Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Translation of "Der Wetterfleck," a Short Story from 1967 by Thomas Bernhard

The Weatherproof Cape

From the Innsbruck lawyer Enderer, our guardian, we received  the following (verbatim) account…for twenty years, mainly in the Saggengasse and mainly at around midday, I have been crossing paths with this person without knowing who this person is; complementarily, for twenty years, mainly in the Saggengasse and mainly at around midday, this man has been crossing paths with me, without knowing who I am…moreover, the man hails from the Saggengasse, albeit from the upper Saggengasse, whereas I hail from the lower Saggengasse; both of us grew up in the Saggengasse and in point of fact, I think, I have always seen this person without knowing that he hails from the Saggengasse and without knowing who he is; complementarily this person has known nothing about me…now it occurs to me that there is something I should have noticed about this person, that I should have noticed his weatherproof cape…we cross paths with a person for years, decades, without knowing who this person is and if we ought to notice anything about the person, we notice nothing about the person, and we could cross paths with such a person over the course of an entire life without noticing anything about the person… suddenly we notice something about this person with whom we have been crossing paths for two decades, we notice something, be it his weatherproof cape, be it something else entirely; suddenly I noticed this person’s weatherproof cape and in connection with this I noticed that the man lived in the Saggengasse and was partial to taking walks along the Sill…a week ago this person accosted me in the Herrengasse and this man went up with me into my office; as we were climbing the stairs it became clear to me that “you have been seeing this person for two full decades, always the same person, always the same aging individual in the Saggengasse, at around midday in this weatherproof cape, in this quite ordinary but quite definitely worn-out weatherproof cape”; still, as we were climbing the stairs it was not yet clear to me why the weatherproof cape in particular was arousing my attention; suddenly, at close proximity, the weatherproof cape was arousing my undivided attention…but it really is quite an ordinary weatherproof cape, I thought; there are tens of thousands of such weatherproof capes in these mountains, there are tens of thousands of such weatherproof capes; tens of thousands of such weatherproof capes are worn by the Tyrolians…no matter who these people are, no matter what they do, when they come here they wear all these weatherproof capes, some of them gray, some of them green; because they wear all these weatherproof capes, the numerous loden factories in the valleys keep flourishing; these weatherproof capes are exported to every corner of the world, but there is something quite distinctive about the weatherproof cape of my new client: its buttonholes are trimmed in kidskin!  I have seen these kidskin-trimmed buttonholes only once before in my life, namely on the weatherproof cape of my uncle, who drowned eight years ago in the lower Sill…this man is wearing exactly the same weatherproof cape as my drowned uncle: that is what I am thinking as I walk up to my office with the man…suddenly I recall that when they pulled my Uncle Worringer out of the Sill, opinion had been divided whether his drowning had been an act of desperation or an accident, but I am certain that it was with so-called suicidal intent that Worringer threw himself into the Sill; for me there can be no doubt about it; Worringer killed himself; everything in his life and ultimately everything in his business life pointed to suicide…by the time they were looking for the drowned man upstream of the glass factory he had already been washed up on to the riverbank downstream of Pradl; the newspapers devoted entire pages to the incident; our entire family was hauled into public view by the press; the phrases a ruined business, ruined timber, a defunct saw-works, and finally economic and corporate ruin haunted the journalists’ sensation-mongering minds…the funeral in Wilten was one of the biggest there has ever been; I remember thousands of people in attendance, writes Enderer…it’s remarkable, I say to the man with whom I am climbing the stairs leading to my office, that I can’t get your weatherproof cape out of my head; several times the thought of your weatherproof cape has popped into my head…your weatherproof cape, believe it or not…I could not help thinking but did not say, there is the most intimate connection between your weatherproof cape and my uncle’s; who knows whether the man knows what I am talking about, I thought and I invite the man to step into the office, step inside! I say, because the man is hesitating, next I am inside the office and taking off my coat and the man is coming in…it looks as though the man was waiting for me in the front doorway of the building; today I am twenty minutes behind schedule, I think, and then: what does this man want?  I am irritated by his taciturnity and his weatherproof cape in alternation; as soon as we were both inside the office, I was more clearly able to see, better able to see, after I had turned the light on, that the buttonholes of the man’s weatherproof cape were trimmed with kidskin, with black kidskin, and I discerned that my new client’s weatherproof cape had been tailored exactly like the weatherproof cape of my Uncle Worringer, tailored in the simplest manner.  I tell the man he really must take a seat, that first thing of all I must see to the heating of the office, that I am alone, that my secretary is ill, influenza, I say, the flu; I must light a fire, but last night I got everything ready in advance, I say, so that getting the office heated won’t present the slightest difficulties now, I tell the man he really must take a seat; he takes a seat; this foggy atmosphere, I say, everything is obscured in gloom, this time of the year exacts the utmost discipline, one must master oneself and pull through; the sentence was rapidly uttered, for all its weightiness; at the same time I thought, what a preposterous sentence, these superfluous, preposterous matutinal sentences, I thought; everything is subjected to a colossal test of its endurance, I say, the body, the intellect, the head, the body.  Quite naturally when people come in here, they keep their coats on, and my new client is likewise keeping on his weatherproof cape; now in the office he seemed to feel colder than in the doorway; it won’t be long before it warms up, I say; once the heat is on, I say, the warmth spreads quickly; I made a point of emphasizing to him the excellent quality of my American cast-iron stove; I made a remark about the insalubriousness of central heating; I kept saying, it’s much too dark for office work; you can part the curtains, but it doesn’t do any good, turn on more lamps, but it doesn’t do any good, there is, I thought, a certain uncanniness about this situation, about being in my gloomy office in the morning with a strange person, a person who is wrapped up in his weatherproof cape, but when you consider, I say, that the shortest day of the year is only four weeks from now; I said this to no effect; I spoke about every possible thing while I was standing at the stove, but I was exclusively preoccupied by my new client’s weatherproof cape.  Wilten has never experienced anything like it, I say, thousands of people; the new client gives me the impression that he is a real estate broker, a procurer of properties, these people wear such weatherproof capes in such a posture and have these kinds of faces, I thought; or perhaps the man is a cattle dealer, I think; I immediately thought, he is a real estate broker, one of these men who roam around in their weatherproof capes and look like the poorest of the poor and yet they are absolute masters of the real estate market of the inner Alps; on the other hand, the man may be a cattle dealer, because of course he has also kept his hat on, I think, which suggests that he is a cattle dealer; I didn’t get a look at his hands; his head was very thin; you can recognize the cattle dealers from the fact that they keep their hats on even when they step into a lawyer’s office; they sit down immediately and keep their hats on; the man had introduced himself to me on the staircase, I thought, but I had forgotten his name, but now I thought: a familiar name, a typically Tyrolian name.  