipke. He read:
Song of Longing
The folds of the sea crack like whips on my skin. And the stars of
the sea tear me open. The ocean's evening is lonely from screaming
wounds. But the lovers find the good death of which they dreamed.
Be there soon, sorrowful eyed woman. The sea hurts me. Your hands
are cool saints. Cover me with them. The sea is burning on me.
Help then... please help... cover me. Save me. Cure me, friend.
He destroyed it. Ilka Leipke was enraged. She said that Mechenmal
was coarse. The little man had soothed her with loving caresses.
Later he sat down at the girl's writing-table. He took a piece of
stationary and wrote:
To Kuno Kohn.
Miss Leipke, my bride, hereby lets you know that she gladly
gives up any further poems; they serve no purpose at all.
My bride has told me everything. Be assured that your
courtship makes us laugh.
When Mechenmal had mailed the letter he became restless. He was
afraid that he had handled things carelessly.
Kohn came back immediately. He went to Ilka Leipke. Showed her the
letter. Howling, he asked whether she had forgotten the night with
him. She said: "yes." He moaned. He wept unintelligibly about soul
and suicide. Ilka Leipke showed him out. His weakness was annoying
to her; even as a child she could not watch anyone cry.
But she was angry at Mechenmal. She began to tease him about Kohn.
She claimed that Kohn had often been her guest; and she always found
him to be nice. Mechenmal considered her stories to be true. Now he
He considered how to get of the hunch-back, without being known as
the one who got rid of him. It did not take him long to come up with
a plan. Kohn died on a Sunday, suddenly, but without strange
circumstances. His body was released for burial without any
difficulty. In the newspaper "The Other A" Theo Tontod provided a
short obituary. And the Club Clou sent a wreath. Ilka Leipke had
herself taken to observe the body before the burial. The coffin was
opened quickly. In it Kohn lay somewhat askew, because of the hump.
The features of his face were distorted in a grimace. His hands were
rolled up lumps. Dried blood stuck to his nose and hung over his
opened mouth. Ilka Leipke overcame her disgust. She had gasoline
brought, took a little silk scarf out of her dainty handbag and
dipped it in the the gasoline container. She cleaned the dead nose
with the little scarf. Then she left. Calm and weeping. Content
with her goodness.
When Mechenmal heard of Kohn's death, he was very frightened. He
could not bear his room. He left the house quickly, not without
first having lit a cigarette. Church bells were ringing from the
sunny sky. Mechenmal was cold and pale. He kept thinking: if only
it doesn't come out. Or he considered where he might run away. He
thought of the trial, of the defense, of prison, chains, letters
written to the outside world, the hangman. That he would, as his
last wish, be allowed to sleep with Ilka Leipke one more time. He
moved through the streets like someone trying to catch up to someone.
When it occurred to him that he should not call attention to himself,
he suddenly began to walk too slowly. It seemed to him that all the
people were watching him.
In a garden two girls, perhaps fifteen years old, were wrestling.
When they saw Mechenmal, they quickly sat down on a bench, letting
him come nearer. When he was close enough, they laughed at him; one
of them wiggled her legs. He hurried away. Behind him one of them
cried out: "See how quickly the man moves." And the other cried out
just as foolishly : "Yes, he's smoking." They watched him go, then
they went back to wrestling with each other.
Mechenmal gradually calmed down. He thought: They can't prove it was
me. I'll deny everything. Ha! Who can prove anything about me...
Even if they notice anything!--He threw the cigar away. He felt
safer. He whistled with the thought that Kohn could no longer bother
him. That he, Max Mechenmal, had overcome the difficulty with Kohn
so completely. He thought that he tackled life correctly. That
everything went well for him. He had great trust in himself. He
thought: No sentimentality now. To lead a decent life, one must be a
He went home happily.
The Café Klösschen
Lisel Liblichlein had come from the country to the city because she
wanted to become an actress. At home she found everything stuffy,
narrow, stultifying. The gentlemen were stupid. The sky, the kisses,
the girl friends, the Sunday afternoons became unbearable. The most
she could do was cry. To her, becoming an actress would mean: to be
clever, free, and happy. What that meant, she did not know. She had
no way to determine whether she had talent.
She adored her cousin Schulz, because he lived in the city and wrote
poems. When the cousin wrote once that he was tired of law and would
live in accordance with his inclination to be a writer, she informed
her shocked parents that she was fed up with the restricted life; she
would pursue her ideals as an actress. They tried in every way to
dissuade her from this plan, to no avail. She became more determined,
and even made threats. They yielded reluctantly, went with her to
the city, rented a small room in a large pension, enrolled her in an
inexpensive acting school. Cousin Schulz was asked to look after her.
Mr. Schulz frequently was in the company of Cousin Liblichlein. He
took her to cabarets, read poetry, showed here his Bohemian digs,
introduced her to the literary cafe Kloesschen, went with her
hand-in-hand for hours through the streets at night, touched her,
kissed her. Miss Liblichlein was pleasantly dazed by all the new
things; soon it occurred to her that most of what she saw was not as
beautiful as she had once imagined. Right from the start she was
irritated that the director of the theater, the collegues, the
literati of the Cafe Kloesschen--all the people with whom she often
came in contact, found pleasure in touching her, caressing her hands,
pressing their knees against hers, looking directly at her without
shame. Even being touched by Schulz became burdensome to her.
To avoid hurting his feelings, as well as to avoid seeming provincial,
she seldom showed her discomfort. But once she struck him
vigorously on the face. They were in his room; he had just explained
the last lines of his poem, "Weariness." They were
The evening stands before my window, grey man!
It would be best if we went to sleep-Then he tried to remove her
blouse. Schulz was utterly stunned by the blow. He said, almost
weeping, that she must have noticed that he loved her. Moreover, he
was her cousin. She said that she didn't like someone opening her
blouse. Besides, he had torn off a button. He said that he could no
longer stand it. If one loved someone, one must yield to him. He
would try to lose himself with other women. She did not know what to
answer. Groaning, he thought: Oh, oh. She sat next to him
For the next few days he was nowhere to be seen. When he returned,
he was pale and grey. His bloodless red eyes lay tearfully in grimy
shadows. His voice had only a sing-song tone, with a mannered
melancholy. Schulz spoke mournfully, dreamily, about despair,
whoredom, and being torn apart inwardly. He said that he was fed up
with the joy of life, that he would soon catch up with his own death.
He avoided showing signs of tender feelings, but he often sighed
painfully. He flirted theatrically with a longing for dying. He
brought his friend to corpse-strewn tragedies, to gloomy film-dramas,
to serious concerts in darkened halls.
Perhaps a week had gone by. A woman had sung. The hands of the
listeners applauded loudly and long. Gottschalk Schulz passionately
grasped Lisel Lilichlein's fingers, laid them gently on one of his
thighs, and said: "Isn't it strange how a woman's song grips the soul!"
Then he again began to speak imploringly and tearfully of love and
yielding. Lisel Liblichlein said that this was boring or disgusting
to her. Out of pity--and because she wanted to go up--she finally
declared that she would agree to the love if he would give up the
business of surrender. Schulz happily pressed her to himself. He
stood there dreaming for a long time. He sang: "O tears. O goodness.
O God. O beauty. O love. O love. O love..." He dashed through
the streets. He had disappeared into the Cafe Kloesschen. But Lisel
Liblichlein sat in her small room, awkwardly smiling under a reddish
tallow lamp. She did not understand these city people, who seemed to
her strange, dangerous animals. She felt abandoned and more alone
than before. She thought with longing about her innocent homeland:
about the breezy sky, about the laughing young gentlemen, about
tennis matches, and she felt nostalgia for the Sunday afternoons--she
took off her garters, placed her little bodice on a chair. She was
On a transparent summer evening the Cafe Kloesschen was bathed in
light. The city sky of dark blue silk, upon which the white moon and
many small stars lay, enveloped it. At the rear of the cafe, alone,
a long time before he suddenly died, smoking at a tiny table, on
which something stood, sat the hunch-backed poet Kuno Kohn. People
crouched around other tables. Among them moved people with yellow
and red skulls: women; writers; actors. Everywhere shadowy waiters
Kuno Kohn was not thinking of anything special. He hummed to himself:
"A fog has so gently destroyed the world." The poet Gottschalk
Schulz, a lawyer, who had painfully flunked all the tests he had
taken, greeted him. A beautiful girl was with him. They both sat
down at Kohn's table. Schulz and Kohn collaborated with the
enthusiastic little Lutz Laus, to produce a monthly journal, "The
Dachshund," designed to refine the level of immorality. Schulz told
Kohn that the Dachshund-Laus would soon invent a godless religion on
neo-legal principles, for which purpose he intended to call an
organizational meeting in a nearby movie-house. Shaking his head,
Kohn listened. The lovely girl ate cake. Kohn said sadly: "Laus can
touch people and get things done. But there is no longer a Jesus to
make us believe. We die every day more deeply into empty, eternal
death. We are hopelessly pulled apart. Our life will remain
meaningless theatrics". As she ate, the girl looked on, with a
cheerful look emanating from the uncomprehending reddish brown eyes
on her clear face. Schulz had sunken into gloomy thoughts. The girl
said that her whole life also was a spectacle, and therefore she
didn't find it to be so meaningless. In the acting school, in which
she was preparing for a career on the stage as a sentimental lover,
hard work was done. Mr. Kohn ought to drop in sometime, to convince
himself about it. Kuno Kohn looked at the girl ardently for a while.
He thought: "Such a small, stupid girl." But he soon left.
Outside, the lyric poet Roland Rufus suddenly seized his arm firmly
and excitedly, saying: "Have you read the review written by a certain
Bruno Bibelbauer in the monthly medical journal, in which it is
claimed that the reason for my paranoia is that I imagine that I have
some paralysis. Everyone looks at me strangely; I am famous. My
publisher is giving me a large advance. But--ah, I must not say
it--I am incurable." He went immediately into a better
A horse hobbled by, pulling a carriage, like an old man. The
hunchback Kohn idly leaned against a Catholic church, thinking about
existence. He said to himself: "Yet how odd existence really is.
