Typescript Stella Musulin "In Retrospect" 1985-11-29--1990-03-28
Musulin, Stella
  • Mayer, Sandra
  • Frühwirth, Timo
Austrian 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, Grigoriou Dimitra, 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 .
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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

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. 2Dorothy J Farnon: Auden in Love. Simon & Schuster, NY, Faber
0081 London 1

0082 - 3 -

0083 loved but who was already - though Auden did not know it -
0084 addicted to promiscuity.  In literature and music his knowledge
0085 was, for his age, above average, but when important examinations
0086 loomed a kind of petulant mood would come over him and he would
0087 fail to appear.
0088      Chester never wanted to earn his living, and all his life he was
0089 supported financially by other people, particularly by Auden.
0090 He usually promptly lost what he was given because he was
0091 perpetually being robbed by seamen picked up on the wharfs of
0092 New York.  By one of them he was robbed of three months´ income
0093 in succession.  Or else he gave it away:  no matter what actually
0094 happened, the money left his pocket.
0095      The scene shifts to a flat in the Esslingasse in Vienna´s
0096 3rd District
, where Kallman once spent the winter.  He gave a
0097 party one evening, and afterwards I took two or three of the men
0098 part of their way home in my car.  When Chester told me later on
0099 that the man who, as it chanced, had been sitting beside me, had
0100 gone off with 2,000 schillings taken out of the pocket of a
0101 jacket hanging on the bedroom door, I could not know that this
0102 was not a mere incident but almost a matter of routine.  When,
0103 ultimately, he took with him to Athens 80,000 sch. in cash
0104 (proceeds of the sale of a building plot) and lost it all on the
0105 way, this mishap was almost a foregone conclusion.
0106     That the sexual relationship between Auden and Kallman
0107 ceased as far back as 1941 is well known:  from that time on -
0108 there is evidence in the poetry - sex and love became, for Auden,
0109 two separate matters.  He felt married to Chester (when he was
0110 not Mother) for the rest of his life, and he wrote that Chester
0111 was the only person who, emotionally and intellectually, was
0112 wholly indispensable to him.
0113      Like it or not, this statement has to be accepted with all
0114 the weight it carries.  It was never possible, even in the
0115 Austrian era, to keep Chester in purdah for long, and when there
0116 was a visitor from Athens at Hinterholz 6 there could be tension.
0117 Auden gave orders to Yannis Boras in the abrupt tones of a
0118 colonial Englishman of yore speaking to the "boy", and when I
0119 asked one day at lunch: "Where is, er....?" he said with a

0120 - 4 -

0121 smirk of satisfaction: "I sent him up on to the roof to mend tiles."
0122 But fundamentally nothing had changed between them:  this explains
0123 Auden´s intense anxiety over the death of Boras in a car accident in
0124 Lower Austria, and his fear communicated itself to me as I searched
0125 for Chester in Vienna.  It was nearly Christmas, what on earth
0126 would become of him, distraught and alone?  (He had in fact not
0127 gone to Austria after all, but had not let Auden know.) There
0128 followed the gloomy summer of 1969 when Chester was sunk in deep
0129 depression while Wyśtan had a full work programme, and when he
0130 told me he could hardly think how Chester would get through the
0131 summer1 this was indeed Mother speaking.
0132      What was it in Chester Kallman that made him so entirely
0133 indispensable to Auden?  Perhaps the question is impossible to
0134 answer;  some may hold it to be inadmissible, or attempts to find
0135 points of reference impertinent.  Others again may find the whole
0136 subject unappetising.  But to anyone with an interest in psychology
0137 in the processes of creativity in general and in those of Auden
0138 in particular, there is no way of getting round this essential
0139 relationship.  It may, after all, come to be seen as one of the
0140 most curious in the history of English literature.
0141      In their love of music, of opera above all, Kallmanwas in
0142 the lead.  He was a minor poet who wrote because he needed to do so
0143 but his output was slight.  Yet in many spheres which were of
0144 intense interest to Auden he had little, sometimes nothing to offer:
0145 German literature (though Chester picked up languages with uncommon
0146 facility; Wystan´s spoken German was execrable but his compre-
0147 hension unerring), the history of cultures, religion and liturgy,
0148 translation.  When I was with them1/2 Wystan did not only most of the
0149 talking, but of the asking as well; his great charm lay in his
0150 alert interest in other people´s work, and he would draw one out
0151 on the odder backwaters of Austrian history.  This side of him comes
0152 out in a letter dated 6 July 1970.  When the historian Friedrich
0153 Heer
and Auden, both entranced, struck sparks off one another all
0154 afternoon, Kallman was silent.  Kallman lacked Auden´s sensitivity
0155 to places and people, to the genius loci;  perhaps it was just
0156 that he was an American, and a New Yorker, while Auden never

