Typescript Stella Musulin "The Years in Austria" 1976-09-04--1980-12-01
PIDhttps://hdl.handle.net/21.11115/0000-000F-7452-2
AuthorMusulin, Stella
Editor(s)
  • 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 The Years in Austria.
0002      Half an hour from the outskirts of Vienna an invisible
0003 thread bisects the motorway.  It leads from the church which
0004 lies to the north, more accurately speaking from the churchyard,
0005 disregards entirely the traffic as it thunders to and from the
0006 capital, wriggles across a field to the south, passes a small
0007 house which was once a garage.  Up a steep path, plum trees
0008 on one side and apple trees on the other, through a wicket
0009 gate, and now the thread, which has turned neither to right nor
0010 left, has reached its objective:  a long, low house, more an
0011 extended workman's cottage.  Originally, the address was
0012 Hinterholz 6;  later, the lane up from the village on the other
0013 side was renamed Auden-Strasse.  This thread or unseen line joins
0014 the places where Auden prayed, sang (flat) and was buried, and
0015 the place where he lived, and to me it is tangible reality,
0016 unfailingly sensed at each frequent crossing.  Partly it is
0017 because it was always from that direction that I arrived, being
0018 mistrustful of the narrow lane which lies along the top of the
0019 garden and leads into a wood where in a small clearing floored
0020 at times by sticky mud, the car can be turned.  It seemed
0021 preferable, and anyway became a habit, to take the cart track
0022  through the field with its ruts, the depth of which left the
0023 undercarriage to slide along the plateau of coarse grass.  And
0024 to leave the car by the garage and plod up through the orchard,
0025 accepting the risk of slithering off the path to the right.
0026      On walking through the wicket-gate next to the woodshed,
0027 there has been from time to time, and is today, the risk of
0028 being savaged by a wall-eyed dog;  in earlier days, of having
0029 to account for ones presence to Frau Emma.  Past the vegetable
0030 patch, now the ground levels off and the house stands before us.
0031 Left, at the foot of the outside staircase and below the window of
0032 his workroom, there are the white table and comfortable garden
0033 chairs with red cushions.  Facing the caller, the green door with
0034 a bell, the sort which jangles when pulled.  I seldom did so,
0035 feeling that its clamour spoke of altogether too much aggressive
0036 jocularity.  Seeing the light through the sittingroom window, it was
0037 better to walk straight in to the small entrance hall - coats hanging


0038 2.


0039 on the wall ahead, kitchen through the right-hand door, a clutter
0040 of books and papers on a nearby ledge - and to shout.  That
0041 heartwarming bellow from Wystan:  "Ah!" and here is the familiar
0042 scene, we are enveloped in the unchanging fug.  The shelves
0043 of records and the oversized record player on the left, the
0044 big, square dining table with its food-stained cloth.  Centre
0045 back, the Austrian peasant cupboard containing drinks, sugar,
0046 salt, then the corner seat, the table with its cigarette burns
0047 and glass rings, and two arm-chairs - a Sitzecke.  To our right
0048 a tumble of assorted titles on an invisible surface;  within a
0049 matter of days, Auden could make a new book look like a lending
0050 library reject:  the content was all, the package irrelevant.
0051 Here lie, precariously balanced, collapsing, upended, volumes of
0052 poetry, cookery books, Benson's Lucia novels, Akenfield, whodunnits
0053 a new translation of the Bible.  Over the years, the content of
0054 the heap varied but the overall appearance scarcely at all.
0055 And now the stove, country style, a white dome with round green
0056 tiles set in it, one of the glories of Austrian Wohnkultur.
0057 How fortunate that the stove is irremovable, or it would be in
0058 Athens now, along with the cupboard and the original drawings of
0059 Stravinsky and Richard Strauss.  Books also lie along the top
0060 ledge of the corner seat, and a volume or two of the OED on the
0061 upright chairs by the dinner table, adjuncts to the Times
0062 crossword.  Was it, I asked, essential to have the complete
0063 Oxford English Dictionary, all thirteen volumes of it, at each
0064 of ones residences?  "Of course" said Auden, surprised at such a
0065 question.
0066      So much was written during his lifetime about Auden's
0067 way of life in Kirchstetten:  articles by capable journalists
0068 in the Sunday papers and in their weekly magazines, that any
0069 attempt at a personal memoir gives the writer the feeling that
0070 he is working all too well-trodden ground.
0071      It is not only that the scene is familiar.  What can a friend
0072 write without lapsing into triviality and gossip, without calling
0073 down on his head the wrath of Wystan Auden himself, about whom,


0074 3.


0075 if we know nothing else, we realise the obsession that he had
0076 on the subject of personal privacy.  Think for a moment of
0077 "Forewords and Afterwords":  again and again he writes on
0078 these lines:  Of Wagner:  "On principle, I object to biographies
0079 of artists, since I do not believe that knowledge of their
0080 private lives sheds any significant light upon their works."
0081 And on Oscar Wilde:  "Since knowledge of an artist's private life
0082 never throws any significant light upon his work, there is no
0083 justification for intruding upon his privacy."   Listening to
0084 Kurt Weill records one winter's evening in Chester's flat in the
0085 Esslarngasse, I asked him whether he could account for it.
0086 Disappointingly, Chester only said that it was an obsession with
0087 Wystan, an individual phobia like any other.   The only time that
0088 Auden ever came near to snapping at me was when he spoke once,
0089 affectionately, of Tolkien, saying that he was to speak or write
0090 about him.  Was he, I asked, going to say anything at all about
0091 the man as the creator of the world of Tolkien, of the Lord of the
0092 Rings? He said "Certainly not!  I shouldn't dream of saying
0093 anything about Tolkien himself."  So that the predicament is
0094 understood :  either we keep silent when asked to speak and write
0095 about Auden, which might seem a trifle portentous, not to say
0096 uncivil.  Or else we run the dual risk of triviality or indiscretion.
0097 In the eyes of others who knew him better, there is probably a
0098 further risk, that of being coupled with the German mythical
0099 figure, the horseman who rode, as he supposed, over the frozen
0100 Lake of Constance, unaware that this was not the case at all, but
0101 he was being carried along above dark waters, knowing nothing
0102 of the treacherous depths beneath him.  So that my contribution
0103 can be no more than an attempt to show how Auden lived among the
0104 Austrians, on what sort of terms he was with them, and perhaps
0105 to fill in one or two gaps in what is generally known.
0106      I got to know Wystan and Chester through the daughter
0107 of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Christiane Zimmer, who was a friend of
0108 Auden's in New York.  Gerty von Hofmannsthal, widow of the poet, who died in 1929,
0109 owned Schloss Prielau at the northern tip of the lake of Zell-
0110 am-See in Salzburg province.  She had been forced to sell when the
0111 Nazis overran Austria but had regained possession at about the


0112 4.


0113 turn of the fifties, and there she spent her summers until she
0114 died, filling the house with her friends, often like herself Anglo-Austrian
0115 émigrés - the writers, artists and scholars who had lived and
0116 worked in Vienna during the twilight of that great explosion of
0117 talent which coincided with the decline and end of the Austro-
0118 Hungarian Empire.  Raimund and Liz von Hofmannsthal were often
0119 there, with their children Arabella and Octavian.  There was
0120 a constant coming and going between Prielau and the rehearsals
0121 and then the performances of the Salzburg Festival;  it was a
0122 great meeting place for retired birds of paradise such as Lady
0123 Diana Cooper, Ledebur and the dancer and choreographer Grete Wiesenthal.  Gradually, a well-
0124 worn track developed between Prielau and our house at the upper
0125 end of the Schmittenhöhe valley, and friendships grew between
0126 my family and the Hofmannsthals and several of their friends
0127 which have survived and have been continued by our children.
0128 My marriage broke up during 1957-58 and my son Marko and I went
0129 to live with my mother-in-law Elsa Musulin at her home Schloss Fridau,
0130 in Lower Austria, about half an hour's drive from Kirchstetten.
0131 She will rate a mention here because of the entertainment value
0132 she was to acquire for Auden.   It was in 1958 that by chance I
0133 met Christiane Zimmer at Prielau, and she suggested I should call
0134 on Auden:  "After all, he's your neighbour now".  I demurred with
0135 some energy, having a great dislike of pursuing the famous
0136 except inthe way of business where an interview is called for.
0137 The next time I saw her - in 1959 - she asked whether I had seen
0138 Auden, I again scoffed at the very idea that he might "love to
0139 meet me", and she said "All right.  I'm just off to spend a
0140 week there now and I shall fix it ."
0141 So in due course I came to be standing at the green door,
0142 and yet the memory that remains is the shock of Chester's
0143 appearance as he stood in the doorway in the strong sunlight:
0144 pale, misshapen, fish-eyed, loose-,mouthed;  it was the
0145 unpromising kind of exterior which makes one impatient to discover
0146 what lies behind it, the general impression however was one of
0147 anxious benevolence, and this proved roughly correct.
0148       The second time I was invited over to
0149 Kirchstetten was a more convivial occasion:  Wystan had asked
0150 me to come over and stand by him because he was giving a little
0151 tea-party.  He had invited the parish priest, Father Lustkandl


0152 5.