Suddenly I remembered that the man’s name was Humer.  Humer?  I ask; Humer, says the man.  I wanted to know what he wanted, but I did not say: what brings you to me?, and I did not think what brings you to me either; I simply say: this law firm is the oldest law firm in all of Innsbruck.  My father was head of this law firm; back then we were more involved in real estate cases; on the one hand it is an advantage when a law firm is so old, on the other hand it is a disadvantage; I asked myself, why are you saying this?, the preposterousness of this utterance struck me even as I was uttering it, but that didn’t prevent me from uttering yet another specimen of preposterousness; I said: the location of this office is ideal.  But this utterance, just like the preceding one, had no visible effect on the new client, and that undoubtedly is what he is, I thought.  Because the man remained obdurately silent, and, on the other hand, my time had become too precious to permit him to continue being silent—veritable mountains of documents for me to attend to had piled up in the preceding few weeks—I said: people come to me about things that have happened here in Innsbruck.  In such cases one must be intimately familiar with the history of the city, I said, and I attempted to tidy up the clutter on top of my desk; documents, nothing but documents, I said, thoughtlessness and indifference cause one to speak an unending succession of sentences, sentences and vestiges of sentences, such lifeless sentences and such lifeless vestiges of sentences, but I had just said documents, nothing but documents to Humer for the very first time, I thought, and at the same time, I thought: the man has noticed that you have already said documents, nothing but documents hundreds and thousands of times.  I suddenly found myself getting quite exasperated by the whole situation and while glancing at my watch, I said: we must get down to business.  But it was quite a long time indeed before we got down to business.  By this I mean that instead of divulging to me the reason for his presence in my office, the man made several to my mind completely insignificant remarks about his parentage, the suburb he had been born in, his sheltered, utterly haphazard upbringing, his deplorable childhood, and so forth; he said something about his business relationships, said that he could not afford to buy a train ticket to visit his sister in Linz; he talked about some periods spent in hospital, about some difficult operations on his internal organs, in describing which operations he kept uttering the words kidney (in connection with colds) and liver (owing to alcoholism); he said that all his life he had enjoyed walking up and down along the Sill, not up and down along the Inn, he expressly emphasized, but up and down along the Sill; ultimately, he said, his life was nothing but a repetition of repetition, and that it was very rapidly exhausting itself in monotony.  I suddenly got the impression that I was dealing with a madman, with one of those thousands of madmen who roam about the Tyrolian valleys and gorges with their madness and never manage to find an exit from their madness (from Tyrol).  I now said that it really would be all right by me if he, Humer, were to tell me the reason for his presence in my office.  To which Humer said: I am the owner of the funeral laundry in the Saggengasse.  He said that he had already come to the door of my office twice, but as everybody knew that lawyers had a lot of things to do in court, and that it was scarcely possible to catch up with them in their offices, he had waited for me downstairs in the front doorway of the building…as the office very rapidly warmed up, I got the feeling that the man was getting colder and colder; he was withdrawing further and further into his weatherproof cape…the old, thick walls, I said; I was about to say the old thick walls never get warm, but I did not say that, because it struck me as preposterous to say that, so I simply said: the old, thick walls.  I think, my uncle’s weatherproof cape has six buttonholes; I immediately count the buttonholes on Humer’s weatherproof cape and count them once again, a third time, always from top to bottom and from bottom to top and I think, Humer’s weatherproof cape also has got six buttonholes, six buttonholes trimmed with black kidskin, which leads me to think that Humer’s weatherproof cape must be my Uncle Worringer’s…but I did not say that, because it struck me as preposterous to say that, but then I straight-away say something about the weatherproof cape while saying something about the upper Saggengasse; when it comes to coping with these constant river overflow-induced inundations of the upper Saggengasse, I said, Humer nodded, I said, no garment is more useful than a weatherproof cape like yours; granted, everybody wears these weatherproof capes, I said, but your weatherproof cape is a special weatherproof cape; it has buttonholes trimmed with kidskin.  But Huber did not react to this at all; or, rather, he did not react to it as I had expected him to.  He said he had never sought out a lawyer before, that I was the first, the first one he had come across, he confessed; there had been no recommendation, he said, no, no recommendation.  For twenty years I crossed paths with you, he said, but I never knew you were a lawyer…you simply went into this office building, I thought, into this old office building…owner of the funeral laundry in the Saggengasse; so the man is neither a real estate broker nor a cattle dealer…Obviously I am familiar with your business establishment, I said; what did I have to gain from telling the lie that I was obviously familiar with his business establishment; you are always saying things that are not true, I thought; then I thought, it makes no difference to me what the man thinks…for a certain amount of time a person resists seeking out legal counsel, but then eventually the moment comes when he does seek out legal counsel; suddenly, a person no longer has any choice and he goes to see a lawyer…the most depressed of all depressives are people who seek out a lawyer because they have no way out and doubtless Humer is such a person, I thought…you have the choice of either killing yourself or going to a lawyer, says Humer, writes Enderer; when Humer said that I started to take an interest in his situation…now, writes Enderer, I was interested in everything having to do with this case that had all of a sudden become quite personally distressing and constricting…the man was now speaking very calmly without the slightest degree of animation and without digressing at all, as I noted; he confined himself strictly to matters of fact, writes Enderer, with all the unadorned monotony of a man in total despair…I am not generally moved by the people who seek me out, writes Enderer, but this man was an exception…suddenly, Humer says, writes Enderer: I recognize the people I cross paths with by their clothes; I see their clothes, not their faces.  Their feet, yes, their faces, no.  I first look at their shoes.  That’s where we’re different, I said; I see the face immediately.  So for twenty years he failed to see my face and saw only my clothes; whereas I for twenty years saw his face but failed to see his clothes; whence, writes Enderer, the fact that I never saw his weatherproof cape…How long have you had that weatherproof cape of yours anyway? I all of a sudden said and Humer replied Many years; he did not say four or five or three or eight or ten or twelve years, as I had hoped he would; he said many years; his was doubtless a completely worn-out, but for all that still warm weatherproof cape, I thought, eight years ago my uncle fell into the Sill; in my opinion Humer’s weatherproof cape is even older, about ten years old; my uncle’s weatherproof cape was new, a year old at most…but I did not ask Humer where he had gotten the weatherproof cape from, although it would have been the most obvious thing in the world to ask: so where did you get that weatherproof cape from?  So where did you buy that weatherproof cape?; I did not ask, I kept listening for some time, as he said Many years.  