0157 1 refers to 1976 text.

0158 - 5 -

0159 lost his roots in Europe.
0160     On his own ground, operatic libretti, Chester Kallman was
0161 still in good running order, and when the Rake´s Progress was put
0162 on in Vienna he wrote a letter to Die Presse protesting sharply
0163 against the cuts made by the producer.  But of that
0164 conversational brilliance which old friends have described there
0165 was little sign.  A scene comes to mind: Auden was away, and Chester
0166 asked me to meet him for lunch at a restaurant off the Kärntner-
0167 strasse
.  A young man whose background clearly lay somewhere
0168 within the crime belt near the Prater was with him, and soon the
0169 youth sand I were engrossed in conversation, while Chester feeling
0170 out of it, sulked.  Immediately after coffee it seemed best to
0171 leave them.   Chester´s intelligence and wit had not deserted him
0172 but they had too little scope, and, perhaps owing to his carp-like
0173 appearance, he was liable to be underestimated.  He was good-natured,
0174 in course of time even affectionate, hospitable and amusing.  He
0175 looked after Auden devotedly and we know that he was able to banish
0176 Auden´s loneliness as no one else could.  His misfortune was that
0177 he lacked those qualities which Auden possessed and which decide
0178 between success and failure.
0179      It cannot, all the same, have been easy living on a long-term
0180 basis with Auden in New York while attempting, even though
0181 fitfully, to develop his own personality and talents.  Putting up with Auden´s
0182 fads, his insistence on punctuality and the rigid routine was one
0183 thing;  to grow up, to mature in the shadow of this oversized tree
0184 was another.  There was not enough light.  So he fled, but without
0185 Mother there was no way he could live at all.
0186      It is essential, in the light of what happened later on, to
0187 remember Auden´s generosity.  His biographer mentioned the two boys
0188 whose further education was financed by Auden:  I can confirm this
0189 as we lived next door to them for a few years.  They were the sons of
0190 an artist;  both made rapid careers in industrial management.  But
0191 there were other examples.  Wystan had telephoned and asked me to
0192 meet him and Chester at the Operncafé - the much-missed café-
0193 restaurant next to the Opera, now a car salesroom.  They were waiting
0194 for Balanchine to join them after the performance, but we waited in
0195 vain and finally gave up and went home.  There was a fourth at our
0196 table, a silent young man who, Chester said in an undertone, was
0197 a student of technology and Wystan was helping with his studies.

0198 - 5a -

0199 It turned out that he lived not far from my flat so we drove
0200 off together, and he suddenly broke his silence to ask:  "Who
0201 is this Professor Auden - is he well known?"
0202      There was a brief flurry after the 1968 uprising in
0203 Czechoslovakia
.  Towards the end of Auden´s summer residence at

0204 - 6 -

0205 Kirchstetten the question cropped up whether he would be willing
0206 to lend the house to a Czech refugee and his wife.  By mid-
0207 October Auden was in England, and he wrote from London, c/o
0208 Heyworth, 32 Bryanston Square:

