Typescript Stella Musulin "In Retrospect" 1985-11-29--1990-03-28
AuthorMusulin, Stella
  • Mayer, Sandra
  • Frühwirth, Timo
PublisherAustrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Vienna 2021
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Cite this Source (MLA 9th Edition)Andorfer Peter, Mayer Sandra, Frühwirth Timo, Mendelson Edward, Neundlinger Helmut and Stoxreiter Daniel. Auden Musulin Papers: A Digital Edition of W. H. Auden's Letters to Stella Musulin. Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2022, amp.acdh.oeaw.ac.at .

0001 In Retrospect.
0002      Since then the Auden industry has not been idle.  An
0003 excellent biography was published1 and in this the Austrian
0004 period was dealt with but not locally researched.  Edward
0005 Mendelson edited Auden´s early works and wrote superb commentaries.
0006 There has been a biography of Chester Kallman.  Writers of PhD
0007 theses have been out here and have shaken us up, particularly
0008 Michael O´Sullivan of Trinity College, Dublin who - not speaking
0009 a word of German - organised a full-scale exhibition and an
0010 international symposium in Vienna.  The editor of this volume
0011 Peter Müller had brought Michael out to see me at Fridau in the
0012 preceding year;  now he came again, and after the closure,
0013 exhausted, he spent a long weekend in the country to recover.
0014 We dug out ancient files containing original Auden manuscripts,
0015 letters, personal notes and newspaper cuttings, and now we tried
0016 to winnow the wheat from the chaff.  After some general discussion
0017 it seemed to us all that there remain certain aspects of Auden´s
0018 life in Lower Austria which are not on record, or where they are,
0019 not from the worm´s eye view.  As an older man he was happier
0020 here than anywhere else:  he felt at home.  He was at Kirchstetten
0021 not only during the summer, as is often said, but with
0022 interruptions for five months, depending on his engagements.
0023 In the course of these years he was still highly
0024 creative.  So that it might, we thought, be of value to put some
0025 of those things on record which would otherwise be lost.  Not
0026 for the first time self-criticism was expressed, but while doubts
0027 concerning self-importanceand sell-out of friendship were not
0028 entirely banished, the view prevailed that the local witness
0029 needs to be put on paper.  Scholarship is at work elsewhere;
0030 here a few appendices and footnotes are on offer.
0031      Auden´s opinions on biographies of creative artists in general
0032 were, as Humphrey Carpenter pointed out, highly contradictory.
0033 Again and again he said that the private life of poets and other
0034 people engaged in creative work is none of the public´s business
0035 but he also said:´`The biography of an artist, if his life as a whole
0036 was sufficiently interesting, is permissible, provided that the
0037 biographer and his readers realise that such an account throws no
0038 light whatsoever upon the artist´s work."  And "I do believe,
0039 however, that, more often than most people realise, his works
0040 may throw light upon his life."

0041 1 Humphrey Carpenter: W.H. Auden, a Biography (Houghton Mifflin
0042 Company, Boston 1981.)

0043 - 2 -

0044     Carpenter´s book calls itself "a first biography", and the
0045 author expressly restricts his aims:  "It is not a work of literary
0046 criticism".  It may also be felt to lack an analysis of some
0047 fundamental questions:  about the depths of the poet´s personality,
0048 his "otherness" (to confine this to his homosexuality would be to
0049 oversimplify) and the basis of his all-important relationship
0050 with Chester Kallman.  As a starting point, "Early Auden"1 which
0051 presents and comments on the poetry, drama and prose up to 1939
0052 is most valuable, and Edward Mendelson will produce further works
0053 of scholarship.
0054      What would Wystan Auden say if he could read "Auden in Love"
0055 by Chester´s old college friend and last-minute stepmother Dorothy
0056 J. Farnon?2  In July 1985 the Sunday Times published a list of
0057 recommended holiday reading.  The assessment of "Auden in
0058 Love" was a model of compression:  "emetic but compulsive".
0059 I more than once came up against Auden´s idée fixe about the
0060 irrelevance of the poet´s private self, and asked him one day:
0061 "So no rotting apples in the desk drawer?"  "No, no rotting apples
0062 "And if you have an attack of the trots and interrupt your work?"
0063 "That would make no difference at all."  Chester´s sole explanatio[]
0064 was that it was "a tick like any other", and that in any case he
0065 was totally inconsistent.  Be that as it may, if the effect on the
0066 general public was judged as emetic, Auden´s nausea can be
0067 imagined.  All the same, it is a fascinating book, and for people
0068 who knew the two men only in the later years of their lives, does thro[]
0069 light on apparently conflicting phenomena and makes their actions,
0070 and Chester´s character in particular, more comprehensible.
0071     When Auden first met Kallman he was just 32 and already a poet
0072 with an established reputation, respected and even revered on
0073 many a campus.  Kallman was an 18 year old undergraduate,
0074 brilliant, beautiful, focalpoint and leader of a crowd of young
0075 intellectuals of both sexes.  He was a Dorian Grey figure,
0076 sparklingand damned, hero and victim, immature and over-ripe,
0077 sensitive and heartless, a man capable of loving and of being