And yet one props oneself up, somewhere, somehow, without connection,
irrelevant; one could just as well continue for better or for worse,
anywhere. That makes me unhappy." Before him a small, silent
whore's dog had stopped, had listened humbly, with glowing eyes.
A fiery glass wedding coach hopped by. Inside, in a corner, he saw
the pale, expressionless face of a bridegroom. An empty carriage
arrived and Kohn climbed in. He said quietly: "A seeker without a
goal... a man drift...... unknown to everyone... One has a
frightening longing. O that one might know for what."
The streets glimmered whitely when he opened the door of the house in
which he lived. In his room he looked silently, with a solemn
sadness, at the pictures of men, all of whom were dead, which were
fastened to the wall. Then he began to remove the articles of
clothing from his hump. When he was wearing only undershorts, a
shirt, and socks, he said, murmuring and sighing, "Gradually one goes
In bed his mind slowly emptied. The reddish brown eyes of the girl
in the Cafe Kloesschen came into his mind as he fell asleep.
Strangely, on the days that followed, these eyes also shone often in
his brain. That surprised him. Frightened him. His relationship to
women was odd. In general he had an aversion to them; his urges
drove him to boys. But in certain summer months, when his soul was
shattered and inconsolable, he often fell in love with a young,
childlike woman. Since he was rejected and mocked most of the time
because of his hump, the memory of these women and girls was terrible.
Therefore he was cautious at these times. He went to a prostitute
when he felt danger.
Lisel Liblichlein had taken him by surprise, without his having had
any premonition of it. In vain he thought of the pain of failure.
In vain he imagined that Lisel Liblichlein might be one of the many
delicate creatures, confused in their wonderful ignorance and longing
for happiness, who can be found everywhere on earth, resembling one
another... On a soft evening, full of greenish yellow street-lights,
full of umbrellas and street filth, stood a small, hunch-backed man
anxiously waiting at the entrance of an acting school.
Sometimes a poisonous, searing wind arose. Like thick, glowing oil,
the sun lay on the houses and on the streets and on the people, Small,
sexless little people with bent legs hopped senselessly around the
front garden, enclosed by an iron fence, of the Cafe Kloesschen.
Inside, Kuno Kohn and Gottschalk Schulz were fighting. Others
happened to be watching. Lisel Liblichlein sat apprehensively in a
The reason for this had been: Mr Kohn had accompanied Miss
Liblichlein from the acting school to her home several times. When
Schulz learned about it, he became, without cause, jealous. He began
to say terrible things about Kohn. Lisel Liblichlein, who saw
through her cousin, defended the hunchback. This made Schulz even
angrier. He declared convincingly that he would shoot himself. He
didn't do that, but threatened that he would shoot her too. At that
point she stopped seeing him.--Lisel Liblichlein needed a man with
whom she could discuss her important, ordinary experiences. After
the quarrel with Schulz she chose Kohn out of some vague instinct.
Thus it happened that she made an appointment to meet him at the
Kloesschen at noon on the day of the fight, in order perhaps to
consult with him about choosing a dress, or about his interpretation
of a role, or about some little event. At the moment Kohn arrived,
about to ask what the girl wanted, Gottschalk burst in, stood before
him with a red, swollen face, and called him an unscrupulous seducer
of young girls. Kohn tried to reach up and slap Schulz' face. Then
each hit the other, furious and silent. The sign for the
lavoratory-attendant, which had previously read, "My institute is
here, entrance there," lay shattered on the ground. Suddenly Schulz'
hand violently struck Kohn's hump. The hand had a bloody wound, and
the hump was injured. Pale as a corpse, Schulz cried out: "The hump
is critically wounded." Then he had himself taken by a waiter to a
first aid station. He ignored Lisel Liblichlein entirely.
Kohn did not pay much attention to his injured hump. He sat down
again at the table with Lisel Liblichlein, and ordered tea with lemon.
She saw how ever more clearly blood was oozing through his
threadbare jacket.She called his attention to the bloody jacket; he
became frightened. She asked if she should bind the wound--He said
bitterly, to touch a hump would not be pleasant for her. She said,
blushing sympathetically, that a hump was human. She said that he
could come to her place. The hump must be cleaned and cooled. Then
she would apply a dressing. He could spend the afternoon at her
Happily and hesitantly Kohn agreed to her suggestion. They sat into
the night in Lisel Liblichlein's little room. They talked about
souls, humps, love.-From that day on the writer Schulz was missing.
An acquaintance had last seen him in the evening, in front of the
display window of a shoe store. "Hot Heroes"--a journal for romantic
decadence--received a special-delivery letter, in which Schulz
reported that, for pyschological
reasons, he was on the point of taking his own life. Some people
regarded this as nothing really new. Most people were excited. The
newspapers carried exciting notices. A fund to find Schulz' body was
established. An owner of a factory donated a tasteful coffin.
Woods and fields were searched. All the lakes were probed with long
poles. No trace of Schulz was found. They already wanted to give up
the search, when they found him disfigured, in a middle-level hotel
in a distant suburb. On a windy pond he had contracted influenza,
which had kept him in bed for a week. He was found on the creaky
steps of the hotel, covered with many blankets and shawls,
experimenting with the idea of carrying out his intention of
committing suicide. It was not difficult to dissuade him, and he was
brought in triumph back to the city. The coffin was sold off. From
the profits and the remainder of the fund to find Schulz' body a
party for Bohemians was organized-Gottschalk Schulz himself was
enthroned as Faust, world-weary, in a corner. The gifted Doctor
Berthold Bryller appeared as one of the wealthy literati. Lutz Laus
played the Pope. The high school teacher Spinoza Spass--the clown of
the Cafe Kloesschen--had wrapped a Siegfried-costume around his belly,
and given himself a Goethe haircut. The lyric poet Mueller soon lay
like a green, drunken corpse. Kuno Kohn, who had made a formal
reconciliation with Schulz, came as himself. Lisel Liblichlein also
came with him, wearing a rustic outfit. The others scuttled back and
forth wildly among themselves, screeching like Chinese, chimpanzees,
Gods, nightwatchmen, sophisticates. The whole crowd from the Cafe
Kloesschen was present.
Lisel Liblichlein danced on this tumultuous, screaming night only
with the hunch-backed poet. Many people watched the strange pair,
but there was no laughing. Kohn's hump pressed hard and heedlessly,
like the edge of a table, against the delicate others. It seemed as
though he had the constant desire to press his hump against a dancer.
He never failed to say, in a falsetto voice, "pardon," with
unashamed courtesy, when a crazy woman cried out or someone
blissfully snarled "damn." Lisel Liblichlein held on to the poet
with one hand holding the hump like a handle, and with the other had
she pressed Kohn's square head gently to her breast. In this way
they danced like possessed people for many hours.
Kohn's hump became steadily more painful for the other dancers. They
tried to express outrage. The people in charge of the party informed
Kohn that he was requested to refrain from dancing. With this kind
of hump one should not dance. Kohn did not resist. Lisel
Liblichlein watched as his face became grey.
She led him to a hidden recess. There she said to him: "From now on
I shall tutoyer you." Kuno Kohn did not answer, but he accepted her
sympathetic soul like a gift in his water-blue troubadour's eyes.
Trembling, she said that she suddenly loved him so much that it was
incomprehensible.., she would never again let his arm go... she had
not know that one could be so wildly happy... Kuno Kohn invited her
to visit him the next evening. She accepted gladly.
Kuno Kohn and Lisel Liblichlein were the first to leave the giddy
celebration. They moved through the heaven-bright moonlit streets,
whispering. The poet in love cast fantastic shadows with giant humps
on the pavement.
When they parted, Lisel Liblichlein lowered her head and kissed
Kohn's mouth several times. Thus Kuno Kohn and Lisel Liblichlein
parted... He said that he was pleased that she would visit him the
next evening. She said, very quietly, "I... oh... also..."
On the well cared-for streets, the carefully arranged houses stood
like books on shelves. The moon had scattered bright blue dust on
them. Few windows were lit, shining peacefully, like the eyes of
lonely people, with the same gold-colored look. Kuno Kohn went home
thoughtfully. His body was dangerously bent forward. His hands lay
firmly at the end of his back. His head was hanging low. The hump
towered above, an adventurous, sharp stone. At this time Kuno Kohn
was no longer a man; he had his own form.
He thought: "I wish to avoid being happy. That would mean giving up
the longing that transcends all fulfillment, which is my most
exquisite meaning. To degrade the holy hump, with which a friendly
destiny has endowed me, through which I have experienced existence
much more deeply, more unhappily, more wonderfully, than people
perceive, to a burdensome superficiality. I wish to develop out of
Lisel Liblichlein her higher being. I want to make her utterly
While the poet Kohn was thinking these thoughts, the poet Schulz at
last was stabbing himself with a salad knife. He had observed Kuno
Kohn and Lisel Liblichlein in their confidential conversation in the
hidden recess. He had seen how they had gone off together. He tried
to drink and eat away his grief, to no avail. After he had eaten and
drunk for some time, he was insane. He sang: "Death is a serious
matter... Death has no time for jokes... Death is an urgent need..."
Then he timidly and hesitantly stuck the first knife that he could
get his hands on into his left breast. Blood and the bloody remains
of salad spurted around him. This time the attempt to kill himself
was crowned with success.
Lisel Liblichlein appeared the next evening earlier than the agreed
upon hour. Kuno Kohn opened the door, holding flowers in his hand.
He was visibly happy; he said that he had scarcely hoped that she
would come. She placed her arms around his bony body, sucked him to
her body, and said: "You dear humped little dummy... I love you so
The ate a simple evening meal. She stroked him when something tasted
good to her. She said that she wanted to remain with him until early
morning. Then she could celebrate the beginning of her eighteenth
birthday with him...
A church bell announced the new day.. The first loud breaths were
like groaned prayers in Kohn's dusky room. There Lisel Liblichlein's
young soul-body had become a temple; she had endured pain with
touching matter of factness, to sacrifice herself to the hunch-backed
priest. She had said: ``Are you happy now"--She lay dissolved in
dream and emotion. The thin skin of her eyelids enveloped her.