0153 - crystallized in "Whitsunday in Kirchstetten" - the local school
0154 mistress Frau Seitz and her silent husband, and as I came in I ran into
0155 Auden who was shuffling out to the kitchen.
0156      "Thank goodness you've come" he hissed, "go and look after
0157 them, will you, keep the conversation going and hand round the
0158 cakes."  Whereupon he shot into the kitchen for more hot water.
0159 It was some time before he could abandon the role of the flustered
0160 host.  His guests were quite at their ease, and as the years
0161 went on they became his friends.  Their composure that day was,
0162 I am sure, partly due to their own personal qualities, but
0163 partly too to the fact that in Josef Weinheber they had had
0164 their local poet laureate before, and now they had one again.
0165 This was a cause for great satisfaction, but not for any transports
0166 of ecstasy over the celebrity in their midst.
0167      What was so "American" about the"kitchen in Lower Austria?"
0168 Nothing much, so far as I could see.  When fitted kitchens first
0169 came in, Austrians dubbed them "American",  The term is
0170 now as extinct as "Russian" tea, but must still have been
0171 common parlance in Kirchstetten when Wystan wrote the poem.
0172 There was a tidy row consisting of a fridge, sink, low cupboards
0173 with a good working surface, a corner cupboard the interior of
0174 which swung out, and a gas stove.  Both men were very proud of
0175 the kitchen and it became Chester's habitat.  But the whole
0176 point of a modern kitchen:  the clear surfaces, ample storage
0177 space, accessibility, the careful rationalisation, was totally
0178 cancelled out by the permanent clutter which invaded the room
0179 at once and never left it.  It was a matter of principle with
0180 Chester to have all cooking ingredients conveniently to hand,
0181 but this meant that nothing was ever put away, and where his
0182 loving eye saw method, even the least fussy visitor could only
0183 observe a shambles.  But an interesting shambles, because
0184 of the exotic nature of the preserved foods and spices that
0185 Chester brought with him.  From an early date I was convinced
0186 that they were both eating their way into their graves owing to
0187 the enormous fat content of some of the dishes.  I remember the
0188 horror with which I watched a sauce being prepared in the mixer
0189 before being re-heated to accompany the roast duck.  First Chester
0190 poured in the rendered down fat from the baking tin, about half
0191 a pint of it, then he added an equal quantity of cream, a little
0192 seasoning, and switched on the mixer.  The result would have


0193 6.


0194 sustained a miner at the coal face for a full working day, but
0195 neither Wystan nor Chester walked a yard if they could help it.


0196      The small heap of correspondence lying on the filing cabinet
0197 beside my desk puts me in mind of the rise and fall of the
0198 telegram as a means of social communication.  In English novels
0199 during the period up to and even well beyond the first world war -
0200 particularly in detective stories - the incessant despatch and
0201 receipt of telegrams, often of some length, play a prominent
0202 part in human relationships.  They were an astonishingly rapid
0203 and comparatively inexpensive medium of communication and were
0204 often employed over short distances.  In Austria, the reign of
0205 the telegram persisted into the sixties, lost ground sharply
0206 owing to automatisation, but enjoyed one last indian summer in
0207 the post office at Kirchstetten.  There was no telephone in the
0208 house at Holzweg 5 because of the distance from the nearest point
0209 of contact;  it would have been too expensive to instal.  Also,
0210 Auden liked his peace and quiet and when he wanted to telephone
0211 he did so from the post office, combining with his daily shopping
0212 expedition.  The lack of a telephone accounts for much of my
0213 correspondence with Auden, or rather, because I have only scant
0214 records of what I wrote, for his letters to me, and especially
0215 for the telegrams.  "We are here, where are you?" or "Wednesday
0216 would suit perfectly" and so on, are messages which mark the
0217 development of a cosy routine of coming and going between Schloss
0218 Fridau, my mother-in-law's place where I have a flat, and
0219 Kirchstetten.  "Mama" was an eccentric of the old-fashioned kind
0220 to be met with in many countries.  Auden recognised the type at
0221 once and rejoiced:  a rough exterior and an abrupt manner, one
0222 who had feared neither Nazis nor Russian occupiers, obstinate,
0223 shy, cultured, not troubled by surface blemishes, hospitable,
0224 terrifyingly outspoken, fond of good food.  He liked to be
0225 asked out in any case, and Fridau is an easy 25 minutes drive from
0226 Kirchstetten, as it were across the fields:  not round by
0227 Böheimkirchen and St.Pölten, but across farmland and through
0228 villages,  along lanes so winding that only a snake could have
0229 planned them.  He too liked his food, all the more so if it


0230 7.


0231 were roast saddle of roe deer with cranberry preserve,
0232 wild duck or roast pheasant, with a good wine, followed by
0233 one of the richer Austrian cakes - Wurmbrand-Torte for instance,
0234 which consists mainly of ground burnt almonds and creamed chocolate-
0235 and then to carry ones wine glass back into the sittingroom and
0236 wait while the Turkish coffee ceremony was performed.  This was,
0237 down all the years that I have known Fridau, and still is, the
0238 indispensable conclusion to lunches even of the humbler, everyday
0239 sort:  turkish coffee with the kaimak hissing faintly as the cup
0240 is filled - that pale brown foam which must be removed as the coffee
0241 rises to the boil and carefully shared out between the empty cups.
0242 Failure to do this is the unforgiveable sin.   And Auden would sit,
0243 well nourished, blinking in the sunshine from the
0244 window opposite him from where he could see the crown of an immense
0245 pear tree.  After his second cup he was likely to leap to his feet
0246 without any of those preliminary movements of eyes, hands and feet
0247 with which people signal their imminent departure, shake hands
0248 all round and hurry away.  But sometimes he felt like a turn
0249 round the park, or even to stay on for a time, sitting in a deck
0250 chair under the trees in the courtyard.   But if he hurried, it was
0251 no discourtesy;  Wystan was the most courteous of men, who liked
0252 to follow the customs of the country he lived in, and above all
0253 he had no special voice for employees..  He got on well with
0254 Austrian people who sometimes - without the natural excuse of
0255 his food storekeeper in St. Mark's Place - had no idea of the calibre of
0256 the man with whom, in his home or theirs, they were having a meal.
0257 As I knew him, the only thing he couldn't bear was pretension.
0258      So one would have supposed that writers young and older
0259 would have lost no time in beating a path out to Kirchstetten.
0260 Are writers convivial creatures?  Do they like to congregate
0261 together for mutual admiration and to complain about their
0262 publishers?  At some times and in some places, yes, at others no;
0263 that they have the patience to listen to each other reading their
0264 works aloud is true, probably, only in circumstances of
0265 political persecution.   Be it as it may, I sometimes see Auden's
0266 relationship with the literary scene in Austria - such as it is -
0267 as a string of wasted opportunities.  He was interviewed, he was


0268 8.


0269 filmed, and the Gesellschaft für Literatur did its duty by him
0270 and more, from start to finish.  It still does.  But the Austrian
0271 Society for Literature is neither a club nor a coffee house
0272 but a society for the promotion of literature with a particular
0273 mission to writers in communist eastern Europe.  Somehow, in the
0274 sixties, there was otherwise no group of people, no meeting place
0275 towards which Auden himself could naturally gravitate.  Think of
0276 this in terms of the old pre-war Vienna, the life in the coffee
0277 houses where the literary figures of the earlier 20th century
0278 congregated, where they spent their days, read their correspondence
0279 and the newspapers, read and wrote criticisms, blacked each
0280 other's characters:  the Café Central and the Herrenhof.  I can
0281 imagine Auden in this atmosphere very well, enjoying the
0282 opportunity it gave him of rubbing shoulders with writers of all
0283 ages, and particularly with the young, as it were by chance,
0284 without further commitment on either side and with the minimum
0285 of effort.  I can see the cigarette ash on the marble topped
0286 tables, the mounds of paper, see Auden slopping to and fro in
0287 his eternal bedroom slippers between his table and the
0288 telephone kiosk.  But this world ended when Egon Friedell,
0289 giving the passers by a shout of warning as he did so, jumped
0290 out of the window to his death on the entry of the Nazis.   It
0291 was a world, described again and again by those who knew it,
0292 never more effectively than by one of its last active, working
0293 survivors, Friedrich Torberg, and it has gone for ever.  Today's
0294 writers have no time.  They are dashing from recording studios
0295 beyond Schönbrunn to newspaper offices at the opposite end of
0296 Vienna, from the head post office to their homes, where they kiss
0297 wife and children, snatch a bag and rush to the airport or to
0298 a railway terminal.
0299      Alternatively, like Thomas Bernhard, they bury themselves
0300 in a farmhouse in a district carefully chosen for its unfashion-
0301 ableness and difficulty of access, emerging, like cats, only on
0302 their own terms, preferring to turn up unannounced in their
0303 friends' houses, perhaps late at night, enquiring for just that
0304 ration of warmth, light and unquestioning acceptance which,
0305 at that moment, they happen to need.  Bernhard's fame has now
0306 altered the character of the district he lives in and he has
0307 withdrawn to still more distant quarters.  Auden always wanted to


0308 9.


