STEPPENWOLF -- PREFACE
This book contains the records left us by a man whom, according to the expression he often used himself, we called the Steppenwolf. Whether this manuscript needs any introductory remarks may be open to question. I, however, feel the need of adding a few pages to those of the Steppen wolf in which I try to record my recollections of him. What I know of him is little enough. Indeed, of his past life and origins I know nothing at all. Yet the impression left by his personality has remained, in spite of all, a deep and sympathetic one.
Some years ago the Steppenwolf, who was then approaching fifty, called on my aunt to inquire for a furnished room. He took the attic room on the top floor and the bedroom next it, returned a day or two later with two trunks and a big case of books and stayed nine or ten months with us. He lived by himself very quietly, and but for the fact that our bedrooms were next door to each other--which occasioned a good many chance encounters on the stairs and in the passage--we should have remained practically unacquainted. For he was not a sociable man. Indeed, he was unsociable to a degree I had never before experienced in anybody. He was, in fact, as he called himself, a real wolf of the Steppes, a strange, wild, shy--very shy--being from another world than mine. How deep the loneliness into which his life had drifted on account of his disposition and destiny and how consciously he accepted this loneliness as his destiny. I certainly did not know until I read the records he left behind him. Yet, before that, from our occasional talks and encounters, I became gradually acquainted with him, and I found that the portrait in his records was in substantial agreement with the paler and less complete one that our personal acquaintance had given me.
By chance I was there at the very moment when the Steppenwolf entered our house for the first time and became my aunt's lodger. He came at noon. The table had not been cleared and I still had half an hour before going back to the office. I have never forgotten the odd and very conflicting impressions he made on me at this first encounter. He came through the glazed door, having just rung the bell, and my aunt asked him in the dim light of the hall what he wanted. The Steppenwolf, however, first threw up his sharp, closely cropped head and sniffed around nervously before he either made any answer or announced his name.
"Oh, it smells good here," he said, and at that he smiled and my aunt smiled too. For my part, I found this manner of introducing himself ridiculous and was not favorably impressed.
"However," said he, "I've come about the room you have to let."
I did not get a good look at him until we were all three on our way up to the top floor. Though not very big, he had the bearing of a big man. He wore a fashionable and comfortable winter overcoat and he was well, though carelessly, dressed, clean-shaven, and his cropped head showed here and there a streak of grey. He carried himself in a way I did not at all like at first. There was something weary and undecided about it that did not go with his keen and striking profile nor with the tone of his voice. Later, I found out that his health was poor and that walking tired him. With a peculiar smile--at that time equally unpleasant to me--he contemplated the stairs, the walls, and windows, and the tall old cupboards on the staircase. All this seemed to please and at the same time to amuse him. Altogether he gave the impression of having come out of an alien world, from another continent perhaps. He found it all very charming and a little odd. I cannot deny that he was polite, even friendly. He agreed at once and without objection to the terms for lodging and breakfast and so forth, and yet about the whole man there was a foreign and, as I chose to think, disagreeable or hostile atmosphere. He took the room and the bedroom too, listened attentively and amiably to all he was told about the heating, the water, the service and the rules of the household, agreed to everything, offered at once to pay a sum in advance--and yet, he seemed at the same time to be outside it all, to find it comic to be doing as he did and not to take it seriously. It was as though it were a very odd and new experience for him, occupied as he was with quite other concerns, to be renting a room and talking to people in German. Such more or less was my impression, and it would certainly not have been a good one if it had not been revised and corrected by many small instances. Above all, his face pleased me from the first, in spite of the foreign air it had. It was a rather original face and perhaps a sad one, but alert, thoughtful, strongly marked and highly intellectual. And then, to reconcile me further, there was his polite and friendly manner, which though it seemed to cost him some pains, was all the same quite without pretension; on the contrary, there was something almost touching, imploring in it. The explanation of it I found later, but it disposed me at once in his favor.
