by Michael Buergermeister
With regret Robert watched the curtain fall. For a split second, as he relaxed, took a step back, and studied the figure of Gertrude, in violet costume and blonde wig, sprawled upon the stage, the golden goblet still rolling from her outstretched hand, the ruby-red wine spilt and already soaking into the floor, he was not sure if he was Hamlet the Dane or Robert an actor.
He awoke from his dream. He was in an Airbus A319 with 120 odd passengers, a plane 108ft long, with a wingspan of 111ft, a range of 1,263 miles and a cruising speed of 530 mph at 35,000 ft. He was 38,000ft over Bayreuth, dark, demonic Wagner's Bayreuth, with 777km to go.
Clouds spread out like the fleece of a lamb and through their rugged holes occasional patches of snow could be seen below. Soon they would be passing over Cologne, with its monumental cathedral, and Kassel, the Kassel he remembered so well from the Documenta. Then would come Dusseldorf and Eindhoven.
Two weeks had passed since Robert had first been informed. A note from the police had been attached to his door telling him to get in touch, and he had guessed the reason.
Minutes after he had walked into his flat the phone had rung. It had been his sister, Sarah, a failed fashion designer, telling him what had happened, and what was worse, how. If he had cried that night it was more on account of the manner of his mother's death than the fact of her passing. He had long been reconciled to the latter yet had never cast a thought on the former. And the manner of her death had been truly appalling: she had burned to death. Again and again, as if in a film-loop, he had pictured her running out of the back-door, ablaze. It had been a fitting death he and others would later remark. Her element had always been fire.
As Robert gazed out of the window a play started, much like a film, in his head. Although he didn't want to pay it any heed it didn't seem to want to let him go. He could visualize it, vividly, something that was rarely the case, he tending to hear the voices of characters rather than see them. Was it a burst of grief or simply an exorcism of the passions? He grew quite frantic. He abandoned the play in the book (he had a copy of Hamlet open in front of him) and got out a pad and pen to attend to the one in his head. Even after one pen started to leak, due to air pressure, he persisted. He switched to a second and, after that had failed too, drew out a pencil. And all the while his neighbour looked askance at him, thinking him half mad.
In the play going on in his head he could see an old lady dressed in the fashion of the 19th century. It took a while before he recognized her for who she was: Mme Aupick, and the young dandy who walked onto the scene could, of course, be none other than the young Charles Baudelaire. But the figures were not identical with the historical characters. Mme Aupick was not merely how he subjectively imagined her to be but a comingling of Mme Aupick and his own mother, curiously neither the one nor the other, as though she had a third identity all of her own. And Charles had basically nothing in common with either himself or Charles Baudelaire, other than a few superficial similarities, and seemed to have an independent life of his own too. They did not even speak French. What Robert saw in his mind's eye was like a film, in dark and sombre colours, reds and blacks, half-lit, as if set in a small studio. Mme Aupick, for so we shall name her, appeared first and started a monologue full of reason and indeed praise of her son. It was only slowly that her passion began to wax and her irritation and vexation at Charles' impossible behaviour grew.
In Robert's mind's eye Charles, the chief character of the play, was handsome, with almost feminine beauty, the beauty of the kind he had once known in a class-mate, much more elegant and indeed aristocratic than Charles Baudelaire. A true dandy if ever there was one. He had above all the elegant air of the 18th rather than 19th Century, whereas his mother, Mme Aupick, had all the fussiness and indeed weight of the 19th. His movements were so lithe and graceful that for a moment Robert feared that he would not speak. He was almost like a dancer, each movement consummately expressive and weighed with meaning. When he finally did utter a few sentences his words were balanced and polished, as if long meditated, or conned from a book. And indeed the self-conscious artificiality with which he spoke hinted at an insecurity Robert knew all too well. This will be easy Robert told himself. He is much like myself after all. Yes, that was the key to his character: his insecurity. The more insecure he felt the greater the need for external pretence, if not, indeed, outright arrogance. Robert started to feel comfortable with him, even if he did not identify himself with Charles completely, as yet. He shared Charles' abhorrence of strong emotion, of outbursts and scenes. He loved "civilized" behaviour and politeness, and so, as a matter of fact, did Charles.
Robert turned to the vexed question of directing Hamlet. The opening dialogue seemed hopelessly dead; so staid, so tired, so dull. He had heard it in his ears a thousand times and he could hear it no more. How would he stage it? Would he stage it? Would he dare? He imagined Peter Brook's wise face, smile and soft voice saying: "The important word here is…"
Robert thought of the location: Elsinore; a platform before the castle. What could such a platform look like, he asked himself? How was an atmosphere of mystery and foreboding to be conjured?
Francisco was at his post when Bernardo entered. The latter was frightened: "Who's there?" Robert let the echo of emotion pass through his mind: the sheer animal fear of death. The imagination of Bernardo would have been running wild, his adrenalin pumping and his state one of intense anxiety. The same would have been true of Francisco: "Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself".
Bernardo had settled matters by calling out: "Long live the king!" Only then did Francisco realize who it was. He was out of danger. Robert imagined his sense of relief.
What did Francisco mean when he said: "You come most carefully upon your hour"? Was it meant as a reproach? Had he been too early? Or was his tone ironic? Had he been too late?
Francisco had been surprisingly emotional: "For this relief much thanks: 'tis bitter cold, And I am sick at heart" to which Bernardo had simply replied: "Have you had quiet guard?" Not a mouse had been stirring. Bernardo had then dismissed him with the words: "Well, good night. If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus, The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste."
Robert's mind wandered to the source texts. He thought of how Horwendil's friendship with Rorik had enabled him to woo and win in marriage his daughter Gerutha, and how she, in turn, had born him a son: Amleth. How Horwendil's good fortune had stung Feng with jealousy, how the latter had resolved treacherously to waylay his brother and how, when a chance came to murder him, his "bloody hand sated the deadly passion of his soul". How he then took the wife of the brother he had butchered, "capping unnatural murder with incest", "made up a mock pretence of goodwill to excuse his crime", and "glossed over fratricide with a show of righteousness", declaring that Gerutha, "had been visited with her husband's extremest hate; and it was all to save her that he had slain his brother."
Minutes passed, and what seemed like hours, as Robert studied the luminous clouds beyond his window, but no thought of any relevance or use occurred to him. Why not explain that on account of his bereavement the project had to be cancelled? And the amiable American, Geoff, for whose production company he was to do it, was sure to release him from his contract. Yet at the same time, it was Hamlet, his favourite play, and how often did one have the chance to direct it? Apart from which he needed the money, however meagre the fee, and that proved decisive. So he set his mind to work again and mulled over all the unresolved questions spinning in his head.