0309 meet Bernhard, and asked me to mediate, which I did on several
0310 occasions, but to no effect;  I think I did overcome Bernhard's
0311 disinclination but the moment never arrived
0312      The cultural historian Friedrich Heer, on the other hand,
0313 asked whether he would like to go out to lunch in Kirchstetten,
0314 replied that he would go - he has a tendency towards hyperbole - "on my knees".
0315 The day is described in a letter of mine to a friend in Germany,
0316 dated 29th May ...
0317      "I still can't put yesterday's expedition to Kirchstetten
0318 out of my mind.  Fritz Heer and I drove out to lunch.  This manic-
0319 depressive genius Friedrich Heer, dieser verschreckter Lausbub,
0320 and the great English poet Auden - to say nothing of Kallman -
0321 how would it go off?  It went like a bomb.  Fritz was like a man
0322 let out of prison.  For months at a time he never escapes from the
0323 treadmill § and he rejoiced so over the soft greens of the Vienna
0324 Woods, over the accacia trees whose silver shimmer stood out
0325 against the darker background, over the good air, the clear view
0326 after the storm of two days ago.  I was a bit worried that the
0327 two big talkers might both speak at once or at cross purposes,
0328 but this only happened occasionally:  each really wanted to hear
0329 what the other had to say, they exchanged anecdotes and sometimes
0330 they moved on to ground where Chester and I
0331 couldn't follow them.  Each picked up the other's illusions
0332 instantly, and the stimmung was wonderful.  We were on one of my
0333 favourite hobby-horses, the destruction of the German language
0334 by the Nazis.  But Fritz insisted that Mussolini had vulgarised
0335 Italian in the same way, and suddenly he drew himself up, threw
0336 out his chest, his face became a live mask of Mussolini and he
0337 held forth in Italian in a ranting, hectoring, high-pitched tone - a
0338 performance which could have been transferred to any cabaret
0339 unaltered.  I never knew he had such a talent for mimicry.  Nor
0340 was this all.  The conversation moved to France and the Paris
0341 intellectuals, and now Fritz topped up his cabaret with a
0342 simpering, lovingly luxuriant interchange between Gide and Claudel.
0343 Wystan was convulsed.
0344      The talk shifted to Wagner's texts, liturgical reform,
0345 Weinheber, Rudolf Kassner and Freud;  of these three Fritz could
0346 speak from personal knowledge."  (The letter continues with an


0347 § in the Burgtheater, where he works as a
0348 dramaturgist.


0349


0355 1O.


0356 attempt at an analysis of Heer's character and personality which
0357 would be out of place here.)
0358      Unless Auden had friends to stay, talk of this quality was
0359 a rare occurrence.  It was possible to see why Bernhard, to take
0360 one example, did not care to go to Kirchstetten:  there was a
0361 kind of gène, and a quite unjustified fear that he would have
0362 to speak English.  But it is impossible to discern any reason,
0363 apart from lack of time, which could have got in the way of
0364 personal contact between Auden and his translators.  During his
0365 early years in Kirchstetten Auden did feel slighted by some of
0366 his translators in Austria and Germany who would publish their
0367 work in literary magazines, and if the poet himself ever heard
0368 of it, it was by pure chance.  "They don't" he said indignantly,
0369 "even send me a copy of their paper".   Nor, in those days, was
0370 he satisfied with the quality of the work.  He said to an
0371 interviewer in Berlin§, at a time when little of his poetry
0372 had been translated into German:  "Translating poetry into a
0373 different language is very very problematical - and apart from
0374 that, people earn too little by it."  But: "Why can't one send
0375 the translation to a living poet before it is published?"  He
0376 might not know the exactly suitable word, but he would know what
0377 image a word or a phrase was intended to call up in the reader.
0378 "For instance, I spoke in a poem about corn - maize - but the
0379 translator rendered it as wheat!  I was annoyed, because that
0380 sort of thing can be avoided."
0381     The fifty minute drive to Kirchstetten presented too great
0382 a psychological barrier even to the young, now dead, author and
0383 poet Gerhard Fritsch (he committed suicide) who translated Auden's
0384 Christmas Oratorio "For the Time Being" into German.  It was
0385 published in 1961 under the title "Hier und Jetzt" (here and
0386 now).  The translation is no masterpiece, but it was an attempt to
0387 demonstrate a style of writing which has always been very English
0388 and is characteristic of Auden even within the confines of a
0389 stanza:  shifts in tone from the lofty to the colloquial.  In
0390 "For the Time Being" Auden's language can be surrealistic, every-
0391 day, ironical, grotesque, mocking, tender, full of grief, rising
0392 to moments of lyrical joy.  Rarely even attempted in German
0393 literature, in religious writing tone changes of this description
0394 are unknown.   Austrian television showed a version of the oratorio
0395 on the eve of Epiphany - 5 January 1967 - in which the libretto


0396 § Article in Die Zeit, Hamburg, 23.4.1965, by Cornelia Jacobsen


0397 1Oa.


0398 was adapted and the music written by the composer Paul Kont.
0399 A review by the critic Helmut A. Fiechtner in "Die Furche"
0400 gives the impression that it was a performance which, like
0401 Victorian children, should be seen but not heard.  Design and
0402 costumes were by one of Austria's leading painters of the
0403 postwar era, Anton Lehmden, singers of the calibre of Gloria
0404 Davy and Hilde Rössel-Majdan did their best, but the music was
0405 unconvincing, it got in the way of the text, and the most
0406 impressive passage, not surprisingly, was Helmut Qualtinger's
0407 monologue as Herod.   In the following year there was a reading
0408 of "Hier und Jetzt" in the Palais Palffy under the auspices of
0409 the Society for Literature.  Auden read a short passage in
0410 English and an actor took over and read in German.  It appears
0411 that Auden was not satisfied, as he kept muttering "Nonsense -
0412 completely wrong!" and making notes in the margin.
0413      In later years things changed very much for the better, and
0414 although Auden did not actually live to see the volume
0415 "Gedichte - Poems" published in English and German in Vienna
0416 in 1973, he did check the proofs, and a few of the translators
0417 had been to see him.  Today. more of Auden's poetry exists in
0418 German than in any other foreign language.
0419                     +  +  +
0420    Talking of translations:  whatever became of the Ford
0421 Foundation translation scheme?  At one time Auden was
0422 thinking about a plan in which he had become involved.  This
0423 was to bring


0424


0425 11


0426 all the main literary works in the German language under review
0427 in so far as they exist in English translation, to judge their
0428 quality and to discover the gaps.  The real purpose of the
0429 exercise was one with which Auden wholly agreed:  to encourage
0430 professional writers of the first category to take part in the
0431 re-creation of German literature in English.  To this end the
0432 Ford Foundation would make funds available.  Even at that time,
0433 for a publisher to have native poetry on his lists showed
0434 idealism enough.  A translation fee usually wiped out any
0435 conceivable profits on literary prose texts or poetry.  Nothing,
0436 of course, came of the scheme.  Why, I don't know;  we had
0437 a lot of fun making lists on the backs of envelopes and lamenting
0438 the impossibility of sharing playwrights like Raimund, Nestroy
0439 and Grillparzer and novelists like Adalbert Stifter with the
0440 English-speaking world.  Auden knew quite well, of course, that
0441 it is not so much the language barrier, as a fatal lack of
0442 universality which has made so many leading Austrian writers - as
0443 used to be said of Austrian wine though with less justification -
0444 travel so badly.    In a foreword to a book I
0445 wrote on Austria Auden was to write:
0446     "The relation between Art and Society is so obscure that only
0447 a fool will claim that he understands it.  How, as the author
0448 asks in her concluding chapter on Vienna, is one to explain the
0449 extraordinary eruption of genius in that city which began during
0450 the last decades of the nineteenth century and lasted until the
0451 late 1920s, manifesting itself in every field, literature, music,
0452 painting, philosophy, medicine?  When it began the empire was
0453 already dying on its feet, and it continued after its total
0454 collapse.  Why?  Even more extraordinary in my opinion were the
0455 artistic achievements of men like Nestroy and Adalbert Stifter
0456 living in Metternich's police state.  More than that, I cannot
0457 help wondering if they could have written what they did under a
0458 more liberal regime.  Talking of Stifter, (the author) says
0459 that he, like the composer Bruckner, 'has not travelled well'.
0460 Of Bruckner this may be true, but of Stifter I would say that he
0461 has not travelled, period:  until a few years ago nobody had
0462 attempted to translate him."


0463 12


0464      Perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves of the abortive
0465 scheme in these difficult times, because of the underlying
0466 principle:  that leading writers of the day, who can no doubt
0467 earn good money in other ways, should be given some form of
0468 enducement to translate from foreign languages at a standard
0469 equivalent to the original.  And also, to recall that Auden
0470 himself was a translator of great stature.   On the whole, it is arguable
0471 that English literature has been better served by its German
0472 translators than vice versa.  §, the excellence
0473 of Rudolf Alexander Schröder's version of Eliot's "Murder in
0474 the Cathedral" comes to mind:  a major writer himself, Schröder
0475 produced a rendering in which all the cadences, the true Eliot
0476 "sound" are there, so that it is almost a matter of indifference
0477 whether the play is read in English or German.  And in a way,
0478 Eliot hardly deserved it:  Not long ago George Steiner referred
0479 to English writers' lack of a sympathy towards the German
0480 classics and mentioned Auden as a striking exception.