I couldn’t get it out of my head; the man could say whatever he liked, I only kept hearing Many years, and the buttonholes are trimmed with black kidskin, I thought; first he tended to look at the shoes, then, naturally, at the hems of the trousers, said Humer, writes Enderer, and because of this I never see anybody’s face, because of this I never saw your (my) face, writes Enderer; this is also owing to his stooped posture, I thought; Humer’s upper body was crooked; the man’s spinal column was quite acutely crooked, I noticed, as I observed Humer, who was no longer huddled in the weatherproof cape; it was crooked to a degree I had never before seen in anybody’s spinal column…he said he took a keen interest in the quality of a person’s shoes and the quality of his trousers, in the kind of suit or dress he or she was wearing; he had an equally pronounced sensitivity to fabrics and other materials, to different types of leather…he would ask himself is it genuine leather, calfskin, cowskin? kidskin? or: is it perchance an English type of fabric? I never notice the face, he said and he shrugged his shoulders and in so doing made himself even more miserable-looking…several times he repeated never the face, never the face…but I have quite a precise knowledge of your face, I said, writes Enderer; in the blink of an eye I had perceived that it was necessary for me to say something in my turn, for me to say something of my own now that Humer, after having said a great deal, had fallen silent and I said: I have had extremely precise knowledge of you for quite a long time now, and to this I gratuitously added your face is utterly and thoroughly extraordinary; I was immediately conscious of the gaucheness of this expression; I couldn’t help thinking that my interlocutor had to be sensible of the infamousness of expressions like your face is utterly and thoroughly extraordinary and I said: I am different from you, who always look at people’s shoes and at the hems of their trousers; I always look straight at their faces, into their faces.  After a pause: I take no interest in people’s clothing; I am interested only in their faces and several times I repeated this, I take no interest in what people are wearing, I am interested only in their faces…when I am looking into their faces, I know a great deal about these people, I said, writes Enderer; I thought, these people who are running all over the place in their gray and green weatherproof capes and getting on one another’s nerves in their weatherproof capes and I suddenly said aloud to my interlocutor: when you’ve got a weatherproof cape like that one there’s not a storm in the world that can do you any harm! as I silently said to myself, you hate everything having to do with these weatherproof capes; despite this I once again said: there is nothing more useful than a weatherproof cape like that one, and the longer you sport a weatherproof cape like that one, I said, I actually said sport, which is unacceptable, it is absolutely unacceptable to say sport, and the longer you sport a weatherproof cape like that one, the better; one gets used to sporting such a garment, I said; I could not get the thought that in Humer’s weatherproof cape I was dealing with the weatherproof cape of my uncle who had drowned in the Sill eight years earlier out of my mind; on the one hand I was interested in Humer’s fate, on the other hand I was interested in his weatherproof cape; it was unclear to me which of the two I was more interested in, in Humer’s weatherproof cape or in Humer’s fate, but truth to tell I was much more interested in Humer’s weatherproof cape as his fate, and hence, as had long since come to light, much less interested in Humer’s catastrophe, the catastrophe of this person, than in his weatherproof cape; I did not ask: where did you get that weatherproof cape anyway? it is possible, I thought, that one must ask a man like Humer directly; indirectness will get you nowhere, but I did not ask him; the whole time I deliberated whether to ask him, but I did not ask him, on the one hand I was curious about how Humer would answer if I were to ask him: where did you get (buy, find, etc.) that weatherproof cape anyway?; on the other hand I was fearful of his answer; in point of fact I was quite worried about exactly what sort of answer it would turn out to be.  I thought, writes Enderer, now don’t you say anything more about the weatherproof cape, forget all about the weatherproof cape, I thought, that is quite enough about the weatherproof cape; but no sooner had I resolved to speak no further about Humer’s weatherproof cape, to forget all about his weatherproof cape, to switch off the weatherproof cape, than I once again became preeminently preoccupied with the weatherproof cape.  And yet I did not dare to ask where Humer had gotten the weatherproof cape.  I added everything up and said to myself: eight years ago, naturally, eight years ago, my Uncle Worringer fell into the Sill with his weatherproof cape and washed up on to the riverbank downstream of Pradl without the weatherproof cape, without the weatherproof cape, I thought; and then, instead of saying anything to the point or asking, where did you get that weatherproof cape anyway?, especially in the light of the fact that Humer’s weatherproof cape, just like my Uncle Worringer’s, had six kidskin-trimmed buttonholes, unquestionably indicated that in Humer’s weatherproof cape I had to be dealing with my uncle’s weatherproof cape, I said, I judge people by their faces, I have no other means of forming judgments, when forming judgments about people I have nothing to go on but their faces, whereas you judge people by their clothes…in point of fact of course even my own clothing is of substandard quality, I said, which is astonishing in a lawyer…the fact that his, Humer’s clothing was of substandard quality was owing to his gradually, and in the past two decades especially dolorously, eclipsing existence; in point of fact his eclipse, as he himself said, had not started at the time of his son’s wedding, but rather much earlier, ten or even more years earlier, he said, with the sudden drop in excise rates and the radical decline in the price of crêpe paper and tissue paper, raw materials needed to keep the funeral laundry up and running.  In court one obviously has to appear in first-rate clothes, I said, writes Enderer; I was conscious of the preposterousness of this expression, even before I uttered it, but even in court I do not wear first-class clothes, nice clothes; that’s right, I said, in court I don’t wear first-rate clothes, which makes me different, I said, writes Enderer.  I had, I said, never attached any importance to first-rate clothes, or to clothes in general.  What are clothes?, I said and I found the sentence virtually insufferable, but I had already uttered the sentence.  I never ask myself, am I dapperly attired? I said, are my clothes of substandard quality? these questions never occur to me…the fact that I am not attired in first-rate clothes, that I am dressed in an off-putting style and manner means nothing at all, I said and added: most of the time I am well dressed; what is more, I abhor tailors; I hope I am not offending you, I said, writes Enderer, when I say that I abhor tailors, men’s tailors in particular, I said and I did not know why I said men’s tailors in particular and I said: I go to the big department stores.  It all depends on your figure, I said…it is an open question whether I would have accomplished more if I had attached more importance to clothes, meaning any importance at all to them… it is an open question whether the luck of the well-dressed man is better than that of the poorly dressed man...but questions of this kind are of no interest to me, I said, writes Enderer, then suddenly: you can buy weatherproof capes anywhere, provided you still know where you can get percentages…it all depends on your profession, Humer then said, writes Enderer, whether you can allow yourself to be negligent about your clothing or not; it hinges on the occupation that you practice…often fine clothes are simply a prerequisite, I said…now I suddenly asked Humer to state his business once again; I said that what he had said was clear to me; that out of all his intimations, his abortive long sentences or intrinsically short ones, I had been able to form a picture of his case, in other words what it was about, the reason he was here in my office, but my usual method, I said, is to allow the client to state his business a second time immediately after the first time; in the course of the repetition of the facts of the case, the central issue of the case comes to light, I said; everything appears in a new light, in an uncorrupted light, I said; when one overlays the first statement of the facts of the case with the second statement of the facts of the case, in other words, makes