Suddenly fright ran through her body. She had fear like claws in her
face. Her eyes, torn open and screaming, were on the hunchback.
Lisel Liblichlein said, without expression, "This--was--happiness--"
Kuno Kohn wept.
She said: "Kuno, Kuno, Kuno, Kuno, Kuno, Kuno... What shall I do
with the rest of my life?" Kuno Kohn sighed. He looked seriously
and with kindness into her sorrowful eyes. He said: "Poor Lisel!
The feeling of complete helplessness that has come over you I have
often felt. The only consolation is: to be sad. When sadness
degenerates into doubt, then one should become grotesque. One should
live on for the sake of fun. One should try to rise above things, by
realizing that existence consists of nothing but brutal, shabby jokes."
He wiped sweat from his hump and from his forehead.
Lisel Liblichlein said: "I don't know why you are going on like this.
I don't understand what you have said. It was unkind of you to take
away my happiness." The words fell like paper.
She said that she wanted to go. He should get dressed. The naked
hump was embarrassing to her...
Kuno Kohn and Lisel Liblichen said nothing more until they parted
forever at the door of the house in which the boarding school was
located. He looked into her face, held her hand, and said:
"Farewell--" She said quietly: "Farewell."
Kohn receded into his hump. Destroyed, he moved on. Tears smeared
his face. He felt her sadly gazing at his back. Then he ran around
the corner of the next group of houses, stopped, dried his eyes with
a handkerchief, and hurried off, still weeping.
Like a sickness, a slimy fog crept into the city, as it grew blind.
Street lights were gloomy swamp flowers, which flickered on blackish,
glowing stalks. Objects and creatures had only chilly shadows and
blurred movements. Like a monster, a night bus reeled past Kohn.
The poet called out: "Now one is again entirely alone." Then he
encountered a fat, hunch-backed woman, with long spidery legs,
wearing a ghostly, diaphanous skirt. Her upper body resembled a ball
lying on a high little table. She looked at him temptingly and
sympathetically, with an amorous smile, which the fog contorted into
an insane expression. Kohn disappeared immediately in the greyness.
She groaned and then trundeled on.
Sluggishly day limped closer, smashing the remains of the night with
an iron crutch. The half-extinguished Cafe Kloesschen, a gleaming
fragment, lay still in the soundless morning. In the background sat
the last customer. Kuno Kohn had let his head sink back on his
trembling hump. The scrawny fingers of his hand covered his forehead
and face. His whole body cried out noiselessly.
Maria Mondmilch was the only child of the art-historian Doctor
Maximilian Mondmilch and his lovely wife Marga Mondmilch. Mrs.
Mondmilch is said to have been at one time a scullery-maid in the
cafe in which Mr. Mondmilch--who at the time was a student--drank tea,
read newspapers, and smoked. After the birth of the child she had
secretly left her spouse, supposedly to spend a few weeks with a
champagne-waiter. Thereafter she fooled around alternately with very
different men from very different social classes. She returned when
she learned that the incurable Doctor had been brought to a mental
institution for diseases of the brain. She carefully looked after
the mortally ill man for the short time before he died. Then she
married a wonderful coachman, who idolized her.
Doctor Mondmilch's illnes was first discovered when he wanted to
commit a criminal offense against his eight-year old daughter.
Fortunately the atrocity was able to be prevented at the last moment.
The child, frightened in heart and mind, was placed in the care of
the madman's brother, the excellent Moriz von Mondmilch, a
first-class administrative officer. The last word of the dying
art-historian was, "Maria."
A curious affection developed between the uncle and the niece.
Nothing happened that could have been construed as illegal. The
passion between the child and the old man aroused the jealousy of old
Mrs. Minna von Mondmilch. After the marital discord had become too
burdensome, the angered civil servant felt compelled to agree one
year later to a separation from his ward. He also had to consider
his daughter, who had become a young woman. The parting was hard.
His Excellency Moriz von Mondmilch had a crying fit.
Maria Mondmilch arrived in a large city. The strangers with whom she
boarded were paid a large amount of money. But otherwise they did
not concern themselves with Maria Mondmilch. She exchanged secret
letters with the noble uncle, filled with overflowing longing for
life and hopes for adventure. The consciousness of constantly having
something to hide gave her a solemn, inexplicable superiority. Maria
Mondmilch preserved her uncle's letters as though they were sacred
relics. Some of the letters were lost and became evidence in the
famous divorce trial that excited the whole country.
Maria Mondmilch was a student in the big city at a girls' high school
She was not among the best students. Sometimes she used her time
diligently. She was accused of having instigated all kinds of dirty
tricks that took place. When it became know that the head of the
institution had met her in the evening on a disreputable street, it
was expected that she would be dismissed from school. In the
proceedings against a teacher of literature at the high school who,
in spite of being accused of having committed several sexual crimes,
had to be acquitted, she was the most important witness.
The young girl preferred to spend the night in the notorious section
of the city. Maria Mondmilch allowed every possible kind of
riff-raff, to speak to her, but she ran away from most of the men.
She was not yet fifteen years old when she permitted a peddlar, whose
she had made one filthy evening in a foul alley on a bridge, under
neglected, ancient gas lamps, to photograph her naked in indecent
poses. When she was sixteen years old, she spent Christmas vacation
with a handsome electrician, who was a complete stranger to her,
named Hans Hampelmann, in a run-down hotel, posing as husband and
wife. Given her erotic needs, it was not difficult to explain her
decision to study medicine after graduating.
The hungry actor Schwertschwanz--an intelligent and worn-out looking
person, who stank of cheap chocolate--moved with aimless longing
through the nocturnal, glittering, noisy streets of the city in which
Maria Mondlich studied medicine. He met her while she was returning
sadly from a lecture on human sexual diseases and male disorders.
For fun--pretty much--he spoke to her. Together they both went into
a cheap saloon.
Before speaking to the student, the actor Schwertschwanz had been
thinking about what could most readily explain the doubt he had had
for many years: the ultimate unimportance of all events; or only the
happenstance that important people often must croak because of a lack
of appropriate nourishment and medicine... the inadequacy of women...
The incurable nature of Tabes disease, the symptoms of which he
believed he detected in himself... When Maria Mondmilch named her
profession, he lit up. Syphilis and its consequences were mentioned.
Miss Mondmilch told of frightening cases. Mr. Schwertschwanz
listened, shocked and carried away. He was fascinated when she,
coquetishly stressing that she unfortunately could maintain only
professional relationships with men, as though unintentionally
revealed a well shaped but austere leg, that was encased in an
exciting, ordinary, half silk stocking.
The student did not hide her liking for the actor. His shabby
appearance filled her with confidence. The area around his
internally) almost rotted, true-hearted blue eyes, worn out, as she
imagined, by make-up and hopelessness, by excessive whorings or
masturbation, gripped her soul. His being, a mixture of smugness and
unashamed aggressiveness, very much excited her. Amidst the
screaming, the waiters, the beer-benches, and the vapors, under the
addictive yellow gaslights, she had to call out with rapture, "I've
never met a man like you before, Mr. Schwertschwanz," He was so
pleased, he touched her. While a troop of soldiers marching by
outside whistled the well-known folk song, "Little Maria, you sweet
little creature etc..."
Without a spoken agreement, the lovers, arm-in-arm, moved in the
direction of the student's room when they left the boozy saloon.
Upstairs, Maria Mondmilch laid down, with her legs crossed, on a
sleep-sofa near the bookcase. The actor sank into a soft chair, next
to which a small table with an ornate bottle of cognac stood.
Talking was difficult. Each wanted to sob out to the other how much
he or she had suffered from childhood on. They wanted to gobble each
other up, so greedy were they as the minutes went by. Something
stood between them. The actor drank the cognac. The student played
nervously with her hands and feet.
The actor could no longer bear his agony. He cried out gently--it
was as though something had been shattered to pieces: "I shall be
frank. I am syphilitic"--Some tears rolled down his cheeks. He was
startled by how insincere he was. The student held her hands in
front of her face. As theatrically as he. But unconsciously.
He had miscalculated. Her erotic excitement was out of control. She
wriggled on her sleep-sofa. She held out her hand to him. She
whispered: "Poor man, come." He did not take her hand. With lowered
eyes, in a face filled with unhappy renunciation, whose effect had
been tried out
on many hysterical women, he said: "You of all people should know
that contact with me might give you an infection, although in the
last few years my Wasserman test was always negative." Then she said
heroically: "Frankness deserves frankness. I am a virgin."
Instinctively she had taken vengeance. He no longer had control of
his overwrought senses. Like a cat he pounced onto the girl in the
middle of the sleep-sofa. Now she fought him off. Ready, with
anxious eyes, to give herself to him.
As they were wrestling the student sang her theme-song: "I am Maria
Mondmilch, the girl, the virgin. Open your door for me. You, I
tried the surface of many men's flesh, old men and young. I tempted
them all. In all of them I sought my man. No one penetrated me
deeper than my skin... I prowled around during the days. Ran during
the nights. I slept in the same bed with musicians and aristocrats.
I was with salesmen and with pimps and with students. I ran around
with bicycle artists and with lawyers. I let no man pass without
looking him in the eye. Whether it rained. Or was winter. Or the
sun shone. No one could call me his woman. No one was my man. One
shot himself. One jumped into a swamp. I am guiltless... One went
mad. One kicked me. Most went away as though nothing bad had
happened... You, blue-eyed sorrowful face beneath me, oh, would that
you were my man, that I might bloom in you. Are you my man, in whom
I blissfully sink--"
And the actor sang to the student as they wrestled: "I am the actor
Schwertschwanz, the man, the lecher. In all the bodies in which I
have drunk, I sought you. I have become a drinker. Out of longing.
I have poisoned my blood out of love. How meaningless it would be if
I--half dead--found you now. I have looked for you too long to find
Then Maria Mondmilch called out as she fell on him: "Little
Schwertschwanz, do you love me--" And already intoxicated: "He does
not love me."
The man fall back in utter indolence. The student spat on his collar.
Rammed the hat on the head of the spineless man. Pressed a gold
coin into his hand. Threw him out.