0481 § Leaving Shakespeare on one side, as no modern translators have
0482 managed to banish the Schlegel-Tieck version from the stage,
0483 Eva Hesse made her name with Ezra Pound's
0484 Cantos, a masterpiece of the translator's art.


0485      Auden immensely enjoyed working on Goethe's "Italian
0486 Journey", and was always delighted when he came upon errors in
0487 the original caused by Goethe's own faulty editing.  Goethe as
0488 a man fascinated him - three items in "Forewords and Afterwords"
0489 and much else of an earlier date are there to prove it.  So it
0490 can't have been later than 1962 when there was a ring at the
0491 doorbell of my flat in Vienna.  I opened the door and there was
0492 Auden, panting, as well he might because this was before our
0493 lift was put in and he had climbed ninety steps from street
0494 level.  His shirt was grubby, his tie askew, his hair was
0495 matted, and before he was half through the door and with no
0496 further greeting he gasped out:
0497     "I have come to the conclusion that Goethe was a very
0498 lonely man."


0499 13.


0500      Which I think we may doubt.  But Auden knew loneliness.

     
(vl) 0001Gate-crashing ghost, aggressive      
(vl) 0002invisible visitor,      
(vl) 0003tactless gooseberry, spoiling      
(vl) 0004my téte-à-tête with myself,      
(vl) 0005blackmailing brute, behaving      
(vl) 0006as if the house were your own...


0501 The strength, the violence of the pictures in this poem can
0502 hardly be paralleled in any other on a related subject.
0503 Loneliness is a vicious being, which makes the mind a quagmire
0504 of disquiet.  A shadow without shape or sex, excluding
0505 consolation, blotting out Nature's beauties, it is a grey
0506 mist between the self and God.  What helps?  Routine; typing
0507 business letters.  But Auden is safe from its haunting only
0508 when fast asleep. Yet:  tomorrow

     
(vl) 0007Chester, my chum, will return.      
(vl) 0008Then you'll be through:  in no time      
(vl) 0009he'll throw you out neck-and-crop,      
(vl) 0010We'll merry-make your cadence      
(vl) 0011with music, feasting and fun.


0509      When Auden walked into Neulinggasse 26 and said what
0510 he did about Goethe, it would be almost nine years before he
0511 would write this poem, but he was already facing what may have
0512 seemed the disaster of Chester's decision not to return to
0513 New York.
0514      In October 1964 he went to a PEN conference in Budapest,
0515 and came back saying that he had heard an unbelievable amount
0516 of hot air.  The French delegates had got on his nerves with
0517 much talk about "mon âme."  He may have been unjust;  Auden
0518 was not a lover of the French language, and said that
0519 it is quite wrong to call it the most precise and logical of languages;
0520 in no other can a person deliver himself of so much intellectual
0521 jibberish.  But I had the courage to
0522 remind him that Paul Tillich had said he had learned to think
0523 by having to express himself in English and to teach orientals
0524 in that language.  When he read what he had written years before
0525 in German he could barely understand it.


0526 14.


0527      By the end of October 1964 Auden was in Berlin,
0528 where he would spend the winter as a guest of the Ford
0529 Foundation.  As a visiting professor he would give lectures
0530 and be at the disposal of students who wanted to consult him.
0531 On 21st November he was arrested for drunk driving.  It must have
0532 been rather a dreary Christmas, and he remarked in a letter
0533 that he was lonely, as who wouldn't be in the circumstances.
0534 Berlin-Dahlem, 23rd December, 1964:
0535 It was sweet of you to think of me at Christmas, especially
0536 since it's a little einsam1 here.  Am beginning to know some
0537 local inhabitants.  Oddly enough, the ones I can talk to most
0538 easily are from Ost-Berlin.  The most awful thing about the
0539 Bifkes2 (sic)§ is that they are so much nicer under a little
0540 Druck3 .  When they feel their oats they are so apt
0541 to become uppish."


0542 INSERT 14a.


0543      Characteristic though it is, one might not feel justified
0544 in quoting from this letter if it were not for the fact that
0545 it goes on to throw light on a passage in his long poem to
0546 Josef Weinheber.   It came about like this:  I had been reading
0547 a paperback called "The Rise of the South African Reich" by Brian
0548 Bunting and mentioned it in my letter with particular reference
0549 to torture.  And I had complained that certain attitudes found
0550 in so-called liberal circles tended to push one further to the
0551 right than one wished to go.  After a sharp comment on the
0552 American magazine "The National Review" he continues:  "Of
0553 course you're right about the lib-labs' ostrich attitude to
0554 those who wish to destroy them, but one cannot let ones name be
0555 associated with shits.  Torture is the iniquity which utterly
0556 bewilders me.  I know something about the evil in my own heart
0557 and in the sort of people I meet, but I cannot conceive of
0558 myself or them torturing anybody.  Where do the torturers come
0559 from?  What class?  Whom do they marry?"  The words "Have you
0560 ever met one?" are deleted.  "To what pubs do they go?
0561 Much love and best wishes for 1965, Wystan."
0562     By 20th March 1965 he had completed, typed out and sent
0563 off to me the long poem to Weinheber, with the verse:

              
(vl) 0012Today we smile at weddings               
(vl) 0013Where bride and bridegroom


0564 1. lonely .
0565 2_Piefke, the rude Austrian generic term for Germans .
0566 3_ Pressure.


0567 14a.


0568 Insert after "to become uppish".


0569 This was the private Auden.  The public Auden in the interview
0570 with "Die Zeit“ quoted earlier, hotly denied that he had been
0571 lonely.   Many of his predecessors, said the interviewer, had
0572 repeatedly complained that little notice had been taken of
0573 them and that their stay was far from enjoyable.  Auden's
0574 reply was "brusque":  Grumbles of that sort were, he thought,
0575 unfair and personally objectionable.  "One always has to do
0576 something to establish contacts, no one can do that for one."
0577 Not even the wealthy Ford Foundation or the Berlin senate.
0578 It was very ungrateful to accept a monthly grant of a couple
0579 of thousand marks and then to start criticising, instead of
0580 being thankful to be free to work without financial worries -
0581 how often was this possible?  He himself, he went on, was
0582 extraordinarily glad that in Berlin, if that was what a person
0583 wanted, he was left in peace;  he was used to this'live and
0584 let live' in New York.


0585 15.

            
(vl) 0014Were both born since the Shadow             
(vl) 0015Lifted, or rather             
(vl) 0016Moved elsewhere.  Never as yet             
(vl) 0017Has Earth been without             
(vl) 0018Her bad patch, some unplace with             
(vl) 0019Jobs for torturers.             
(vl) 0020(In what bars are they welcome?             
(vl) 0021What girls marry them?)


0586      Later on, I told Chester about this infinitesimal and
0587 unwitting contribution of mine to English literature.  Chester
0588 snapped:  "Wystan never wastes anything."
0589      There exists a prose translation of the poem to Weinheber,
0590 made by Auden and "a German friend", which he sent to me for
0591 checking together with some amendments to stanza three.  As the
0592 occasion for which the poem was written was a celebration of
0593 the 20th anniversary of Weinheber's death, the prose translation
0594 was for general information.
0595      "Herewith my effort" Auden wrote, "to do my Gemeindepflicht."
0596 (his civic duty.)
0597      It hardly needs saying that Auden's interest in Weinheber
0598 went far beyond a mere civic duty.  It was part of his whole
0599 relationship with Lower Austria, his feeling for the landscape,
0600 for its history, for the history of the people who lived, or
0601 had lived there.   For some reason he felt at home there, and
0602 the truth of this is to be found in the best known poems of his
0603 last decade - perhaps they are among the best he ever wrote.
0604 There is the first part of The Cave of Making (In Memoriam Louis
0605 MacNeice.)  He often emphasizes how unsensational it all is:

     
(vl) 0022"In a house backed by orderly woods,       
(vl) 0023Facing a tractored sugar-beet country,       
(vl) 0024Your working hosts engaged to their stint,       
(vl) 0025You are unlike to encounter       
(vl) 0026Dragons or romance:  were drama a craving,       
(vl) 0027You would not have come."


0606                            (For Friends Only - for John and
0607                                        Teckla Clark).


0608 It strikes me suddenly as odd that he should have said that:
0609 in the mythology of Austria this area is not, I believe,
0610 dragon country.
0611      Or in The Common Life (for Chester Kallman):


0612 16.

                   
(vl) 0028I'm glad the builder gave           
(vl) 0029our common-room small windows         
(vl) 0030through which no observer outside can observe us:


0613 Quite untrue.  If they had the light on, anyone approaching the
0614 door could and did see them.   In the poem to Weinheber he
0615 tells him:  "Here, though, I feel as at home as you did".
0616 But the most moving declaration is in Prologue at
0617 Sixty (for Friedrich Heer).
0618      It satisfied him to live next door to where the poet
0619 Josef Weinheber had lived, a man for whom he felt a remarkable
0620 empathy and a strange compassion.  It has occurred to me that
0621 an element in this sense of identity might have been this:
0622 that he himself had once changed his mind.  He, like Weinheber,
0623 had made a political error and had entirely turned away from it.
0624 Weinheber had allowed himself to be wooed by the Nazis, but
0625 later on he rejected it all and finally he committed suicide.
0626 This may be fanciful;  it is put forward simply as a suggestion.
0627 Auden knew that he would have got on with the man next door.