Before we had done inspecting the rooms and going into the arrangements, my luncheon hour was up and I had to go back to business. I took my leave and left him to my aunt. When I got back at night, she told me that he had taken the rooms and was coming in in a day or two. The only request he had made was that his arrival should not be notified to the police, as in his poor state of health he found these formalities and the standing about in official waiting rooms more than he could tolerate. I remember very well how this surprised me and how I warned my aunt against giving in to his stipulation. This fear of the police seemed to me to agree only too well with the mysterious and alien air the man had and struck me as suspicious. I explained to my aunt that she ought not on any account to put herself in this equivocal and in any case rather peculiar position for a complete stranger; it might well turn out to have very unpleasant consequences for her. But it then came out that my aunt had already granted his request, and, indeed, had let herself be altogether captivated and charmed by the strange gentleman. For she never took a lodger with whom she did not contrive to stand in some human, friendly, and as it were auntlike or, rather, motherly relation; and many a one has made full use of this weakness of hers. And thus for the first weeks things went on; I had many a fault to find with the new lodger, while my aunt every time warmly took his part.
As I was not at all pleased about this business of neglecting to notify the police, I wanted at least to know what my aunt had learnt about him; what sort of family he came of and what his intentions were. And, of course, she had learnt one thing and another, although he had only stayed a short while after I left at noon. He had told her that he thought of spending some months in our town to avail himself of the libraries and to see its antiquities. I may say it did not please my aunt that he was only taking the rooms for so short a time, but he had clearly quite won her heart in spite of his rather peculiar way of presenting himself. In short, the rooms were let and my objections came too late.
"Why on earth did he say that it smelt so good here ?" I asked.
"I know well enough," she replied, with her usual insight. "There's a smell of cleanliness and good order here, of comfort and respectability. It was that that pleased him. He looks as if he weren't used to that of late and missed it."
Just so, thought I to myself.
"But," I said aloud, "if he isn't used to an orderly and respectable life, what is going to happen? What will you say if he has filthy habits and makes dirt everywhere, or comes home drunk at all hours of the night?"
"We shall see, we shall see," she said, and laughed; and I left it at that.
And in the upshot my fears proved groundless. The lodger, though he certainly did not live a very orderly or rational life, was no worry or trouble to us. Yet my aunt and I bothered our heads a lot about him, and I confess I have not by a long way done with him even now. I often dream of him at night, and the mere existence of such a man, much as I got to like him, has had a thoroughly disturbing and disquieting effect on me.
Two days after this the stranger's luggage--his name was Harry Haller--was brought in by a porter. He had a very fine leather trunk, which made a good impression on me, and a big flat cabin trunk that showed signs of having traveled far--at least it was plastered with labels of hotels and travel agencies of various countries, some overseas.
Then he himself appeared, and the time began during which I gradually got acquainted with this strange man. At first I did nothing on my side to encourage it. Although Haller interested me from the moment I saw him, I took no steps for the first two or three weeks to run across him or to get into conversation with him. On the other hand I confess that I did, all the same and from the very first, keep him under observation a little, and also went into his room now and again when he was out and my curiosity drove me to do a little spy work.
I have already given some account of the Steppenwolf's outward appearance. He gave at the very first glance the impression of a significant, an uncommon, and unusually gifted man. His face was intellectual, and the abnormally delicate and mobile play of his features reflected a soul of extremely emotional and unusually delicate sensibility. When one spoke to him and he, as was not always the case, dropped conventionalities and said personal and individual things that came out of his own alien world, then a man like myself came under his spell on the spot. He had thought more than other men, and in matters of the intellect he had that calm objectivity, that certainty of thought and knowledge, such as only really intellectual men have, who have no axe to grind, who never wish to shame, or to talk others down, or to appear always in the right.