He had read through the source narratives, the "Historiae Danicae" by Saxo Grammaticus and "The Hystorie of Hamblet" three weeks before, and had gone through the play again for what must have been the millionth time.
Why the ghost? He could not help but think of his own mother. Did Robert believe in ghosts? Was there an afterlife? He would have liked to have believed in it. Would his mother, or the memory of her, haunt him beyond the confines of her grave? He dreamt of her, frequently, how he had at once imagined and remembered her, and the thought of her inflicted him with pain. He asked himself again: Why the ghost? and could find no satisfactory answer. There had been no ghost in the original texts. There had been no need for one. Everyone had known that Feng/Fengon, Amleth's/Hamblet's uncle had killed Horwendil/Horvendile, Amleth's/Hamblet's father, and had excused him for it. Was it simply a theatrical effect? Perhaps. Had Shakespeare seen the ghost in Seneca's "Thyestes", been impressed by it, and, with his magpie's eye, appropriated it for himself? Most probably. Was it perhaps his way of showing an ambition to write a truly "classical" play? Rivalry with the "old masters"? Or was it a device to make more credible Claudius' pretence and to heighten the sense of hypocrisy? Perhaps it was a mix of all of three.
The ghost gave the play a metaphysical dimension, Robert reflected, not unlike the Noh dramas, the meeting of this world and the next. Yes: that was what he would tell the actors.
Of interest too were the other major discrepancies: Shakespeare's addition of the characters of young Fortinbras and Laertes, both of whom hadn't existed in the original tale. They were explained more easily, as parallel figures, to be compared and contrasted with Hamlet.
Robert had resolved early on to stick as religiously as possible to the text and thus had decided not to axe either Bernardo or Fransisco, as was often the case. Besides which Geoff had promised him that there would be neither a shortage of actors nor money. And, he reflected, the opening words were, after all, not without import: "Who's there?", setting the theme of the play, and its atmosphere of abiding mystery and confusion. But how was this sense of confusion, mystery and indeed, the divine, to be conveyed to a modern audience, without appearing ridiculous in the attempt? Was it possible in this secular and sceptical age? Robert was an agnostic but he was a great believer in both the demonic, as Goethe defined it, and the divine.
What did he want to achieve? To impress, shock or surprise? With what would he begin? The greatest problem most actors had with Shakepeare was the language. They would recite it with rhyme yet no reason. And that is what he hated most of all. It would take hours of painstaking work to help them understand why Shakespeare had written what he had. At times Shakespeare had aimed at the mind, at others the imagination, but above all each speech was craftily designed to work on the emotions.
He would get them to act out scenes of Seneca, Marlowe and Beaumont and Fletcher in order to accustom them to Shakespeare's dramatic sources. He would ask them to read essays by Montaigne and Bacon so that they could understand his intellectual world. And he would request them to block the scenes, getting them used to the situations they would find themselves in. But the most difficult task of all would be to persuade them to surrender themselves, body and soul, to the rhythm of the work, to let go of their vanities and fears. It had to be played with a tremendous force and energy, an energy which was at variance with the modern, naturalistic, psychological style.
Robert wanted to play the piece at a rapid pace, no easy task for an actor, and they would have to master their texts absolutely to do so. Would he give them microphones and even texts to make the task easier? Perhaps. He wanted them to move freely. He was a great adherent of "physical" theatre, believing that nothing better than the human body told a story. And he wanted grace, beauty, fluency but above all speed. He wanted to dazzle, awe and indeed inspire. Yet how was he to do so?
He cast his thoughts to the vexed question of stage design, lighting and costume. If Hamlet was the meeting of the earthly and the divine, the worldly and the metaphysical, yet at the same time the expression of these worlds in confusion, then the design would have to reflect this. The thought occurred to him that different elements of the set could be out of proportion, either too large or too small, like gigantic or tiny chess pieces, similar to Sternberg's "The Scarlet Empress" or Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible", while the lighting would need to be highly expressionistic. Everything would have to be in black and white; and if the play was truly the mirror of it's time, it would have to be in Elizabethan costumes, though these would need to be distorted too.
Robert thought about the aim of theatre. Was theatre an expression of the human spirit? Did it have to be passionate? Was it concerned primarily with the heart and not just ideas? Was it, by definition, a collective effort? And was it not this fact that attracted him to it? Was theatre essentially the self-expression of one's inner life? A creative self-expression of the very fact of being?
Robert caught occasional snatches of his neighbour's conversation. He had barely paid them any heed, finding company unbearable, and they had responded in kind. He had only glanced at the stout, middle-aged, American lady with glasses and curly blond hair and a tall, thin, raggedly handsome young man, in red T-shirt and jeans, with swarthy complexion and rakish good looks, next to the aisle.
They talked about delayed flights, irate businessmen, the varying manners of airhostesses, lost luggage, and their fears, 9/11, and the ever-present threat of terrorist attack. The lady, who owned a large restaurant, yet always flew economy out of principle, told the young man, a researcher, how she would never forget the ashes of Ground Zero, how her brother had called her and how she had believed the nation under attack.
Robert's thoughts wandered back to the events of that memorable day.
At 7.58, on 9/11, when American Airlines Flight 11 took off from Logan Airport, Boston, bound for LA, Robert had entered a Subway restaurant in the Seiler gasse in Vienna's first district. He had exchanged a few pleasanteries with the amiable, dark-skinned, Malaysian manager, who had studied law in England and, after buying his meal, had ascended the stairs.
He had sat down at a small, pale lemon-yellow table with a picture of the World Trade Center directly behind him. As he had munched on his tuna sandwich, with caesar sauce, occasionally glancing at the young Viennese to his right and the middle-aged American tourists to his left, he had studied the window of the shop opposite. As he had done so communication with Flight 11 was lost. A minute later United Airlines Flight 175 left Boston. As Robert sat, thinking of nothing in particular, American Airline Flight 77 left Dulles International Airport, Washington.
He had been half daydreaming, half thinking about who, exactly, he should invite to the theatre that night, when Mohamed Atta's team had taken control of Flight 11, killed its captain and crew, turned off the transponder and confirmed that the flight had been hijacked with the words: "We have some planes".
While Robert dropped paprika and lettuce onto his tray, and grew self-consciously annoyed and mildly embarrassed at his own clumbsiness, the FAA had been told of the hijacking.
As he left the table, placed his green, plastic tray in the grey, metal rack, threw a glance at the photo of the World Trade Center, still peacefully residing behind its reflecting glass, Noraid's north east center had been informed.
