Rising out of chasms of self-contempt and flippant disbelief

The Tanners from Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories:

The intoxicating gleam of the dark, metropolitan streets, the lights, the people, my brother. I myself, living in my brother’s apartment. I shall never forget this simple two-bedroom dwelling. It always seemed to me as if this apartment contained a sky complete with stars, moon, and clouds. Marvelous romanticism, dulcet forebodings! My brother would spend half the night at the theater, where he was making the stage sets. At three or four in the morning he would come home, and I would still be sitting there, enchanted by all the thoughts, all the lovely images wafting through my head; it was as if I no longer required sleep, as if thinking, writing, and waking were my lovely, restorative sleep, as if writing for hours and hours at my desk comprised my world, my pleasure, relaxation and peace. The dark-colored desk, so antiquated it might have been an old magician. When I pulled open its delicately worked small drawers, I imagined that sentences, words, and maxims would come leaping out. The snow-white curtains, the singing gaslight, the elongated dark room, the cat and all the becalmed waves of the long nights filled with thoughts. From time to time I would go visit the merry maids down at the girls’ tavern, that was also part of it. To speak of the cat once more: she always sat on the pages filled with writing that I had laid to one side and would blink at me with her unfathomable golden eyes so strangely, with such a questioning look. Her presence was like the presence of an odd, silent fairy. Perhaps I owe this dear, silent animal a great deal. How can one know? The further I progressed in my writing, the more I felt as if I were being watched over and protected by a kindly entity. A soft, delicate large veil floated about me. But at this juncture I should also mention the liqueur that stood upon the sideboard. I partook of it as freely as I was permitted and able. Everything all around me had a soothing, invigorating influence. Certain states, circumstances, and circles are there only once, never again to appear, or else only when one is least expecting it. Are not expectations and presuppositions unholy, impertinent, and indelicate? The poet must ramble and rove, he must courageously lose himself, must always venture everything he owns, and he has to hope, or rather he is permitted: permitted to hope. —I recall that I began writing the book with a hopeless flutter of words, with all sorts of mindless sketchings and scribblings. —I never dreamed I might be capable of completing something serious, beautiful, and good. —Better ideas and, along with them, the courage to create arrived only gradually, but also all the more mysteriously, rising out of chasms of self-contempt and flippant disbelief. —It was like the morning sun rising up in the sky. Evening and morning, past and future and the so delightful present seemed to lie at my feet; before me the countryside quickened with life, and I felt as though I could grasp human activity, all of human life in my hands, that’s how vividly I saw it. —One image gave way to another, and the thoughts that occurred to me played with one another like happy, graceful, well-mannered children. Filled with rapture, I clung to my joyful main idea, and as I industriously went on writing more and more, its context came into view.

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