I remember an instance of this in the last days he was here, if I can call a mere fleeting glance he gave me an example of what I mean. It was when a celebrated historian, philosopher, and critic, a man of European fame, had announced a lecture in the school auditorium. I had succeeded in persuading the Steppenwolf to attend it, though at first he had little desire to do so. We went together and sat next to each other in the lecture hall. When the lecturer ascended the platform and began his address, many of his hearers, who had expected a sort of prophet, were disappointed by his rather dapper appearance and conceited air. And when he proceeded, by way of introduction, to say a few flattering things to the audience, thanking them for their attendance in such numbers, the Steppenwolf threw me a quick look, a look which criticized both the words and the speaker of them--an unforgettable and frightful look which spoke volumes! It was a look that did not simply criticize the lecturer, annihilating the famous man with its delicate but crushing irony. That was the least of it. It was more sad than ironical; it was indeed utterly and hopelessly sad; it conveyed a quiet despair, born partly of conviction, partly of a mode of thought which had become habitual with him. This despair of his not only unmasked the conceited lecturer and dismissed with its irony the matter at hand, the expectant attitude of the public, the somewhat presumptuous title under which the lecture was announced--no, the Steppenwolf's look pierced our whole epoch, its whole overwrought activity, the whole surge and strife, the whole vanity, the whole superficial play of a shallow, opinionated intellectuality. And alas! the look went still deeper, went far below the faults, defects and hopelessness of our time, our intellect, our culture alone. It went right to the heart of all humanity, it bespoke eloquently in a single second the whole despair of a thinker, of one who knew the full worth and meaning of man's life. It said: "See what monkeys we are! Look, such is man!" and at once all renown, all intelligence, all the attainments of the spirit, all progress towards the sublime, the great and the enduring in man fell away and became a monkey's trick!
With this I have gone far ahead and, contrary to my actual plan and intention, already conveyed what Haller essentially meant to me; whereas my original aim was to uncover his picture by degrees while telling the course of my gradual acquaintance with him.
Now that I have gone so far ahead it will save time to say a little more about Haller's puzzling "strangeness" and to tell in detail how I gradually guessed and became aware of the causes and meaning of this strangeness, this extraordinary and frightful loneliness. It will be better so, for I wish to leave my own personality as far as possible in the background. I do not want to put down my own confessions, to tell a story or to write an essay on psychology, but simply as an eyewitness to contribute something to the picture of the peculiar individual who left this Steppenwolf manuscript behind him.
At the very first sight of him, when he came into my aunt's home, craning his head like a bird and praising the smell of the house, I was at once astonished by something curious about him; and my first natural reaction was repugnance. I suspected (and my aunt, who unlike me is the very reverse of an intellectual person, suspected very much the same thing)--I suspected that the man was ailing, ailing in the spirit in some way, or in his temperament or character, and I shrank from him with the instinct of the healthy. This shrinking was in course of time replaced by a sympathy inspired by pity for one who had suffered so long and deeply, and whose loneliness and inward death I witnessed. In course of time I was more and more conscious, too, that this affliction was not due to any defects of nature, but rather to a profusion of gifts and powers which had not attained to harmony. I saw that Haller was a genius of suffering and that in the meaning of many sayings of Nietzsche he had created within himself with positive genius a boundless and frightful capacity for pain. I saw at the same time that the root of his pessimism was not world-contempt but self-contempt; for however mercilessly he might annihilate institutions and persons in his talk he never spared himself. It was always at himself first and foremost that he aimed the shaft, himself first and foremost whom he hated and despised.
And here I cannot refrain from a psychological observation. Although I know very little of the Steppenwolf's life, I have all the same good reason to suppose that he was brought up by devoted but severe and very pious parents and teachers in accordance with that doctrine that makes the breaking of the will the cornerstone of education and upbringing. But in this case the attempt to destroy the personality and to break the will did not succeed. He was much too strong and hardy, too proud and spirited. Instead of destroying his personality they succeeded only in teaching him to hate himself. It was against himself that, innocent and noble as he was, he directed during his whole life the whole wealth of his fancy, the whole of his thought; and in so far as he let loose upon himself every barbed criticism, every anger and hate he could command, he was, in spite of all, a real Christian and a real martyr. As for others and the world around him he never ceased in his heroic and earnest endeavor to love them, to be just to them, to do them no harm, for the love of his neighbor was as deeply in him as the hatred of himself, and so his whole life was an example that love of one's neighbor is not possible without love of oneself, and that self-hate is really the same thing as sheer egoism, and in the long run breeds the same cruel isolation and despair.