The procedure for such an eventuality was a complex affair: the pilot was supposed to contact an air traffic controller, he in turn would notify his supervisor, they would alert FAA headquarters, a hijack coordinater would contact the Pentagon's National Military Command Center, the Center would contact the Secretary of Defence's office and the Secretary himself would give the order to launch some planes.
As all this was not going on Robert had walked down the stairs and out into the stunningly beautiful September day. He passed the restaurant owned by the monastery, turned into the narrow alley, which seperates the Seilerstaette from the Spiegel gasse, and passed down the latter, in the direction of the Dorotheum.
The sunlight, reflected from the large windows above, had lit up the whole street. Here Beethoven had worked, Salieri, Schubert and Grillparzer had lived, around the corner, Mozart, and not far removed Nestroy had been born.
He strolled down the Spiegel gasse, and turned into the Planken gasse, with its pharmacist's on the corner.
As he entered Braeunerhof, in the Stallburg gasse, at 8:46:40, 14:46:40 Vienna-time, pushed open the doors that seperated the hectic world without from the civilized, quiet and leisurely one within, American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 bound for Los Angeles, hit the World Trade Center's North Tower between its 94th and 99th floors.
He passed quickly to the table where newspapers were piled, selected two, looked around for a seat, found one next to a window, threw his jacket onto a chair, and sat down. As he opened one of the newspapers people were already jumping from the North Tower.
While the "Herr Ober", tall, thin and tanned, in a black tuxedo and black bow tie, came over to take his order two F-15s were scrambled from Otis Air Force Base, 150 miles from New York. Robert was undecided as to whether he would have a coffee or a peppermint tea. If he had a coffee it was unlikely that he would sleep that night. Yet he felt tired, having rehearsed in the morning, and was most definitely in need of a "kleiner BraunBrauner". He looked at a pot plant directly in front of him, its leaves covered in dust, and an oval mirror, as if they might be able to prompt an answer.
To his right two ladies donned their jackets, continuing their animated conversation as they did so, while a grey haired man with black, baggy suit and curiously disconsolate expression sat two tables away, where Thomas Bernhard had once sat. Once the coffee had arrived Robert looked out of the drafty window to his left, with its old maroon curtains.
As he glanced up from the International Herald Tribune, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of the Panshir valley, had been killed by a suicide bomber posing as a camera-man the day before, and put a second lump of sugar in his coffee, becoming aware of the murmur of voices and the jingle of the waiter's change, the transponder on United Airline Flight 175 blinked off. A few minutes later, as this fact was first noticed, Robert got up to look for The Guardian. After a cursory search he returned with Die Zeit. As FAA officials in Indianapolis noticed that Flight 77 from Washington had disappeared from the radar, Robert flicked through the paper and found an article about the production of "Faust", by Peter Stein. While waiting for rehearsals to begin Stein had told the actors and actresses about how a tortoise, dropped from a great height, had killed Aeschylus.
Some pretty girls entered. A moment later United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower of The World Trade Center. Robert glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was shortly after three. The pretty girls sat not far removed from him, to his right. When he glanced over toward them aviation officials realised that American Airlines Flight 77 was missing. As fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base were scrambled to intercept Flight 11, which had already hit the North Tower, Robert pondered who and what he should be rehearsing in the next days.
While he finished the last drops of his coffee and started to sip his glass of water Flight 77 was detected again, this time heading for Washington. As he got up a second time, to renew his search for The Guardian, an unarmed National Guard C-130H cargo plane was scrambled to follow Flight 77.
His thoughts wandered back to the plane he was actually on. The lady next to him complained about the long trip to Seattle, back to her mother, who was ninety five, and gave expression to her fear that she might miss her connecting flight.
The heads of two, restless boys popped up in front of him and stared at Robert with blank, friendless eyes. He turned his head to look at the fin at the tip of the wing, just above the horizon, and, as air-turbulence was forcing everybody to fasten their seat belts, he noticed the coast below. A few tufts of cloud threw shadows upon the solid mass of green. Below was the hronrad, the whale road. In a matter of minutes they would reach the coast of England. And sure enough there it was under the tilted wing, jutting out against the dazzling waves. How could he not think of Shakespeare's words? England, the precious stone in a silver sea; England, with it's Wessex heath, its Cheshire Plane, its wildwoods of Essex, East Anglia, Derbyshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire, composed of hazel, wych-elm, oak, alder and lime, its oak forests of Sherwood, Savernake and Bramshaw, its beech-woods of the Chilterns, Cotswolds and New Forest, its North Yorkshire Moors with their bleak winds and bitter, northern skies, its Sussex Downs and Norfolk Broads, all surrounded by the shallow waters of the continental shelf; caressed by a dying Gulf Stream.
As he looked down he thought of the UK with its area of 244,820 km², its coastline of 12,429km, its rugged hills, low mountains, rolling plains, its natural resources of coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay and chalk, and its produce of machine tools, electric power, electronics, communications equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, textiles, clothing, paper, cereals, oilseed, vegetables, cattle, sheep, poultry and fish.
Then the slow descent began. The captain announced that they would be arriving in London shortly, London with its 4.7 hours of sunshine a day, 163 days of rain a year, its population of 7.2m, with their "evil racy faces", 300 languages, fifty communities, "the Spleen or Melt in the body natural", "hell", "the heart of the universe", "magnificent" the "great fowl city", the "ghastly heap of fermenting brickwork, pouring out poison at every pore", with its Square Mile and its Poverty Driven Children, its South Man Syndicate and Stockwell Crew, with their straps and macs out to cream and tax their fellow citizens.
Rivers seemed like streams of light. All of a sudden Robert could make out plots of land, clusters of houses, glints of windowpanes, regimented streets, traces of snow, and dark clusters of woodland. And then came the inevitable urban sprawl like a gigantic electronic chipboard, yet one with a curious mixture of both linearity and chaos: London.
Who was Heinrich? Robert had asked himself three days before. And who was the lady he was said to have stolen from? The few photos he had managed to obtain had provided him with scant information. They were old, three years to be exact. Would he look different now? Robert had asked himself then. Was he a criminal? Was he evil or simply insane? Or perhaps all three?
Robert arrived at Vienna's Secession, shortly before three, on a hot, breezy, April afternoon. The front of the building was in shadow and only when the wind blew the branches of a plant in a large, wide basin, adorned with a blue and gold mosaic in curling designs, did Robert notice that the sun was almost directly above him. Three masks stood over the entrance and beneath them, in gold lettering, were the words: "Malerei, Archiktektur, Plastik", Painting, Architecture, Sculpture. Further up was gold leafing and protruding out above that stood: "Der Zeit ihre Kunst, Der Kunst ihre Freiheit", to each age its own art, and for art its freedom. Robert ascended, alongside some motley-clad tourists, toting cameras or simply carrying plastic bags, the worn, faded, vaguely marble-looking, red stone steps, and passed a tiny window, with green curling metal work, on his way. As he reached the top the doors, with their green frames and glass panes, seemed to open of their own accord.