the attempt to overlay the first and second statement or delineation of the facts of the case, it often turns out that what was previously insignificant is fundamentally significant, that what was initially significant is all of a sudden insignificant and that on balance everything is really about something else entirely…thus I now added to my earlier notes what Humer was saying now and I thought, I will have the man state his business to me several times, not only twice, as usual, perhaps three times, perhaps four times…that way I will be certain of how everything fits together…it was necessary for him once again to state everything from the beginning, I said to Humer, writes Enderer, because although his case seemed clear to me, it did not seem completely clear…at this point Humer did not merely utter ready-made phrases; rather, he expatiated on the particulars of his business in a logical manner and was in a position to distinguish important things from unimportant things, the things that were pertinent to the case at hand from the things that were impertinent to the case at hand, the things that lent credence to the case at hand from those that were only vaguely related to it, as far as I was concerned; such is the extent of my practical knowledge regarding these people and on behalf of this people; I am intimately familiar with their thoughts and with their way of speaking…on the one hand his affair was extremely complicated, on the other hand it wasn’t at all, said Humer, writes Enderer; with the utmost vehemence Humer described the goings-on at his house in the upper Saggengasse as I, because I was obliged to add more wood to the fire, observed from the stove how he was now even enfolding his knees ever more tightly in the weatherproof cape; the fact that I was observing him from the stove in the most impermissible manner, with that keenness that no human being can get away with directing at another human being, escaped his notice, because he was staring at the floor; with these people one never knows if they are looking at the floor because they are insecure when meeting new people, hence, as far as Humer was concerned, because he felt absolutely insecure in my office; for some reason or other, these people stare at the floor, out of fear or depravity, out of insecurity or criminal intent; I was struck by the incredible voluminousness of the weatherproof cape as I observed Humer from the stove, then additionally by his crudely made shoes, those unusually crudely made Russian leather shoes; I noticed that his trousers were of the old-fashioned sort, broad cuffs etcetera; frayed knitted trousers, I thought; the awkwardness of these people is always the same, I thought, while I was observing Humer, as he, under the effect of the cold, in the characteristically cramped manner of a helplessly freezing person in unfamiliar surroundings, pressed the buttoned-up weatherproof cape tightly against his chest…now I knew what I was dealing with and I said, I know what we are dealing with, but if you will give me a precise description, a precise enumeration, of everything one more time, omitting nothing, omitting nothing, I said, I will be better able to understand the case and in order to tackle the case in the most effective way I will once again need a delineation of all circumstances, all circumstances, I repeated… as mentioned earlier, on the staircase, and then in the office, I had offhandedly taken Humer for a cattle dealer or for a real estate broker; now the thought of this error annoyed me; the fact that you are the proprietor of a funeral laundry, I suddenly said, I did not intend to say this but I suddenly said it, is something that I am obviously aware of; again I uttered this lie; Humer was of the opinion that in these houses in the Saggengasse and particularly in the upper Saggengasse, in these numerous old houses, one tended to go to seed; if one was not constantly super-attentive one tended to go under; suddenly he had sat up straight and said with great pathos: you tend to go under…initially in their awkwardness they are ill-prepared, but then they let themselves go and say much more than one wishes to hear, writes Enderer, but Humer confined himself to saying things that were useful and even the remarks that I had initially taken for totally superficial remarks on his part, remarks about his childhood, about the technique for cutting spun rayon, etcetera, were now proving to be important, even the fact that he had said at the very beginning that his daughter-in-law was a native of Matrei was proving to be important…it is a fact that these people, once they have warmed up, come out of their shells and into possession of their simple but reliable faculties, are quite trust-inspiring and ultimately quite trustful, writes Enderer, that they are initially hesitant, then quite resolute, fearless, and at the stove it now struck me how useful it is to give a person like Humer a good amount of time to warm up, and not to rebuff him at the outset, not to reduce him to silence at the outset, not to irritate him with aggressive questions as I had done in an unfortunate fashion earlier; by behaving that way I have always ruined everything…Humer was so unprepossessing, writes Humer, so old, for I was doubtlessly dealing with a sixty-five-year-old, a nearly seventy-year-old, human being; on account of his wretchedness I got the impression that he was an animal, I suddenly felt certain that he was an animal; an animal is in my office…and I must handle this animal with the utmost circumspection…but then I became irritated at the thought that I had so far done no such thing, and I preoccupied myself once again with Humer’s weatherproof cape…if the man is wearing knitted trousers, I thought, he is also wearing a knitted jacket, a knitted coat, I thought, which on account of their warmth on the one hand, on account of their cheapness on the other, are very popular with the people; in point of fact I believed I could infer from the smell of Humer’s clothing that his was a completely knitted outfit, knitted trousers, a knitted coat, a knitted jacket, for undoubtedly Humer’s trousers were knitted trousers, as I was able to ascertain even in the semi-darkness of the office; my electric lighting is terribly dim on November mornings; the causes of this dimness are on the one hand the mountain springs, which are virtually running dry, and on the other hand the most incredibly highly developed industries; knitted trousers and a knitted jacket, that suits his physical being down to the ground, I thought…and on top of all that the weatherproof cape…and his black hat on his head and his gray wool Schladminger socks…on the one hand my problem is extremely simple, on the other hand it isn’t, he said again, writes Enderer, and as if by way of reinforcing what he had said so far, at specific intervals he kept coming back to the starting point that was his tragedy (as he termed it), writes Enderer, he said: when my son had just turned twenty-two, time and again when my son had just turned twenty-two and then: when my son got married and when my daughter-in-law came from Matrei to live in our house…every five or six or eight sentences he invariably repeated when my son had just turned twenty-two or when my son got married and when my daughter-in-law came from Matrei to live in our house; my impression that everything Humer said was gloom-ridden, if not utterly eclipsed by darkness, was naturally only strengthened by the dim electric light and more generally by the time of the year.  All of a sudden he said: because you pretty much know nothing about me and because we have been crossing each other’s paths for decades…the sentence hung in the air for a rather long time, until he said: but if you know about my shop…whereupon I, writes Enderer, said: I have never been inside your shop, in point of fact I am aware of the funeral laundry in the Saggengasse, but I have never been inside the shop; I wanted to leave Humer in no doubt on this point.  My father bequeathed it to me forty years ago, said Humer, writes Enderer, then: things with the business have been going up, and with me they have been going down.  Humer repeated this sentence several times as well, writes Enderer.  As regards the business, said Humer, writes Enderer, things have been improving; as regards me, they have been deteriorating.  