It is now time, however, to put my own thoughts aside and to get to facts. What I first discovered about Haller, partly through my espionage, partly from my aunt's remarks, concerned his way of living. It was soon obvious that his days were spent with his thoughts and his books, and that he pursued no practical calling. He lay always very late in bed. Often he was not up much before noon and went across from his bedroom to his sitting room in his dressing gown. This sitting room, a large and comfortable attic room with two windows, after a few days was not at all the same as when occupied by other tenants. It filled up more and more as time went on. Pictures were hung on the walls, drawings tacked up--sometimes illustrations cut out from magazines and often changed. A southern landscape, photographs of a little German country town, apparently Haller's home, hung there, and between them were some brightly painted water colors, which, as we discovered later, he had painted himself. Then there were photographs of a pretty young woman, or--rather--girl. For a long while a Siamese Buddha hung on the wall, to be replaced first by Michelangelo's "Night," then by a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. Books filled the large bookcase and lay everywhere else as well, on the table, on the pretty old bureau, on the sofa, on the chairs and all about on the floor, books with notes slipped into them which were continually changing. The books constantly increased, for besides bringing whole armfuls back with him from the libraries he was always getting parcels of them by post. The occupant of this room might well be a learned man; and to this the all-pervading smell of cigar smoke might testify as well as the stumps and ash of cigars all about the room. Many of the books, however, were not of a scholarly nature. The majority were works of the poets of all times and peoples. For a long while there lay about on the sofa where he often spent whole days all six volumes of a work with the title Sophia's Journey from Memel to Saxony--a work of the latter part of the eighteenth century. A complete edition of Goethe and one of Jean Paul showed signs of wear, also Novalis, while Lessing, Jacobi and Lichtenberg were in the same condition. A few volumes of Dostoievski bristled with penciled slips. On the big table among the books and papers there was often a vase of flowers. There, too, a paint box, generally full of dust, reposed among flakes of cigar ash and (to leave nothing out) sundry bottles of wine. There was a straw-covered bottle usually containing Italian red wine, which he procured from a little shop in the neighborhood; often, too, a bottle of Burgundy as well as Malaga; and a squat bottle of Cherry brandy was, as I saw, nearly emptied in a very brief space--after which it disappeared in a corner of the room, there to collect the dust without further diminution of its contents. I will not pretend to justify this espionage I carried on, and I will say openly that all these signs of a life full of intellectual curiosity, but thoroughly slovenly and disorderly all the same, inspired me at first with aversion and mistrust. I am not only a middle-class man, living a regular life, fond of work and punctuality; I am also an abstainer and nonsmoker, and these bottles in Haller's room pleased me even less than the rest of his artistic disorder.
He was just as irregular and irresponsible about his meal times as he was about his hours of sleep and work. There were days when he did not go out at all and had nothing but his coffee in the morning. Sometimes my aunt found nothing but a banana peel to show that he had dined. Other days, however, he took his meals in restaurants, sometimes in the best and most fashionable, sometimes in little out-lying taverns. His health did not seem good. Besides his limping gait that often made the stairs fatiguing to him, he seemed to be plagued with other troubles, and he once said to me that it was years since he had had either good digestion or sound sleep. I put it down first and last to his drinking. When, later on, I accompanied him sometimes to his haunts I often saw with my own eyes how he drank when the mood was on him, though neither I nor anyone else ever saw him really drunk.
I have never forgotten our first encounter. We knew each other then only as fellow lodgers whose rooms were adjoining ones. Then one evening I came home from business and to my astonishment found Haller seated on the landing between the first and second floors. He was sitting on the top step and he moved to one side to let me pass. I asked him if he was all right and offered to take him up to the top.
Haller looked at me and I could see that I had awoken him from a kind of trance. Slowly he began to smile his delightful sad smile that has so often filled my heart with pity. Then he invited me to sit beside him. I thanked him, but said it was not my custom to sit on the stairs at other people's doors.
"Ah, yes," he said, and smiled the more. "You're quite right. But wait a moment, for I really must tell you what it was made me sit here for a bit."