The entrance hall, faintly lit by sunlight, was, after the dry blustery heat outside, agreeably cool. Robert passed an installation, with photos of children and naked men hanging from plastic branches, before entering the main, humid, exhibition space itself. The words: "Crush, slice and grind" appeared on a video-screen. To the left was what looked like a large metal fireplace and in front of that were large, square, brown and orange cushions on polished metal sheets. The staccato sound of somebody cutting up what looked like an onion started to get on his nerves and he was glad when it was replaced by the words "From Bangkok with love", yellow on pink, on the screen.
Dazed and not a little confused Robert stumbled down the narrow, neon lit stairs in the direction of the basement. Robert wasn't sure if this was the right time or even the right place for the appointed meeting. Something told him it was but another voice, equally strong, told him it wasn't. Robert checked that he had both recorders in his pockets. It would be silly if he turned up with nothing in hand. He was relieved that he had had the good sense to buy new batteries for both at a Bipa down the road ten minutes before.
To his right was a sign pointing in the direction of the WC. Since he had a few minutes to spare, most probably looked wind-swept, needed to go to the toilet, and, above all, to freshen up, he followed the arrow. Between the green doors of the Gents and Ladies was, to his relief, a full sized mirror and, what was more, the light was very low. Inside the WC he could not help but marvel at the simplicity of the rectangular mirrors and the metal basins, between which there seemed to be a heater. It was lit on the one hand by four lamps, two above the mirrors and two above the urinals, and on the other by an ovoid, frosted, double glazed window, which, with the round metal object in the middle, reminded him of an eye. After leaving the bathroom he descended a fresh batch of stairs.
It took him a while to orient himself in the basement and when he hit upon the room he was seeking, which wasn't at all as grand, considering its reputation, as he had expected, adjacent to one with an account, in word and picture, of how the building had developed from being nothing more than a sketch to being built and then rebuilt after the war, it was purely by accident. To his relief he saw the man he was looking for and went straight up to him.
"It is not easy," Heinrich said, studying the knight of the Beethoven Frieze, "having a father who was a member of the Waffen SS." He always heard the first strains of Wagner's "Rienzi" in his imaginary ears upon seeing it he told Robert. Not Mahler, who the knight was supposed to represent, but Wagner. "Klimt's interpretation of Wagner's interpretation of Beethoven." Robert was aghast not so much at what but how he said it, with a callous laugh and a warning flash in his eyes. It was cold in the room in the basement of the Secession and Robert made the mistake of mentioning this fact.
"It is always cold here, and the harsh light, which lights the room is "abstoßend", repellent, repulsive, repugnant." Heinrich's whole gaunt frame seemed to shake with mirth before he continued. "At first the whole frieze struck me to the core with terror. Nazi art, but, and that was the most frightening, of the highest niveau." He looked at his cheap Swiss army watch. It was five past three. He had already spent half an hour there, walking around the room trying to "entschluessel", decode, the meaning of the work; the hideous hags, the pristine knight, the lovers. He felt bruised and frustrated as if he had been running against the walls themselves.
Heinrich was tall, thin, and shabbily dressed. Indeed it was difficult to guess that he was a successful writer returning to his native Vienna to attend to legal matters. He spoke briefly about the matter in hand, the reason for his return, the case: "Do you think that I'm a thief too?" Robert was caught off guard, having at that point been trying to guess his age as if it were the most important thing in the world.
Heinrich gave Robert a keen glance. Robert tried to disguise the fact that he did behind a mock naivety and cool empirical gaze. "I don't know," Robert said somewhat truculently. Heinrich was amused at Robert's courage or at least show of it. Heinrich smiled one of his x-ray smiles, which seemed to see through him. "Sie haben mich durchgeschaut," Robert proffered as if the fact that he had uttered it in German were an ameliorating circumstance. Robert felt a proper fool and was angry at being put in such an awkward position. Who was interviewing whom, Robert asked himself?
"You know I consider myself a very feminine guy. I have chosen a very feminine profession. I have tried to be sensitive toward my fellow man, respectful to the ladies, and what you in England would call "a decent chap." He paused and looked away for a moment before addressing Robert again. "But you know what" he proffered with one of his cold smiles, "I think that you are right." The case concerned an event, or sequence of events or supposed sequence of events, which had occurred five years before. At that time Heinrich was neither successful nor well known and was living more or less like a down and out. Robert could not escape the impression that this case would never have come into being had it not been for the fact that he had become rich and famous. There was something of the old fashioned vendetta about it. When Robert had first agreed to write the story he had been firmly convinced of Heinrich's innocence but now, having spent three days doing research, he was no longer so sure. What was he doing, the editor had asked just an hour before? Did he think he was on holiday? He had his story; he should write it.
"What does it mean to love women more than anything in the world and at the same time to hate them with the exact same intensity if it is not an example of the Beethoven Complex?" Heinrich was staring at the benighted figures, uttering this rhetorical question as if no one else were in the room. Robert had his title and his answer to the editor: "Working on Beethoven Complex…" Robert was intrigued. Writing the story at that point in time was no longer an option.
"I always love one woman but sacrifice her on behalf of another. Does that not sound odd? What does it sound like in German? No I'm not sure I could even formulate that in German."
And the theft? "That was a misunderstanding. Even at my age I still don't know what women want. I sincerely thought she'd feel flattered when I adapted her text for the book. Immortal. I was making her immortal. I expected gratitude. You think that I should know better than that. And apart from which I get so easily irritated." Here he stopped abruptly.
"Alma Mahler said to the effect that although this building wasn't what you might call beautiful it was interesting. Which didn't stop her falling in love with its architect of course. But that was a long time after her affair with Klimt. He had pursued her to Italy and her stepfather, also an artist, upbraided him for it and called him a shallow fellow. This was of course before falling for Mahler, who was hesitant about marrying her, having then no "secure position".
It is odd to think that Mahler, who adapted the choral part of Beethoven's Ninth for trumpets for here by the way, that poor Jewish boy from the provinces, was admired so much by that other poor boy from the provinces, Adolf Hitler, another sufferer of the Beethoven Complex of course. And it is even odder to think that Hitler attended the same school at the same time and was roughly the same age as one of the sons of the chief sponsors of this building, a certain Karl Wittgenstein, father of Ludwig."
