from On the Mountain: Rescue Attempt, Nonsense
Everything fails in the end, everything ends in the graveyard. The young people of today are running into the arms of death at age twelve, and they’re dead at fourteen. There are solitary fighters who struggle on until eighty or ninety, then they die, too, but at least they had a longer life. Those who die early have less fun, and you can feel sorry for them. Because life also means a long life, with all of its awfulness.
The perfect not only threatens us ceaselessly with our ruin, it also ruins everything that is hanging on these walls under the label masterpiece. I proceed from the assumption that there is no such thing as perfect or the whole, and each time I have made a fragment of one of the so-called perfect works of art hanging here on the walls by searching for a massive mistake in and about that work of art, for the crucial point of failure by the artist who made that work of art, searching for it until I found it, I have got one step further. In every one of these paintings, these so-called masterpieces, I have found and uncovered a massive mistake, the failure of its creator. For over thirty years this, as you might think, infamous calculation has come out right. Not one of these world-famous masterpieces, no matter by whom, is in fact whole or perfect. That reassures me. It makes me basically happy. Only when, time and again, we have discovered that there is no such thing as the whole or the perfect are we able to live on. We cannot endure the whole or the perfect. We have to travel to Rome to discover that Saint Peter's is a tasteless concoction, that Bernini's altar is an architectural nonsense. We have to see the Pope face to face and personally discover that all in all he is just as helpless and grotesque a person as anyone else in order to bear it. We have to listen to Bach and hear how he fails, listen to Beethoven and hear how he fails, even listen to Mozart and hear how he fails. And we have to deal in the same way with the so-called great philosophers, even if they are our favorite spiritual artists, he said. After all, we do not love Pascal because he is so perfect but because he is fundamentally so helpless, just as we love Montaigne for his helplessness in lifelong searching and failing to find, and Voltaire for his helplessness. We only love philosophy and the humanities generally because they are absolutely helpless. We truly love only those books which are not a whole, which are chaotic, which are helpless.
from 'Old Masters'
I must be the prisoner, unless I'm crazy, for my clothes are prison clothes, and I am wearing prison clothes, am I not? - The brain is so unfree, and the system, into which the brain is born, is so free, the system so free and my brain so unfree, that system and brain are coming to an end. - The hunchback with the water pail, the one with her braids all wild, the nuntails¹ white, the birds black in the green scene, the one with the index finger on his bloody forehead, the one with the yellow rope who climbs the cherry tree, the one in her black frock, with the yellow pants, the one with the girl’s face, the one with the red rose, the one with her hazelnut stick, the one who is weeping, the one bleating like a goat, with the bowed legs, - In rags goes man, in stinking scraps of cloth. The meat grinder wind says—I'm not dumb! Siccing my trouser legs and the dog, it comes inside my head and cuts me down. I have this whore tap on my conscience, this bundle biting into my hunched back. These shoes, this frayed coat, are making me sick. My soupspoon sticks through the pocket of my pants. There in the courtyard, there stand the Pharisees, Nothing but creature from the belt on down! The club swingers, squealers, gunmen, spies in the greasy boot-black of the prefecture. The state's almighty, while you're bitter and weak. Power and the uniform are one in the same. You keep your mouth shut, your head in check, you walk through the wood no one cuts for us. What such a truncheon on the head ruins I know already, it breaks my eardrums. I'm outfitted by the most sub-moron and driven mad with sweat, ransacked, and shorn. These pants rub me raw and the backsides paint The heads of misery on the thick wall. Some get to drink and some have to pay. And the thing that you are drips in your hand. - The reason of the dream fears the reason of love, the reason of power, the reason of death, for the sake of pure reason, which influences no one. - Coming from the consequences for the addiction of thinking, we arrive at the question of meaning that regresses without leaving us behind. - the one with her red hair, with the long tongue, the one with the turnip knife, with the sick lungs, the one with her white veil in the black door, the one with the long neck, the one with her ear cut off, the one with her rosary, with apples, with pears, the ones with yellow, white empty faces, the one with the fear of doctors, the one in the cabbage leaf hat, the one letting her blood drip in the pool of water, - I don't stand on my own, only on floors. Pierced by the eyes in their wood planks, I walk into my darkness, right into these thoughts where nothing remains but stench and stone. Why the dick? What right does it have to me? What did it do early this morning at three? I am sick to my stomach. My throat is raw. Somewhere in my skull, my dull brain's crawled. This is the curse! This is the irony! And you, my moon, my yellow minister, you piss on the world, on philosophy, My last, greatest, and most sacred mentor! My payday's spent. So's my entire life. You are finished! You are long past due! I need no more buy into everything you spew for my red brain turns only more to mush. ". . . if one is less, if eight is only more," that's what my head says as my ankles collapse, "the one from the rooftop, who's made a mess in the night," the one you