0209 Dear Stella, Got back from Oxford yesterday and found your
0210 letter waiting.  1) I think I ought to take the couple1/2 in,
0211 but I must leave it to you to decide whether they are O.K.
0212 If they are, all rooms, including my study (which can´t be
0213 heated) are open to them.   2)  How much money will they need
0214 to keep going?  And how shall I make the arrangements for
0215 payment.  3) Will they be able to find work or emigrate
0216 before I return in April, when I´m afraid there will not
0217 be room for them?  4) I´m worried about how they will get
0218 gas cylinders for cooking from Neulengbach, since, presumably,
0219 they have no car.  I expect someone in the village will help.
0220 5)  If and when they come, I must know in advance so that I
0221 can write a note to the Burgomeister..." (sic).

0222     In the end nothing came of it, but the letter is quoted
0223 here because it is so characteristic;  the follow-up is even
0224 more so.

0225         77 St. Mark´s Place                          Nov 6th
0226         NYC
0227          NY.1003

0228                 Dear Stella,
0229              Many thanks for your letter.  Of course,
0230              selfishly, I´m rather relieved.  How horrid
0231              one is!
0232              The U.S. is grim.
0233                          Love,
0234                               Wystan.

0235      Great generosity (these facts, even separately, are known
0236 to no more than two or three people) combined in Auden´s
0237 character quite readily with his legendary stinginess in the
0238 small things of everyday life such as stamps or cigarettes.
0239 "Life" magazine, he told me one day with a beaming smile, had
0240 just paid him 5,000 dollars for an article.  "I´m thinking
0241 of building on a diningroom."  "Very good idea" I said,
0242 "but for a start I shall smoke your cigarettes for the rest of
0243 the afternoon."  I very much doubt whether I did.  On the other
0244 hand he would order things to be sent out from Vienna without
0245 a second thought.  After his car accident he sent me a message
0246 and I drove out to Kirchstetten.  He was dishevelled and cross.
0247 It´s a curious thing, he said, but the first chap who
0248 takes any notice of you when you´re carried into hospital is not

0249 - 7 -

0250 the doctor but the man from the accounts office who wants to
0251 know how you propose to pay for your treatment.  No, he said,
0252 he didn´t really need anything and Chester would arrive shortly,
0253 but he was running out of gin.   If I´d be an angel and ring
0254 up Wild on the Neuer Markt and ask them to send a few bottles out -
0255 he told me the brand name - that would be splendid.
0256      When the friendly voice on the end of the line had repeated
0257 the order Iasked when they would be making their next delivery
0258 in the area around Kirchstetten.  "Oh but we never deliver out
0259 there" said the voice, "We make a special trip for the Herr
0260 Professor
."  Startled, I exclaimed "For goodness´ sake, that must
0261 cost him a packet - you can buy that brand of gin in Böheimkirchen!"
0262 "Certainly you can" said the voice which now sounded amused,
0263 "but why do we have to worry our heads over the way a Herr
0264 Professor flings his money around?"  I liked the "we".
0265     What was so American about the kitchen?
0266     When fitted kitchens first came in the Austrians calledd
0267 them "American" - the term is now as extinct as "Russian" tea
0268 but must still have been common parlance in Kirchstetten.
0269      There was a tidy line-up consisting of fridge, sink, low
0270 cupboards providing a good working surface,,a corner cupboard
0271 the interior of which swung out, and a gas stove.  Both men1/2 were
0272 very proud of the kitchen and it became Chester´s habitat.
0273 But the whole point of a modern kitchen:  the labour-saving
0274 working area, ample storage space, accessibility, was totally
0275 cancelled out by the permanent clutter.  It was a matter of
0276 principle with Chester to have all cooking ingredients conveniently
0277 to hand, which meant that nothing was ever put away, and where
0278 his loving eye saw method, even the least fussy visitor could
0279 only see a shambles.  But an interesting shambles owing to the
0280 exotic nature of the preserved foods and spices which Chester
0281 brought with him.  There was for example a dried leaf which,
0282 detected by me in a casserole, was said to have no flavour but
0283 to serve as a stimulus or bridge to other flavours.
0284     It was clear from the beginning that the two of them were
0285 not so much drinking as eating their way into their graves owing

0286 1  Wystan Auden, On Installing an American Kitchen in Lower
0287 Austria
, in Homage to Clio, (Faber and Faber 1960).