While the actor Schwertschwanz, trembling with desire, went about
searching for the right whore, Maria Mondlich sat over a thick
anatomy textbook. She looked at the drawing of a completely naked
man, And howled like a dog at the sea.
The suicide of the pupil Mueller
A Mr. Ludwig Lenzlich was a teacher and tutor in a mental hospital
for psychopathic children. He was always called "Mr. A.B.D." He was
beardless, like an actor, and he spoke like one. Generally he wore a
severe, sharp mask on his face.
This Mr. Lenzlicht, two days after the burial of the pupil Martin
Mueller (who had hanged himself with the stockings of the teacher
Nora Neumann on the window bolt of a skylight), found in a dark
corner of his desk a notebook. He took it out and looked at it. On
the label was written: This work Martin Mueller dedcates to the new
primitives. On the first page was written: Dear Lenzlicht, you are
the only one of the imbeciles in the institution whom I believe
capable of half-way understanding the observations which I have
written down here. But reading this will demonstrate to you that you
also, poor blind man, came into only glancing contact with my
personality, as if it were some empty face, without feeling its
powerful sensibility. Perhaps you will get an inkling (then you
could call yourself lucky). I shall kill myself on the top-hung
window, alone in the realization. My work will endure. Martin
Mr. Lenzlicht was surprised when he read the sentences. Then he
thought about the dimensions of childrens' imaginations. He was
neither happy nor sad, but he seemed dark. Thinking was for him no
passion, therefore he soon continued reading.
On the next page some essays were written about the value of art,
about its future, about the interrelationship of individual arts,
about the architecture of literary style, about the new primitives
who, according to Mueller, would bring about a victorious revolution
in the life of art. The essays almost filled the notebook. Mr.
Lenzlicht read it without taking an active interest, and he often
The last essay in the notebook seemed to interest him more. His eyes
widened, and they fastened themselves to the letters. He held the
paper like someone who was near-sighted, and with both hands.
Sometimes he said something vague. Or he laughed without knowing it.
Or he laughed, (the way someone would say "damn"). Or he let his
tongue hang out of his mouth. In the notebook was written:
I sit at the desk and dream, which would seem suspicious to the good
Lenzlicht: The young should not dream. Lenzlicht has already noticed
that the skin around my eyes has become ashen. He often asks, with
special emphasis, whether I slept badly saying that I look so funny.
Once I became angry, and said: "You too, Mr. Candidate." Smiling
embarassedly, he beat me until I bled.
I had to interrupt my writing, because Miss Neumann had come in.
Today she has colored legs with patent-leather shoes--I find that
exciting. I had promised myself to watch her no longer... lately she
shown herself to be such a prude... in the afternoon she went into
the city. She came back late. I met her on the staircase. But she
broke away and said, excitedly, "Go to bed." And she went into her
room. In the following days I did not see her. The servant Hermann
said she must be taking care of her room. I asked why. He said she
had become engaged. He smirked.
For me the erotic discussions had gradually become detestable. I
always try to free myself. I am seldom successful. I know that an
understanding woman might free me. This one wouldn't: Miss Neumann
is a silly young thing, eighteen years old. The cook is an immature
The housemaid Minna is arrogant; she is unapprochable, unjustifiably.
Perhaps the head of the institution, Dr. Mondmilch, is a possibility,
but when I try to make my valleys and peaks comprehensible to her,
looking with longing into her eyes, give myself to her--she is
distant, takes notes, has secret talks with Lenzlicht, prescribes
tranquilizers. She is very brutal, I sometimes believe that she
loves me secretly. She seems to be unhappy; I like her.-Yesterday I
had to interrupt my writing, because the fat idiot Backberg called me
to the table. I sit next to the Russian Recha. She likes to pinch
my leg; she says I'm too fat. She kisses tall Lehkind, because he
looks like a skeleton. Anyway, I can't stand the vermin that have
been assembled here. There's trouble every day. In particular, the
very small seven-year old Max Mechenmal--an unusually insignificant
person--causes me unusual trouble. He does not like me, because he
is conscious of my superiority. He tries in every way to make me
look ridiculous. He is deceitful and cowardly. No one finds him
nice. He likes nothing better than to provoke us against each other,
to spread angry gossip, and to do as much damage as possible. He
knows how to stay in the background, to disappear at the right moment.
-Once I was writing, suspecting nothing bad, in our spacious bath and
w.c. (here I was safe from surprises) a longer work on the "Hoax of
Genius". I explained that genius is a title, not a quality. That
fact is often overlooked, and engenders great confusion. The name is
accidental, generally suspicious. Whoever is called a genius is
therefore not a brilliant person. Brilliant people usually do not
attain the title, which is awarded by the crowd. The most brilliant
people of all time flowered in madhouses and prisons. Someone who is
understood by thousands of
every-day people, is loved... is worthless to me.-At that point I was
startled by the slow, soulful screams of blind little Kohn, with whom
I had established a friendship, in spite of my anti-semitic
principles. I leaped up, hurried out. I saw how Max Mechenmal was
running back and forth, pinching Kohn in the legs or doing other
nasty things, while calling out: "Catch me." The little Kohn was
pale. In his helplessness. He pressed his back against a wall. His
thin, suffering hands groped in the air... I have never seen such
concentrated pain as lay in the dead eyes of little Kohn. Without
giving myself time to put my clothes in order, I hurried to Mechenmal,
to beat him for his brutal behavior. My trousers were damaged by a
nail which was sticking out of the wall. Mechenmal used the delay to
slip by me, run into the w.c., which he locked behind him. I beat on
the door. He said: "Occupied!" I was very angry. It occured to me
that in my haste I had forgotten to take with me the paper on which
the work on the hoax of genius was written. I called to him to pass
it out. He did not answer. Later I heard how loudly he giggled.
And I knew: I would never see the manuscript which I had intended to
send to the new newspaper, "The Other A." Sadly I went away-Ah,
little Kohn unfortunately is now dead. He has died of his ghosts, as
he had often predicted to me. The blind little Kohn had seen his
ghosts. Sometimes in stark daylight. At such times he was found
trembling, pale, in a corner. He had drawn up his legs so far that
his thigh was pressed against his sunken chest. His head lay between
his knees. The tiny, frightened fingers clutched the tops of his
shoes. If someone touched him, he shrieked. The shriek was so
piercingly frightening that one instinctively let him go, as though
one had been shoved. Each time it happened one was as as helpless as
the first time. Doctor Mondmilch was called. She stroked him a bit.
His rigidity dissolved in sobs. He received drops, was put to bed,
slept badly. Mechenmal called out, so that it echoed in the street,
"Kohn is mad again."
Towards the end, the attacks had become more frequent, especially at
night. His fainting attacks lasted longer, and the exhaustion that
followed was disheartening. One evening, when Doctor Mondmilch had
accepted an invitation of the veterinarian and neurologist Dr. Bruno
Bibelbauer, and had gone away for an extended time, the catastrophe
happened. Little Kohn lay in bed, nearly dead. Mechenmal said: "Now,
at least, he will no longer disturb anyone who he wants to sleep."
The fat idiot Backberg had a good time at the burial. The cook
howled; so did the housemaid Minna. Nora Neumann shut herself up in
a room; I think she wrote poetry. The Russian Recha disappeared;
Lenzlich later found her in the dead man's room. She sat on the bed,
held Kohn's hand ecstatically to her heart, and moved the lid of his
right eye back and forth with her right hand. I heard how she cried
and said: that was so interesting. Lenzlicht complained wistfully.
Mechenmal still says, when he speaks about little Kohn, "he was
certainly crazy." I disagree. Every person who is not stupid has
experiences now and then that cannot be brought into harmony with
traditional visions available to everyone. Sometimes one is more
sensitive than at other times and than other people. When one is
alone, familiar things are more peaceful... perhaps, in the evening,
when the lamp is half-lit... in the twilight, in lonely rooms... on
nights which bring no sleep. At those times sounds arise from the
stillness which I have never heard, which I cannot explain. I am
startled, alarmed, want, in this burning enlightenment to be with
many happy people--do not want to hear... hear more finely.
Stillness is shattered. Everything yawns and has sound. Objects
begin to move. Evil shadows generate fear. All forms lose their
familiarity. I wait for... a horrible, incorporeal wonder.
I am a firm enemy of ghosts and specters and such things. I find
these appearances are not sensible or funny; I want to have nothing
to do with them. And yet I could prevent the fact that, shortly
before noon, the form of an ancient woman, with austere facial
features, appeared to me. I was unpleasantly moved by it. Even more
so, when it later occurred to me that it had possibly been my mother.
It is not less unreasonable to deny ghosts than it is unreasonable to
acknowledge wonders. If ghosts were an everyday occurrence,
philosophers would construct natural laws, by means of which one
could derive them. And without fuss overlook them.
I shall avoid further musing on these confusing things, by taking my
life. People will be shocked. Deny me the right to have control
over myself. They will offer the explanation that I was at the
breaking point. Supplying medical reasons. To calm themselves down;
for if everyone thought so, then there would soon be a universal
protest against living. Life would be boycotted. That must not
happen. If you ask: why not?--you will be condemned as a sophist.
People don't like to die; the term is called life-energy. They have
recourse to Gods and a more cheerful outlook on life. If misery
becomes too severe, you can always go to a better insane asylum.
I decided to free myself from myself a long time ago. The most
important motive for the action was: I really don't like myself. I
happen to be unable to bear the idea of living with myself for an
entire life. I have often complained that I cannot get rid of myself.
I feel myself as a terrible burden. I would like to be in a
courageous, honorable, pure young man. My person is untrue,
unaesthetic, clumsy. I know that death will destroy me entirely; the
thought for me is the cause for keen despair; I can't bear this
thought for long. I have lost the ability to breathe. I feel as
though a monster is pressing me from within. My brain's activity
seems to have stopped. My hands are clenched in animal fear. I weep
dry tears. The institution of death is probably not fitting for many
men; one should be able to find means and ways to circumvent death.
But dying is a trifle. The man who is preparing for death must not
think of death.