0078 1Edward Mendelson: Early Auden, Faber and Faber 1981. Also:
0079 W.H. Auden: Collected Poems, ed.by E.Mendelson, Faber 1976, and
0080 The English Auden, same Editor, Faber 1977.
0081 2Dorothy J Farnon: Auden in Love. Simon & Schuster, NY, Faber
0082 London 1

0083 - 3 -

0084 loved but who was already - though Auden did not know it -
0085 addicted to promiscuity.  In literature and music his knowledge
0086 was, for his age, above average, but when important examinations
0087 loomed a kind of petulant mood would come over him and he would
0088 fail to appear.
0089      Chester never wanted to earn his living, and all his life he was
0090 supported financially by other people, particularly by Auden.
0091 He usually promptly lost what he was given because he was
0092 perpetually being robbed by seamen picked up on the wharfs of
0093 New York.  By one of them he was robbed of three months´ income
0094 in succession.  Or else he gave it away:  no matter what actually
0095 happened, the money left his pocket.
0096      The scene shifts to a flat in the Esslingasse in Vienna´s
0097 3rd District, where Kallman once spent the winter.  He gave a
0098 party one evening, and afterwards I took two or three of the men
0099 part of their way home in my car.  When Chester told me later on
0100 that the man who, as it chanced, had been sitting beside me, had
0101 gone off with 2,000 schillings taken out of the pocket of a
0102 jacket hanging on the bedroom door, I could not know that this
0103 was not a mere incident but almost a matter of routine.  When,
0104 ultimately, he took with him to Athens 80,000 sch. in cash
0105 (proceeds of the sale of a building plot) and lost it all on the
0106 way, this mishap was almost a foregone conclusion.
0107     That the sexual relationship between Auden and Kallman
0108 ceased as far back as 1941 is well known:  from that time on -
0109 there is evidence in the poetry - sex and love became, for Auden,
0110 two separate matters.  He felt married to Chester (when he was
0111 not Mother) for the rest of his life, and he wrote that Chester
0112 was the only person who, emotionally and intellectually, was
0113 wholly indispensable to him.
0114      Like it or not, this statement has to be accepted with all
0115 the weight it carries.  It was never possible, even in the
0116 Austrian era, to keep Chester in purdah for long, and when there
0117 was a visitor from Athens at Hinterholz 6 there could be tension.
0118 Auden gave orders to Yannis Boras in the abrupt tones of a
0119 colonial Englishman of yore speaking to the "boy", and when I
0120 asked one day at lunch: "Where is, er....?" he said with a

0121 - 4 -

0122 smirk of satisfaction: "I sent him up on to the roof to mend tiles."
0123 But fundamentally nothing had changed between them:  this explains
0124 Auden´s intense anxiety over the death of Boras in a car accident in
0125 Lower Austria, and his fear communicated itself to me as I searched
0126 for Chester in Vienna.  It was nearly Christmas, what on earth
0127 would become of him, distraught and alone?  (He had in fact not
0128 gone to Austria after all, but had not let Auden know.) There
0129 followed the gloomy summer of 1969 when Chester was sunk in deep
0130 depression while Wyśtan had a full work programme, and when he
0131 told me he could hardly think how Chester would get through the
0132 summer1this was indeed Mother speaking.
0133      What was it in Chester Kallman that made him so entirely
0134 indispensable to Auden?  Perhaps the question is impossible to
0135 answer;  some may hold it to be inadmissible, or attempts to find
0136 points of reference impertinent.  Others again may find the whole
0137 subject unappetising.  But to anyone with an interest in psychology
0138 in the processes of creativity in general and in those of Auden
0139 in particular, there is no way of getting round this essential
0140 relationship.  It may, after all, come to be seen as one of the
0141 most curious in the history of English literature.
0142      In their love of music, of opera above all, Kallmanwas in
0143 the lead.  He was a minor poet who wrote because he needed to do so
0144 but his output was slight.  Yet in many spheres which were of
0145 intense interest to Auden he had little, sometimes nothing to offer:
0146 German literature (though Chester picked up languages with uncommon
0147 facility; Wystan´s spoken German was execrable but his compre-
0148 hension unerring), the history of cultures, religion and liturgy,
0149 translation.  When I was with them Wystan did not only most of the
0150 talking, but of the asking as well; his great charm lay in his
0151 alert interest in other people´s work, and he would draw one out
0152 on the odder backwaters of Austrian history.  This side of him comes
0153 out in a letter dated 6 July 1970.  When the historian Friedrich
0154 Heer and Auden, both entranced, struck sparks off one another all
0155 afternoon, Kallman was silent.  Kallman lacked Auden´s sensitivity
0156 to places and people, to the genius loci;  perhaps it was just
0157 that he was an American, and a New Yorker, while Auden never