            
(vl) 0031Categorised enemies             
(vl) 0032twenty  years ago,             
(vl) 0033now next-door neighbours, we might             
(vl) 0034have become good friends,             
(vl) 0035sharing a common ambit             
(vl) 0036and love of the Word,             
(vl) 0037over a golden Kremser             
(vl) 0038had many a long             
(vl) 0039language on syntax, commas,             
(vl) 0040versification.


0628      On May 24th 1965, under the auspices of the Austro-British
0629 Council and the Society for Literature, Auden gave a talk on T.S. Eliot in the lecture hall of
0630 the Natural History Museum on the Ring.   It was very
0631 well attended, largely by crowds of note-taking students of
0632 Eng. Lit, and I have never been quite sure whether, at one moment,
0633 he was treating us to a bit of traditional stage business.  He
0634 told us that there is a game:  if, like the Trinity, we were
0635 made up of three persons, what would they be?  Eliot, now,
0636 contained, firstly, the American pre-Jackson aristocrat of a
0637 kind which died out in 1829.  He was a dandy, very carefully


0638 17


0639 dressed in black jacket, striped trousers and bowler hat.  And
0640 he worked two floors underground.  Then there was the little
0641 boy aged twelve, adoring practical jokes such as cushions which
0642 fart when you sit on them, and who liked to shock people by
0643 saying "Goethe is awful" and so on.  Finally, there was the
0644 Yiddish Momma...
0645      At this point a cascade of papers fell off the high reading
0646 desk.  Auden disappeared altogether from our sight, scuffed
0647 about on the floor for a bit and finally emerged, very slowly,
0648 to complete his sentence:  "... who wrote the poems".  By now
0649 a very few people were shaking with silent laughter, but the
0650 students, with poised biros, blank-faced and puzzled, were
0651 waiting for all this to stop.
0652      He was understandably proud of having been asked to preach
0653 in Westminster Abbey.  His triumphant comment to me was:
0654 "Eliot never did that".


0655      April 1967 brought a literary congress on avantgarde
0656 literature to the Palais Palffy on the Josefsplatz in Vienna.
0657 Auden came, together with a rich, at moments over-rich collection
0658 of  dons, writers and critics from eastern and western Europe.
0659 A number of journalists and a few public figures were present
0660 by invitation, but no intervention from the floor was allowed
0661 and seldom desired by the listeners.  It was enough to hear
0662 Francis Bondy and Mary McCarthy, to enjoy the striking contrast
0663 between Yefrim Etkind of Leningrad
0664 and the square-headed commissar type from Moscow.  And if some
0665 of the read contributions were dry, lifeless and badly delivered,
0666 we only had to wait for the knockout blow from Marcel Reich-Ranicki.
0667 On the whole it was this leading West German critic with his
0668 maddeningly declamatory style and wagging index finger
0669 who dominated the platform, but it was Etkind who with his quiet,
0670 reasonable argument and his good manners won the affection of
0671 everyone in the room.   A face-the-public session in the
0672 Redoutensaal on the other side of the Josefsplatz ended the
0673 congress.  I asked Auden whether there was anything I could do
0674 to help such as lending him my flat, and he promptly replied:
0675 "Yes, help me to look after Philip and Mary."  We agreed that
0676 we would all meet for supper in the Neulinggasse after the public


0677 18.


0678 session.
0679      Since I have no pretensions to being a literary hostess,
0680 I found the prospect alarming.  It was not that, as a journalist,
0681 famous men worried me in the least, but famous women are somehow
0682 a different matter and I was inclined to be overawed by Mary
0683 MacCarthy.  But Chester was reassuring.  "Don't you worry about
0684 Mary, she won't eat you.  In fact she'll be charming, she'll
0685 merely put you in her next book."
0686       A hostess should be at home to welcome her guests, or at
0687 the very least, she should arrive with them.  I did neither.
0688 Having allowed myself to be pushed down to towards the front
0689 of the hall, I was trapped and unable to get out, whereas the
0690 members of the congress left the platform and were free.   I
0691 at last fought my way out and the search began for Yefrim Etkind
0692 whom I had invited as an eastern foil for the westerners  He
0693 was run to ground in a back passage, surrounded by fans.  It was
0694 only with the help of the Vienna fire brigade who were clearing
0695 the building that I was at last able to extract him from the
0696 admiring group and take him out to my car.  Knowing that the
0697 rest of the party would be standing outside a locked door, I
0698 drove fast.  Etkind settled himself comfortably, stretched out
0699 his legs for a better purchase and said affably:  "One day you
0700 must come to Leningrad, you'd love to drive there - large, wide,
0701 empty streets."  Since then I have dreamed, Toad-like, of tearing
0702 down the almost deserted Nevsky Prospect, but in the meantime
0703 Etkind, about whom Auden worried greatly as time went on, mainly
0704 on account of his friendship with Sacharow, has left Russia
0705 and is living and working in France.  And so there they all were, a
0706 not too friendly row of faces gazing over the banisters
0707 on the second floor as we puffed our way upstairs:  Auden,
0708 Kallman, Mary MacCarthy, the Toynbees, the author and critic
0709 Hilde Spiel and a Danish journalist friend.  But over drink and
0710 food the party soon cheered up, and Mary sighed:  "What heaven
0711 it is to get away from that man Reich-Ranicki!"  There was a
0712 chorus of assent.
0713      In August 1966 The Bassarids§ had had its première at the
0714 Salzburg Festival.  Now, in the following year, Auden was invited


0715 The Bassarids, Opera Seria with Intermezzo in One Act based on
0716 The Bacchae of Euripides by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.
0717 Music by Hans Werner Henze.


0718 19.


0719 to deliver the opening address - a highly festive occasion, and
0720 his speech would be widely reported.  By late April he had already
0721 made a draft, and he asked me for my comments.   He had, he said,
0722 built in a good deal of criticism, but could he get away with it?
0723 Was the package sufficiently decorative?  After a quick read
0724 through I looked up and caught Auden's enquiring eye.  What on
0725 earth could I say?   No amount of packaging could disguise the
0726 fact that this was a full frontal attack on the policy behind the Salzburg
0727 Festival and its administration;  it appeared to be wholly negative
0728 and the estimated length of half an hour was probably too long.
0729 Towards the end, where he should be riding high in an appeal for
0730 devotion to optimal standards in music and the arts in general
0731 and opera in particular, he was grumbling about the
0732 erratic workings of the curtain in the Festspielhaus and the lack
0733 of canteen facilities for the sceneshifters.  It was a horrible
0734 anticlimax.  How could one tell him this in such a way as to
0735 get results without offending him?  And there was another thing:
0736 he should be advised to rehearse.  Auden understood all the nuances
0737 of the German language, but his spoken German was not as good as
0738 he seemed to think, and his delivery was apt to become
0739 almost incomprehensible.


0740      The New York postmark usually meant an announcement of
0741 domestic disaster and a request for help, and the winter of 1967
0742 brought serious disruption to the peaceful running of the house
0743 at Kirchstetten.  Auden's poem to Emma Eiermann begins in German:
0744
/

0745 and it contains just about all there is to say about her, and her
0746 relationship with t Auden and Kallman.  How, the poet
0747 exclaims,, could she go and die when they were both away - and what
0748 about the cats - they had to be destroyed.  But when his letter
0749 to me arrived he didn't yet know that:  it contains an urgent
0750 plea to hurry over to Kirchstetten and find out what on earth
0751 was happening to the animals.  He couldn't bear to think - it was
0752 late November - that they were prowling around, unfed and shut out
0753 of her cottage.  Later on he seemed to be rather upset that no one
0754 came forward to adopt one or two of the cats;  the others were


0755 2O.


0756 strays.
0757      In February 1968 he flew over to Vienna to interview
0758 Frau Strobl after the death of Emma Eiermann.  We were lunching
0759 together at the Opern-Café and this was one of the very few
0760 occasions when I kept a note of what had been said.   Auden had
0761 frequently taken a stand against drug-taking, and had made his
0762 attitude clear in a number of lectures and interviews.  In
0763 October 1967, for instance, he brought up the subject in a lecture
0764 at Eliot College, and now I told him I was glad he had been
0765 saying to young people in England that LSD is a dead duck for
0766 creative workers.  This led to a long account of the experiments
0767 with LSD and mescalin that he himself had carried out in the
0768 company of his doctor.  He was perfectly certain that no original
0769 line of poetry and no work of art had ever been created under the
0770 influence of drugs, and he was convinced that Aldous Huxley did
0771 a lot of harm by publishing his experiences with mescalin, and
0772 making people believe it to be an artistic experience.  The point
0773 is, he said, that young people need to discover who and what they
0774 are.  And LSD doesn't tell them, it is a purely passive effect in
0775 which there is alienation from self.  You concentrate on things -
0776 a chair, the ceiling etc., - and people become unimportant.  There
0777 is a curious effect in listening to music:  it is intolerable as
0778 the sounds lose their interrelation and form.  Basically, what you
0779 achieve is a mild degree of schizophrenia.  After the experiment
0780 was over, he and the doctor went round to the local pub.  Suddenly,
0781 through a window he saw a postman waving at him, and thought my
0782 God, this is it.  Later on, the postman said "I waved at you,
0783 why didn't you answer?"  An interview he gave to the Sunday Telegraph,
0784 published on October 29, 1967, under the headline "On drugs and drivel" adds to what he said in the Opern-Café.
0785 Much of it is vintage Auden:
0786     "Mandrake met W.H. Auden last week to a background of, not
0787 redbrick, but dazzling, chalkwhite college buildings, with
0788 miniskirted freshers looking overwhelmed at having Auden pacing
0789 all their fresh-laid corridors in his carpet slippers and Sloppy Joe
0790 T-shirt marked with the Hobbit motif of the Tolkien fan club.
0791 'Now, I live a lot of the time in New York.  You can live really
0792 quietly there, you know' says Auden, and anyway Britain he finds on
0793 every trip getting increasingly Americanised 'and vulgar and still
0794 more vulgar.  It must be the first time in history that culture has
0795 spread from the bottom up .  The Establishment latches on last of all