Freud Robert said to himself, but where does Freud fit in to it? Heinrich had mentioned, almost in one breath, and all somehow in connection with this building, every one else Robert had ever heard of, of fame in Vienna at that time.
"Yes Beethoven" Heinrich sighed reverentially, "you have to read not just his letters, but his diary too. It is all there, in black and white, his neuroses, his belief in the impossibility of happiness beyond art, his talk of "Ergebenheit", submission, "Schicksal", fate, "Opfer" sacrifice and "Kampf", struggle.
His letters, his early ones especially, are wonderful. They show him to have been highly insecure, unsure if he would ever be a genius, with high-minded intentions, generosity of mind, radical stance, democratic inclinations, a penchant for flouting convention, and a habit of flaunting his revolutionary ideas in front of his high aristocratic patrons, who, by the way, must have been highly indulgent to take this viper to their breasts at a time when revolution was sweeping Europe.
His diary reminds me, with its appeal to Eastern Mysticism and stoicism as well as misogyny, not a little of Schopenhauer. It is odd that they were both inspired by William Jones' translations. But there is another connection between the two of course. Both knew Goethe. The times, during and after the Napoleonic wars, must have been especially rough to have inspired such profound pessimism.
And there is a third connection too. I often think that Wittgenstein was inspired as much by Beethoven as by Schopenhauer."
He pointed at the frieze and his hand swept over it.
"The first part, the sleek feminine figures, which are borne through the air, represent the longing for happiness, "Die Sehnsucht nach Glueck". The second, the emaciated kneeling figures and girl, the suffering of weak humanity, "Die Leiden der schwachen Menschheit" asking the knight, perhaps a portrait of Mahler, "der wohlgeruesteten Starken", for happiness.
Interesting is the explanation as to the motivation of the knight, reminiscent of Nietzsche's portrayal of Wagner in Bayreuth: "als aeußere, Mitleid und Ehrgeiz als innere treibende Kraft, die ihn das Ringen nach dem Glueck aufzunehmen bewegen", externally compassion and internally ambition as the driving force that compel him to wrestle for happiness. In Nietzsche's text Wagner had been presented as the silent hero, with few friends and many enemies, an adventurer and discoverer who discovered art itself, rendering everything before redundant, a "Wille zur Macht Mensch" a Will to Power man if ever there was one, a unifier and simplifier yet at the same time a liberator whose music was the transformation of nature in love "in ihrer Kunst ertoent die in Liebe verwandelte Natur", a revolutionary who became one out of compassion for the people.
After this group come the powers of evil "Die feindlichen Gewalten", the giant gorilla-like Typhoeus against whom even the gods were powerless, his three daughters: the three gorgons, snakes curling with anguish in their hair, Sickness, Madness and Death. Next to them are Lust, pent up, her leg bent and head tilted, Impurity with a somewhat dreamlike expression on her face and obese Intemperance and not far removed, cowed and veiled in sorrow, Gnawing Care. Yet above them the figures representing the desire for happiness fly on, reaching their destination, the calm of poetry, a Greek girl with a lyre, the arts which seem to be borne up from a well, the serene choir, pure joy, happiness and love, and fulfilment in a kiss."
He smiled ironically.
"It is a bit like my life, between Sickness, Madness and Death. A bit like the life of Wittgenstein too. He also, of that I am sure, was inspired by Nietzsche, especially his demand that language should, once more, fit emotion.
Not far away from here is where Beethoven's "Leonore" later renamed and reworked as "Fidelio" was first performed, in the Theater an der Wien, where Beethoven could lodge, for free, in a tiny garret.
Is that not art? The search for, sadly, all too elusive happiness? Come we'll leave this building and I will show you Vienna, my Vienna."
As they ascended the narrow stairs Heinrich quoted a few sentences from Beethoven's diary: "Beethoven wrote curious things such as "Erst uebe wunder, willst du sie enthuellen: Nur so kannst du dein Dasein erfuellen," first practice wonder, only in revealing it will you fulfil your being. And: "Er hat mich ja entsagen und entbehren Gelehrt, im heiligen Gefuehl der Pflicht," he taught me abstinence and abjuration, in the holy feeling of duty."
They left the rather squat, stumpy looking building, which somehow reminded Robert of a factory, and turned around to face it. In the summer sun the whitewash seemed to gleam with nearly the same intensity as the spherical wreath of gold, which rested on what looked like four chimneys. "I remember when it was grey and its crown lustreless and even I had thought that it had warranted the nickname given to it by most Viennese: the Assyrien toilet. It was first renovated by a Swiss architect named Krischanitz in 1985. His offices are around the corner. That was after the Americans, thanks primarily to that mild, old man of American letters, Carl E. Shorske, had discovered Fin de Siecle Vienna. It was first at that time that Fin de Siecle Vienna became fashionable and everybody wanted to know about it. Before that "Freud" had been a dirty word here.
Of course of interest is the "spruche", epigram: "Der Zeit ihre Kunst, der Kunst ihre Freiheit"." Robert had to confess that he had always had difficulty with the cases, never being able to understand the point of using nominative, accusative, genitive and dative, and the fact that German had only four as opposed to the six of Russian and Latin had never been much of a comfort.
"The question always arises as to the relation of art to its time. What is meant by "For each time its own art"? For Hitler, for example, that was by no means obvious and he sincerely believed that one could consciously create timeless art.
And then there is the other question: "For art its freedom". Taken too far one has Otto Muehl and his abuse of children, taken not far enough one has boredom, triviality and banality, in short 99% of the art that is produced and consumed today. Art has to be free but the artist has to be courageous and take risks even if it means being execrated like Thomas Bernhard was. You can't possibly imagine the scandals his works provoked. He did not seek to be loved. Feared and respected maybe but never loved."
They walked on and passed through, the sun in their eyes, the casbah-like "Naschmarkt", the largest open-air market in Europe or so Robert had been told, which, at the turn of the century, had extended to where the tourist office now stands. A variety of scents assailed Robert's senses. To his left were tiny shops, with green, wooden panelling, faded, orange awnings and large stalls, a couple of which were packed with avocados, strawberries, mangoes, melons, bananas, peaches, cherries, pineapples, apples, oranges, pears, and many fruits of which he didn't know the names. To his right were shops selling meat and fish, some of the latter swimming around in tanks, under what seemed to be rather insalubrious circumstances. But they were nothing in comparison with the shops selling herbs and spices. The aromas, which wafted from them, were unlike anything Robert had ever encountered before. It was not that he found the curious mixture, the mingling of the savoury and the piquant, pleasurable, but rather disturbing. Indeed after a while he found the amassed array, the quantity and variety, to be simply overwhelming and not a little repugnant.