The whole thing started because he had taught his son the craft of the funeral laundry business, a kind of high-end tailor’s handiwork, writes Enderer, which as I now know, writes Enderer, is in point of fact an exceedingly subtle artisanal kind of handiwork, which he had taught his son, just as Humer’s father had taught it to him, Humer’s grandfather to Humer’s father, and so on.  By the age of seventeen they, including his son, had finished their apprenticeship, and finished it, to be sure, in the paternal shop, the only funeral laundry in Tyrol.  One may ask, nobody knows the answer, writes Enderer, but in point of fact the Humers’ funeral laundry has been on the upper Saggengasse for more than eighty years.  And when one knows how huge funeral expenditures are, and in particular here in Tyrol funeral expenditures are especially huge, one cannot but assume that such a shop is a successful shop.  And Humer makes no secret of this; as he is speaking, with regard to everything he says, one is constantly thinking what a successful shop!  And this thing that he was suddenly no longer able to maintain at its pinnacle of success played the principal role in the events of Humer’s life. But, said Humer, we even produce for the export market.  As he is saying the word export his voice is unsteady.  As I said, said Humer, writes Enderer, I have sought you out on account of the unbearableness in which I am compelled to exist.  The mere fact that I, the owner of such a prosperous shop, am running around in knitted trousers and in a knitted overcoat, is bound to give you pause, says Humer, writes Enderer, the fact that the proprietor of a shop is in knitted trousers and in a knitted overcoat and in such crudely made shoes…that is bound to give me pause, writes Enderer and he writes: you don’t know my son, says Humer, but you have seen my son quite often, probably you have seen my son even more often than you have seen me, he is constantly running through the upper Saggengasse, this tall individual in this conspicuous outfit, says Humer and then: for years my son has been frequenting the Gray Bear, you know what that means! Moreover it is owing to my daughter-in-law from Matrei that he dines at the Gray Bear every day while I myself must make do with the simplest food, and my son, says Humer, writes Enderer, spends a great deal of money!  And on top of that and time and again he also dines at yet another restaurant and also quite often attends the municipal theater.  You can’t help wondering, says Humer, what a person like that can be thinking!  But the whole problem is that my son got married in a most unfortunate manner and at the most inauspicious moment, but he won’t admit this; I know full well that this marriage is an unfortunate one, but he won’t admit this.  My son is unfortunate; this woman has screwed up his life, says Humer, writes Enderer.  What is more, for some time now Humer’s son hasn’t been frequenting the Gray Bear but rather the Kaiser’s Crown, just imagine that, says Humer, writes Enderer, he frequents the Kaiser’s Crown!  As you yourself, said Humer to me, writes Enderer, dine quite often at the Gray Bear, as I know for a fact, you certainly must know my son; as I mentioned, he is conspicuously tall and conspicuously attired, a conspicuously tall apparition, says Humer, and I ask myself, writes Enderer, how Humer happens to know that I do in point of fact dine quite often at the Gray Bear; I dine at the Gray Bear every Saturday and Sunday; it is still the best place.  But naturally even in the Gray Bear it sometimes happens that one is served something that is not fit to be eaten, writes Enderer and: Humer says his daughter-in-law has abnormally long hair, and that she is constantly, writes Enderer, says Humer, unkempt; my daughter-in-law is always unkempt, there is, by the way, nothing I hate more than a person who is unkempt, says Humer, but the mere fact that she is unkempt is not the cause of my aversion, says Humer; thanks to this woman, who hails from the lowest social class; her father is still active as a house painter in Matrei, says Humer; her mother helps them make ends meet as a chambermaid; as he is saying this, his voice is filled with the utmost extremity of contempt, writes Enderer; as he said, for some time now the two of them have been frequenting the Kaiser’s Crown, writes Enderer, at the Kaiser’s Crown they order twice as much for everybody as at the Gray Bear, says Humer and I think, with my money, says Humer, in no time at all, Humer now says, because they dedicate their lives more to pleasure than to business, they will have squandered away everything, and to squander away a shop like my shop, it still belongs to me, of course! Humer exclaims, it still belongs to me, and, he adds, so does a large portion of stupidity and paternal hatred.  I had heard him correctly, Humer told me, paternal hatred, Humer says, and then: sixteen sewing machines, sir, if you can imagine it, sixteen sewing machines so far and I thought, writes Enderer, sixteen people at sixteen sewing machines; we deliver on a contractual basis, says Humer, writes Enderer, to Vorarlberg and Salzburg as well and recently also to Bavaria; in Bavaria funeral laundry-work is twice as expensive as it is here; there they can charge a much higher customs duty on the funeral laundry delivery service purchased by forty undertakers from Humer’s shop in the upper Saggengasse, writes Enderer.  And everything that I have built up over decades my son is squandering away in the company of his raffish wife in the shortest amount of time, and he frequents the Kaiser’s Crown!, says Humer, then Humer continues: as far as I am concerned, the factual findings are as follows: such a turn of phrase proves that Humer, during the brief time he has been in my presence here in my office, and if it is true that I am the first lawyer in his life, writes Enderer, and I do not doubt the veracity of the information he has given me, the man is telling the truth, and is immeasurably aurally attentive, these ears have all along given me the impression that they hear everything, including what I do not say, such a turn of phrase proves that Humer is already intimately familiar with the language of jurisprudence and that he is now already a fluent speaker of the language of jurisprudence when he says, the factual findings are as follows: whereas I, as you know, and as I do in point of fact already know, because Humer has said it several times already, whereas I, Humer then says, lived for thirty years in peace and quiet on the ground floor, by which I mean next door to my shop in the Saggengasse, from the first breath I ever took onwards, he said with great passion, I peacefully lived in this ground-floor apartment, he says it a few more times emphatically, from my first moments onwards, at the same time gesticulating with his hands, which now all of a sudden are no longer clasped to his weatherproof cape, and speaking ever more vehemently and also stretching out his relatively long legs; slowly Humer stretched out his relatively long legs, writes Enderer, his entire long, thin body distended itself, now that the man had begun to speak of his ground-floor apartment in the Saggengasse, out of a cramped position in which it had been sitting for at least an hour; in point of fact Humer has now been sitting in my office for over an hour, and the fact that he is even sitting here at all, I suddenly think, was made possible only by the fact that in forgetting that on this morning of the week I absolutely never keep office hours, I let him come up here into my office, in forgetting to think no office hours today! I invited the man to come up here with me into the office; thanks to the way and manner in which the man had been standing in the front doorway, undoubtedly he is waiting for me because of something important, I thought, the man has come on important business, without asking myself whether it made sense, whether it was worthwhile, to let the man come up here, I invited him to come up here, writes Enderer; to be sure, on Monday there are never any office hours I thought, writes Enderer, and I suddenly said to Humer To be sure, on Monday there are never any office hours!, but he did not react to this; he continued sitting there, now he was sitting completely upright, writes Enderer, suddenly his spine was perfectly straight and he spoke of his ground-floor apartment, a very lovely apartment, sir, he said.  When you have grown up in such a commodious ground-floor apartment, and now once again he was in the realm of actuality, writes Enderer, you can’t just move out of an apartment that is completely fitted out for you overnight.  