still hear gasp. My twisted mind, that tit milk of crackups! I am one gifted fellow, officer! Up my ass the world still has some fire as soon as I fetch my lard bread and schnapps! - Clarity exists where the greatest helplessness pretends to be the greatest lack of clarity; in every composition, even in the composition of events inside the human (godlike) mind. - Man, who has the right to have control over himself, who can have control over everything and has the right to this as well; but no one has the right to have control over themselves. - the one who walks on tiptoes through the garden, the one who cuts wheat with her stare, the one with her hair tied to the fence who wants to scream, who’s covered with scratches, the one who comes from the chapel, who looks from the window, the one with the rusty sickle who cuts off flower tops, the one with the black stocking, the one on the hay wagon, the one the ones with the red skirts beat outside the threshing floor, - You have no diamond, no spade, no leaf cards. The jacks of bells trump your fantasias. The morning’s red stinks like one big carcass. Women scream through their hysterias. In my wood shoe skates, snowblind by plaster, pieces of skull snap orders at me from their nightwatchman stupor . . . in the stair the tripes of my soul make me a vegetable. My silly crap lies waiting in the shadows. With head burning from the cold, rod ready, you scratch the dog on his blue balls sourly, and it snarls, dictating its dictation to you. Drinking killed my Easter, my Pentecost, that turtledove madness tickles my thigh. The long nights never cease in the least when it comes to my diabetic insanity. Am I just a bucket’s worth of torture? Am I dead? Are my suicide threats lies? My froth has spun around half the globe. I am stretched out in my prison clothes. My feet think and my mind wanders off. From head to toe the world’s nothing more than an age of depravity and rot. And the city itself is the murderer! - There exist irritating phenomena that are a means to irritate, as, for example, the phenomena between two phenomena and the phenomena that let such irritating phenomena be perceived. - The line is broken from all lines, which proves that there exists no line, and which also proves that one can regard everything as the line, presupposing a character that gets too involved in what inevitably drives it into ruin. - the one running from the kitchen with the soup pot, the one with the mourning veil over her red head, the one with the white coat, with the blue christening bow around the neck, the ones who look in the apple basket, who on green milk drift into the evening, who in the black woods sink into the cold night . . . Schermberg 1949 - To me every star is the police. That marching firmament, every ocean a sea of billyclubs, uniformed shit!, madness is the red on the flag of my prison. As my snow-white loins are whipped, my red head swells in the afternoon wind. I walk flailed where I walk against it, where I cannot find anything to eat. In my eyes flashes the hurricane of laws that bite, that have a sharpness. I'm my own dog and you're the companion I hound into the jailhouse of lewdness. What kind of wine are you, my Master Urine? I walk drunk through the shaven skulls of the under-underworld, through the ruin and out of my hunger braid him pigtails. - Garsten 1950
(Die Irren. Die Häftlinge - 1962)
Translation - James Reidel
"What is that, a publisher? I could put the question to you: What is a publisher (Verleger)? A bedside rug (Bettvorleger), there's no doubt what that is. But a publisher, without the bed, that's harder to answer. Someone who misplaces (verlegen) things, a muddled person, who misplaces things and can't find them anymore. That's the definition of a publisher, someone who misplaces things. A publisher, he misplaces things and manuscripts which he accepts and then he can't find them anymore. Either because he no longer likes them or because he's muddled, either way they're gone. Misplaced. For all eternity. All the publishers I know are like that. None of them is so great as not to be the kind who misplaces things. Who publishes something and then it's either ruined or impossible to find."
"Everyone knows what eroticism is. There's no need to talk about it. Everyone has their own sense of the erotic. [..] nothing can live without eroticism, not even insects, they need it too. Only if you have a totally primitive notion of the erotic, of course, that's no good, because I'm always at pains to go beyond the primitive. [..] I need neither a sister nor a mistress. You have all these things within yourself, and sometimes you use it if you feel like it. People always believe that if something is not mentioned directly, it's not there, but that's nonsense. An eighty-year-old man who's in bed somewhere and who hasn't had this love you're talking about for fifty years, he too has a sexual life. On the contrary, his is a much more amazing kind of sexual existence than the primitive. I prefer to see a dog doing it, where I can watch and stay strong."
'When I concern myself with Roithamer, with what order of magnitude am I dealing? I ask myself, clearly I am dealing with a head that is willing and compelled to go to extremes in everything he does and capable, in this reciprocity of intellectual interaction, of peak record performances, a man who takes his own development, the development of his character and of his inborn intellectual gifts to its utmost peak, its utmost limits, its highest degree of realization . . . and who must force everything he is, in the final analysis, to coalesce in one extreme point, force it all to the utmost limits of his intellectual capacity and his nervous tension until, at the highest degree of such expansion and contraction and the total concentration he has repeatedly achieved, he must actually be torn apart.'