"This is where Hermann Nitsch buys his things when he prepares for his "Orgien Mysterien Theatre"." Heinrich told him. " Of course it is a nonsense to try to capture a sense of primeval authenticity on video but that is precisely what he tries to do. His ideas though, with their curiously Viennese blend of Tachism, Freudianism and Wagnerianism are not without interest. Perhaps they seem a little dated today but they were very much of relevance forty years ago. Then a man could still get killed for protesting against the Nazis. It was their culture that was prevalent at the time and Vienna was ripe for catharsis. Which is what Nitsch, Brus, Frohner and others tried to provide it with of course. Not that it got them anywhere, other than a spell in prison, which is where most Viennese would most probably throw a latter day Mozart or Beethoven. The times of aristocratic patronage are dead and buried you see and the ones who now rule the roost are the corrupt, incompetent and mendacious bureaucrats, the petty, cold and kleptocratic petit bourgeoisie and the dishonest, ignorant and brutal peasantry."
Finally they arrived at the "Theatre an der Wien", one of two venerable old theatres, although one wouldn't have guessed it from its façade, dating back to the beginning of the 19th Century, still standing in Vienna. At the time Beethoven's "Fidelio" was produced here the building had been brand new. To the left of the entrance, behind doors that slid open, was the "Beethoven Zimmer", a re-creation of what Beethoven's room might have looked like. It was beautifully cool inside. On the left was a bed, in Biedermeier style, as was everything else in the room, adorned with a pink sheet and a white pillow. Above it were four small pictures. Next to it was a cupboard, upon which books and a candle stood. To the right was a small piano and behind that a clock and a mirror. Close to the piano was a lectern, upon which were some music notes and a quill. They left the room and walked up the Milloecker gasse.
"Of course the history of Beethoven's opera is a long and arduous one. As was everything with him. He was not like Mozart. Music did not come to him in his dreams. No, with him the process was long and laborious, tiresome, tortuous and not a little tedious. It is no surprise that he took an age finding the right theme for his opera, then the right librettist and of course an inordinate amount of time composing the thing, which he only completed with extreme difficulty. Only for it to be banned of course.
The authorities were very sensitive to his portrayal of a police state, a state not dissimilar to Austria at that time. And then came the French bombardment and capture of Vienna, which didn't help matters. It is ironic when one thinks about it. French officers watching an opera based on a French play based on the consequences of the French revolution and not understanding a word of it. Of course it had to be a failure and it was only performed a couple of times. Do you believe in fidelity?" "Yes, I do." Robert proffered somewhat belatedly but Heinrich had moved on, lost in his train of thought.
"Of course Beethoven is not a patch on Mozart when it comes to opera. Mozart was a child but he understood the human soul and he understood how weak the flesh truly is and therefore the necessity of forgiveness. In that respect he was peculiarly Catholic. Are you a Catholic?"
Robert had to confess that he had been baptised in an Anglican church but that had been the first and nearly the last time he had been inside such a venerable institution. He explained that, although he had believed in his youth, he didn't really have a faith as such he could think of and considered himself as being agnostic, whatever that was.
"Perhaps all we men were ever concerned with was what Goethe called: "Das Ewig-Weibliche", the eternal feminine, and what women were always concerned with was what we might term eternal manliness. We will never understand one another I fear. I am, I'm afraid, a profound believer in a Manichean world-view. Is not everything dualism? From Yin and Yang to Mondrian. All duality. But not the duality of mind and body or soul and body, but the duality of man and woman. Irreconcilable. Eternally at odds. Is it not so?
Yes I have loved. And how. With such ardour, such passion. But what has come of it? What ever came of the love, the passion of a penniless artist? I do not mean thereby to go begging for sympathy but there are some notable examples that spring to mind. Take Nestroy for example, who made his breakthrough here, in this theatre, in April 1832, at the age of thirty with his caustic play: "Die Verbannung aus dem Zauberreiche oder Dreißig Jahre aus dem Leben eines Lumpen". The one true love of his life abandoned him for a richer man. Had he, who had performed in "Fidelio" in his twenties, not a right to be cynical about women after that? At the time this theatre was built he had just been born, and at the time Beethoven died, twenty-six. Of course he passed away, in 1862, rich, seldom enough for any artist, but unhappy. He was an astute observer of the feminine mind if ever there was one. His acerbic wit had its root in bitter experience. Of course women are to be excused that they give so much weight to material matters. After all they are the ones who bring children into the world and have to support them, but can't we help despising them for it nevertheless?"
Heinrich's misogyny was beginning to pall. He has a bit of a cheek, Robert said to himself, making such pronouncements about the world, his included, in such a debonair fashion. Robert was perfectly happy with women the way they were.
Robert could not help but picture Heinrich for a split second as a murderer in a Victorian illustration who, having seduced a woman, stands in a darkened doorway, over her corpse. Robert could not resist formulating that old question, that old chestnut, the connection between art and crime in his head. Robert had to restrain himself from asking it. It would only have irritated him, seeming curiously out of place, and have stopped the flow of his thought, which emerged slowly like molten larva, glowing and steaming with hatred and anger.
"It was a cold December day when I first met her though I can't for the life of me remember the year. When one grows old everything swims around in an "einheitsbrei", everything is nebulous. Of course both Kant and Schopenhauer are very interesting on time. Kant wrote: "Die Zeit verlaeuft sich nicht, sondern in ihr verlaeuft sich das Dasein des Wandelbaren." Impossible to translate of course but I shall try. Time does not, in itself, run but in it runs the Being of the changeable. Almost poetry really, and not a little mystical if one thinks about it. Now Schopenhauer: "Sukzession ist das ganze Wesen der Zeit." Succession is the whole essence of time. And that Schopenhaueren way of thinking about time is one of the keys to Bernhard of course. Just think of the opening of his "Korrektur.""
Robert thought of his study of history at university, which he had completed many years before, and the curious absence of chronology in one of his courses there. There had been events but no real sense of order, simply themes. The result had been that he had become heartily confused and had returned to chronicles and chronology with a vengeance.
As Robert looked at Heinrich, mentally turning off the volume, not listening to a word he was saying, he noticed, for the first time, his teeth. They were somewhat brown at the base and curiously irregular. Robert found himself asking the question as to what he was actually thinking of in that curiously formed head of his and then subsequently if he really wanted to know. Perhaps it is better sometimes to leave people to their own nightmares, Robert reflected. But his books were good; exceptionally good he had to confess, although with his somewhat rudimentary German it was sometimes hard for him to tell. He seemed to guess what Robert was thinking and then, as if out of the blue, said:
"Nietzsche is of the opinion that art can change life but do you believe that?" Robert hardly thought himself qualified to answer. "Art, what is art?" he asked himself but proffered aloud: "Difficult to tell really." That sounded good, and the cool confidence with which Robert said it even better. Heinrich's face emerged briefly from a shadow.