I'm still attending high school, but am more interested in theater
and literature. I read Wedekind, Rilke, and others. Goethe also. I
don't like Schiller and George.
My friend's name is Mieze Maier. She lives, with her companions, in
an elegant four-room apartment, since her father, Markus Maier, left
her a lot of money. Her mother died ten years ago as a result of an
operation on her stomach. Her mother must have been beautiful.
Mieze Maier just became sixteen. She had a big birthday celebration.
Many beautiful and wicked girls and a number of young men were
invited. Everyone was very silly. People whispered in each other's
ears that Mieze was already sixteen. Then they laughed...
Mieze Maier is beautiful. Also smart. Also talented. Very
flirtatious. Graceful and slyly charming. Sometimes unhappy. She
knows how to make many men sick, so that sorrow fills their eyes when
they are awake, and they have smiles on their lips when they sleep.
And their hands are held tightly, close to their bodies...
She always had her favorites. They are like dolls with whom she
plays, until, one day, she becomes tired of them and casts them aside
carelessly. I know seven. No one has remained in her favor as long
as six weeks. I am the eighth.
I know that my days are also numbered. I too will be cast aside by
this sixteen-year old thing--still half child. When I think about it,
I am already ashamed and tormented within. And yet...
We have not said to each other that we are in love, but we are very
gentle with each other. It happens like this:
We met once. It was by chance. The day was grey with weariness.
Twilight lay over all things. Yellow and red light came from a few
We walked together. Her eyes had a brilliance. Sometimes she half
covered them with her lids. And she caught the looks of men in her
eyes. That must be a fine lust.
We did not speak; but once she said that I had red lips. And once I
said that she was superficial, for I wanted to make her angry.
The next day we met again. That was not by chance. We walked in the
meadows. She put her hand on my shoulder and was good to me. I
thought of the kick that I would once day receive from her.
... Yesterday I hurt her, because I called her superficial. There
was something like crying in her voice when she said:
"I'm really not as superficial as you believe, Olaf. Twice I have
been in love unhappily and once it bloomed happily."
It seemed to me that her hand on my shoulder had become heavier...
We walked slowly. We saw no people. Wind came across the meadows.
In the sky there were clouds everywhere, threatening rain.
She looked at me. Her look was naked and spoke of passion.
That was neat, how I suddenly seized her and threw her into the grass
with me and half-intoxicated whispered to her: "You, my"--and how she
lay there weary and sobbed: "Olaf"-Afterwards I performed my school
work badly. I probably won't be promoted.
For six months I have been living in the house. None of the
inhabitants has noticed anything. I am careful.
The white suit brings me luck. I earn enough. And I have begun to
save; for I feel that one's powers decline. I am tired frequently;
sometimes I have pain. I shall also become fat and old. I don't
like to put make-up on-I am no longer being supervised. Kuno Kohn
has made me free. I am thankful to him.
Kuno Kohn is repugnant; he has a hunchback. His hair is the color of
brass, his face is beardless, and worn with furrows. His eyes seem
old, encircled with shadows. A scar, like a stream of rain, runs
from his nose. One of his legs is swollen. Kuno Kohn said once that
he has an abscess in the bone.
The first meeting had been strange:
It was raining. The streets were wet and dirty. I stood under a
street lamp and looked at my wet clothes. When the wind blew, I was
chilled. My feet ached in my shoes.
Few people were on the street. Most of them on the other side.
Protected by the trees. With their coat collars up. With the hat
crooked over the forehead. No one was watching me; I was standing
there, sad. The gravel crunched beneath me. Hard and sudden, so
that I cried out. A
policeman came by, hands behind his back. He moved slowly. He
looked at me suspiciously, proud of his authority. With a stark look,
he felt that he was master. He moved further on. I laughed
scornfully; he did not look back. The policeman despised me.
I yawned: it had become late.--Along came a man who was small and
deformed. He stopped when he saw me. He had unhappy eyes; on his
lips was an embarrassed smile. He hid part of his face behind
scrawny fingers. And he rubbed his right eye-lid, like someone
ashamed of himself. And he coughed slightly... I went up close to
him, so that he felt me. He said: "Well--: I said: "Come, little one."
He said: "I'm actually homosexual."
And he took my hand. And kissed with cold lips.
It was late. I heard the sounds of trucks passing frequently. In
the distance I saw people. On a corner two people were standing
who... felt ashamed as I drew near.
Girls came, who were late. A few, who wanted to earn money. I saw
the tall whore, who worked this area every night. I recognized her
by her slip.
A detective was watching me. In front of me a woman was walking, who
stood still often and wailing.
I did not think about it. I looked up at the stars and found nothing
to wish for. I looked at myself with indifference, like a foreign
object. I shook my head, that the old man was walking alone so
late... and murmured to the stars.. and it's so strange.
I met a woman who said: "Ah--" I said: "may I accompany you?" The
woman said: "Please." It was quite dark.
We went along together; the woman said that her name was Meier; but
her first name was Mieze. She lived with relatives; they employed a
doorman. In addition, she sang in a chorus.
The woman was neither beautiful nor young, but she seemed
approachable. I had no reason to be shy.
In front of the house in which the woman lived we stopped.
I suggested that we look for a hotel. The woman was not averse; she
said: "No-" I said: "Why?" The woman said: "Papa" I said: "The you
don't want--" A smile came over the woman's face. She looked at a
Nine doctors claim that Samuel Simon is suffering from delusions. I
am of the same opinion.
For 29 years I have been in the mental institute. They are friendly
to me. I can do what I want. When it's warm, I go into the garden
and listen to the hours die. When it is cold, I sit at the window
and let my mind drift towards the sky. Often I watch the people,
when they call or work or are sad... I am glad that I am far away.
I do not miss life. I am glad if no one does anything to me or wants
anything from me. I don't envy people.
Nine times a year my pale wife brings me flowers. My son Siegmund
never comes. The last time I saw him was when I was buried. On my
49th birthday-I lay in a plain wooden coffin. I was placed on a
wagon-like catafalque. Nine pall-bearers dressed in black walked
beside me. Behind me was the pastor, Leopold Lehmann, and at his
side my wife Frieda and my nineteen-year-old son Siegmund. Behind
them were a few relatives, who were contented, and were speaking
about the plague of caterpillars.
The sun cast warm light. Wind blew from time to time. It crawled
over the gravel, tickling the women's breasts and calves. We stopped
before the open grave. The coffin was lowered, and a few formalities
prayers were taken care of. Then the pastor, Leopold Lehmann, began,
at the behest and at the expense of my wife, to deliver a memorial
speech. He said:
"Dear sisters and brothers! Once again a kindly fate has robbed us
of the life of a dear person. In grief we stand at the grave of the
departed and remember him sadly."
My son Siegmund bit his lips. The pastor said:
"The earth, which has singled out the body so that it might lead its
own life for a short while, has taken it back into the bosom of the
mother. A noble man has gone home--"
A fit of laughter overcame my son Siegmund. His face became red and
serious... He laughed until he was gasping.
My wife shrieked.
A pall-bearer dropped a bottle of whiskey, which broke on the coffin.
The pall-bearer regretfully cast his eyes down.
The relatives were outraged. They were ashamed of my son Siegmund.
Some women cried into genuine lace handkerchiefs.
I was completely still.
The pastor said:
"If one does not how to behave, he should not come to a burial--Amen."
He threw some sand over the broken bottle of whisky. And left.
Proud. Offended. The pastor. Leopold Lehmann.
My son Siegmund cleaned his fingernails.
I love the dead days. They have no glow; they are colorless and
filled with yearning. The houses stand like scenery before the grey
clouds; the people move as though in a film: in the evening they move
no differently from the way they moved in the morning. All things
are more ponderous. And my room seems as though someone has died in
Whenever these days occur, a mindless desire to work grows
irresistibly in me. I carry out my daily tasks as though as I were
performing a mass. And I lose myself while doing so. Almost the way
dreamers have lost themselves. But sometimes I notice that I have
become motionless and inwardly rigid.
Then I become very alert, and I can no longer do tasks. I go to the
window, where I have wonderful thoughts. But usually they occured
only at night.
I feel out of place in all matters. They press upon me as though
they don't know me: the streets and the people and the doors to the
houses and the thousand movements. Wherever I look I become confused.
My little death torments me; there were many, greater deaths. And
that I am alone. And that everywhere something inconceivable is
threatening. And that I do not find my way.. And all the remaining
sadnesses, for which there is no doctor, and which should not be
revealed. Each must submit to them alone, and in his own way.
Talking about them is ridiculous, but many die of them. I am afraid
that I am so at odds with myself and so powerless. Until memories
come. Unbidden. But kind. From somewhere. They numb me.
I smile when I find a child crying or the mother's death, which was
hideous and is unspeakable, or the other bloody delights, dear things.
I smile when the eyes of my friend suddenly come to life in the
silky shadows, that they shine as though out of a haze, and they
reveal their most inner secrets. No one has said it to me, and you
will call me a fool... but I know that his death has always been in
the eyes, the way for someone else it is in the lungs or in the
His eyes were miserable and lost and painfully hopeless, so that
people laughed when he looked at them. He was ashamed of his eyes,
as if they betrayed sinful adventures, and he hid them under yellowed
lids. But he felt how he was stared at when he entered someplace
where he was not expected. Or he sat down where his presence needed
no explanation. He watched in an exaggerated manner, like a
petitioner. Coughed and held his hand in front of his mouth, drew
his cheeks in and pushed one of them outward with his tongue. Was
embarrassed. Unhappy. Would have preferred to have been alone... in
Children bent their heads when his gaze caught their eyes. And
turned red. And grinned shyly and silently. Women giggled, and
looked innocuous, and slapped each other on the thigh or on the bare
shoulders and kissed their ravaged men. In the night they lay awake
and their thoughts were white hot. But the young girls avoided him.
Not once during the night do I have rest here. Often a hand or a
word tears me from sleep. Because everything is dark, I often do not
know in the morning who was with me.
I must get up early, to clean the clothes and polish the boots. My
legs are heavy, and my eyes are still very weary. But the young
masters are hard when I neglect something, and cruel. But at night
they are friendly and caress me as though I were a grand lady.