'An Italian who owns a villa in Riva on Lake Garda and can live very comfortably on the interest from the estate his father left him has, according to a report in La Stampa, been living for the last twelve years with a mannequin. The inhabitants of Riva report that on mild evenings they have observed the Italian, who is said to have studied art history, boarding a glass-domed deluxe boat, which is moored not far from his home, with the mannequin to take a ride on the lake. Described years ago as incestuous in a reader's letter addressed to the newspaper published in Desencano, he had applied to the appropriate civil authorities for permission to marry his mannequin but was refused. The church too had denied him the right to marry his mannequin. In winter he regularly leaves Lake Garda in mid-December and goes with his beloved, whom he met in a Paris shop-window, to Sicily, where he regularly rents a room in the famous Hotel Timeo in Taormina to escape from the cold, which, all assertions to the contrary, gets unbearable on Lake Garda every year after mid-December.'
from The Voice Imitator
'Once, I had to have the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, I wanted to read an article on Mozart’s Zaide, which had appeared in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and since I could get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, as I had thought, only in Salzburg, which is eighty kilometers away from here, I drove to Salzburg, to the so called world famous festival town, with the car of a friend and with the friend and with Paul all for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. But in Salzburg I couldn’t get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Then I had the idea of getting the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in Bad Reichenhall and we drove to Bad Reichenhall, to the world famous resort town. But in Bad Reichenhall I couldn’t get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung either and so we all three of us drove more or less disappointed back to Nathal. But just as we were approaching Nathal, Paul suddenly thought we should drive to Bad Hall, to the world famous resort town, because there we would surely get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the article about Zaide and as a matter of fact we drove the eighty kilometers from Nathal to Bad Hall. But in Bad Hall we couldn’t get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung either. Since it was only a skip and a jump from Bad Hall to Steyr, twenty kilometers, we drove to Steyr too, but in Steyr we couldn’t get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung either. Then we tried our luck in Wels, but in Wels we couldn’t get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung either. We had driven altogether three hundred fifty kilometers only for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and in the end we had no luck. So then we went into a restaurant in Wels completely exhausted, obviously, to get something to eat and to rest, as the hunt for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung had brought us to the edge of our physical possibilities. With much hindsight, I think now, when I recall this story with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Paul and I are pretty much the same. If we had not been completely exhausted we would definitely have gone to Linz and Passsau, perhaps even as well to Regensburg and Münich, and we actually would not have minded just buying the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in Zürich, since in Zürich, I think, we would have gotten it for sure. Because we couldn’t get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in any of these towns that we had driven to and where we had searched, since even in the summer it isn’t there, I know that all these towns we had driven to are miserable filth towns, which deserve their undistinguished names. If not filthier. And even then it became clear to me that a thinking person cannot exist in a place where one can’t get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. To think, I can get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung even in Spain and in Portugal and in Morocco anytime of year in the smallest towns with only the loneliest hotels. Not where we are! And because of the fact that we didn’t get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in all these presumably important towns, not even in Salzburg, all our rage blistered against this backward, narrow-minded, hick, and simultaneously repulsively megalomaniacal country. We should live only where we could get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, I said, and Paul agreed absolutely. But then in Austria there’s only really just Vienna, he said, since in all the other towns where it would seem one would get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung one as a matter of fact cannot get it at all. At least not every day and just when one would want it, when one absolutely needs it. It occurs to me that even now I haven’t gotten to the article on Zaide yet. I’ve long since forgotten the article and I’ve naturally also survived without this article. But at the time I had thought I had to have it. And Paul supported me in this absolute demand, and, what’s more, he as a matter of fact led me through half of Austria for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.'
from Wittgensteins Nephew
'If we look at a person, we are bound in a short space of time to say what a horrible, what an unbearable person. If we look at Nature, we are bound to say, what a horrible what an unbearable Nature. If we look at something artificial--it doesn't matter what the artificiality is--we are bound to say in a short space of time what an unbearable artificiality. If we are out walking, we even say after the shortest space of time, what an unbearable walk, just as when we are running we say what an unbearable run, just as when we are standing still, what an unbearable standing still, just as when we are thinking what an unbearable process of thinking. If we meet someone, we think within the shortest space of time, what an unbearable meeting. If we go on a journey, we say to ourselves, after the shortest space of time, what an unbearable journey, what unbearable weather, we say, says Oehler, no matter what the weather is like, if we think about any sort of weather at all. If our intellect is keen, if our thinking is the most ruthless and the most lucid, says Oehler, we are bound after the shortest space of time to say of everything that it is unbearable and horrible. There is no doubt that the art lies in bearing what is unbearable and in not feeling that what is horrible is something horrible. Of course we have to label this art the most difficult of all. The art of existing against the facts, says Oehler, is the most difficult, the art that is the most difficult.'