0796 21


0797 to what the mass does first.  And London is so provincial.  Paris
0798 is provincial.  Berlin is provincial.  But New York - it's dirty
0799 and a damned dangerous place to live in sometimes, but at least it
0800 isn't provincial.'...   About drug-taking activities in some
0801 British universities, Auden says firmly he is an anti-drug man,
0802 'although I have taken them myself by way of experiment.  By
0803 saying that, I don't want Mr. Quintin Hogg down on my neck for
0804 corrupting the young or anything ... so what I want to make
0805 absolutely clear are the three points which should help put young
0806 people right off the idea of taking drugs at all.
0807     'First, LSD  is a dangerous thing - it should be taken only
0808 under medical supervision, with somebody there, because you may
0809 get the willies and end up in a loony bin.  Second, if people
0810 think they're going to get any fulfilment in Art through
0811 taking drugs then they're in for a hell of a disappointment.
0812 Because on tape recordings of people under LSD it's been shown
0813 they speak absolute drivel.
0814      'Thirdly, and lastly, taking drugs as a short cut to God
0815 is absolute drivel as well.' "
0816 It is true, that the progressive "vulgarisation"
0817 of London struck him like a blow in the face every time he went
0818 there.  He seldom failed to mention the subject when he
0819 came back to Kirchstetten, and was particularly angry about the
0820 advertisements on the London Underground, which he said beat anything
0821 to be found anywhere.


0822 + + +


0823      Auden liked to be amused.  As I mentioned earlier, he was
0824 interested, as a human phenomenon, in my mother-in-law who
0825 until she was forced to abandon it was certainly one of the
0826 worst and most dangerous drivers who ever drove the roads of
0827 Austria.  She never went very fast but she had no idea where
0828 the car began and ended nor by what means it was propelled,
0829 and she drove her car as though it were a tank, ignoring all
0830 that lay in her path.  I have seen her move off, the engine
0831 howling, in a series of leaps;  she had clearly forgotten to
0832 release the hand-brake.  Her accidents were frequent, and
0833 often bizarre, and for all this her basic attitude to traffic
0834 was usually to blame.  This attitude she made clear once and
0835 for all when sitting beside the driver - my brother-in-law - on
0836 the road to St. Pölten, which was her, and for that matter
0837 Auden's, shopping town.  They came to a T crossing.  It is a
0838 blind corner, one is about to turn on to a main arterial road
0839 down which the traffic thunders.  The law and common sense
0840 require one to stop dead, look both ways, and only then to
0841 swing across into a gap in the stream of traffic.  The driver


0842 22


0843 did precisely this, whereupon my mother-in-law favoured
0844 him with a withering glance and said, unforgivably:  'COWARD!'
0845 This was Auden's favourite story.  She caught him once when
0846 he had nipped round to the garage in Fridau to a look at the
0847 state of her Volkswagen after one of the usual smashes.  It
0848 may have been the time she left the road and charged through
0849 one of those telegraph poles with two legs in the shape of
0850 an inverted Y, or another time when she failed to take a
0851 bend in the road and ended up with one wheel suspended
0852 over a vertical drop into the River Pielach far below.  At
0853 all events there was a long and painful silence - Mama was
0854 famous for her silences - which Auden found it difficult to
0855 break.  Whenever I saw him again for the first time after
0856 his arrival in the spring, sooner or later a look of gleeful
0857 expectancy would usher in the question:  "Now:  tell me about
0858 ma-in-law's latest car smash."


0859      The reason why Auden himself failed one day to take a
0860 corner in Kirchstetten village and crashed I never had the
0861 courage to ask.    It happened on the first day of his
0862 arrival in about April9 1968 .  A message reached me in Vienna:
0863 he had had an accident, was in St. Pölten hospital and could I
0864 come at my convenience?  As my informant thought that Auden
0865 was about to be sent home it seemed advisable to telephone
0866 the hospital and find out where he would be by the afternoon.
0867 The following conversation ensued:
0868     "May I ask whether Professor Auden is still in hospital ,
0869 presumably in the casualty department, or whether he
0870 has been sent home?"
0871       "Professor who?"
0872       "Auden.  A - U - D - E - N, Anna Union Dora Emil Nordpol."
0873       "The name is not familiar.  I will check the records."
0874 Pause.  "No, we have no one of that name here."
0875       "But I am informed that Professor Auden was admitted.
0876 By the way he is an American citizen."
0877       "Ah" (confidently) "then I can say quite definitely
0878 that he has not been admitted here."
0879      So I drove out to Kirchstetten.  And there was Auden,
0880 a bundle of misery, sitting at the big table all by himself,


0881 23


0882 his right arm and shoulder in plaster.   He was a little
0883 offhand about the accident, but his memories of the hospital
0884 which he had just left by taxi were unimpaired.  They hadn't
0885 exactly put out the red carpet.  For a long time, the first and
0886 only attention he had received was from a man who wanted
0887 name and address and all relevant details and, above all, "how
0888 I proposed to pay for the treatment."
0889      Soon I was asking what I could do for him and in what order.
0890 What was the most urgent thing?
0891      "I'm almost out of gin".  Perhaps I would be kind enough
0892 to ring up Wild, the grocers on the Neuer Markt in Vienna, and
0893 ask them to send some down.   But why, I asked, couldn't I
0894 drive to Böheimkirchen right away and fetch some?  They'd have
0895 the usual brands.  No, call up Wild.
0896      Back in the Neulinggasse I rang up that high quality
0897 emporium and gave the order.  "Are you" it seemed sensible to
0898 ask, "delivering in that district during the next few days?"
0899      "We virtually never deliver to the country, Madam,
0900 but we always make a special trip for the Herr Professor."
0901       After a shocked
0902 silence I said:  "It's no business of mine, but that's a pretty
0903 pricey way of buying the same make of gin as he could get at
0904 the local grocer's."
0905      "Quite right, Madam, "said the cheerful voice.  "But that
0906 has been the Herr Professor's usual practice for some years.
0907 Who am I to criticise?"
0908      A carefully worded letter to the hospital was indicated.
0909 After a brief summary of events came a few lines of comment:
0910 It was not of significance,, I said heavily, that Professor Auden was a poet
0911 and author of international reputation who had been honoured by
0912 the Austrian state.  
0913 A hospital was not a respecter of persons, and a casualty was a
0914 casualty.  But to disclaim all knowledge of a patient who was
0915 occupying a bed in the hospital would certainly create confusion
0916 and distress in any family which might be the victim of such a
0917 mishap.   A day or two later I went out to Kirchstetten again
0918 with the idea of entertaining Wystan with a few horror stories


0919 24.


0920 about Austrian politics or anything else that came to mind
0921 to cheer him over the interval until Chester arrivedfrom
0922 Athens.  He had been back to the hospital for a check-up on
0923 the sit of the plaster, and as I walked in he grinned
0924 from ear to ear:  "What did you say to them?  I was treated
0925 like royalty."   For the record, the hospital did in fact
0926 write a handsome apology in reply to my letter.


0927      Auden would often lend his car to someone or other during
0928 the winter, and one day when he and Chester turned up to lunch
0929 at Fridau I was shown, with some amusement, a bullet hole in
0930 the car - just b below the windscreen, in line with the
0931 driver's seat.  Having had a little experience of some of
0932 Chester's friends in Vienna I wasn't altogether surprised,   C
0935 but it later transpired that I was wrong.  Naturally, no one had
0936 told me of the existence of Auden's callboy Hugie, and it was
0937 he who, having been lent the car, was involved in events which
0938 led to his arrest and imprisonment.  In the end, the car became a
0939 total wreck, and the circumstances are the subject of various
0940 increasingly frantic letters from Auden before and after
0941 Christmas 1968.  In December, Chester's Greek friend Jean Boras
0942 who often stayed with the two men in Kirchstetten, was in Vienna
0943 and using the car.  One day, on the road between Vienna and
0944 Kirchstetten he collided with a lorry head on and was killed
0945 instantly.    I was away at the time and only got back to the
0946 Neulinggasse shortly before Christmas, to find a letter from Auden
0947 telling me what had happened.  Chester had been so prostrated with
0948 grief that he, Auden, had hardly been able to understand him on
0949 the telephone line from Athens, but he believed that he must be in
0950 Vienna.  Would I look for him and see what I could do?   The
0951 thought of Chester's fstate of mind, alone in Vienna over
0952 Christmas, was blood-chilling, and my imagination ran away with me.
0953 A protracted search produced no signs that he had been in Austria
0954 at all, and it finally turned out that he had never left Athens.
0955 Letters flew to and fro on the subjects of:  release of corpse,
0956 release of wrecked car and/or papers, with Auden becoming
0957 increasingly impatient ("I am in despair") over the inaction both
0958 of officialdom and of his lawyers.  He was learning the hard way


0959 25.