0158 1 refers to 1976 text.

0159 - 5 -

0160 lost his roots in Europe.
0161     On his own ground, operatic libretti, Chester Kallman was
0162 still in good running order, and when the Rake´s Progress was put
0163 on in Vienna he wrote a letter to Die Presse protesting sharply
0164 against the cuts made by the producer.  But of that
0165 conversational brilliance which old friends have described there
0166 was little sign.  A scene comes to mind: Auden was away, and Chester
0167 asked me to meet him for lunch at a restaurant off the Kärntner-
0168 strasse.  A young man whose background clearly lay somewhere
0169 within the crime belt near the Prater was with him, and soon the
0170 youth sand I were engrossed in conversation, while Chester, feeling
0171 out of it, sulked.  Immediately after coffee it seemed best to
0172 leave them.   Chester´s intelligence and wit had not deserted him
0173 but they had too little scope, and, perhaps owing to his carp-like
0174 appearance, he was liable to be underestimated.  He was good-natured,
0175 in course of time even affectionate, hospitable and amusing.  He
0176 looked after Auden devotedly and we know that he was able to banish
0177 Auden´s loneliness as no one else could.  His misfortune was that
0178 he lacked those qualities which Auden possessed and which decide
0179 between success and failure.
0180      It cannot, all the same, have been easy living on a long-term
0181 basis with Auden in New York while attempting, even though
0182 fitfully, to develop his own personality and talents.  Putting up with Auden´s
0183 fads, his insistence on punctuality and the rigid routine was one
0184 thing;  to grow up, to mature in the shadow of this oversized tree
0185 was another.  There was not enough light.  So he fled, but without
0186 Mother there was no way he could live at all.
0187      It is essential, in the light of what happened later on, to
0188 remember Auden´s generosity.  His biographer mentioned the two boys
0189 whose further education was financed by Auden:  I can confirm this
0190 as we lived next door to them for a few years.  They were the sons of
0191 an artist;  both made rapid careers in industrial management.  But
0192 there were other examples.  Wystan had telephoned and asked me to
0193 meet him and Chester at the Operncafé - the much-missed café-
0194 restaurant next to the Opera, now a car salesroom.  They were waiting
0195 for Balanchine to join them after the performance, but we waited in
0196 vain and finally gave up and went home.  There was a fourth at our
0197 table, a silent young man who, Chester said in an undertone, was
0198 a student of technology and Wystan was helping with his studies.

0199 - 5a -

0200 It turned out that he lived not far from my flat so we drove
0201 off together, and he suddenly broke his silence to ask:  "Who
0202 is this Professor Auden - is he well known?"
0203      There was a brief flurry after the 1968 uprising in
0204 Czechoslovakia.  Towards the end of Auden´s summer residence at

0205 - 6 -

0206 Kirchstetten the question cropped up whether he would be willing
0207 to lend the house to a Czech refugee and his wife.  By mid-
0208 October Auden was in England, and he wrote from London, c/o
0209 Heyworth, 32 Bryanston Square:

0210 Dear Stella, Got back from Oxford yesterday and found your
0211 letter waiting.  1) I think I ought to take the couple in,
0212 but I must leave it to you to decide whether they are O.K.
0213 If they are, all rooms, including my study (which can´t be
0214 heated) are open to them.   2)  How much money will they need
0215 to keep going?  And how shall I make the arrangements for
0216 payment.  3) Will they be able to find work or emigrate
0217 before I return in April, when I´m afraid there will not
0218 be room for them?  4) I´m worried about how they will get
0219 gas cylinders for cooking from Neulengbach, since, presumably,
0220 they have no car.  I expect someone in the village will help.
0221 5)  If and when they come, I must know in advance so that I
0222 can write a note to the Burgomeister..." (sic).