He said he had been accustomed to everything in this apartment since his earliest childhood, writes Enderer; he is on the most intimately familiar terms with everything in this apartment, and a person who is accustomed to live in a ground-floor apartment cannot, all of a sudden after decades and moreover under the most threadbare pretexts, be thrown out of his ground-floor apartment, believe me, says Humer, writes Enderer, there is nothing more horrible.  They threw me out of my ground-floor apartment.  Overnight.  He, Humer, had to move up into the first floor, they had told him, writes Enderer and Humer says: my daughter-in-law from Matrei is behind the whole thing, because my son, sir, never would have thrown me out; he is too weak for that; my son could never do such a thing.  But, writes Enderer: sons get married, said Humer, and are soon as ruthless and ruthless in the same way as their wives, and a son’s marriage to a woman like my daughter-in-law spells the dissolution of a business, spells its annihilation.  Under the pretext of expanding the shop (of provisioning a wood pulp storage room twice as large as the present one!) my son compelled me to move out of my ground-floor apartment and up to the first floor.  But he did not set up a larger wood pulp storage room, says Humer, then, gradually, I saw that he was not setting up any larger wood pulp storage room whatsoever and I pointed out to him that I had moved out of the ground-floor apartment, whereupon he spoke of a consignment of coffins that he was planning to make up at the funeral laundry; he said that he had already applied for the license, but that the regional authorities were dragging their feet; finally I found out that my son had most certainly not applied for a license for a consignment of coffins.  What lies he tells! said Humer, writes Enderer.  First, a larger wood pulp storage room, then, a consignment of coffins, then: space for six more seamstresses! which, however, also was a lie, for to this day I have not seen a single one of the six new seamstresses; to the contrary, instead of employing eighteen seamstresses as we did as recently as two years ago, today we employ only sixteen.  And now he suddenly says, says Humer, writes Enderer, that from now on we won’t be able to live off our income from the funeral laundry alone; such a thing is being said by a person who dines at the Kaiser’s Crown and doesn’t dine there alone but rather as half of a couple, and spends thousands there!  From the moment at which he had been obliged to take his daughter-in-law into his house, he had had lies and nothing but lies from his son.  But you can’t win when you’re fighting against a person like my daughter-in-law, says Humer, writes Enderer; everything is just going to keep getting worse.  Now in point of fact Humer could have refused to move out of his ground-floor apartment, writes Enderer, but such a refusal is beyond the strength of a man like Humer, just as it is beyond the strength of virtually any man.  After all, when you come right down to it, the shop still belongs to me! says Humer.  But once his son is married, a father can no longer do as he wishes in his own house.  He still did not know the full extent of the catastrophe, these were Humer’s exact words, that could ensue as a result of the fact that I have moved out of my ground-floor apartment and up into the first floor.  I was exhausted, says Humer, writes Enderer, and I moved up to the first floor.  For days I told myself I wouldn’t move up there, and then I moved up there anyway.  And once I was living upstairs, I saw that it was all a bunch of lies, nothing but lies, that I had been taken in by a bald-faced lie.  They never proposed to me that I should move out; they threw me out, genuinely threw me out, repeated Humer several times.  It was difficult, but little by little, I managed to get used to the first floor, he said, writes Enderer and Humer began to unbutton his weatherproof cape.  As he unbuttoned the weatherproof cape, it was now no longer warm, it was hot, I noticed a large tailor’s insignia on the lining of the weatherproof cape; it was the insignia I remember being on my uncle’s weatherproof cape.  Or was I mistaken? writes Enderer, is it perhaps not the same tailor’s insignia after all?, I thought, and by then the tailor’s insignia was no longer in view, because Humer had suddenly folded the weatherproof cape in such a way, folded it down over either shoulder in such a way that the insignia was no longer in view.  In point of fact he, Humer, Enderer writes further, discovered certain so-called first-floor benefits.  As you know, says Humer, in all these houses and above all in the houses in the Saggengasse, it is quite humid on the ground floor but on the first floor it is dry.  I immediately enjoyed an alleviation of my rheumatic (he said, an improvement of my rheumatistic, he did not say rheumatic but rather rheumatistic) symptoms, in other words, he could perceive an alleviation of those symptoms, writes Enderer.  He had arrived at the conviction that he was finding it beneficial to have moved out of the ground-floor apartment and up into the first floor.  Within the first few days there was an improvement of my back pain, says Humer.  But I said nothing about this, to keep them (my children) from exploiting it, for if I had admitted that I was enjoying the tiniest benefit, they would have immediately exploited that.  I all of a sudden became capable of walking faster, of bending over and of bending over all the way to the floor at that, and I had been incapable of doing that for decades; he positively reveled in his enjoyment of greater and virtually pain-free mobility on the first floor.  But I didn’t say a word about it, said Humer, to the contrary.  I also observed that the first floor gets more light.  You don’t need as many light-bulbs, the air is better, there is more oxygen, less noise.  But the fact that he could not keep as close an eye on what was going on downstairs and up front in the shop, in other words on the machinations going on therein, as he had been able to from his first-floor apartment, was galling to him.  On the first floor I was completely cut off from the shop, his son and his daughter-in-law were counting on my not being able to come down from the first floor into the shop at every given moment to inspect things; they were working everything into their calculations, everything, my immobility, my difficulty in getting up and down those steep stairs.  It was all calculation, he said.  Calculation and deception.  I was cut off on the first floor; indeed, from there I could no longer even hear the ringing of the doorbell of the shop, says Humer, which increased my suspiciousness.  Deception contrived to spread unchecked beneath me, as I sat upstairs on the first floor, and you will of course see how it contrived to spread unchecked once you have read the papers I have brought here.  Thanks to the disastrous influence of his wife my son had all of a sudden become capable of anything.  Everything was entrenching behind lies, says Humer, writes Enderer.  A colossal tactical dissimulation, says Humer.  Apart from that, though, he had quickly gotten well past his initial difficulties and acclimatized to his new situation, to living on the first floor.  But then, after three months, what he had already mentioned to me and what I had already anticipated was suggested to me, namely that I should move out of the first floor and up to the second floor; all of a sudden I was now supposed to move out of the first floor and up to the second, says Humer, writes Enderer.  Nothing but hatred towards me, my son’s hatred, my daughter’s hatred.  Solely and uniquely aside from my walks up and down the Saggengasse, there was nothing but hatred towards me, who was still here.  They said a child was on its way.  Even before all this there was nothing I feared more, sir, says Humer, writes Enderer, than the moment when somebody would start talking about a child; once a child is on the scene, married couples don’t split up as readily, but even without a child they would have been past the point of being able to split up, because my daughter-in-law is the most calculating of females.  So there was talk of a child and of no longer being able to make do with their present living space once the child had arrived; now it was about the forthcoming child, at first it had been about setting up a wood pulp storage room, then about a storage room for coffins, but whereas the wood pulp and coffin storage rooms had been lies, says Humer, writes Enderer, I actually believed that the child was on its way.  