'We keep trying to uncover backgrounds but we do not get any farther, we merely complicate and disjoint what is already complicated and disjointed enough. We look for someone responsible for our fate, which, most of the time, if only we are honest, we might simply call our misfortune. We brood about what we should have done differently or better or what perhaps we should not have done, because we are doomed to do so, but it does not lead anywhere. The disaster was inevitable, is what we then say and for a while, if only a short while, we are quiet. Then we start all over again asking questions and probing and probing until we have gone half crazy. We constantly look for someone responsible, or for several persons responsible, in order to make things bearable for ourselves at least for a moment, and naturally, if we are honest, we invariably end up with ourselves.'
'People are always talking about it being their duty to find their way to their fellow men - to their neighbour, as they are forever saying with all the baseness of false sentiment - when in fact it is purely and simply a question of finding their way to themselves.'
'Never in my whole life have I read a more engrossing and elemental work, and at the time I had never read such a long one. It had the effect of a powerful drug, and for a time I was totally absorbed by it. For some time after my return home I refused to read another book, fearing that I might be plunged headlong into the deepest disappointment. For weeks I refused to read anything at all. The monstrous quality of The Demons had made me strong; it had shown me a path that I could follow and told me that I was on the right one, the one that led out. I had felt the impact of a work that was both wild and great, and I emerged from the experience like a hero. Seldom has literature produced such an overwhelming effect on me.'
from Gathering Evidence
'I can only say that for a quarter of a century I have dealt with women only. I can hardly bear men. I can't bear conversations with men. They drive me crazy. Men always talk about the same things. About their job and about women. You cannot expect anything from men. A lot of men in one place are terrible. I even prefer gossiping women. Relating to women had always been useful to me. I learnt everything from women -- and my grandfather. I don't believe I learnt anything from men. Men have always gotten on my nerves. Strange. After the death of my grandfather there was just nobody there any longer. I always sought protection with women, who in many things were also superior to me. Above all women let me work in peace. I was always able to work near women. I could never produce anything near men.'
'To question an innkeeper's wife about a person, no matter what person, would surely mean to let that person appear in a dirty light from the outset — that I did not wish to do. I could well imagine people's gossip about the Swiss couple, what these in every way dull and dull-witted people of the neighborhood would have in readiness for the Swiss couple could only be repellent and vile. It is my experience that the natives are always suspicious of any stranger and that in their opinions, if they have any, they are dirty and vile, and the Swiss couple would be of course no exception. A stranger coming to the neighborhood cannot be well-meaning and well-disposed and well-intentioned enough — he will be reviled and abused and, there are numerous instances, destroyed. Especially when this neighborhood is the most backward imaginable. Two people who have lived together for years without being married and about whom there is nothing to be discovered except that they have money are enough for common character assassination. The people in this neighborhood are the most inconsiderate, and for a stranger every one of them is a fatal mantrap if he strays into it. '
'I had been able to spend some time again in my library, moreover with The World as Will and Idea, calmed and in a pleasant frame of mind. And the last thing I expected was that, after an hour or more with The World as Will and Idea, I would suddenly feel a need for my scientific studies, and I had got up and walked out of my library and unlocked the room where I had locked up my scientific studies, that is all my scientific essays and all the essays and books belonging to those scientific studies. For months I had been unable to look at those essays and essays about essays and those books and books about books because I had been in a state of deepest despair.'
'Of course I am trained in perception and observation in an especially thorough manner and therefore am possibly not a generally valid example. Such a gift of peception and observation is of the greatest advantage, but on the other hand also of the greatest disadvantage, and it is rarely welcome, almost invariably unwelcome. Such a person who perceives everything and who sees everything and who observes everything, moreover continually, is not popular, more often feared, and people have always guarded themselves against such a person, because such a person is a dangerous person and dangerous persons are not only feared but hated, and in that respect I have to describe myself as a hated person.'
'I am more at home in Vienna generally than I am in Upper Austria, which I prescribed for myself as a survival therapy sixteen years ago, though I have never been able to regard it as my home. This is no doubt because right from the beginning I isolated myself far too much in Nathal and not only did nothing to counter this isolation but actually promoted it, consciously or unconsciously, to the point of utter despair. After all, I have always been a townsman…therefore not without reason that once I am in Vienna, I find that I can breathe freely again. On the other hand, after a few days in Vienna I have to flee to Nathal to avoid suffocating in the loathsome Viennese air. Hence, in recent years I have made a habit of switching between Vienna and Nathal at least every other week. Every other week I flee from Nathal to Vienna and then from Vienna to Nathal, with the result that I have become a restless character who is driven back and forth between Vienna and Nathal in order to survive, whose very existence depends on this strictly imposed rhythm -- coming to Nathal to recover from Vienna, and going to Vienna to recuperate from Nathal.'