0223     In the end nothing came of it, but the letter is quoted
0224 here because it is so characteristic;  the follow-up is even
0225 more so.

0226         77 St. Mark´s Place                         Nov 6th
0227         NYC
0228          NY.1003

0229                 Dear Stella,
0230              Many thanks for your letter.  Of course,
0231              selfishly, I´m rather relieved.  How horrid
0232              one is!
0233              The U.S. is grim.
0234                          Love,
0235                               Wystan.

0236      Great generosity (these facts, even separately, are known
0237 to no more than two or three people) combined in Auden´s
0238 character quite readily with his legendary stinginess in the
0239 small things of everyday life such as stamps or cigarettes.
0240 "Life" magazine, he told me one day with a beaming smile, had
0241 just paid him 5,000 dollars for an article.  "I´m thinking
0242 of building on a diningroom."  "Very good idea" I said,
0243 "but for a start I shall smoke your cigarettes for the rest of
0244 the afternoon."  I very much doubt whether I did.  On the other
0245 hand he would order things to be sent out from Vienna without
0246 a second thought.  After his car accident he sent me a message
0247 and I drove out to Kirchstetten.  He was dishevelled and cross.
0248 It´s a curious thing, he said, but the first chap who
0249 takes any notice of you when you´re carried into hospital is not

0250 - 7 -

0251 the doctor but the man from the accounts office who wants to
0252 know how you propose to pay for your treatment.  No, he said,
0253 he didn´t really need anything and Chester would arrive shortly,
0254 but he was running out of gin.   If I´d be an angel and ring
0255 up Wild on the Neuer Markt and ask them to send a few bottles out -
0256 he told me the brand name - that would be splendid.
0257      When the friendly voice on the end of the line had repeated
0258 the order Iasked when they would be making their next delivery
0259 in the area around Kirchstetten.  "Oh but we never deliver out
0260 there" said the voice, "We make a special trip for the Herr
0261 Professor."  Startled, I exclaimed "For goodness´ sake, that must
0262 cost him a packet - you can buy that brand of gin in Böheimkirchen!"
0263 "Certainly you can" said the voice which now sounded amused,
0264 "but why do we have to worry our heads over the way a Herr
0265 Professor flings his money around?"  I liked the "we".
0266     What was so American about the kitchen?1
0267     When fitted kitchens first came in the Austrians calledd
0268 them "American" - the term is now as extinct as "Russian" tea
0269 but must still have been common parlance in Kirchstetten.
0270      There was a tidy line-up consisting of fridge, sink, low
0271 cupboards providing a good working surface,,a corner cupboard
0272 the interior of which swung out, and a gas stove.  Both men were
0273 very proud of the kitchen and it became Chester´s habitat.
0274 But the whole point of a modern kitchen:  the labour-saving
0275 working area, ample storage space, accessibility, was totally
0276 cancelled out by the permanent clutter.  It was a matter of
0277 principle with Chester to have all cooking ingredients conveniently
0278 to hand, which meant that nothing was ever put away, and where
0279 his loving eye saw method, even the least fussy visitor could
0280 only see a shambles.  But an interesting shambles owing to the
0281 exotic nature of the preserved foods and spices which Chester
0282 brought with him.  There was for example a dried leaf which,
0283 detected by me in a casserole, was said to have no flavour but
0284 to serve as a stimulus or bridge to other flavours.
0285     It was clear from the beginning that the two of them were
0286 not so much drinking as eating their way into their graves owing

0287 1  Wystan Auden, On Installing an American Kitchen in Lower
0288 Austria, in Homage to Clio, (Faber and Faber 1960).

0289 - 8 -

0290 to the enormous fat content of some of the dishes.  I remember
0291 my horror as I watched a sauce being prepared in the mixer before
0292 it was re-heated to accompany the roast duck.  It consisted of
0293 equal parts of rendered down duck fat and cream, and would have
0294 sustained a miner at the coal face for an indefinite period
0295 of time.  If they could possibly helpit, of course, neither
0296 Wystan nor Chester ever walked a yard.

0297      Whether or not - and Chester was convinced that this was so -
0298 the business about alleged arrears of income tax shortened Auden´s
0299 life must be left open.  The "Declaration" to the tax authorities
0300 in which a great poet patiently explains how poetry comes to be
0301 written must be unique and deserves a place in the history of
0302 literature.