Only old Mr. Konrad Krause is good during the day as well. When he
wants something, he speaks without humiliating me; and something in
the sound of his voice makes me happy. He does not permit anything
nasty to be said about me in his presence. I like him very much.
Recently I had a laugh over him. I was awoken by noise coming from
the corridor outside my room. It was a conversation. I detected two
voices: I missed much of what one said, for it whispered; what I
caught was young and rough. One I caught without trying; clear as if
it were a body. I felt that it was too fat and had wrinkles.
From the rough voice I heard: "Do you also want to go to her, father?"
From the fat voice I heard, "Go first, my son--"
When Mr. Heinz came into the room, he made a frightened sound,
because I was laughing so much. And then he had to sneeze...
But I will soon forget this. I can no longer even remember when the
old Mr. Konrad Krause said he liked me. That was still nicer.
I only remember that the writing-table at which he sat was already
dark when I brought the tea. He asked who was in the house; I said:
"No one"--and wanted to pour the tea.. But he pointed to his thigh
and said: "sit down"--I said: "If I may"--and I sat down. He said:
"Put the teapot on the writing-table." I did that. And then we
looked at each other ardently, but I was very bashful. Suddenly he
took my hand and pressed it to his stomach. He said: "Beloved."
We trembled violently.
The family all come together once every month. The women with the
children meet in the afternoon.
Coffee is drunk. The children are sent away. The should play. They
must not hear everything.
But the women whisper. Their faces show concern. They are speaking
of someone who is very sick.
At twilight they tell stories about ghosts and miraculous cures.
They become frightened. They call the children. They press the
children to their breasts.
Then fruit is eaten.
The men come. Conversations about hair styles, about business. And
so on. The conversation moves haltingly. Suddenly stops, like a
defective clock. Fear that it will stop entirely. A young girl
blushes-But at one point everything is still. It feels suffocating.
It feels unsafe, like in a swing, helpless, like in a slide... it
feels ridiculous. One hears something like the wind sweeping across
the roofs. Rain beats against the grey windows.
There-Is it really so bad... with him--how should it turn out...
People avoid each other's eyes.
I am an employee of a bank. Because I have no patron, and I am not
especially hard-working, I am not getting ahead. For more than 30
years I have been shifting the same kind of papers around in the same
department. For this reason I am considered conscientious.
For the last six months I have had a new assistant. His name is
Leopold Lehmann. He knows everything better than I. He is the nephew
of the deputy director. He calls himself a trainee. He likes to
hear himself talk. Most of all he likes to talk about himself. As a
result, I know the story of his life.
Leopold Lehmann, as he emphasizes, was drawn in a clumsy manner from
the womb with a forceps. His head is misshapen, like a noodle. His
nose also. He has gone through the usual illnesses. He enjoys a
complicated form of syphillis. It has eaten holes the size of fists
in Lehmann's body.
Leopold Lehmann wishes to give up his duties in the bank, to study
theology. I believe that he has already given notice.
Lehmann associates exclusively with theologians and with me. And
with the deputy director.
He has sclerosis of the spinal cord.
Conversation about Legs
When I was sitting in the coupé, the gentleman opposite me said:
"Nobody can step on your toes."
I said: "How so?"
The gentleman said: "You have no legs."
I said: "Is it noticeable?"
The gentleman said: "Of course."
I took my legs out of my backpack. I had wrapped them in tissue
paper. And taken them with me as a memento.
The gentleman said: "What is that?"
I said: "my legs."
The gentleman said: "You have a leg up and yet get nowhere."
I said: "Unfortunately."
After a pause the gentleman said: "What do you think you’re really
going to do without legs?"
I said: "I haven’t racked my brain much about that yet."
The gentleman said: "Without legs even committing suicide is
I said: "Yet that’s a bad joke."
The gentleman said: "Not at all. If you want to hang yourself, first
you’ve got to get up on the window sill. And who will open the gas
jet for you if you want to poison yourself? You could only buy a
revolver secretly through a servant. But suppose the shot misses?
To drown yourself you’ve got to take an automobile and have yourself
carried down to the river on a stretcher by two attendants who have
to haul you to the far bank."
I said: "That’s for me to worry about."
The gentleman said: "You’re wrong, I’ve been thinking since you’ve
been siting here how one might get rid of you. Do you think that a
man without legs makes a sympathetic picture? Has the right to live?
On the contrary, you create a terrible disturbance for the aesthetic
feelings of your fellow human beings."
I said: "I am a full professor of ethics and aesthetics at the
university. May I introduce myself?"
The gentleman said: "How are you going to do that? Clearly you
cannot imagine how impossible you are, in your condition."
I looked sadly at my stumps.
Soon the lady opposite me said:
"To have no legs must be a very odd feeling."
I said: "Yes."
The lady said: "I would not like to touch a man who had no legs."
I said: "I am very clean."
The lady said: "I must overcome a great erotic disgust to speak with
you, not to mention looking at you."
I said: "Really..."
The lady said: "I don’t believe that you are a criminal. You might
be a wise and, in your original condition, nice person. But I could
not, with the best will in the world, have relations with you,
because you have no legs."
I said: "One gets used to everything."
The lady said: "That a man has no legs causes a naturally sensitive
woman to feel an inexplicable, profound terror. As though you had
committed a disgusting sin."
I said: "But I am innocent. I lost one leg in the excitement of
assuming my professorial chair for the first time, the other I lost
when, sunk in thought, I found that important aesthetic law which led
to basic changes in our discipline."
The lady said: "What is the name of that law?"
I said: "The law says: everything depends on the structure of the
soul and the mind. If soul and mind are noble, a body must be
considered beautiful, no matter how humped and misshapen it may be."
The lady ostentatiously lifted her dress and revealed, right up to
the top of her thigh, sheathed sumptuously in silk, wonderful legs,
that towered, like branches, from her ripe body.
At the same time the lady finally said: "You may be right, although
one might as easily argue the opposite. In any case, a person with
legs is totally different from one without them."
Then, striding proudly away, she left me sitting there.
Savior of the theater
Theaters should stop competing with the cinema. By doing so, they
are thereby achieving –--rejoice, friends of the theater – the
opposite of what they want: they are perishing.
The best way for these theaters to maintain themselves is to make
concessions to the cinema; they make neither concessions in the
selection of plays, nor in scope. This can be explained. What
movies – giving in to the instincts of the crowd – offer can never be
produced in the same dimensions and amount by theater, bound as it is
by its limits. Shaking its head, the public notices the helpless
effort. And runs to the movies. For what should bind the public
most to the theater: art, is for the most part shamefully neglected.
(As when makers of felt hats had the idea, when straw hats were worn
by everyone, to bring to the market felt hats shaped and colored like
Before movies came along, the many second-class theaters were by far
a much greater danger to the theater. Characteristically
organizations of this kind are threatened most by movies. Some will
remain for a while, because of the skill of their directors or
through other accidents. Second-class theater undoubtedly will die
out in a short time. The public, which found this sort of thing to
their taste, has, in the movies, a much more luxurious substitute:
death and homicide in abundance. Comedy until you burst. Juicy
melodrama. And the movie actor with his heavy-handed emphases – for
example, in a tragic, many-colored story of adultery (in period
costumes) – surpasses the hammy Hamlet in heart-gripping effect.
Theaters that want to survive are compelled to think again about what
they are doing. Directors must cultivate the pure art of theater.
Actors – in contrast to "filmers", or better still "ciners" or
"cinekers" – to maintain their reputations, must abandon all tricks
and gimmicks. The public that goes to the theater in spite of movies
is discriminating and can’t be taken in.
There cannot be too many movies. As a member of the cultural police
I would order that half a dozen be opened on every street.
The more people rush into the movies, the more a part of the fraud
will become tiresome. Of the hundred thousands who throng the movies,
a few hundred every year will return once more to the theater.
The number of theaters in the future will be smaller, but their
average quality will be disproportionately better. The incompetent
directors, dramatists, and other squabblers, who until now were
parasites on the theater, will find in movie-making a place more
suited to their capabilities. The many mediocre and bad actors who
now help keep prices down and block the way will become wonderful
cinikers. A talented shoemaker in the future will not go to theater
schools but to film schools. Lispers, cripples, hunchbacks, mutes,
and similar handicapped mimes will be able, more easily and more
happily, to find relief in the movies.
(The cinema of boundless possibilities…)
But the theater, thanks to the movies free of hindering ballast and
harmful influences, will have to return to the sacred dramatic art.
CHAPTER FROM A FRAGMENTARY NOVEL
translated by Harry Radford
Doctor Bryller did become a senior teacher after all. A furious
enemy of his had predicted such a destiny years ago, in the
out-of-date periodical "The Other A". At that time he was deeply
distressed about this insight of his enemy, the truth of which, after
thinking intensely about it, he could not deny. He wrote an
intemperate article which was not accepted for publication anywhere.
And one evening he got a little drunk on French sparkling wine, to
kill the innate fear which prevented him from beating up his enemy.
But his cowardice did not leave him, even in drunkenness.
Unspeakably unhappy, he gave up the idea of taking revenge.
Now in earnest he began to live a solitary and transfigured life. He
let this be known in an in flammatory manner, just as he had so often
done when announcing the agenda of a new trend in art. And with the
profoundest solemnity, as though he were at an important funeral. He
even exploited his failure in order to feel superior. In point of
fact, he lived hardly differently than before. The only change was
that he had actually become more hopeless in an emotional sense. Now
he had to calm himself with the thought: Even if I could achieve what
I wanted to, I would achieve nothing. While previously his line of
thinking ran: Unfortunately it is indeed true that I can achieve
nothing, but what I can achieve is rather good.