0288 - 8 -

0289 to the enormous fat content of some of the dishes.  I remember
0290 my horror as I watched a sauce being prepared in the mixer before
0291 it was re-heated to accompany the roast duck.  It consisted of
0292 equal parts of rendered down duck fat and cream, and would have
0293 sustained a miner at the coal face for an indefinite period
0294 of time.  If they could possibly helpit, of course, neither
0295 Wystan nor Chester ever walked a yard.

0296      Whether or not - and Chester was convinced that this was so -
0297 the business about alleged arrears of income tax shortened Auden´s
0298 life must be left open.  The "Declaration" to the tax authorities
0299 in which a great poet patiently explains how poetry comes to be
0300 written must be unique and deserves a place in the history of
0301 literature.

0302                      Declaration.1
0303 Gentlemen,
0304      My position is very simple: one pays income tax where one
0305 earns money, that is to say in my case, as a writer writing in
0306 English, in the United States and in England.  In Austria I
0307 earn not one groschen, I merely spend schillings.
0308 You maintain that I possess a "material interest" in Austria,
0309 by which you presumably mean a "financial" interest.  That might
0310 conceivably be the case if I had to say to myself:  "I must go
0311 to Austria because I can only work in Austria!"  But that is not
0312 the case.  I have lived in many places in many different countries
0313 and was always able to work wherever I might be.
0314      I naturally have a "personal" interest in Austria, otherwise
0315 I should not come here.  The landscape is pleasing, and I find
0316 the Austrians whose acquaintance I have made, friendly ansd
0317 charming.
0318     You say correctly that I once received an Austrian prize
0319 for lieterature.
 This was a great honour of which I am very
0320 proud.  You cannot however serioiusly believe, Gentlemen, that I
0321 calculated:  "If I continue to go to Austria maybe I shall be
0322 given a prize"?  Until it was awarded to me I had never heard
0323 of this prize.  It is equally clear that I cannot receive it a

0324 1Translation from the German text which is a manuscript, not a
0325 letter.  An English original is not known to exist and it is
0326 assumed that Auden destroyed his draft.

0327 - 9 -

0328 second time.  You also go on to say that a road in Kirchstetten
0329 has been named Audenstraße after me.  That was a very kind gesture
0330 on the part of the local council, but it cannot be maintainedd
0331 that I profit from it financially.
0332     Further, you say with truth that I have written several poems
0333 on Austrian themes.  To this I would like to make three
0334 statements.

0335           1.  I have never, in Austria, received so much as one
0336           penny for my poems.  One or two of them have been trans-
0337           lated into German, but in these cases the translators have
0338           received the money, not I.
0339           2.  I believe you are not clearly aware how poetry comes
0340           to be written.  What is generally taken to be the subject
0341           matter is only a viewpoint, an occasion whereby certain
0342           thoughts about nature, God, history, mankind etc. may be
0343           expressed which the poet may have had in mind for a very
0344           long time.  I wrote, for example, a poem to commemorate the
0345           20th anniversary of the death of Josef Weinheber
0346           Fundamentally however the poem is concerned with quite
0347           different things.  First of all it is about the love
0348           which every poet, whatever his nationality, has for his
0349           mother tongue, and secondly about what happened after the
0350           war in the countries which were defeated, i.e. not only
0351           in Austria but in Germany and Italy.  Again:  in 1964
0352           I wrote a poem with the title "Whitsunday in Kirchstetten"
0353           because it was where I happened to be.  But the place is
0354           unimportant.  In reality the question in this poem is
0355           what, for a Christian, is the meaning of the Feast of
0356           Pentecost.  And this is valid for all countries in the
0357           same way.
0358           3.  I believe you do not clearly recognize a poet´s (Dichter)
0359           financial situation.  If he is successful, a novelist
0360           can make a good deal of money.  A poet (Lyriker) cannot,
0361           even if he is very well known, because he is only read
0362           by a minority.  By far the greater part of my income
0363           comes not from the sale of my volumes of poetry but from
0364           book reviews, translations, lectures etc., activities
0365           which have nothing to do with Austria.  And while we are