Not a wink of sleep at night, says Humer, writes Enderer, a child, a child.  But I didn’t put up any fight to speak of and moved up to the second floor that very day, said Humer; the hard part had been getting the furniture up the narrow stairs to the second floor, but in point of fact they really needed to get all the furniture up to the second floor; I did not doubt for an instant that the child was a real child, says Humer; indeed, I could not but believe that the child had already arrived; all of a sudden I figured out something: if the child has indeed already arrived, then so much ado being made in such a painful way is absurd, I said, writes Enderer, and Humer continues: the child had arrived, but I naturally could not figure out why I had to move up to the second floor on account of my grandchild, but I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be moving patiently up to the second floor, that was my sacrifice, sir, says Humer, writes Enderer, even if it wasn’t at all clear to me why I was making it.  On the second floor it is even drier than on the first floor and the air is even better than on the first and you can hardly hear any noise at all up there.  But the shop downstairs—which I was taking an ever greater interest in, meaning a much more intense interest than before, now that I had gotten wise to the machinations of my son and my daughter-in-law—and everything having to do with the shop downstairs, had now slipped even further away from me upstairs; it was too onerous to go downstairs at every given moment, says Humer, writes Enderer, and also too conspicuous, to be constantly going downstairs and back upstairs and back downstairs and back upstairs, especially, that is, under their hate-filled gazes! and so I stopped going into the shop, and even when I did, it was only ever for a moment at a time in order to augment my pile of evidence, my suspiciousness regarding their deception, to accumulate fakery, says Humer, writes Enderer, to make transcriptions in terrific haste and with great circumspection without being observed, which was incredibly difficult for me, because of course my son and my daughter-in-law had in their own turn long since formed the suspicion that I was suspicious of them…at nights I preoccupied myself exclusively with these papers, says Humer, because on the second floor I was left in peace, completely undisturbed, says Humer, which was certainly a benefit, says Humer, writes Enderer, who suddenly exclaims: it was all fakery! all of it was simply fakery! the entire accounting ledger had been faked! And this fakery wasn’t intended, as you might suppose, to deceive the revenue office but to deceive me!  I had no other choice left than to apply to you, says Humer to me, writes Enderer.  The whole thing must be settled in court, he said, the lot of it in court, for who can even dream of being considerate when he is dealing with a conspiracy of children against their own father!  Naturally I thought that the second floor was the most ideal place, but I said nothing to that effect.  To the contrary.  He kept his mouth shut and played a role that he had in the meantime learned to play to the hilt, the role of the sacrificial victim.  The arduousness, the inhuman effortfulness, of climbing up to the second floor and back down from the second floor, was something he took in his stride.  No elevators, as you know, in the Saggengasse, no elevators, says Humer.  I invited my old friends up to the second floor, he says, writes Enderer; they not only reinforced my suspicion that I was being deceived, for palpable proof of which I needed only to turn to the innumerable pieces of evidence on my desk, but also my intention to present the whole affair to a lawyer, in other words, to bring it all up in court.  It has of course been years since I was last able to speak about my suspiciousness, says Humer; I owe this all to my attentiveness, to my love for the shop in the Saggengasse; suddenly he cried out: nobody can take my love for the shop in the Saggengasse away from me! writes Enderer; then, writes Enderer, Humer sits down in the armchair and wraps himself up, as best he can, in the weatherproof cape.  Now you won’t ever see the tailor’s insignia ever again, I thought, writes Enderer; the way things are looking now, he won’t take the weatherproof cape off again; to the contrary, from now on he is just going to keep wrapping himself up in the weatherproof cape ever more tightly, whereas Humer actually extracted from the weatherproof cape a packet that had been tied together with string by a domestic serving boy and placed it on my desk.  They are all additional proofs, additional pieces of evidence, he said, writes Enderer.  And now, please note, says Humer, writes Enderer, and Humer made a fresh revelation to me: a week ago it was suddenly suggested to me that I should move out of the second floor as well and into the third floor!  My son made this curious proposal to me while I was plumb in the middle of intently perusing sales brochures for wood pulp and press paper.  Not for a moment did I doubt that although my son was asking me to move out of the second floor, it was in reality my daughter-in-law who was using his decidedly insolent mouth to ask me to do so.  I said yes, says Humer and he says he did his best to stay calm, to avoid getting excited, at the time; well, so it was now out of the second floor and into the third!  And he had repeated the phrase several times: and into the third, and into the third, because in the interim two more children had been born; a fourth child was on its way…a fourth child, Humer says to me, isn’t that insane?  Isn’t that insane and thickheaded to boot?  Several times Humer says to me, isn’t that the utmost limit of thickheadedness?  A criminal outrage, a fourth child! says Humer, writes Enderer.  In this day and age, when there are hundreds of millions of surplus human beings, a fourth child!  Then, by his own account, he is supposed to have exclaimed several times: a fourth child! A fourth child! And a fifth child! And a sixth child! And a seventh child! And an eighth child! And so on! And so on! Several times: and so on! And so on!  From upstairs, says Humer, writes Enderer, I heard my daughter-in-law downstairs saying: if he doesn’t move up to the third floor, he will have to go into the old people’s home!  I heard this downstairs from upstairs, says Humer, writes Enderer.  And my son says, says Humer: you are going to move into the third floor!  Whereupon he, Humer, had lost control of himself and cried as loud as he could: a fourth child! A fourth child! Into the third floor! Into the third floor! A fourth child! A fifth child!, etc. and then simply repeated: Children! Children! Children! until he was completely exhausted, writes Enderer; then Humer says, writes Enderer: I could not help thinking, your son doesn’t understand you anymore, doesn’t understand you anymore and: just look at what this woman has turned your son into.  And Humer stood up, writes Enderer, and he began pacing up and down the office; now and then he would point at his package of papers on my desk and say: it’s all already thoroughly criminologically documented, all already thoroughly criminologically documented.  It’s all already ready for the courtroom!  There’s no turning back, he says, no turning back.  Suddenly, says Humer, writes Enderer, I said: no, not to the third floor, not to the third floor.  Categorically not!  I won’t move into those rooms, those rooms unfit for human habitation! I said, says Humer according to Enderer, I won’t move up into those gloomy cubbyholes.  Then, according to Enderer, he said he left the house and walked for hours up and down along the Sill; then, Enderer writes, Humer says: and when I got back home, my son had already hauled the majority of my belongings up into the third floor, which meant up into the attic.  I immediately saw and said to myself, says Humer, writes Enderer, he has already hauled almost all your belongings into the third floor, he has hauled them all up there.  And then they, my son and daughter-in-law, had also already begun to haul my furniture from the second floor up to the third floor; if you live in the Saggengasse, Humer says to me, then you of course know how things look on the third floor; the third floor of each and every house in the Saggengasse looks completely unsuitable for living in, he said this several times: completely unsuitable for living in. We’ll renovate them, make them inhabitable, they said, says Humer.  