0303                      Declaration. 1
0304 Gentlemen,
0305      My position is very simple: one pays income tax where one
0306 earns money, that is to say in my case, as a writer writing in
0307 English, in the United States and in England.  In Austria I
0308 earn not one groschen, I merely spend schillings.
0309 You maintain that I possess a "material interest" in Austria,
0310 by which you presumably mean a "financial" interest.  That might
0311 conceivably be the case if I had to say to myself:  "I must go
0312 to Austria because I can only work in Austria!"  But that is not
0313 the case.  I have lived in many places in many different countries
0314 and was always able to work wherever I might be.
0315      I naturally have a "personal" interest in Austria, otherwise
0316 I should not come here.  The landscape is pleasing, and I find
0317 the Austrians whose acquaintance I have made, friendly ansd
0318 charming.
0319     You say correctly that I once received an Austrian prize
0320 for lieterature.  This was a great honour of which I am very
0321 proud.  You cannot however serioiusly believe, Gentlemen, that I
0322 calculated:  "If I continue to go to Austria maybe I shall be
0323 given a prize"?  Until it was awarded to me I had never heard
0324 of this prize.  It is equally clear that I cannot receive it a

0325 1Translation from the German text which is a manuscript, not a
0326 letter.  An English original is not known to exist and it is
0327 assumed that Auden destroyed his draft.

0328 - 9 -

0329 second time.  You also go on to say that a road in Kirchstetten
0330 has been named Audenstraße after me.  That was a very kind gesture
0331 on the part of the local council, but it cannot be maintainedd
0332 that I profit from it financially.
0333     Further, you say with truth that I have written several poems
0334 on Austrian themes.  To this I would like to make three
0335 statements.

0336           1.  I have never, in Austria, received so much as one
0337           penny for my poems.  One or two of them have been trans-
0338           lated into German, but in these cases the translators have
0339           received the money, not I.
0340           2.  I believe you are not clearly aware how poetry comes
0341           to be written.  What is generally taken to be the subject
0342           matter is only a viewpoint, an occasion whereby certain
0343           thoughts about nature, God, history, mankind etc. may be
0344           expressed which the poet may have had in mind for a very
0345           long time.  I wrote, for example, a poem to commemorate the
0346           20th anniversary of the death of Josef Weinheber.
0347           Fundamentally however the poem is concerned with quite
0348           different things.  First of all it is about the love
0349           which every poet, whatever his nationality, has for his
0350           mother tongue, and secondly about what happened after the
0351           war in the countries which were defeated, i.e. not only
0352           in Austria but in Germany and Italy.  Again:  in 1964
0353           I wrote a poem with the title "Whitsunday in Kirchstetten"
0354           because it was where I happened to be.  But the place is
0355           unimportant.  In reality the question in this poem is
0356           what, for a Christian, is the meaning of the Feast of
0357           Pentecost.  And this is valid for all countries in the
0358           same way.
0359           3.  I believe you do not clearly recognize a poet´s (Dichter)
0360           financial situation.  If he is successful, a novelist
0361           can make a good deal of money.  A poet (Lyriker) cannot,
0362           even if he is very well known, because he is only read
0363           by a minority.  By far the greater part of my income
0364           comes not from the sale of my volumes of poetry but from
0365           book reviews, translations, lectures etc., activities
0366           which have nothing to do with Austria.  And while we are

0367 - 10 -

0368           on the subject of translations  you rightly say that
0369           I have a great interest in German and Austrian literatur
0370           I may add in music as well - but I do not have to come
0371           to Austria in order to read or to hear them.
0372      You see from all this that the arguments brought
0373 forward by you for subjecting me to payment of income tax are not
0374 valid.  The most pertinent argument against it is that in the
0375 course of one year I always stay under six months in Austriaa
0376 and never spend more than three months here consecutively.
0377      A word in conclusion: if this in my view entirely unjustifiable
0378 nonsense does not cease, I shall leave Austria never to return,
0379 which would be very sad for me and perhaps too for the shopkeepers
0380 of Kirchstetten.  One thing, Gentlemen, I cannot conceal from you:
0381 if this should happen it might give rise to a scandal of worldwide
0382 dimensions.
0383                                                 W.H. Auden.

0384 1 You ask why I have made over my half of our property in
0385 Kirchstetten to Mr Chester Kallman who is not related to me.
0386 Mr Kallman is my heir.  I have no children and for years past
0387 he has been my literary collaborator.  Jointly, we have written
0388 five new opera libretti, "The Rake´s Progress, "Elegy for Young
0389 Lovers", "The Bassarids_" and "Love´s Labours Lost".  And
0390 together we have made new translations of "The MagiccFlute",
0391 "Don Giovanni", "Die Sieben Todsünden", "Mahagonny" and
0392 "Archifanfaro".  I am now 65 years old and must reckon with all
0393 eventualities such as a heart attack.  As you know better than
0394 I, in the event of sudden death great difficulties arise for the
0395 heirs to landed property, particularly in a foreign country.