0366 - 10 -

0367           on the subject of translations  you rightly say that
0368           I have a great interest in German and Austrian literatur
0369           I may add in music as well - but I do not have to come
0370           to Austria in order to read or to hear them.
0371      You see from all this that the arguments brought
0372 forward by you for subjecting me to payment of income tax are not
0373 valid.  The most pertinent argument against it is that in the
0374 course of one year I always stay under six months in Austriaa
0375 and never spend more than three months here consecutively.
0376      A word in conclusion: if this in my view entirely unjustifiable
0377 nonsense does not cease, I shall leave Austria never to return,
0378 which would be very sad for me and perhaps too for the shopkeepers
0379 of Kirchstetten.  One thing, Gentlemen, I cannot conceal from you:
0380 if this should happen it might give rise to a scandal of worldwide
0381 dimensions.
0382                                                 W.H. Auden.

0383 1 You ask why I have made over my half of our property in
0384 Kirchstetten to Mr Chester Kallman who is not related to me.
0385 Mr Kallman is my heir.  I have no children and for years past
0386 he has been my literary collaborator.  Jointly, we have written
0387 five new opera libretti, "The Rake´s Progress, "Elegy for Young
0388 Lovers
", "The Bassarids_" and "Love´s Labours Lost".  And
0389 together we have made new translations of "The MagiccFlute",
0390 "Don Giovanni", "Die Sieben Todsünden", "Mahagonny" and
0391 "Archifanfaro".  I am now 65 years old and must reckon with all
0392 eventualities such as a heart attack.  As you know better than
0393 I, in the event of sudden death great difficulties arise for the
0394 heirs to landed property, particularly in a foreign country.

0395 1 The German text was typed on a different machine, and the
0396 separate page joined to the eclaration.

0397 - 11 -

0398      "Every day for the past year" said Chester "I have stood
0399 outside his door in the early morning, afraid to go in."
0400      This was later.  Now, Auden was dead, the voice issuing
0401 from the car radio had just said so.  A few days ago we had
0402 talked about his reading in the Society for Literature on 28
0403 September
.  Unfortunately, I said, I was obliged to drive to
0404 Linz and to spend the night there, but they were welcome to use
0405 my Vienna flat.  It was maddening and I would just as soon
0406 put it off.  No, said Auden, mustn´t do that, one should stick
0407 to one´s commitments.  "And you won´t be missing much" he
0408 reassured me, "you´ve heard it all before."  We would meet again
0409 in a few days´time and then he would tell me all about it.  He was
0410 not sure about the flatbut he would let me know in good time.
0411 On 24 September he wrote a note to say that he did not need the
0412 flat, he would go to the Hotel Altenburgerhof.  The handwriting
0413 is ragged.
0414      Linz already lay far behind, the car radio went on muttering
0415 to itself unheeded until the familiar voice of Friedrich Heere
0416 came through, reading one of his book reviews.  It was consoling
0417 in a world where, suddenly, a signpost was missing.  What are
0418 you howling about, I asked myself, what gives you the right to
0419 mourn for Wystan?  Think of Chester.  It was impossible not to
0420 think of Chester:  it was not so much a question how much he
0421 would grieve over the death of Wystan, as how he would survive
0422 at all.  Leaving the autobahn at St.Pölten I drove straight to
0423 Kirchstetten;  it seemed to be just possible that he might have
0424 arrived in the meantime.  But the green shutters were closed
0425 and there was no one about apart from the wall-eyed dog, an
0426 exceptionally hideous mongrel belonging to Frau Strobl, which
0427 barked in an irritating falsetto.  He barked from a position close
0428 beside me while I wrote a note and stuck it in the chink between
0429 the door´s shutters, and he was still barking as I shut the
0430 garden gate behind me.
0431      The answer to my note was a telephone call from Frau Strobl:
0432 Herr Kallman said, would I come over to tea the next day?
0433      That was the Sunday.