He pointed as he spoke to the entrance of the first floor flat, where a widow lived. In the little space with parquet flooring between the stairs, the window and the glazed front door there stood a tall cupboard of mahogany, with some old pewter on it, and in front of the cupboard on the floor there were two plants, an azalea and an araucaria, in large pots which stood on low stands. The plants looked very pretty and were always kept spotlessly neat and clean, as I had often noticed with pleasure.
"Look at this little vestibule," Haller went on, "with the araucaria and its wonderful smell. Many a time I can't go by without pausing a moment. At your aunt's too, there reigns a wonderful smell of order and extreme cleanliness, but this little place of the araucaria, why, it's so shiningly clean, so dusted and polished and scoured, so inviolably clean that it positively glitters. I always have to take a deep breath of it as I go by. Don't you smell it too, a fragrance given off by the odor of floor polish and a faint whiff of turpentine together with the mahogany and the washed leaves of the plants--the very essence of bourgeois cleanliness, of neatness and meticulousness, of duty and devotion shown in little things. I don't know who lives here, but behind that glazed door there must be a paradise of cleanliness and spotless mediocrity, of ordered ways, a touching and anxious devotion to life's little habits and tasks.
"Do not, please, think for a moment," he went on when I said nothing in reply, "that I speak with irony. My dear sir, I would not for the world laugh at the bourgeois life. It is true that I live myself in another world, and perhaps I could not endure to live a single day in a house with araucarias. But though I am a shabby old Steppenwolf, still I'm the son of a mother, and my mother too was a middle-class man's wife and raised plants and took care to have her house and home as clean and neat and tidy as ever she could make it. All that is brought back to me by this breath of turpentine and by the araucaria, and so I sit down here every now and again; and I look into this quiet little garden of order and rejoice that such things still are."
He wanted to get up, but found it difficult; and he did not repulse me when I offered him a little help. I was silent, but I submitted just as my aunt had done before me to a certain charm the strange man could sometimes exercise. We went slowly up the stairs together, and at his door, the key in his hand, he looked me once more in the eyes in a friendly way and said: "You've come from business? Well, of course, I know little of all that. I live a bit to one side, on the edge of things, you see. But you too, I believe, interest yourself in books and such matters. Your aunt told me one day that you had been through the high school and were a good Greek scholar. Now, this morning I came on a passage in Novalis. May I show it you? It would delight you, I know."
He took me into his room, which smelt strongly of tobacco, and took out a book from one of the heaps, turned the leaves and looked for the passage.
"This is good too, very good," he said, "listen to this: 'A man should be proud of suffering. All suffering is a reminder of our high estate.' Fine! Eighty years before Nietzsche. But that is not the sentence I meant. Wait a moment, here I have it. This: 'Most men will not swim before they are able to.' Is not that witty? Naturally, they won't swim! They are born for the solid earth, not for the water. And naturally they won't think. They are made for life, not for thought. Yes, and he who thinks, what's more, he who makes thought his business, he may go far in it, but he has bartered the solid earth for the water all the same, and one day he will drown."
He had got hold of me now. I was interested; and I stayed on a short while with him; and after that we often talked when we met on the stairs or in the street. On such occasions I always had at first the feeling that he was being ironical with me. But it was not so. He had a real respect for me, just as he had for the araucaria. He was so convinced and conscious of his isolation, his swimming in the water, his uprootedness, that a glimpse now and then of the orderly daily round--the punctuality, for example, that kept me to my office hours, or an expression let fall by a servant or tramway conductor--acted on him literally as a stimulus without in the least arousing his scorn. At first all this seemed to me a ridiculous exaggeration, the affectation of a gentleman of leisure, a playful sentimentality. But I came to see more and more that from the empty spaces of his lone wolfishness he actually really admired and loved our little bourgeois world as something solid and secure, as the home and peace which must ever remain far and unattainable, with no road leading from him to them. He took off his hat to our charwoman, a worthy person, every time he met her, with genuine respect; and when my aunt had any little occasion to talk to him, to draw his attention, it might be, to some mending of his linen or to warn him of a button hanging loose on his coat, he listened to her with an air of great attention and consequence, as though it were only with an extreme and desperate effort that he could force his way through any crack into our little peaceful world and be at home there, if only for an hour.