0396 1 The German text was typed on a different machine, and the
0397 separate page joined to the eclaration.

0398 - 11 -

0399      "Every day for the past year" said Chester "I have stood
0400 outside his door in the early morning, afraid to go in."
0401      This was later.  Now, Auden was dead, the voice issuing
0402 from the car radio had just said so.  A few days ago we had
0403 talked about his reading in the Society for Literature on 28
0404 September.  Unfortunately, I said, I was obliged to drive to
0405 Linz and to spend the night there, but they were welcome to use
0406 my Vienna flat.  It was maddening and I would just as soon
0407 put it off.  No, said Auden, mustn´t do that, one should stick
0408 to one´s commitments.  "And you won´t be missing much" he
0409 reassured me, "you´ve heard it all before."  We would meet again
0410 in a few days´time and then he would tell me all about it.  He was
0411 not sure about the flatbut he would let me know in good time.
0412 On 24 September he wrote a note to say that he did not need the
0413 flat, he would go to the Hotel Altenburgerhof.  The handwriting
0414 is ragged.
0415      Linz already lay far behind, the car radio went on muttering
0416 to itself unheeded until the familiar voice of Friedrich Heere
0417 came through, reading one of his book reviews.  It was consoling
0418 in a world where, suddenly, a signpost was missing.  What are
0419 you howling about, I asked myself, what gives you the right to
0420 mourn for Wystan?  Think of Chester.  It was impossible not to
0421 think of Chester:  it was not so much a question how much he
0422 would grieve over the death of Wystan, as how he would survive
0423 at all.  Leaving the autobahn at St.Pölten I drove straight to
0424 Kirchstetten;  it seemed to be just possible that he might have
0425 arrived in the meantime.  But the green shutters were closed
0426 and there was no one about apart from the wall-eyed dog, an
0427 exceptionally hideous mongrel belonging to Frau Strobl, which
0428 barked in an irritating falsetto.  He barked from a position close
0429 beside me while I wrote a note and stuck it in the chink between
0430 the door´s shutters, and he was still barking as I shut the
0431 garden gate behind me.
0432      The answer to my note was a telephone call from Frau Strobl:
0433 Herr Kallman said, would I come over to tea the next day?
0434      That was the Sunday.

0435 -12-

0436      The sittingroom seemed to be full of people.  Chester was
0437 sitting on the corner-seat facing the door, where Auden always
0438 used to sit, every chair appeared to be occupied and two young
0439 men were sitting on the floor.  Chester hurried
0440 across the room, hugged me and said "The whole thing´s terrible,
0441 you have to help me."
0442      I was introduced to the others.  Mrs. Thekla Clark and her
0443 daughter had come up from Florence as soonas they heard the
0444 news;  there was Frau Maria Seitz, headmistress of the high school;
0445 r Herr Enzinger the mayor
0446 of Kirchstetten, the film scriptwriter Adolf Opel, and the young men.
0447 Clearly, the meeting to discuss the funeral arrangements was
0448 not proceeding smoothly.  The mayor looked annoyed, Frau Seitz
0449 looked worried and Mrs Clark bewildered.  There were, of course,
0450 language difficulties.  Mayor Enzinger spoke not a word of
0451 English and the Clarks no German, while the headmistress had a
0452 certain command of English but did not feel up to acting as
0453 interpreter and adviser in one;  Chester´a German was perfectly
0454 adequate.
0455     The root of the problem lay on a deeper level, where two
0456 separate cultures collided head on.  Chester was barely coherent,
0457 but he managed to explain his point of view.  He loathed, from
0458 the bottom of his hearteverything in the way of pompes funèbres.
0459 He wanted to bury Auden, he said, quietly and privately and, if
0460 it could possibly be managed, on Tuesday.  He had already informed
0461 Wystan´s brother Dr. John Auden, Stephen Spender and others
0462 of the arrangements and asked them to arrive, if not tomorrow,
0463 then on Tuesday morning at the latest.  On the other hand the
0464 mayor of Kirchstetten, he went on, wanted to lay on a really big
0465 show with brass bands and all the rest of it, and what was more
0466 on the Saturday to give as many people as possible the chance to
0467 come.  The Ministry of Education and the provincial council of
0468 Lower Austria were to be represented, and as the last straw the
0469 hearse was to drive up to the house.  He would not allow any of
0470 this, he said:  "I can´t bear it and I won´t have it."
0471      Mayor Enzinger drew a deep breath.  The first thing we had
0472 to realise, he pointed out, was that the body had not yet been