0434 -12-

0435      The sittingroom seemed to be full of people.  Chester was
0436 sitting on the corner-seat facing the door, where Auden always
0437 used to sit, every chair appeared to be occupied and two young
0438 men were sitting on the floor.  Chester hurried
0439 across the room, hugged me and said "The whole thing´s terrible,
0440 you have to help me."
0441      I was introduced to the others.  Mrs. Thekla Clark and her
0442 daughter
had come up from Florence as soonas they heard the
0443 news;  there was Frau Maria Seitz, headmistress of the high school;
0444 r Herr Enzinger the mayor
0445 of Kirchstetten, the film scriptwriter Adolf Opel, and the young men.
0446 Clearly, the meeting to discuss the funeral arrangements was
0447 not proceeding smoothly.  The mayor looked annoyed, Frau Seitz
0448 looked worried and Mrs Clark bewildered.  There were, of course,
0449 language difficulties.  Mayor Enzinger spoke not a word of
0450 English and the Clarks1/2 no German, while the headmistress had a
0451 certain command of English but did not feel up to acting as
0452 interpreter and adviser in one;  Chester´a German was perfectly
0453 adequate.
0454     The root of the problem lay on a deeper level, where two
0455 separate cultures collided head on.  Chester was barely coherent,
0456 but he managed to explain his point of view.  He loathed, from
0457 the bottom of his hearteverything in the way of pompes funèbres.
0458 He wanted to bury Auden, he said, quietly and privately and, if
0459 it could possibly be managed, on Tuesday.  He had already informed
0460 Wystan´s brother Dr. John Auden, Stephen Spender and others
0461 of the arrangements and asked them to arrive, if not tomorrow,
0462 then on Tuesday morning at the latest.  On the other hand the
0463 mayor of Kirchstetten
, he went on, wanted to lay on a really big
0464 show with brass bands and all the rest of it, and what was more
0465 on the Saturday to give as many people as possible the chance to
0466 come.  The Ministry of Education and the provincial council of
0467 Lower Austria
were to be represented, and as the last straw the
0468 hearse was to drive up to the house.  He would not allow any of
0469 this, he said:  "I can´t bear it and I won´t have it."
0470      Mayor Enzinger drew a deep breath.  The first thing we had
0471 to realise, he pointed out, was that the body had not yet been