"You know you English never did understand art. To understand art one has to be a Catholic or at least be born a Catholic. The last great English artist was Shakespeare." "And Bach?" Robert proffered, remembering that he had read somewhere that Wittgenstein had said of him that he had been a profoundly Protestant composer. "There are of course, to every rule, exceptions. Bach was born into it. He was genetically programmed and that particular program ran on for centuries. It had started long before Luther was born." Robert was stumped he had to admit.
"Of course I have always been a fool about women; nearly as stupid about religion. And those are the two things you're not taught at school or anywhere else for that matter. If you don't learn about them from art you don't learn about them anywhere. Mind you even the great Wittgenstein, that holy man who liked to beat the living daylights out of little girls, nevertheless was a fool on the question of religion. He wanted to believe you see. He didn't realise that in this respect one can't charm the soul in the same way one can charm a snake out of a basket. But what am I talking about? We don't have a soul. That is just the point."
They had, in the meantime, after having turned into the Lehár gasse, arrived at a perfectly charming looking coffeehouse, Café Sperl. From the outside Robert could see at least two large snooker-tables, which had been very popular with budding politicians, he was told later, at which youths, dressed in jeans and T-shirts were playing. As Robert pushed open the large door he found, to his surprise, a second one, which, nearly equally heavy, also needed opening. The interior seemed ill suited to the bright sunlight, it only making one aware of how badly aired the place actually was, how faded the coverings of the seats and how dirty looking the coffee coloured ceiling.
They passed the counter facing the door with its neo-baroque panelling and numerous small panes of frosted glass behind it, the tables with very juicy looking slices of apricot cake and heaps of newspapers, and found two seats next to the window. Robert wondered whether it might not have been a better idea to sit outside, but Heinrich hadn't even seemed to have considered the option.
To Robert's right, on the sill next to the window, was a white artificial flower inside a bronze pot. To his left were two rows of tables and chairs, each row a different style, the first one heavier, the tables more ornate, the second much simpler though equally sombre, and against the wall were couches, much like the ones they sat on, with faded red paisley coverings, beneath dark, wood panelling. Behind them was a tall mirror, a clock, two coat stands and a large, black grand piano. Lamps, with a multitude of bulbs, hung from the ceiling.
"Of course I could take you to another one but this is, in my opinion, the best coffeehouse in Vienna. And what does Vienna have, which other cities don't, when it's not the coffeehouses? There was a time when Hawelka was my favourite but then it became a tourist trap. Then I moved to Braeunerhof but the waiters, old kranky tyrants, thought that they could boss their guests around and were surprised when the place nearly went bankrupt. And now it has been "renovated", or rather destroyed, which makes it interchangeable with any railway station café. Then I moved to Prueckl and here."
Robert looked around the place. There were few people inside, the majority tourists, and they drinking beer. It hardly had the ambiance of a traditional coffeehouse he had been hoping to catch.
Heinrich's mood seemed to have mellowed and for the first time since meeting him he seemed almost agreeable. His tone changed, softening somewhat, as he spoke.
"Haydn's aim was to create a deep impression on the soul. To do this he needed to create something new.
It was Haydn who was the innovator, not Beethoven as many suppose. Beethoven simply learned from Mozart's mistakes. He realized why everyone had grown bored with him. He always sounded the same. So Beethoven always tried, like Haydn, to surprise. That was, in fact, one of his key artistic aims. He wanted to catch his audience off guard. Of course sometimes what he demanded of the musicians was technically impossible at that time and even, to some extent, today. But that didn't bother him in the least. You see he tried to be difficult, for much the same reason Shakespeare sought to be difficult. It deterred potential plagiarists. It is no accident that Shakespeare never printed anything in his lifetime. It was not that he didn't know his worth. Of that I am sure. But he was not as vain as Jonson and he knew that he could make more money from his plays unpublished than published. Oh yes, Shakespeare understood the importance of having a couple of pennies in the bank. The artistic importance that is. Without financial independence there is no artistic independence. Mozart understood this fact too and it was the bane of poor Haydn's existence that he continually had to suffer humiliation after humiliation on account of his lack of it. As a matter of fact Haydn used to live not far from here when he had, despite everything, amassed a fortune in old age. I shan't take you to see it. It would bore you silly. There is nothing more frustrating than visiting the former houses of great men. When the French attacked they blew out all his windows and he said to his servants: "Don't worry. Nothing will happen to you. Haydn is here!" How ridiculous! But I guess age and genius allow for a lot. He wouldn't have got away with that today! Although he lacked the same degree of financial independence both Mozart and Beethoven enjoyed he had at his disposal an orchestra with which he could experiment. Perhaps the difference could best be expressed by the metaphor of the scientist. He was like Edington whereas Beethoven and Mozart were more like Einstein and Schroedinger."
All of a sudden, in a twinkling of a proverbial eye, his mood, like a blue sky visited by a summer squall, changed, and he grew dangerous once more.
"Of course Beethoven was a tyrant. You can see it in his attitude towards his nephew. My God would you treat your nephew in the way he treated his? It was appalling. The inhumanity of it. No wonder the fellow hated him. Not allowing him to see his own mother regardless of how awful she might have been. This was another expression of his misogyny of course, his shattered relationship to his own mother, once close, cruelly cut off. Of course he couldn't form relations with anyone, let alone women. He was notoriously quarrelsome and was forever striking his friends out of his book in much the same way Molière's Misanthrope did his. I am not sure if that is admirable. On the one hand it shows integrity, on the other one is terribly lonely afterwards.
I once was of the opinion that for friendship to blossom, true close, fast binding friendship I mean, there has to be a certain amount in common. Of course I could never find the perfect friend just as I could never find the perfect, for me that is, woman. A fruitless, futile task. Do you get on with your mother? I used to hate mine. I used to hate her to the extent that I wished her dead. I hated her even more than I hated my father and the day he died was one of the happiest of my life. I used to dream of seeing him perish in flames and then flushing his ashes down a toilet. A nice family life, you may think. But I used to love both too, once. Perhaps at a certain age it is simply necessary that children and parents part.