Practically minded as Berthold Bryller was in certain ways, he was
able to cast his weaknesses in common human terms, so that the
despair, which at first had revealed itself in hysterical attacks of
a special kind, soon gave way--except in rare conditions--to a
feeling of lofty indifference. He still wrote his impudent and
careless letters, which did him considerable harm; he published
particularly clever, slightly demented essays in the few journals
with whose editors he didn't happen to be quarreling with; he founded
both clubs which then expelled him, and periodicals in which he was
attacked. Everywhere, and in other ways, he continued to make
himself impossible even by his very presence. The uninitiated might
interpret his absence from the Café Klößchen as a sign of his inward
transformation, if it were not for a poster fixed to the door of the
No admittance to Bryller!
which suggested that an argument with the manager was the reason for
But gradually the hopelessness of his literary existence became
inescapable to Doctor Bryller, who was certainly no idiot. In
addition, his funds for the foreseeable future were exhausted. So,
incapable of killing himself if it were to become necessary, he had
to focus his energy on working to earn a living. His writing
activity was financially unsuccessful. He would not have the heart
to take a permanent literary job--something like an editorship--aside
from the fact that no one would take him. What other option did he
have but to use the rest of his money to continue his interrupted
university training, take the necessary state examinations, and then
find himself a secure and pleasant position as a senior teacher. In
point of fact, this profession seemed thoroughly comfortable to him.
Convinced of the incorrigibility of human imperfection, which he had
experienced first hand, and utterly convinced of the complete
uselessness of physical and intellectual striving, he gladly gave
free rein to any and all base impulse. He could satisfy his cravings
for power, his other ambitions, even his erotic needs, most readily
as a senior teacher.
Despite his moodiness and frequent peculiar behaviour, Doctor Bryller
was one of the most popular teachers at the Horror High School. The
small pupils idolized him, the bigger ones clung to him passionately.
Of course there also were pupils who didn't like him. For example,
the second-year pupil Max Mechenmal whose face he had slapped a few
times without obvious reason. This could have had the most
unpleasant consequences for Doctor Berthold Bryller. On the occasion
of the teacher meeting called by director Rudolf Richter after the
highly indignant complaint of the pupil, a large majority of the
colleagues, unlike the pupils, turned out to have unfriendly feelings
for the Doctor. When he, questioned about why he had pupil,
smilingly replied that Mechenmal displeased him, they wanted to
recommend to the authorities, following the suggestion of the
respected colleague Lothar Laaks, that he be removed for a
considerable time for the purpose of mental recovery in a sanatorium.
Only the happenstance that the aggrieved pupil Mechenmal was hated
equally by teachers and pupils, because of his overfriendly
awkwardness and his malicious secret rabble-rousing, impeded such a
decision. Although colleague Laaks--the only one who found words of
appreciation for Mechenmal--advocated it heatedly with the use of
much dirty dialectic. The colleagues were content to warn Doktor
Bryller of the inappropriateness of his behavior.
One day, about a half year before the final incarceration of Berthold
Bryller for life, in an insane asylum subsidized by the state, a
yelling arose in the schoolyard of the Horror High School. A crowd
of mostly smaller pupils surged behind a dwarfish, care-worn,
lop-sided boy whose back showed the slight beginnings of a hump.
They teased him cheerfully and spitefully--the words were
unintelligible because of the noise but surely malicious. He was
pushed so that he stumbled. Many older high school pupils looked on,
amused at the lively rough-housing. Even senior teacher Laaks, who
was supervising, failed to suppress an amused smile. In a window was
the motionless face of Doctor Bryller.
The malformed boy continued walking without defending himself. With
bent head. Often he had to wipe his eyes with his hand. Only once,
when one of most impudent youths – who else but the second-year pupil
Mechenmal--spat into his face while the others raucously clapped
approval, did he throw himself sobbing deeply against the attacker,
who immediately ran away. Through the middle of the shrieking crowd,
which blocked his way in all directions, the crying humpback pursued
his schoolmate. Perhaps he would have reached Mechenmal if the
perennial fourth-year pupil Spinoza Spass hadn't suddenly grasped his
hump as if with a hook. Spinoza Spass grinned comfortably and
maliciously into the monkey-shaped, longingly apathetic face, as he
propelled the little despairing Kohn like a weight slowly through the
sunny spring air. By this heroic deed he became one of the most
famous fourth-year pupils of the Horror High School.
Some sympathetic older high school pupils put an early end to the
strange spectacle. The gaunt, pale senior Paulus snatched the tiny
unfortunate boy from the venemously peering Spass and threatened to
beat up anyone who annoyed the lop-sided little Kohn further. For
fear of Paulus and some other like-minded boys, they left the flushed
humpback in peace--at least for the time being. He walked along,
pressing himself against the gray walls. And would have most happily
sunk into the ground. When the school bell rang, he was glad to
disappear into the classrooms.
The senior Peter Paulus was already walking along the somewhat dark
corridor to the spacious room in which the parish priest Leopold
Lehmann gave Hebrew lessons to the pupils in the upper classes, when
the senior teacher Laaks caught up with him, called to him, and
engaged him in a mysterious, very excited conversation. Laaks was
apparently reprimanding Paulus. It was strange, however, that he
didn't look like a teacher chastising a pupil, but rather like a
mistrustful relative who believes himself taken advantage of in an
inheritance matter. The behavior of the senior was also by no means
the behavior of a subordinate...
The discussion between the two must have lasted a very long time.
For when Peter Paulus entered more pale than usual and explained that
his late arrival was caused by an official conversation, the priest
Lehmann had long since concluded the topic of that day’s curriculum.
He was engaged in a religious discussion which, following the modern
trend, he linked regularly to the Hebrew lesson. They were speaking
at the moment about God and the nature of student life, but came,
after a few unimportant discussions, to the main topic: abortion and
the inner life, which gave them pause. The discussion was triggered
by a report in an art journal that someone had cut out and brought
for the purpose of discussion. The priest read out loud:
Collapse of the famous dancer Lola Lalà
A correspondent has wired us that the famed variety dancer Lola Lalà,
who also appears under the name Lo Lálalà and whose maiden name is
Leni Levi, had to be taken to a lunatic asylum, which caused a
tremendous sensation. The pitiful woman had been found toward
morning in a wheat field, stark naked in her birthday suit, crying
bitterly and smoking a large cigar. Mr Gottschalk Schulz, a poet of
sensitivity, has published a moving poem about this in the "Newspaper
for Enlightened Citizens". It has a piquant attraction because--so
it is rumored and probably correctly--the poet maintained quite warm
relations with the poor and charming dancer. Therefore this
beautiful poem will not be withheld from our readers:-The poem had
the heading: Smoke on the Field. The priest didn't read it out,
however, because it was too smutty. Also it was not relevant.
Instead he read:
As I learn further from a special, authentic source in the late
evening, the cause of the mental collapse of the dancer is said to
have been a fright caused by a burglary that happened after an
abortion that was carried out successfully. A court-ordered
investigation is underway.
After this the priest started to talk about abortion by saying:
"Human knowledge reaches its pinnacle in the realization that he is
the most highly developed earthly being. No one can deny this." He
didn't notice the deliberately exaggerated and suppressed laughter of
a few boys. And he slowly continued. He condemned abortion as
disagreeable to God from a religious and socio-political point of
view. In conclusion, he said: "We are modern. We don't shrink from
treating offensive questions with moral seriousness."
The only one who contradicted him was Peter Paulus. He
fell--outwardly calm--into such a rage that he said: "If I were a
doctor, Father, I myself would--". In reply the priest said heatedly:
"Do you believe in God, Paulus?" And Peter Paulus said only: "No".
A few minutes before the end of the class, he was expelled from the
Hebrew lesson because of social democratic leanings and godlessness.
He left defiantly. Slammed the door.
When the widowed prison chaplain Christian Kohn had to give his only
child, who was mentally ill and had heart disease, to an institution,
he adopted--nobody knows why--a little cripple. There was much
gossip. The most obstinate rumor was that the cripple, Kuno, was a
natural son of the chaplain. The mother was said to be the popular
Trude, who had been convicted of manslaughter after shooting her
disloyal pimp. Trude had been pardoned, with the rejoicing approval
of the whole village, because it had turned out that she was pregnant.
It was claimed that the sympathetic chaplain had caused Trude's
pregnancy. But this was not proved.
Kuno Kohn spent the half-awake first part of his youth in the dreary
stone rooms and yards of the penitentiary. His adoptive father had
little concern for the boy. He was absent for weeks at a time. Left
in the care of a morose servant, whose main occupation was to manage
the miserable financial affairs of the chaplain, and lacking
sufficient care, lacking playmates, lacking stimulation and love, the
crippled child could not develop. Remained always dwarfish. He
slunk around, pale and dreamy. Intimidated and timorous. Toward
evening, bold shadows and horrific noises teemed on the twisty stairs
with their grated windows, and in the great gloomy halls and passages.
A more robust boy would have ignored such peripheral things, if he
had noticed them at all. But on Kuno Kohn the most insignificant
thing left a deep impression, the most minor thing had meaning, and
horrified him. Everywhere and from everything he feared disaster.
Nothing was familiar to him. The eternal fear made him into a little
darting ghost himself, and gave his consumptive eyes a phosphorescent
glow. If he was sent out late at night, perhaps to get milk or
kerosene, he would pray in feverish fervor to dear God. He would
come back breathless and white as chalk.
More than anything, Kuno Kohn was afraid of the thousand-fold
darkness before falling asleep. In the past, a tiny lamp had been
put into the room for him; the reddish melancholy glow calmed him a
little. On the soft wall the strangest grimaces and battles appeared,
but also tin soldiers marching and a delightful jumble of fairies
and cake plates and queens, until sleep came. After a time, the
chaplain decided not to allow any more such mollycoddling of the soul
of his son. Kuno would have to live in the dark. Gone was the tiny
bit of visibility. The innumerable incomprehensible events of chaos
rolled about the little boy. More of the world pressed into the
small bedroom of the humpback than the entire day had contained.
Kuno Kohn had lost the body that was supposed to lie in the bed: only
fright and helplessness and longing were left. The worst was when
the desolate indistinctness took on the shape of visions or touches.
The Kohn boy then cried out despairingly. Either the cry was not
heard by anyone or it carried no clear meaning. In prisons there are
always yells in the night from somewhere. Kuno often lay for a long
time, until the unfathomable hole, which had so many incomprehensible
contents, admitted the lively pictures that brought dreams and sleep:
burglars, or perhaps a hackney cab journey in the sun, a visit to his
little ill brother, a game with street children, the dear, sad angel
eyes of Maria Müller, for whom he would gladly die.