0472 -13-

0473 released by the authorities.  In all cases where the cause of death
0474 is not wholly clear certainkformalities are obligatory, and even
0475 intervention at a high level would not work miracles.  Everything
0476 takes time.  And how could anyone expect it of him, the Bürgermeister,
0477 that he should refrain from notifying the Ministry and the Cultural
0478 department of the Council of the death of Professor _Auden ? It
0479 was as much as his job was worth.  Now Frau Seitz spoke.  The
0480 inhabitants of Kirchstetten, she believed, would hardly bury a dog
0481 in the manner proposed by Herr Kallman, let alone a great poet.
0482      Chester Kallman´s position was entirely comprehensible - to
0483 some of us.  To him, an American of Jewish origin and a non-believer,
0484 the whole pomp and circumstance of a traditional Austrian funeral
0485 was abhorrent.  Where prominent personages are concerned, there
0486 would certainly be the local brass band, and where appropriate delegations representing
0487 the voluntary fire brigade, the federal railways, the veterans´
0488 association and others besides, and the gamekeepers would blow
0489 their horns and wish him good hunting in the Elysian fields.
0490 To Chester´s mind such folksy rituals were as foreign as the burial
0491 rites of the Incas.  He did not know that not very long ago in
0492 Lower Austria, Auden as a bachelor would have been accompanied in
0493 the funeral procession by a "bride" dressed in white.  He was
0494 unable to understand that his intentions were an intolerable affront
0495 to the population of Kirchstetten.  In his despair, it certainly
0496 never occurred to him that Auden himself would very likely have
0497 been entranced at the idea of a slap-up funeral with all the
0498 trimmings - one can almost hear his Olympian laughter - followed
0499 by a hearty meal at the inn where he had so often had his lunch.
0500 As it turned out, Chester got no marks in local opinion for this
0501 finale either, as the meal consisted of Leberkäs with vegetables:
0502 This consisted of fried slices off a loaf of a flabby substance which is neither liver nor cheese related to the
0503 Frankfurter sausage.  It is a
0504 homely, juicy meal all too familiar to every Austrian;  and it is
0505 cheap. There would be much talk of this also after all was over
0506 For their part, the local people were forgetting that Chester was
0507 probably in financial straits - not that this would have been taken
0508 as an excuse.
0509      For a moment the discussion had come to a standstill.
0510 The young men who took no part in it and conversed in whispers,

0511 - 14 -

0512 fetched more beer, Frau Strobl walked in and out and rolled a
0513 baleful eye on us as she spoke into Chester´s ear.
0514     The points at issue were not only When and How Much;  there
0515 was also the matter of the church service and the prayers at the
0516 graveside.  Many people in Akustria had assumed Auden to be of the
0517 Roman Catholic faith;  he had of course remained :member of the
0518 Anglican and Episcopalian churches.  The misunderstanding arose
0519 from his regular attendance at mass in the parish church and his
0520 friendly relationship with Father Lustkandl, the parish priest
0521 referred to in "Whitsunday in Kirchstetten".  Auden asked
0522 Lustkandl´s sucessor for permission to be buried in the churchyard,
0523 and his wish was acceded to.   Evidently, the next logical thing to do, then,
0524 was to approach the chaplain to the British Embassy in Vienna
0525 the Revd. Bruce Duncan, and ask him to officiate.  What form of
0526 service this should be - there could be no question of a funeral
0527 mass - left everyone present at a loss.  We agreed at last that
0528 it ought to be some kind of ecumenical ceremony held jointly by
0529 the two clergymen1/2, but that first of all, the plan must be put
0530 before Dr John Auden.
0531      At this juncture Chester Kallman withdrew his insistence on
0532  the impossibly early date for the
0533 funeral.  The room had become much too warm, the oxygen was
0534 running out and Chester would not be able to stand much more
0535 pressure.  The most urgent objective waslquite simply to
0536 free him from our burdensome presence.  Once everyone had agreed
0537 that Auden´s relations must be told immediately that the funeral
0538 had been postponed, the moment had come to dissolve the meeting.
0539 Mrs Clark undertook to telephone to London and Frau Strobl would
0540 drive her to the Post Office.  Chester asked me to talk everything
0541 over with Frau Seitz and Herr Enzinger and reach definite conclu-
0542 sions.  We all stood up, Chester came across the room to me and
0543 spoke in an undertone.  He was completely exhausted, he said,
0544 he couldn´t stand much more.  "I´ll do anything you want, you
0545 must just try to hold the others in check." Finally he said
0546 "It´ll be all right, I´m crammed full of tranquillizers, all I
0547 need is a bit of a rest."  He embraced me warmly and left the room.