from Wittgensteins Nephew
'Your mistake, my sister had said, is to isolate yourself completely in our house. You don't go and visit friends any longer, though we have so many. What she said was true. But what does one mean by friends? We know a number of people, perhaps even a lot of people; there are a few whom we've known since we were children and who have not yet died or moved away for good. Every year we used to visit them frequently and they used to come to our house. But that doesn't make them friends, not by a long chalk. My sister is quick to call somebody a friend, even somebody she hardly knows, if it suits her book. Come to think of it, I haven't any friends at all. Since I grew up I haven't had a single friend. Friendship -- what a leprous word! People use it every day ad nauseam, so that it's become utterly devalued, at least as much so as the word Love, which has been trampled to death.'
'When you look at a white wall you will realize that it is neither white nor bare. If you are on your own for a long time and get used to being alone and are more or less trained in loneliness, then you begin to discover more and more in places which, for normal people, are (essentially) bare. On the wall you discover cracks, fine cracks, uneven patches, vermin. There is a tremendous movement on the walls. – in actual fact the wall and the page of a book completely resemble one another.'
'Our age has witnessed the eruption of total music, anywhere between the North Pole and the South Pole you are forced to hear music, in the city or out in the country, on the high seas or in the desert, Reger said. People have been stuffed full of music every day for so long that they have long lost all feeling for music . . . People today, because they have nothing else left, suffer from a pathological music consumption, Reger said, this music consumption will be driven forward by the industry, which controls people today, to a point where everybody is destroyed; there is a lot of talk nowadays about waste and chemicals which have destroyed everything, but music destroys a lot more than waste and chemicals do, it is music that eventually will destroy absolutely everything totally, mark my words. The first thing to be destroyed by the music industry are people's auditory canals and next, as a logical consequence, the people themselves. . . . I can already see people totally destroyed by the music industry, Reger said, those masses of music-industry victims eventually populating the continents with their musical cadaverous stench. . . . The music industry will one day have the population on its conscience. . . . not just chemicals and waste, believe me. The music industry is the murderer of human beings, the music industry is the real mass murderer of humanity which, if the music industry continues on its present lines, will have no hope whatever within a few decades. . . .'
from Old Masters
'I have always suffered for the Viennese coffeehouse disease. I have suffered more from this disease than from any other. I frankly have to admit that I still suffer from this disease, which has proved the most intractable of all. The truth is that I have always hated the Viennese coffeehouse because in them I am always confronted with people like myself, and naturally I do not wish to be everlastingly confronted with people like myself, and certainly not in a coffeehouse where I go to escape from myself. Yet it is here that I find myself confronted with myself and my kind. I find myself insupportable, and even more insupportable is a whole horde of writers and brooders like myself. I avoid literature whenever possible, because whenever possible I avoid myself, and so when I am in Vienna I have to forbid myself to visit the coffeehouses, or at least I have to be careful not to visit a so-called literary coffeehouse under any circumstances whatever. However, suffering as I do from the coffeehouse disease, I feel an unremitting compulsion to visit some literary coffeehouse or other, even thought everything within me rebels against the idea. The truth is that the more deeply I detest the literary coffeehouse of Vienna, the most strongly I feel compelled to frequent them. Who knows how my life would have developed if I had not met Paul Wittgenstein at the height of the crisis that, but for him, would probably have pitched me headlong into the literary world, the most repellent of all worlds, the world of Viennese writers and their intellectual morass, for at the height of this crisis the obvious course would have been to take the easy way out, to make myself cheap and compliant, to surrender and throw in my lot with the literary fraternity. Paul preserved me from this, since he had always detested the literary coffeehouses. It was thus not without reason, but more or less to save myself, that from one day to the next I stopped frequenting the so-called literary coffeehouses and started going to the Sacher with him -- no longer to the Hawelka but to the Ambassador, etc., until eventually the moment came when I could once more permit myself to go to the literary coffeehouse, when they no longer had such a deadly effect on me. For the truth is that the literary coffeehouses do have a deadly effect on a writer. Yet it is equally true that I am still more at home in my Viennese coffeehouses that I am in my own home at Nathal.'
from Wittgensteins Nephew
'In Rome I sometimes think of Wolfsegg and tell myself that I have only to go back there in order to rediscover my childhood. This has always proved to be a gross error, I thought. You’re going to see your parents, I have often told myself, the parents of your childhood, but all I’ve ever found is a gaping void. You can’t revisit your childhood, because it no longer exists, I told myself. The Children’s Villa affords the most brutal evidence that childhood is no longer possible. You have to accept this. All you see when you look back is this gaping void. Not only your childhood, but the whole of your past, is a gaping void. This is why it’s best not to look back. You have to understand that you mustn’t look back, if only for reasons of self-protection, I thought. Whenever you look back into the past, you’re looking into a gaping void. Even yesterday is a gaping void, even the moment that’s just passed.'