During that very first conversation, about the araucaria, he called himself the Steppenwolf, and this too estranged and disturbed me a little. What an expression! However, custom did not only reconcile me to it, but soon I never thought of him by any other name; nor could I today hit on a better description of him. A wolf of the Steppes that had lost its way and strayed into the towns and the life of the herd, a more striking image could not be found for his shy loneliness, his savagery, his restlessness, his homesickness, his homelessness.
I was able once to observe him for a whole evening. It was at a Symphony concert, where to my surprise I found him seated near me. He did not see me. First some Handel was played, noble and lovely music. But the Steppenwolf sat absorbed in his own thoughts, paying attention neither to the music nor to his surroundings. He sat there detached, a lonely stranger, with downcast eyes and a cold but troubled expression on his face. After the Handel came a little symphony by Friedemann Bach, and I saw with surprise how after a few bars my stranger began to smile and abandon himself to the music. He was completely absorbed in himself, and for about ten minutes so happily lost and rapt in pleasant dreams that I paid more attention to him than to the music. When the piece ended he woke up, and made a movement to go; but after all he kept his seat and heard the last piece too. It was Variations by Reger, a composition that many found rather long and tiresome. The Steppenwolf, too, who at first made up his mind to listen, wandered again, put his hands into his pockets and sank once more into his own thoughts, not happily and dreamily as before, but sadly and finally irritated. His face was once more vacant and grey. The light in it was quenched and he looked old, ill, and discontented.
I saw him again after the concert in the street and walked along behind him. Wrapped in his cloak he went his way joylessly and wearily in the direction of our quarter, but stopped in front of a small old-fashioned inn, and after looking irresolutely at the time, went in. I obeyed a momentary impulse and followed him; and there he sat at a table in the backroom of the bar, greeted by hostess and waitress as a well-known guest. Greeting him, too, I took my seat beside him. We sat there for an hour, and while I drank two glasses of mineral water, he accounted for a pint of red wine and then called for another half. I remarked that I had been to the concert, but he did not follow up this topic. He read the label on my bottle and asked whether I would not drink some wine. When I declined his offer and said that I never drank it, the old helpless expression came over his face.
"You're quite right there," he said. "I have practiced abstinence myself for years, and had my time of fasting too, but now I find myself once more beneath the sign of Aquarius, a dark and humid constellation."
And then, when I playfully took up his allusion and remarked how unlikely it seemed to me that he really believed in astrology, he promptly resumed the too polite tone which often hurt me and said: "You are right. Unfortunately, I cannot believe in that science either."
I took my leave and went. It was very late before he came in, but his step was as usual, and as always, instead of going straight to bed, he stayed up an hour longer in his sitting room, as I from my neighboring room could hear plainly enough.
There was another evening which I have not forgotten. My aunt was out and I was alone in the house, when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and there stood a young and very pretty woman, whom, as soon as she asked for Mr. Haller, I recognized from the photograph in his room. I showed her his door and withdrew. She stayed a short while above, but soon I heard them both come down stairs and go out, talking and laughing together very happily. I was much astonished that the hermit had his love, and one so young and pretty and elegant; and all my conjectures about him and his life were upset once more. But before an hour had gone he came back alone and dragged himself wearily upstairs with his sad and heavy tread. For hours on end he paced softly to and fro in his sitting room, exactly like a wolf in its cage. The whole night, nearly until dawn, there was light in his room. I know nothing at all about this occasion, and have only this to add. On one other occasion I saw him in this lady's company. It was in one of the streets of the town. They were arm in arm and he looked very happy; and again I wondered to see how much charm--what an even childlike expression--his care-ridden face had sometimes. It explained the young lady to me, also the predilection my aunt had for him. That day, too, however, he came back in the evening, sad, and wretched as usual. I met him at the door and under his cloak, as many a time before, he had the bottle of Italian wine, and he sat with it half the night in his hell upstairs. It grieved me. What a comfortless, what a forlorn and shiftless life he led!