And everything would have to be done immediately, everything immediately.  The furniture and their father all up to the attic straight-away, sir, says Humer, writes Enderer.  As a makeshift they set up two folding screens for me and tried to talk me into believing they had made the attic inhabitable.  We have winterized the whole place up here well enough for now, says my son, says Humer, writes Enderer, and when it starts snowing, we can install heating up here, says my son.  And just imagine, says Humer, all the while my son and his wife are shifting my furniture this way and that in the attic; I can’t speak, it’s as if I have lost the power of speech, says Humer, I want to but I cannot speak; I stand there wrapped up in my weatherproof cape and cannot say a thing.  And to think of how I am all of a sudden being silenced!  This horrifying, nauseating, attic stench, which I have loathed from childhood onwards, says Humer.  Nothing but mildew, nothing but dirt and mildew.  My son is constantly saying the word rebuild, says Humer, writes Enderer, over and over again rebuild, make it heatable.  Eventually they got all my furniture in place in the attic and also made my bed; I was obliged to look on without moving a muscle; I found it impossible to chase them away; I couldn’t budge an inch, say a word, says Humer, writes Enderer.  During the rebuilding I was to go stay with my sister in Hall, they said, says Humer, writes Enderer; for the interval you will go to Hall, I can hear my son saying, says Humer.  But I thought, I’m not going to Hall, not to Hall, not to Hall, I thought.  Over and over again: not to Hall.  And suddenly: and now to court!, now it’s time to find a lawyer and go to court! and he had run out of the house and run all the way to the end of the Saggengasse and into a guesthouse in  Gänsbacherstraße and from there several times to the Sill and back and to the Inn and back and had finally spent the night in the guesthouse in Gänsbacherstraße.  He had already been here in the Herrengasse twice and had waited for me.  For this lawyer, he thought to himself, he didn’t know why, but he kept thinking, for this lawyer, again and again, for this lawyer, again and again: for Enderer.  All day long I kept the papers hidden close to my body, says Humer, writes Enderer, constantly hidden under my weatherproof cape; these pieces of evidence, he says and adds: if these papers don’t suffice! whereupon I, writes Enderer, say: naturally, everything ineluctably follows from the papers.  Suddenly he stood up and left, writes Enderer.  I had called Mr. Humer! after him, because I had forgotten to have him sign the form granting me full power of attorney, but by then he was already gone, already downstairs.  He will come back, I thought and I started trying to get through all the work that I had so sorely neglected for so many weeks.  But all the while I was thinking of nothing but Humer.  Several crimes and misdemeanors, I thought, which on the one hand are the usual order of the day among small business holders, and which have been committed against Humer on the other and I became more and more annoyed by the thought that I had not asked Humer about the origin of his weatherproof cape earlier.  I had completely failed to ask him about it, although I had firmly promised myself to do so at the time.  The tailor’s insignia is the proof, I thought.  What had Humer said?  For a long time I stood on your doorstep and waited for you, says Humer, writes Enderer, I can still hear him saying this, writes Enderer, shall I ring the doorbell or not, he thought; I won’t ring it, he thought at one instant, then at the next, I will ring it, and over and over again, he thought, only for Enderer and is it reasonable? or is it not reasonable until I finally rang the bell…and then I had been obliged to go upstairs with you to your office, once you were suddenly standing right in front of me…to file a lawsuit against my son! said Humer, writes Enderer.  At first people drop hints, then they let the whole thing out, I think, writes Enderer, it is always the same, the truth is said and yet it isn’t the truth…I should never have come up here to see you, says Humer several times, not in this condition and he says: I never should have brought this into public view! for nothing is more horrible than bringing something, no matter what it is, into public view; this is what he, Humer, says he feels, and yet he says he won’t take anything back, he will press on and say everything, from now on there is nothing he will shrink from saying…I shouldn’t have bothered you, on the one hand, and I have brought all this out into public view, on the other… how could you possibly help an old man in the midst of his despair, then again: as far as I am concerned, it may very well be the most insignificant thing in the world; on the other hand, it is killing me, writes Enderer regarding Humer.  Everything having to do with human beings and everything they do and try to come up with, he said, is bogus and when you think about it seriously, all of life itself is bogus…just think of the whole thing as an episode, Humer also said, an episode having nothing whatsoever to do with you…for twenty years we regularly crossed each other’s paths and never made each other’s acquaintance and now we have made each other’s acquaintance…but I refuse to call a halt to it, several times, several times quite decisively: but I refuse to call a halt to it…in the same tone as he had said: it is the most horrible thing in the world to bring something into public view, he now said: but I refuse to call a halt to any of it! writes Enderer and draws our attention to an article in last Tuesday’s Tiroler Nachrichten in which it is reported that on the preceding Friday, one H., a small-business proprietor, threw himself from the third storey of a house on the Saggengasse.  I immediately think, that is Humer, writes Enderer and I follow up on the matter and in point of fact Humer did throw himself out of a window of the third storey, the attic storey, of his house on Friday before last.  He died instantly, writes the reporter in the newspaper, writes Enderer.  But the thing, writes Enderer, which he had been unable to stop thinking about and to which he, Enderer, had felt it his duty to draw our attention after reading the newspaper article, had not been Humer, had not been this, in Enderer’s words, to all appearances quite extraordinary and indeed extraordinarily devastating, but in reality quite mundane life-history of an ultimately very simple man, but rather the weatherproof cape that this person had been wearing and he, Enderer, had gotten dressed—it was, he writes, already four in the afternoon and hence already dark; everybody knows that November days are quite short and hardly count as days at all—and gone down into the Saggengasse and into Humer’s funeral laundry and immediately announced who he, Enderer, was and that he had come on account of the deceased’s weatherproof cape.  Regarding the deceased’s weatherproof cape, naturally I did not say the suicide’s weatherproof cape, writes Enderer: it happens to be the weatherproof cape of my uncle, who drowned in the Sill eight years ago, I said.  By chance, I said, I came to learn that the deceased’s weatherproof cape happened to be my uncle’s weatherproof cape.  I said nothing of Humer’s visit to my office, because I personally regarded his entire case as closed.  The young man in the shop, undoubtedly the deceased’s son, behaved in a manner that suggested he was familiar with the circumstances surrounding his father’s weatherproof cape and hence with those surrounding my uncle’s weatherproof cape and he said, yes, the weatherproof cape washed up onto the bank of the Sill a couple of years ago.  Whereupon, writes Enderer, I said: your father, as I know for a fact, used to walk up and down along the Sill every day.  Yes, says the young man and takes hold of the clothes rack and hands me the deceased’s weatherproof cape without further ado…  

THE END




Source: Thomas Bernhard, Werke 14, herausgegeben von [Works, Vol. 14, edited by] Hans Höller, Martin Huber und Mandfred Mittermayer (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2003), pp. 133-165.  Originally published in Midland in Stilfs (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1971).

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2015 by Douglas Robertson