0960 that to attempt to carry out any form of business in Vienna
0961  between the last days
0962 before Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th
0963 is a sheer waste of time;  during the Twelve Days of Christmas
0964 not even a partridge in a peartree moves.
0965     When Auden and Kallman got back to Austria in April
0966 Chester was still profoundly shaken up and I remember Auden's
0967 anxiety, saying to me "I don't know how he's going to get
0968 through the summer."  And it struck me:  what a contrast between
0969 these two writers:  the lesser poet but much younger man,
0970 cooking too much rich food for the entirely sedentary life
0971 that they both led, but otherwise with little purpose left.
0972 And the far greater and much older poet, with his regular
0973 hours of work and his considerable output.  The days of their
0974 very fruitful collaboration on opera libretti were already
0975 over;  what remained was the Times crossword.
0976      It was so easy, I think, to make fun of the slightly
0977 old-maidish ways of the house.  In all those amusing and
0978 essentially true articles in newspapers and glossy
0979 magazines the tendency is to leave out this all-important fact:
0980 Auden was a very hard-working, systematic, self-disciplined
0981 writer, who knew, none better, how nice it is to sit sipping
0982 a cool drink in the shade of a tree, whiling away the hours,
0983 looking with contentment upon his flowers and his asparagus beds.
0984 This he did, but having worked steadily through from 9 o'clock
0985 until lunchtime.  And much of the bosky contentment, the cool
0986 drinks and so on, were simply owing to the presence of guests,
0987 including the journalist with his sharp eye.  So that these
0988 sometimes rather rib-nudging descriptions of this unconventional
0989 household leave it altogether to us to remember that in the
0990 last dozen years of his life, Auden was writing several volumes
0991 of poetry, opera libretti, translating the Elder Edda, the
0992 "Italian Journey ", Dag Hammarskjöld's "Markings" and other
0993 works, editing "The Dyer's Hand", the "Faber Book of Aphorisms",
0994 his Commonplace Book, "Forewords and Afterwords", and that
0995 heavenly compilation the "Nineteenth Century Book of Minor Poets".
0996 He was reading over an enormous field, writing and delivering
0997 lectures, writing articles and book reviews - sometimes they
0998 were demanding publications such as Emily Anderson's 3 volume


0999 26


1000 "Letters of Beethoven" - which he gave me, the blank pages are
1001 filled with his notes - and even a new 12 volume annotated
1002 translation of the Bible.  In any case, the sacred beast in his
1003 lair was probably much wittier than most strangers who came
1004 to view the set-up.


1005      On 19th May 1970 I was mildly horrified (I write in German
1006 but do not translate into it) to get a telegram asking "If I
1007 sent half hour speech in a few days could you translate soon
1008 into German - Love Wystan."  On the principle:  say yes now,
1009 worry afterwards, I agreed.  He was to deliver the speech a couple
1010 of weeks later in the small country town of Neulengbach in the
1011 presence of the governor of Lower Austria.  After making a draft,
1012 I sent both texts to my husband so that he could polish up my
1013 version.   It had not been easy.


1014     "Sehr verehrter Herr Landeshauptmann,meine Damen und Herren:
1015      I hope you will pardon me if I speak somewhat personally.
1016 I do so, not out of vanity, but because I do not wish to give the
1017 impression that I am attempting to lay down absolute laws which
1018 are valid for all.  I give you my experiencesas a poet, in the hope
1019 that you will be able to compare them with yours, and form your
1020 own judgment about them.
1021      Most of what I know about the writing of poetry, or at least
1022 about the kind I am interested in writing, I discovered long
1023 before I took any interest in poetry itself.
1024      Between the ages of six and twelve, I spent a great many
1025 of my waking hours in the fabrication of a private secondary
1026 sacred world, the basic elements of which were a) a limestone
1027 landscape mainly derived from the Pennine Moors in the North of
1028 England and b) an industry - lead-mining.
1029      It is no doubt psychologically significant that my sacred
1030 world was autistic - that is to say, I had no wish to share it
1031 with others nor could I have done so.  However, though constructed
1032 for and inhabited by myself alone, I needed the help of others,
1033 my parents in particular, in collecting its basic materials;
1034 others had to procure for me the necessary text-books on geology
1035 and machinery, maps, catalogues, guide-books and photographs,
1036 and, when occasion offered, to take me down real mines, tasks


1037 27


1038 which they performed with unfailing patience and generosity.
1039      From this activity, I learned certain principles which I was
1040 later to find applied to all artistic fabrication.  First, whatever
1041 other elements it may include, the initial impulse to create a
1042 secondary world is a feeling of awe aroused by encounters, in the
1043 Primary World, with sacred beings or events.  This feeling of awe
1044 is an imperative, that is to say, one is not free to choose the
1045 object or the event that arouses it.  Though every work of art
1046 is a secondary world, it cannot be constructed ex nihilo, but is
1047 a selection from and a recombination of the contents of the
1048 Primary World.  Even the 'purest' poem, in the French Symboliste
1049 sense, is made of words which are not the poet's private property,
1050 but the communal creation of the linguistic group to whom he
1051 belongs, so that their meaning can be looked up in a dictionary.
1052      Secondly, in constructing my private world, I discovered
1053 that, though this was a game, or rather precisely because it was a
1054 game - that is to say, not a necessity like eating or sleeping,
1055 but something I was free to do or not as a chose - it could not
1056 be played without rules.  Absolute freedom is meaningless:
1057 freedom can only be realised in a choice between alternatives.
1058 A secondary world, be it a poem, or a game of football or bridge,
1059 must be as much a world of law as the Primary, the only difference
1060 being that in the world of games one is free to decide what its
1061 laws shall be.  But to all games as to real life, Goethe's lines
1062 apply.

         
(vl) 0043In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister          
(vl) 0044Und das Gesetz nur kann uns Freiheit geben.


1063      As regards my particular lead-mining world, I decided, or
1064 rather, without conscious decision I instinctively felt, that I
1065 must impose two restrictions upon my freedom of fantasy.  In
1066 choosing what objects were to be included, I was free to select
1067 this and reject that, on condition that both were real objects
1068 in the Primary World, to choose, for example, between two kinds of
1069 water-turbine, which could be found in a text-book on mining
1070 machinery or a manufacturer's catalogue:  but I was not free to
1071 invent one.  In deciding how my world was to function, I could
1072 choose between two practical possibilities  - a mine can be drained


1073 28.


1074 either by an adit or a pump - but physical impossibilities and
1075 magic means were forbidden.  When I say forbidden, I mean that I
1076 felt, in some obscure way, that they were morally forbidden.
1077 Then there came a day when the moral issue became quite conscious.
1078 As I was planning my Platonic Idea of a concentrating-mill, I
1079 ran into difficulties.  I had to choose between two types of a
1080 certain machine for separating the slimes, called a buddle.
1081 One type I found more sacred or 'beautiful', but the other type
1082 was, I knew from my reading, the more efficient.  At this point
1083 I realised that it was my moral duty to sacrifice my aesthetic
1084 preference to reality or truth.
1085      When, later, I began to write poetry, I found that, for me
1086 at least, the same obligation was binding.  That is to say, I
1087 cannot accept the doctrine that, in poetry, there is a 'suspension
1088 of belief'.  A poet must never make a statement simply because
1089 it sounds poetically exciting:  he must also believe it to be true.
1090 This does not mean, of course, that one can only appreciate a
1091 poet whose beliefs happen to co-incide with one's own.  It does
1092 mean, however, that one must be convinced that the poet really
1093 believes what he says, however odd the belief may seem to oneself.
1094     Between constructing a private fantasy world for oneself alone
1095 and writing poetry, there is, of course, a profound difference.
1096 A fantasy world exists only in the head of its creator:  a poem
1097 is a public verbal object intended to be read and enjoyed by others.
1098 To become conscious of others is to become conscious of historical
1099 time.in various ways.  The contents of a poem are necessarily
1100 past experiences, and the goal of a poem is necessarily in the
1101 future, since it cannot be read until it has been written.
1102 Again, to write a poem is to engage in an activity which human
1103 beings have practised for centuries.  If one asks why human beings
1104 make poems or paint pictures or compose music, I can see two
1105 possible answers.  Firstly all the artistic media are forms of
1106 an activity peculiar to human beings, namely, Personal Speech.
1107 Many animals have impersonal codes of communications, visual,
1108 olfactory, auditory signals, by which they convey to other members


1109 29.