0473 -13-

0474 released by the authorities.  In all cases where the cause of death
0475 is not wholly clear certainkformalities are obligatory, and even
0476 intervention at a high level would not work miracles.  Everything
0477 takes time.  And how could anyone expect it of him, the Bürgermeister,
0478 that he should refrain from notifying the Ministry and the Cultural
0479 department of the Council of the death of Professor _Auden?  It
0480 was as much as his job was worth.  Now Frau Seitz spoke.  The
0481 inhabitants of Kirchstetten, she believed, would hardly bury a dog
0482 in the manner proposed by Herr Kallman, let alone a great poet.
0483      Chester Kallman´s position was entirely comprehensible - to
0484 some of us.  To him, an American of Jewish origin and a non-believer,
0485 the whole pomp and circumstance of a traditional Austrian funeral
0486 was abhorrent.  Where prominent personages are concerned, there
0487 would certainly be the local brass band, and where appropriate delegations representing
0488 the voluntary fire brigade, the federal railways, the veterans´
0489 association and others besides, and the gamekeepers would blow
0490 their horns and wish him good hunting in the Elysian fields.
0491 To Chester´s mind such folksy rituals were as foreign as the burial
0492 rites of the Incas.  He did not know that not very long ago in
0493 Lower Austria, Auden as a bachelor would have been accompanied in
0494 the funeral procession by a "bride" dressed in white.  He was
0495 unable to understand that his intentions were an intolerable affront
0496 to the population of Kirchstetten.  In his despair, it certainly
0497 never occurred to him that Auden himself would very likely have
0498 been entranced at the idea of a slap-up funeral with all the
0499 trimmings - one can almost hear his Olympian laughter - followed
0500 by a hearty meal at the inn where he had so often had his lunch.
0501 As it turned out, Chester got no marks in local opinion for this
0502 finale either, as the meal consisted of Leberkäs with vegetables:
0503 This consisted of fried slices off a loaf of a flabby substance which is neither liver nor cheese related to the
0504 Frankfurter sausage.  It is a
0505 homely, juicy meal all too familiar to every Austrian;  and it is
0506 cheap. There would be much talk of this also after all was over
0507 For their part, the local people were forgetting that Chester was
0508 probably in financial straits - not that this would have been taken
0509 as an excuse.
0510      For a moment the discussion had come to a standstill.
0511 The young men who took no part in it and conversed in whispers,

0512 - 14 -

0513 fetched more beer, Frau Strobl walked in and out and rolled a
0514 baleful eye on us as she spoke into Chester´s ear.
0515     The points at issue were not only When and How Much;  there
0516 was also the matter of the church service and the prayers at the
0517 graveside.  Many people in Akustria had assumed Auden to be of the
0518 Roman Catholic faith;  he had of course remained :member of the
0519 Anglican and Episcopalian churches.  The misunderstanding arose
0520 from his regular attendance at mass in the parish church and his
0521 friendly relationship with Father Lustkandl, the parish priest
0522 referred to in "Whitsunday in Kirchstetten".  Auden asked
0523 Lustkandl´s sucessor for permission to be buried in the churchyard,
0524 and his wish was acceded to.   Evidently, the next logical thing to do, then,
0525 was to approach the chaplain to the British Embassy in Vienna,´
0526 the Revd. Bruce Duncan, and ask him to officiate.  What form of
0527 service this should be - there could be no question of a funeral
0528 mass - left everyone present at a loss.  We agreed at last that
0529 it ought to be some kind of ecumenical ceremony held jointly by
0530 the two clergymen, but that first of all, the plan must be put
0531 before Dr John Auden.
0532      At this juncture Chester Kallman withdrew his insistence on
0533  the impossibly early date for the
0534 funeral.  The room had become much too warm, the oxygen was
0535 running out and Chester would not be able to stand much more
0536 pressure.  The most urgent objective waslquite simply to
0537 free him from our burdensome presence.  Once everyone had agreed
0538 that Auden´s relations must be told immediately that the funeral
0539 had been postponed, the moment had come to dissolve the meeting.
0540 Mrs Clark undertook to telephone to London and Frau Strobl would
0541 drive her to the Post Office.  Chester asked me to talk everything
0542 over with Frau Seitz and Herr Enzinger and reach definite conclu-
0543 sions.  We all stood up, Chester came across the room to me and
0544 spoke in an undertone.  He was completely exhausted, he said,
0545 he couldn´t stand much more.  "I´ll do anything you want, you
0546 must just try to hold the others in check." Finally he said
0547 "It´ll be all right, I´m crammed full of tranquillizers, all I
0548 need is a bit of a rest."  He embraced me warmly and left the room.