'.. the thousands and hundreds of thousands of words that we keep trotting out, recognizable by their revolting truth which is revolting falsehood, and inversely by their revolting falsehood which is revolting truth, in all languages, in all situations, the words that we don't hesitate to speak, to write and to remain silent about, that which speaks, words which are made of nothing and which are worth nothing, as we know and as we ignore, the words that we hang on to because we become crazed by impotence and are made desperate by madness, words only infect and don't know, efface and deteriorate, cause shame, falsify, cripple, darken and obscure; in one's mouth and on paper they do violence through those who do violence to them; both words and those who do them violence are shameless; the state of mind of words and of those who do them violence is impotent, happy, catastrophic.'
Accepting the Georg Büchner Prize / Source
"I never in my life freed myself by writing. If I had done that nothing would be left. And what would I do with the freedom I gained? I’m not in favour of liberation, of relief. The cemetery, maybe that’s it. But, no, I don't believe in that either, because there would be nothing then."
'Whereas, before Karrer went mad, I used to go walking with Oehler only on Wednesdays, now I go walking--now that Karrer has gone mad--with Oehler on Monday as well. Because Karrer used to go walking with me on Monday, you go walking on Monday with me as well, now that Karrer no longer goes walking with me on Monday, says Oehler, after Karrer had gone mad and had immediately gone into Steinhof. And without hesitation I said to Oehler, good, let's go walking on Monday as well. Whereas on Wednesday we always walk in one direction (in the eastern one), on Mondays we go walking in the western direction, strikingly enough we walk far more quickly on Monday than on Wednesday, probably, I think, Oehler always walked more quickly with Karrer than he did with me, because on Wednesday he walks much more slowly and on Monday much more quickly. You see, says Oehler, it's a habit of mine to walk more quickly on Monday and more slowly on Wednesday because I always walked more quickly with Karrer (that is on Monday) than I did with you (on Wednesday). Because, after Karrer went mad, you now go walking with me not only on Wednesday but also on Monday, there is no need for me to alter my habit of going walking on Monday and on Wednesday, says Oehler, of course, because you go walking with me on Wednesday and Monday you have probably had to alter your habit and, actually, in what is probably for you an incredible fashion, says Oehler. But it is good, says Oehler, and he says it in an unmistakably didactic tone, and of the greatest importance for the organism, from time to time, and at not too great intervals, to alter a habit, and he says he is not thinking of just altering, but of a radical alteration of the habit. You are altering your habit, says Oehler, in that now you go walking with me not only on Wednesday but also on Monday and that now means walking alternately in one direction (in the Wednesday-) and in the other (in the Monday-) direction, while I am altering my habit in that up till now I always went walking with you on Wednesday and with Karrer on Monday, but now I go with you on Monday and Wednesday, and thus also on Monday, and therefore on Wednesday in one (in the eastern) direction and on Monday in the other (in the western) direction.
Besides which, I doubtless, and in the nature of things, walk differently with you than I did with Karrer, says Oehler, because with Karrer it was a question of a quite different person from you and therefore with Karrer it was a question of quite different walking (and thinking), says Oehler. The fact that I--after Karrer had gone mad and had gone into Steinhof, Oehler says, finally gone into Steinhof--had saved Oehler from the horror of having to go walking on his own on Monday, these were his own words, I would not have gone walking at all on Monday, says Oehler, for there is nothing more dreadful than having to go walking on one's own on Monday and having to walk on one's own is the most dreadful thing. I simply cannot imagine, says Oehler, that you would not go walking with me on Monday. And that I should have to go walking on my own on Monday is something that I cannot imagine. Whereas Oehler habitually wears his topcoat completely buttoned up, I leave my topcoat completely open. I think the reason for this is to be found in his persistent fear of catching a chill and a cold when leaving his topcoat open, whereas my reason is the persistent fear of suffocating if my topcoat is buttoned up. Thus Oehler is constantly afraid of getting cold whereas I am constantly afraid of suffocating. Whereas Oehler has on boots that reach up above his ankles, I wear ordinary shoes, for there is nothing I hate more than boots, just as Oehler hates nothing more than regular shoes. It is ill-bred (and stupid!) always to wear regular shoes, Oehler says again and again, while I say it's senseless to walk in such heavy boots. While Oehler has a wide-brimmed black hat, I have a narrow-brimmed gray one. If you could only get used to wearing a broad-brimmed hat like the one I wear, Oehler often says, whereas I often tell Oehler, if you could get used to wearing a narrow-brimmed hat like me. A narrow-brimmed hat doesn't suit your head, only a wide-brimmed one does, Oehler says to me, whereas I tell Oehler, only a narrow-brimmed hat suits your head, but not a wide-brimmed one like the one you have on. Whereas Oehler wears mittens--always the same mittens--always, sturdy, woolen mittens that his sister knitted for him, I wear gloves, thin, though lined, pigskin gloves that my wife bought for me. One is only really warm in mittens, Oehler says over and over again, only in gloves, only in soft leather gloves like these, I say, can I move my hands as I do. Oehler wears black trousers with no cuffs, whereas I wear gray trousers with cuffs. But we never agree about our clothing and so there is no point in saying that Oehler should wear a narrow-brimmed hat, a pair of trousers with cuffs, topcoats that are not so tight as the one he has on etcetera, or that I should wear mittens, heavy boots etcetera, because we will not give up the clothing that we are wearing when we go walking and which we have been wearing for decades, no matter where we are going to, because this clothing, in the decades during which we have been wearing it, has become a fixed habit and so our fixed mode of dress.