And now I have gossiped enough. No more is needed to show that the Steppenwolf lived a suicidal existence. But all the same I do not believe that he took his own life when, after paying all he owed but without a word of warning or farewell, he left our town one day and vanished. We have not heard from him since and we are still keeping some letters that came for him after he had left. He left nothing behind but his manuscript. It was written during the time he was here, and he left it with a few lines to say that I might do what I liked with it.
It was not in my power to verify the truth of the experiences related in Haller's manuscript. I have no doubt that they are for the most part fictitious, not, however, in the sense of arbitrary invention. They are rather the deeply lived spiritual events which he has attempted to express by giving them the form of tangible experiences. The partly fantastic occurrences in Haller's fiction come presumably from the later period of his stay here, and I have no doubt that even they have some basis in real occurrence. At that time our guest did in fact alter very much in behavior and in appearance. He was out a great deal, for whole nights sometimes; and his books lay untouched. On the rare occasions when I saw him at that time I was very much struck by his air of vivacity and youth. Sometimes, indeed, he seemed positively happy. This does not mean that a new and heavy depression did not follow immediately. All day long he lay in bed. He had no desire for food. At that time the young lady appeared once more on the scene, and an extremely violent, I may even say brutal, quarrel occurred which upset the whole house and for which Haller begged my aunt's pardon for days after.
No, I am sure he has not taken his life. He is still alive, and somewhere wearily goes up and down the stairs of strange houses, stares somewhere at clean-scoured parquet floors and carefully tended araucarias, sits for days in libraries and nights in taverns, or lying on a hired sofa, listens to the world beneath his window and the hum of human life from which he knows that he is excluded. But he has not killed himself, for a glimmer of belief still tells him that he is to drink this frightful suffering in his heart to the dregs, and that it is of this suffering he must die. I think of him often. He has not made life lighter for me. He had not the gift of fostering strength and joy in me. Oh, on the contrary! But I am not he, and I live my own life, a narrow, middle-class life, but a solid one, filled with duties. And so we can think of him peacefully and affectionately, my aunt and I. She would have more to say of him than I have, but that lies buried in her good heart.
And now that we come to these records of Haller's, these partly diseased, partly beautiful, and thoughtful fantasies, I must confess that if they had fallen into my hands by chance and if I had not known their author, I should most certainly have thrown them away in disgust. But owing to my acquaintance with Haller I have been able, to some extent, to understand them, and even to appreciate them. I should hesitate to share them with others if I saw in them nothing but the pathological fancies of a single and isolated case of a diseased temperament. But I see something more in them. I see them as a document of the times, for Haller's sickness of the soul, as I now know, is not the eccentricity of a single individual, but the sickness of the times themselves, the neurosis of that generation to which Haller belongs, a sickness, it seems, that by no means attacks the weak and worthless only but, rather, precisely those who are strongest in spirit and richest in gifts.
These records, however much or however little of real life may lie at the back of them, are not an attempt to disguise or to palliate this widespread sickness of our times. They are an attempt to present the sickness itself in its actual manifestation. They mean, literally, a journey through hell, a sometimes fearful, sometimes courageous journey through the chaos of a world whose souls dwell in darkness, a journey undertaken with the determination to go through hell from one end to the other, to give battle to chaos, and to suffer torture to the full.
A remark of Haller's gave me the key to this interpretation. He said to me once when we were talking of the so-called horrors of the Middle Ages: "These horrors were really nonexistent. A man of the Middle Ages would detest the whole mode of our present-day life as something far more than horrible, far more than barbarous. Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. A man of the Classical Age who had to live in medieval times would suffocate miserably just as a savage does in the midst of our civilization. Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence. Naturally, everyone does not feel this equally strongly. A nature such as Nietzsche's had to suffer our present ills more than a generation in advance. What he had to go through alone and misunderstood, thousands suffer today."
I often had to think of these words while reading the records. Haller belongs to those who have been caught between two ages, who are outside of all security and simple acquiescence. He belongs to those whose fate it is to live the whole riddle of human destiny heightened to the pitch of a personal torture, a personal hell.
Therein, it seems to me, lies the meaning these records can have for us, and because of this I decided to publish them. For the rest, I neither approve nor condemn them. Let every reader do as his conscience bids him.