0549 - 17 -

0550 the chief mourners.  It was "he-whose-name-we-never-mention";
0551 or if it was, Chester had said, Auden crossed himself.
0552      At the lowest point in Kirchstetten where the roads divide
0553 thr procession halted while the coffin was transferred from the
0554 hearse to a hand-drawn bier.  At this point the Church took charge
0555 and the procession resumed its steady pace;  photographs exist
0556 which were taken during the brief interval.
0557      To British ears quite unremarkable, the ecumenical service
0558 was much taIked about in Austrian circles because nothing of the
0559 kind had been known before.  The Revd. Bruce Duncan, today Rector
0560 of Crediton in Devon, can remember little about the general
0561 circumstances but confirms that he used the Book of Common Prayer
0562 and the long reading from the first Letter of St.Paul to the
0563 Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 20-58. Beyond that, all he recalls
0564 is his difficulties with Chester.
0565      Reaching for my Authorised Version, for surely no one would
0566 have dared to use any other, on second thoughts I also took out the
0567 New Testament as translated into German by Martin Luther.  After
0568 reading the English text through very slowly, and then a second
0569 time, I did the same with the Lutheran Bible and lost in thought
0570 compared the two, verse by verse.
0571      "How nice to see you" said Auden who was sitting on one of the
0572 white garden chairs with the red covers, "it´s a bit einsam here.
0573 And I wanted to write and tell you that the technical word for
0574 buddle is Erzwaschtrog.  I hope there is an equivalent German
0575 euphemism for `senior citizen´.  Oh and adit is stollen, and although
0576 I may be wrong, I guess concentrating mill is Vereinigungsmühle."
0577      "What a mercy you´ve told me" I said, relieved.  "I should have
0578 to have dug up such frightful words in the British Council library.
0579 But do you think people will understand all that about the primary
0580 and secondary worlds, or will they get muddled?"
0581      "It´s perfectly simple" said Auden.  "The initial impulse to
0582 create a secondary world is a feeling of awe aroused by encounters,
0583 in the primary world, with sacred beings or events."
0584      "There is one glory of the sun" I heard myself say, "and
0585 another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars:  for on

0586 - 18 -

0587 star differeth from another in glory."
0588     "Ah" he said, "you´ve been reading Corinthians One, chapter 15.
0589 `Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.´ Chester and I took
0590 that bidding rather too literally."
0591      "Who would know where that familiar quotation comes from?"
0592 I wondered.
0593      "I would" said Auden.  "I´ve been looking up the German text.
0594 Have you ever compared the Authorized Version with Martin Luther?"
0595      "Funny you should ask that" I said.  "It´s one of the things
0596 I forgot to talk to you about.  `Be not deceived:  evilcommunica-
0597 tions corrupt good manners.´ He renders that as `Lasset euch nicht
0598 verführen!  Böse Geschwätze verderben gute Sitten.´"
0599       "Very neat" said Auden happily.  I like `evil chatter´
0600 better than `communications´."
0601       "The publishers" Isaid "have a rather heavy-handed way of
0602 printing the more quotable bits in bold-face.  But in the next
0603 verse Luther seems to flounder.  `Werdet doch einmal recht nüchtern
0604 und sündiget nicht!´" Do be a bit sober for once, he pleads.  And
0605 sin not.  King James´s translators fancied that St Paul cried out
0606 `Awake to righteousness!"
0607      "Who knows what he really said."
0608      "Luther´s language is very fine as he reaches the climax:
0609 `Siehe, ich sage euch ein Geheimnis... ´"
0610      But Auden was speaking.  "Behold, I shew you a mystery:
0611 we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment,
0612 in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:  for the trumpet
0613 shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we
0614 shall be changed.´"  And with that he vanished.  Now wide awake, I
0615 put the two books back on their shelf and settled down to re-type
0616 Auden´s speech at Neulengbach.

0617 Sehr verehrter Herr Landeshauptmann, Ladies and gentlemen:
0618 I hope you will pardon me if I speak somewhat personally.  I do so,
0619 not out of vanity...