The prisoners were Kuno Kohn's good acquaintances. Not the guards;
these were indeed quite friendly to him but there was an instinctive
suspicion underneath. On the other hand, the ruffians and gamblers,
sex killers and robbers, the most famous burglars, and most of the
other distinguished old-established residents welcomed the little
humpback warmly, by a slight nod of the head or almost imperceptible
grin, whenever he came to watch with wide-open dreamy eyes the silent
gray work. Only the fences, profiteers, confidence men, defrauders,
swindlers, most of the bankrupts and some of the pimps, remained
indifferent. In the course of the year, Kuno Kohn had made friends
particularly with the youthful burglar Benjamin. The two often sat
for hours together. If the guards looked the other way... Benjamin
spoke enthusiastically to the humpback. Of sun. And freedom. And
of the redemption of mankind. Kuno Kohn arranged Benjamin's secret
traffic with the outside world and did various favors for his friend;
he provided him with cigarettes, books, small tools. When once a
volume of Goethe and a little cigarette ash were found in Benjamin's
cell, Kohn was suspected. After the escape of the burglar, which
happened shortly afterwards, which could have happened only with
outside help, a message was sent to the clergyman. He forbade his
son the company of the prisoners. The guards were not allowed to let
him in any more.
The great problems that tormented Kuno Kohn constantly, as soon as he
was able to get his thoughts together to some degree, were mainly
death and God. At the age of four or five he did not believe in
death, at least not in his own. And he prayed to the dear God daily
before he lay down to sleep. "I am small, my heart is pure, no one
shall live there but God alone". But if he had done something during
the day that seemed sinful to him--and that almost always
happened--he would add (sitting in bed or standing if it was
particularly bad) long and remorseful monologues until he fell asleep,
overfatigued, with fingers still folded and tears in his eyes. If
darkness and fear came, he always prayed. Gradually his doubts
increased, to the point where he had to believe in his own death and
abandon his faith in God. When he started school, there began the
fullness of suffering which some children find there.
NOTES ABOUT THE NOVEL
Lunatic asylum: Bryller, Lola.
Drowning in the sea: Kohn, Maria.
Suicide: Schulz, Paulus.
Surviving: Spinoza Spass, Laaks, Mechenmal.
I. Appearance in the schoolyard. Peter Paulus for Kohn, Laaks
against him (Kohn had filled his pants, Max Mechenmal). Later, Kohn
joining Paulus against Laaks. Jealousy scenes. Because of Laaks'
intrigues, Paulus fails the College Board Exam and shoots himself
dead. Farewell letters (touching for Kohn, official funeral, Kohn
runs away from it).
Senior teacher Dr. Bryller takes no action, even encourages Paulus,
his favorite pupil, to kill himself: Kill yourself before it is too
late (as long as you are still capable of it). It doesn't have any
purpose, of course, but will give you something like satisfaction.
(God is a temporal phenomenon.)
The corpse was carried well-packed in a box to the graveyard, where
it was buried for eternity under a cloakroom marker.
II. Scene Kohn, Laaks in bathtub.
Laaks made an attack on Max's femininity.--Laaks and Kohn meet. Kohn
greets him, Laaks catches up. Invites him to visit. "No, Mr Laaks".
Kohn trembles--"Would you like to take a bath?"--"I have already
bathed."--Moonlight shines on the two in the bathtub. In hairy
nakedness--his hairy legs, like a woman's--a man's man.
III. Scene in homosexual bar.
(You see, my boy, that's life--he pinched him tenderly on the bottom.)
IV. Abortion scene.
The variety dancer Lola Lalà: The clever woman said jokingly: When
women break down, they remain standing for a long time.--Farewell,
young lady. Lola Lalà, alias Lene Levi, runs as though insane.
V. Burglary scene at Lola's:
--The professional burglar Benjamin, lying under the bed, didn't
know what to think. His head shook and his skull hit a senseless
bedpost, which gave off a fixed tone. Benjamin was frightened. The
lamp fell over. The curtains ignited immediately.
Suddenly she (Lola Lalà) also became frightened. Everything slurped
up by licking fire. Ran out. Shut the door. Locked it. Twice.
Senseless. Suddenly, pitiful masculine shouts from behind the door:
Help, help. She screamed: Murderer, murderer, murderer. Ran. Onto
the street in the peace of the evening: People coming out of houses.
Helpless. She ran by all of them. Murderer, murderer... A crazy
woman came up behind her. A dog catcher was able to grasp her.
Murderer, murderer. Took her in an open hackney cab and through the
town. Murderer, murderer. Windows go up, cars stop. Running about.
Into lunatic section of the hospital.
In the meantime, burning room. Burglar Benjamin thrashing at the
window: Help. Forbidden action. Help. One shouldn’t become a
social democrat that way. Wailing: a police trap, to let decent
people burn in a fire. Help, help. Fire department comes. Help.
Water sprays him. From the frying pan into the fire. He can even
jump right now into the river. Drowns.
When the half-decayed corpse was pulled from the water, the doctor,
still drunk, began to make bad jokes. Dr. Bryller vomited.
All talking, thinking, writing is useless; a corpse pulled from the
water, lying dead in front of you, ruins everything written with its
terrible distortion. See how the face and the hands are rigid as
though clamped in iron! As though they are screaming to get out of
VI. Lunatic asylum scene: the insane red-haired sister of Martin
"The earth is getting dark", said Maria, the insane red-haired sister
of Martin Müller. (She loves her brother). She strokes little Kohn,
but says: "I can love only saints". All around were the melodies of
the evening, which conceal everything as with a silk veil: the green
trees, the longing earth, the bench with the red-haired girl and the
In the lunatic asylum: one inmate, a lady with hair already rather
gray, said: "If one stops here too long, one stays."--A modern writer
who imagines he is there only to study the milieu, but who has, in
reality, a softening of the brain, etc.
VII. Kohn's first lover (on Laaks' order): Hysterical person, the
bugs really crept around in the kitchen.
VIII. The end of Dr. Bryller.
IX. Schulz the writer and Kitty the cocotte.
(Kitty said "Not so loud" as Schulz was telling her about God.)
X. Lecture of the scholar Neumann:
Sensation: A barely sixteen year old scholar named Neumann speaks
about maternity regulations and the bringing up of children--it
doesn't seem to him the place to talk about fallen girls--women have
understood that it is right and proper to stay where they belong--the
misery of prostitution--posed gestures. Voice. Raise the eyebrows.
I must express myself in extremes. I must decidedly condemn zionism
as a special variety of prostitution. Maternity regulations: The
mother must be protected against her children (new sensational
concept), a lady said.--She, a German specialist, contributed to the
debate: "In the place where you have left your faith, there you must
XI. Kohn’s second lover: Teenager (in one hand she had an illustrated
He loved her in this way: He frequently made a note if she said
something funny to use it later (literarily). But in a cafe on a
pond--everywhere it was already evening, and haze hung like veil on
the trees and tables and waiters--he took out his notebook from the
torn inside pocket of his overcoat and read to her quietly... She
laughed and he laughed--more quietly and sadly. Each thought: This
isn't the right thing... she thought further: he isn't thoughtful...
he thought further: the poor thing, how distant she is from me...
then they went rowing.
XII. Bar scene in Nuremberg: Kunstmayer.
They are all blissfully drunk and can hardly speak clearly anymore.
Slurring, someone says: "Dede do dadä". – What are these brutish
sleepers worth?--"See how the gaze of this worker is turned inward
like an ox's eye ", said Paulus.
"The upper-crust ten thousand rule the world", grumbled the waiter
bitterly; then he played a wild variation of "Sweetie, You Are the
Apple of My Eye" on a mouth organ. From time to time, he beat
against the edge of a table. He rubbed his hand clean on his sleeve
or trouser leg.
Karl Kunstmayer, a revue performer down on his luck: I like to tell
dirty jokes... a great guy, philosophically tip-top, but is too
ideal-They were in a melancholy mood. Kunstmayer sang quietly: "The
girls like this so much".
XIII. Drowning in the sea.
I am afraid that the girl has also drowned. My rival had an accident
at sea (drowned). "It is vulgar that you can at most only make a
poem about this, or suddenly find the ending for a story", yelled the
dead Kohn. While they walked along, they found white newspaper
flyers about the event everywhere.--"That is a brutality", said
another. "This is the correct expression".--"Finally!" sighed
another, relieved. Kohn yelled: "But I don't want to have an ending
for a story. That is vulgar. I'm losing my mind. I want to inflame
you. I want to torment you, not satisfy you. You must moan and wail.
You must dissolve in pain." The dead Kohn was not noticed.
A thunderstorm was making a racket. The detective Daniel woke with a
start from his sleep. He said: "Damned disturbance of the peace".
There was an agitated knock on the door. The dancer Lola Lalà came
"There are much too few burglars", detective Daniel said. "There are
fewer murderers than you think", Daniel said, calming the anxious
He took the young thing, after he had first inquired about her age,
having in mind only erotic things, planning to speak words of love to
her and privately making fun of it; in other words, he is a downright
bad fellow. Somewhat proud of knowing just how bad a character he
was, he calmed himself down and decided to rape the girl.
"Kuno Kohn is the same in green as pupil Else Lasker is in blue",
If he wanted to get rid of a girl, he told her in a wonderfully
touching way about his syphilis, presenting himself as a martyr who
is making a sacrifice for the sake of her health. Most girls, crying,
took him for an important and very noble man. Only one asked
impudently one time why he didn't say that before.
Contrast between the devil-may-care skillful nihilism of Bryller and
the pure despair of Paulus.
Senior teacher Laaks
I have longing, love and who knows what else for her.--Funny things
She boasted about her now-and-then and piece-wise virginity.
She said: as already mentioned, I am visibly frightened.--I find this
silly, with good reason.--These really short lines.--He loves me only
erotically.--In fact, I always lie.--He was very fond of me.--As is
well known, every dancer has a friend.--
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