Of course it was easy for me to hate my father. Everyone hates Nazis. And, my God, are they worthy of hate! Sometimes I can't understand why I came back here. Nothing but Nazis, Nazis, Nazis. It is surprising how quickly people make excuses for them. People one wouldn't expect, people one previously respected. People one thought intelligent, civilized and, above all, independent minded. Oh no, they say, they aren't that bad. They aren't that bad at all. Nothing like the ones before. Whereas in reality they are worse, infinitely worse. In the past they could make the excuse: we didn't know, which, to an extent, was true. They didn't care either. That was also true. But today? What excuse can there be today? But I don't know why I get worked up about them. They are ubiquitous and scum."
They paid and made their way up the Fillgrade gasse to the rather pretty steps with ornate green "jungendstil" lamp-posts, which date from the turn of the century, and link it to the Theobald gasse. From there they quickly found themselves on the Mariahilfer strasse, which had been broadened, Heinrich told Robert, to make it more accommodating. Robert admired the palm trees, the shops, especially the one displaying Augarten Porcellin, which he thought very elegant, and the open-air cafés with their chic, pretty girls chatting excitedly amongst themselves.
After reaching the end of it the Kunsthistorisches Museum, a huge neo-baroque looking building, loomed large before them and that was, in fact, where he was taking Robert, Heinrich explained. Robert wasn't sure what to think but didn't have much time to make up his mind. Before he had done so they had already paid and were inside.
"A classic of the Ring strasse style of course. It took twenty years, between 1871 and 1891, the first ten on the exterior the latter ten on the interior, to build and was the product of a tiff between two of the most eminent architects of the time, Carl von Hasenauer and Gottfried Semper, after whom the depot we passed was named. Of course no expense was spared at the time but even then no electricity was installed. To this day they still haven't finished installing it. And the odd thing is: nobody seems to know why. Or, for that matter, why it was designed without regard to its requirements. It remained for a long time crammed full and most of its paintings are still rotting away in warehouses, too dangerous for humans to visit. The irony of it! We can skip most of it and go up to the first floor. The rest is for the birds. Of course of interest is this plaque thanking the Rothchilds for their "donations", the greatest expression of Viennese cynicism one can imagine."
They ascended the rather magnificent staircase. A figure representing Theseus, Robert supposed, slaying a centaur, dominated the stairwell. Above it were vignettes painted by Klimt and a ceiling painted by Munkaczy.
"Of course the staircase is magnificent but it takes up a third of the space on the ground floor! One would nearly think it alone was the museum and that was it."
They started with the Italians: Titian, Giorgione, Raphael, Bronzino, Veronese, and stopped in front of Tintoretto's "Man With The White Beard". "I was once here at a reading of "Alter Meister" given by a magnificent actor, Wolfgang Gasser. He was probably the best interpreter of Thomas Bernhard I have ever heard. It was wonderful and the then director, an art historian, I can't remember his name, stumbled about ten times, in his thoroughly superfluous introduction, over the word "Kunstschwaetzer". That is what Bernhard called art historians, literally art chatterer. Of course Bernhard was right. It is scandalous what art historians are allowed to get away with. Just like English or "Germanistik" professors. As if the same empirical rules and methods, which are applied to other branches of learning don't apply to the arts just as well. One should in fact go through all books on art and literature with Hume's precept in mind: if they don't contain concrete facts but merely speculation they should be consigned to the flames. After all why do we need all this speculation? Does it help us to understand art? Is it what Boltzmann would have called "zweckmaessig"? To any purpose? No. It is simply a waste of time and money. And what is worse, it brings art into disrepute. Everyone complains that they don't understand when there is, in fact, nothing, in the sense that the professors mean it, to be understood. And it is not as if literature or art were not worthy of study or for that matter so difficult to analyse. On the contrary there are few subjects, with the exception of physics and history perhaps, which are not more so!
And I wouldn't mind if these blasted so-called art historians had taste but you should see how the Brueghels, pronounced Breuchel by the way, are hung. The room, with it's shit brown walls, is hideous."
After leaving the Kunsthistorisches museum Heinrich stopped and looked over at the Museumsquartier. "I want to show you that the criteria we apply to so-called modern art is exactly the same as that which we apply to the so-called old masters. It is simply that with the old masters the play of form and colour, which gives expression to the artist's feelings, are obscured by other, more superficial elements, and the average visitor, spellbound by the princely settings and themes, fails to realise, not only that he is in a gallery of whores and fools, but that he is a part of the same game with simply slightly different rules as that of modern art. I will now take you to the Museumsquartier but shan't take you to the MUMOK, the Museum of Modern Art, for the simple reason that it is, although opened just a few years ago, being renovated. Typical for Austria. Not only was there no chance given to an architect of international standing, a Gehry, Foster, Liebekind or Hadid but the politicians and not the architects took all the crucial decisions. Which meant that the planned glass tower wasn't built, ostensibly because it might spoil the skyline, although it would not even have obscured the flak-tower, and everything else looks like a bunker or its interior. Again National Socialist aesthetics. Grauenhaft. Appalling. Simply appalling. Provincialism, rampant and disgusting. It is little wonder that the architects didn't give a damn about it in the end. In America those responsible would have been jailed."
As they walked through the small park, which separates the Kunsthistorisches from the Naturhistorisches museum, there was a lull of silence. For some reason the thought struck Robert that he wouldn't have exchanged his comparative youth for all Heinrich's fame, wealth and honour for the world, so jaded, sad and in fact quite pathetic he seemed to him. And Robert reflected on the nice young Austrians he had met who had seemed thoroughly modern and liberal in politics. Robert couldn't help remarking upon the fact that his generalizations about his fellow countrymen were balderdash. Robert was beginning to yearn for their company and Heinrich's society, by contrast, was beginning to pall. How dull, Robert couldn't help but think to himself, but he supposed he had to grin and bear it. Why was he letting himself in for this? What, after all this time, did Robert know about him? It seemed to him that Heinrich wanted to talk about everything other than the case and that he was trying to filibuster. I am being much too indulgent, Robert said to himself, and am wasting precious time. It did not take long for the silence to be broken.
Robert was growing tired, not simply of Heinrich's seemingly ceaseless rambling, but physically tired too. Robert had spent the previous night out at a disco and had stayed longer than he had at first intended. In addition to that Robert was still quite hung-over, not being used, as he was, to over-indulgence in alcoholic excess. Robert mentioned these facts to Heinrich, omitting to tell him that he had grown bored with his ranting and bowed out in a diplomatic fashion, making his apologies for not being able to accompany him further. As he headed for the nearest tube station, Volkstheater, he resolved to meet the lady whose name Heinrich had so studiously avoided mentioning. Robert should actually have met her three days before. Was it too late? Would she be annoyed that he had spent so much time with Heinrich? Would she be mistrustful? Would Robert be able to get hold of her? All these questions plagued him on what seemed at the time a very miserable way home.