If we hear something, says Oehler, on Wednesday we check what we have heard and we check what we have heard until we have to say that what we have heard is not true, what we have heard is a lie. If we see something, we check what we see until we are forced to say that what we are looking at is horrible. Thus throughout our lives we never escape from what is horrible and what is untrue, the lie, says Oehler. If we do something, we think about what we are doing until we are forced to say that it is something nasty, something low, something outrageous, what we are doing is something terribly hopeless and that what we are doing is in the nature of things obviously false. Thus every day becomes hell for us whether we like it or not, and what we think will, if we think about it, if we have the requisite coolness of intellect and acuity of intellect, always become something nasty, something low and superfluous which will depress us in the most shattering manner for the whole of our lives. For, everything that is thought is superfluous. Nature does not need thought, says Oehler, only human pride incessantly thinks into nature its thinking. What must thoroughly depress us is the fact that through this outrageous thinking into a nature which is, in the nature of things, fully immunized against this thinking, we enter into an even greater depression than that in which we already are. In the nature of things conditions become ever more unbearable through our thinking, says Oehler. If we think that we are turning unbearable conditions into bearable ones, we have to realize quickly that we have not made (have not been able to make) unbearable circumstances bearable or even less bearable but only still more unbearable. And circumstances are the same as conditions, says Oehler, and it's the same with facts. The whole process of life is a process of deterioration in which everything--and this is the most cruel law--continually gets worse. If we look at a person, we are bound in a short space of time to say what a horrible, what an unbearable person. If we look at Nature, we are bound to say, what a horrible what an unbearable Nature.
If we look at something artificial--it doesn't matter what the artificiality is--we are bound to say in a short space of time what an unbearable artificiality. If we are out walking, we even say after the shortest space of time, what an unbearable walk, just as when we are running we say what an unbearable run, just as when we are standing still, what an unbearable standing still, just as when we are thinking what an unbearable process of thinking. If we meet someone, we think within the shortest space of time, what an unbearable meeting. If we go on a journey, we say to ourselves, after the shortest space of time, what an unbearable journey, what unbearable weather, we say, says Oehler, no matter what the weather is like, if we think about any sort of weather at all. If our intellect is keen, if our thinking is the most ruthless and the most lucid, says Oehler, we are bound after the shortest space of time to say of everything that it is unbearable and horrible. There is no doubt that the art lies in bearing what is unbearable and in not feeling that what is horrible is something horrible. Of course we have to label this art the most difficult of all.
The art of existing against the facts, says Oehler, is the most difficult, the art that is the most difficult. To exist against the facts means existing against what is unbearable and horrible, says Oehler. If we do not constantly exist against, but only constantly with the facts, says Oehler, we shall go under in the shortest possible space of time. The fact is that our existence is an unbearable and horrible existence, if we exist with this fact, says Oehler, and not against this fact, then we shall go under in the most wretched and in the most usual manner, there should therefore be nothing more important to us than existing constantly, even if in, but also at the same time against the fact of an unbearable and horrible existence. The number of possibilities of existing in (and with) the fact of an unbearable and horrible existence, is the same as the number of existing against the unbearable and horrible existence and thus in (and with) and at the same time against the fact of an unbearable and horrible existence. It is always possible for people to exist in (and with) and, as a result, in all and against all facts, without existing against this fact and against all facts, just as it is always possible for them to exist in (and with) a fact and with all facts and against one and all facts and thus above all against the fact that existence is unbearable and horrible. It is always a question of intellectual indifference and intellectual acuity and of the ruthlessness of intellectual indifference and intellectual acuity, says Oehler. Most people, over ninety eight percent, says Oehler, possess neither indifference of intellect nor acuity of intellect and do not even have the faculty of reason. The whole of history to date proves this without a doubt. Wherever we look, neither indifference of intellect, nor acuity of intellect, says Oehler, everything is a giant, a shatteringly long history without intellectual indifference and without acuity of intellect and so without the faculty of reason. If we look at history, it is above all its total lack of the faculty of reason that depresses us, to say nothing of intellectual indifference and acuity. To that extent it is no exaggeration to say that the whole of history is a history totally without reason, which makes it a dead history. We have, it is true, says Oehler, if we look at history, if we look into history, which a person like me is from time to time brave enough to do, a tremendous Nature behind us, actually under us but in reality no history at all. History is a history-lie, is what I maintain, says Oehler.