0548 - 17 -

0549 the chief mourners.  It was "he-whose-name-we-never-mention";
0550 or if it was, Chester had said, Auden crossed himself.
0551      At the lowest point in Kirchstetten where the roads divide
0552 thr procession halted while the coffin was transferred from the
0553 hearse to a hand-drawn bier.  At this point the Church took charge
0554 and the procession resumed its steady pace;  photographs exist
0555 which were taken during the brief interval.
0556      To British ears quite unremarkable, the ecumenical service
0557 was much taIked about in Austrian circles because nothing of the
0558 kind had been known before.  The Revd. Bruce Duncan, today Rector
0559 of Crediton in Devon, can remember little about the general
0560 circumstances but confirms that he used the Book of Common Prayer
0561 and the long reading from the first Letter of St.Paul to the
0562 Corinthians
, chapter 15, verses 20-58. Beyond that, all he recalls
0563 is his difficulties with Chester.
0564      Reaching for my Authorised Version, for surely no one would
0565 have dared to use any other, on second thoughts I also took out the
0566 New Testament as translated into German by Martin Luther.  After
0567 reading the English text through very slowly, and then a second
0568 time, I did the same with the Lutheran Bible and lost in thought
0569 compared the two, verse by verse.
0570      "How nice to see you" said Auden who was sitting on one of the
0571 white garden chairs with the red covers, "it´s a bit einsam here.
0572 And I wanted to write and tell you that the technical word for
0573 buddle is Erzwaschtrog.  I hope there is an equivalent German
0574 euphemism for `senior citizen´.  Oh and adit is stollen, and although
0575 I may be wrong, I guess concentrating mill is Vereinigungsmühle."
0576      "What a mercy you´ve told me" I said, relieved.  "I should have
0577 to have dug up such frightful words in the British Council library.
0578 But do you think people will understand all that about the primary
0579 and secondary worlds, or will they get muddled?"
0580      "It´s perfectly simple" said Auden.  "The initial impulse to
0581 create a secondary world is a feeling of awe aroused by encounters,
0582 in the primary world, with sacred beings or events."
0583      "There is one glory of the sun" I heard myself say, "and
0584 another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars:  for on

0585 - 18 -

0586 star differeth from another in glory."
0587     "Ah" he said, "you´ve been reading Corinthians One, chapter 15.
0588 `Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.´ Chester and I took
0589 that bidding rather too literally."
0590      "Who would know where that familiar quotation comes from?"
0591 I wondered.
0592      "I would" said Auden.  "I´ve been looking up the German text.
0593 Have you ever compared the Authorized Version with Martin Luther?"
0594      "Funny you should ask that" I said.  "It´s one of the things
0595 I forgot to talk to you about.  `Be not deceived:  evilcommunica-
0596 tions corrupt good manners.´ He renders that as `Lasset euch nicht
0597 verführen!  Böse Geschwätze verderben gute Sitten.´"
0598       "Very neat" said Auden happily.  I like `evil chatter´
0599 better than `communications´."
0600       "The publishers" Isaid "have a rather heavy-handed way of
0601 printing the more quotable bits in bold-face.  But in the next
0602 verse Luther seems to flounder.  `Werdet doch einmal recht nüchtern
0603 und sündiget nicht!´" Do be a bit sober for once, he pleads.  And
0604 sin not.  King James´s translators fancied that St Paul cried out
0605 `Awake to righteousness!"
0606      "Who knows what he really said."
0607      "Luther´s language is very fine as he reaches the climax:
0608 `Siehe, ich sage euch ein Geheimnis... ´"
0609      But Auden was speaking.  "Behold, I shew you a mystery:
0610 we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment,
0611 in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:  for the trumpet
0612 shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we
0613 shall be changed.´"  And with that he vanished.  Now wide awake, I
0614 put the two books1/2 back on their shelf and settled down to re-type
0615 Auden´s speech at Neulengbach.

0616 Sehr verehrter Herr Landeshauptmann, Ladies and gentlemen:
0617 I hope you will pardon me if I speak somewhat personally.  I do so,
0618 not out of vanity...