But let us return to the individual, says Oehler. To have the faculty of reason would mean nothing other than breaking off with history and first and foremost with one's own personal history. From one moment to the next simply to give up, accepting nothing more, that's what having the faculty of reason means, not accepting a person not a thing, not a system and also, in the nature of things, not accepting a thought, just simply nothing more and then to commit suicide in this really single revolutionary realization. But to think like this leads inevitably to sudden intellectual madness, says Oehler, as we know, and to what Karrer has had to pay for with sudden total madness. He, Oehler, did not believe that Karrer would ever be released from Steinhof, his madness is too fundamental for that, says Oehler. His own daily discipline had been to school himself more and more in the most exciting and in the most tremendous and most epoch-making thoughts with an ever greater determination, but only to the furthest possible point before absolute madness. If you go as far as Karrer, says Oehler, then you are suddenly decisively and absolutely mad and have, at one stroke, become useless. Go on thinking more and more and more and more with ever greater intensity and with an ever greater ruthlessness and with an ever greater fanaticism for finding out, says Oehler, but never for one moment think too far. At any moment we can think too far, says Oehler, simply go too far in our thoughts, says Oehler, and everything becomes valueless. I am now going to return again, says Oehler, to what Karrer always came back to: that there is actually no faculty of reason in this world, or rather in what we call this world, because we have always called it this world, if we analyze what the faculty of reason is, we have to say that there simply is no faculty of reason--but Karrer had already analyzed that, says Oehler--that actually, as Karrer quite rightly said and the conclusion at which he finally arrived by his continued consideration of this incredibly fascinating subject was that there is no faculty of reason, only an under-faculty of reason. The so-called human faculty of reason, says Oehler, is, as Karrer said, always a mere under-faculty of reason, even a sub-faculty of reason. For if a faculty of reason were possible, says Oehler, then history would be possible, but history is not possible, because the faculty of reason is not possible and history is not possible, because the faculty of reason is not possible and history does not arise from an under-faculty or a sub-faculty of reason, discovery of Karrer's, says Oehler. The fact of the under-faculty of reason, or of the so-called sub-faculty of reason, says Oehler, does without doubt make possible the continued existence of Nature through human beings. If I had a faculty of reason, says Oehler, if I had an unbroken faculty of reason, he says, I would long ago have committed suicide. What is to be understood from, or by, what I am saying, says Oehler, can be understood, what is not to be understood cannot be understood. Even if everything cannot be understood, everything is nevertheless unambiguous, says Oehler. What we call thinking, has in reality nothing to do with the faculty of reason, says Oehler, Karrer is right about that when he says that we have no faculty of reason because we think, for to have a faculty of reason means not to think and so to have no thoughts. What we have is nothing but a substitute for a faculty of reason. A substitute for thought makes our existence possible. All the thinking that is done is only substitute thinking, because actual thinking is not possible, because there is no such thing as actual thinking, because Nature excludes thinking. You may think I'm mad, says Oehler, but actual, and that means real, thinking is completely excluded. But we call what we think is thinking, thinking, just as we call walking what we consider to be walking, just as we say we are walking when we believe that we are walking and are actually walking, says Oehler.
What I've just said has absolutely nothing to do with cause and effect, says Oehler. And there's no objection to saying thinking, where it's not a question of thinking, and there's no objection to saying faculty of reason where there's no possibility of its being a question of faculty of reason and there's no objection to saying concepts where they are not at issue. It is only by calling actions and things, actions and things that are in no way actions and things, because there is no way that they can be actions and things that we get any further, it is only in this way, says Oehler that something is possible, indeed that anything is possible. Experience is a fact about which we know nothing and above all it is something which we cannot get to the root of, says Oehler. But on the other hand it is just as much a fact that we always act exactly or at least much more in concert with this fact, which is what I do (and recognize) when I say, these children, whom we see here in Klosterneuburgerstrasse, have been made because the faculty of reason was suspended, although we know that the concepts used in that statement, and as a result the words used in the statement, are completely false and thus we know that everything in the statement is false. Yet if we cling to our experience which represents a zenith and we can no longer sustain ourselves, then we no longer exist, says Oehler. '