1110 of their species vital information about food, territory, sex,
1111 the presence of enemies etc., and in social animals like the bee,
1112 such a code may be exceedingly complex.  We, too, of course, often
1113 use words in the same way, as when I ask a stranger the way to the
1114 railroad station.  But when we truly speak, we do something quite
1115 different.  We speak as person to person in order to disclose
1116 ourselves to others and share our experiences with them, not
1117 because we must, but because we enjoy doing so.   This activity
1118 is sometimes quite erroneously called 'self-expression'.  If I
1119 write a poem about experiences I have had, I do so because I think
1120 it should be of interest and value to others:  the fact that it has
1121 till now only been my experience is accidental.  What the poet or
1122 any artist has to convey is a perception of a reality common to
1123 all, but seen from a unique perspective, which it is his duty as
1124 well as his pleasure to share with others.  To small truths as
1125 well as great, St.  Augustine's words apply.


1126          The truth is neither mine nor his nor another!s; but belongs
1127          to us all whom Thou callest to partake of it: warning us
1128          terribly, not to account it private to ourselves, lest
1129          we be deprived or it
.


1130     Then the second impulse to artistic fabrication is the desire to
1131 transcend our mortality, by making objects which, unlike ourselves,
1132 are not subject to natural death, but can remain permanently
1133 'on hand' in the world, long after we and our society have perished.
1134      Every genuine work of art, I believe, exhibits two qualities,
1135 Nowness and Permanence.  By Nowness I mean the quality which enables
1136 an art-historian to date a work, at least, approximately.  If,
1137 for example, one listens to a composition by Palestrina and one by
1138 Mozart, one knows immediately that, quite aside from their artistic
1139 merits, Palestrina must have lived earlier than Mozart:  he could
1140 not possibly have written as he did after Mozart.  By Permanence,
1141 I mean that the work continues to have relevance and importance
1142 long after its creator is dead.  In the history of Art, unlike the
1143 history of Science, no genuine work of art is made obsolete by a
1144 later work.  Past science is of interest only to the historian of
1145 science, not to what scientists are doing at this moment.  Past


1146 3O.-


1147 works of art, on the other hand, are of the utmost importance
1148 to the contemporary practitioner.  Every artist tries to produce
1149 something now, but in the hope that, in time, it will take its
1150 proper place in the tradition of his art.  And he cannot produce
1151 anything significantly original unless he knows well what has
1152 already been done;  that is to say, he cannot 'rebel' against the
1153 past without having a profound reverence for it.
1154     There are periods in history when the arts develop uninterr-
1155 uptedly, each generation building on the achievements of the
1156 previous generation.  There are other periods when radical breaks
1157 seem to be necessary.  However, when they are, one will generally
1158 find that the 'radical' artist does not disown the past, but finds
1159 in works of a much earlier period or in those of a culture (other)
1160 than his own, the clue as to what he should do now.  In my own
1161 case, for example, I know how much I owe to Anglo-Saxon and
1162 Medieval Poetry.
1163      When I review the contemporary artistic scene, it strikes me
1164 how extraordinarily fortunate men like Stravinsky, Picasso, Eliot,
1165 etc., that is, those persons we think of as the founders of
1166 'modern' art, were in being born when they were, so that they came
1167 to manhood before 1914.  Until the First World War, western
1168 society was still pretty much what it had been in the nineteenth
1169 century.  This meant that for these artists, the felt need to
1170 create something new arose from an artistic imperative, not a
1171 historic imperative.  No one asked himself:  "What is the proper
1172 kind of music to compose or picture to paint or poem to write
1173 in the year 1912?"   Secondly, their contemporary audiences
1174 were mostly conservative, but honestly so.  Those, for instance,
1175 who were scandalised by Le Sacre du Printemps, may seem to us now
1176 to have been old fogies, but their reaction was genuine.  They did
1177 not say to themselves:  "Times have changed and we must change
1178 with them in order not to be left behind."
1179     Here are a few statements by Stravinsky to which the young,
1180 whether artists or critics would do well to listen and ponder over.


1181     In my youth the new music grew out of, and in reaction to,
1182     tradition
s, whereas it appears to be evolving to-day as much
1183     from social needs as interior artistic ones...  The status
1184     of new mu
sic as a category is another incomparable.  It had


1185 31


1186      none at all in my early years, being in fact categorically
1187      opposed, and often with real hostility,  But the unsuccess
1188      of composers of my generation at least kept them from trading
1189      on success, and our unsuccess may have been less insidious
1190      than the automatic superlatives which nowadays kill the new
1191      by absorbing it to death.

1192                            ++++++++
1193      The use of the new hardware naturally appears to the new
1194      musician as "historicallv imberative ";  but music is made
1195      out of musical imperatives, and the awareness of historical
1196      processes is probably best left to future and diff
erent
1197      kinds of
wage-earners.
1198                            +++++++++


1199      In times, like our own, of rapid social change and political
1200 crisis, there is always a danger of confusing the principles
1201 governing political action and those governing artistic fabrication.
1202 The most important of such confusions are three.
1203     Firstly, one may come to think of artistic fabrication as a
1204 form of political action.  Every citizen, poets included, has a
1205 duty to be politically 'engagé', that is, to play a responsible
1206 part in seeing that the society of which he is a member shall
1207 function properly and improve.  But the poet, qua poet, has only
1208 one political function.  Since language is his medium, it is his
1209 duty, by his own example, to defend his mother-tongue against
1210 corruption by demagogues, journalists, the mass-media etc.  As
1211 Karl Kraus said:  "Die Sprache ist die Mutter, nicht das Magd,
1212 des Gedankens", and when language loses its meaning,
1213 its place is taken by violence.  Of course, the poet may use
1214 political and social events as subject-matter for poems - they
1215 are as much a part of human experience as love or nature - but
1216 he must never imagine that his poems have the power to affect
1217 the course of history.  The political and social history of
1218 Europe would be what it has been if Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe,
1219 Michael Angelo, Titian, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. had never existed.
1220      Where political and social evils are concerned, only two
1221 things are effective:  political action and straightforward,
1222 truthful, detailed journalistic rapportage of the facts.  The Arts
1223 are powerless.
1224     The second confusion, of which Plato is the most famous example,
1225 is to take artistic fabrication as the model for a good society.


1226 32


1227 Such a model, if put into practice, is bound to produce a tyranny.
1228 The aim of the artist is to produce an object which is complete
1229 and will endure without change.  In the 'city' of a poem, there
1230 are always the same inhabitants doing exactly the same jobs for
1231 ever.  A society which was really like a good poem, embodying the
1232 aesthetic virtues of order, economy and subordination of the
1233 detail to the whole, would be a nightmare of horror for, given the
1234 historical reality of actual men, such a society could only come
1235 into being through selective breeding, extermination of the
1236 physically and mentally unfit, absolute obedience to its Director,
1237 a large slave class kept out of sight in cellars and the strictest
1238 censureship (sic) of the Arts, forbidding anything to be said
1239 which is out of keeping with the official 'line'.
1240     The third confusion, typical of our western 'free' societies
1241 at this time, is the opposite of Plato's, namely to take political
1242 action as the model for artistic fabrication.  Political action
1243 is a necessity, that is to say, at (e)very moment something has
1244 to be done, and it is momentary - action at this moment is
1245 immediately followed by another action at the next.  Artistic
1246 fabrication, on the other hand, is voluntary - the alternative
1247 to one work of art can be no work of art - and the artistic
1248 object is permanent, that is to say, immune to historical change.
1249 The attempt to model artistic fabrication on political action can
1250 therefore, only reduce it to momentary and arbitrary 'happenings',
1251 a conformism with the tyranny of the immediate moment which is
1252 far more enslaving and destructive of integrity than any conformism
1253 with past tradition.
1254     At this point, a little digression on the subject of 'free'
1255 verse, which seems now to be almost universal among young poets.
1256 Though excellent examples, the poems of D.H. Lawrence, for example,
1257 exist, they are, in my opinion, the exception, not the rule.
1258 The great virtue of formal metrical rules is that they forbid
1259 automatic responses and, by forcing the poet to have second
1260 thoughts, free him from the fetters of self.  All too often, the
1261 result of not having a fixed form to be true to, is a self-
1262 indulgence which in the detached reader can only cause boredom.
1263 Further, in my experience, contrary to what one might expect, the
1264 free-verse poets sound much more like each other than those who
1265 write in fixed forms.  Whatever freedom may do, it does not, it
1266 would seem, make for originality.


1267 31. a


1268      What, then, can the Arts do for us?  In my opinion, they can
1269 do two things.  They can, as Dr. Johnson said, 'enable us a little
1270 better to enjoy life or a little better to endure it.'  And,
1271 because they are objects permanently on hand in the world, they
1272 are the chief means by which the living are able to break bread
1273 with the dead, and, without a communication with the dead, I do
1274 not believe that a fully human civilised life is possible.
1275      Perhaps, too, in our age, the mere making of a work of art
1276 is itself a political act.  So long as artists exist, making
1277 what they please or think they ought to make, even if their works
1278 are not terribly good, they remind the Management of something
1279 managers need to be reminded of, namely, that the managed are
1280 people with faces, not anonymous numbers, that Homo Laborans
1281 is also Homo Ludens.
1282      And now, I hope those of you who know no English will
1283 forgive me if I conclude these remarks with a light poem of my
1284 own, entitled Doggerel by a Senior Citizen."


1285      To what extent parts of this lecture had been said or written
1286 before is immaterial, it is still surprising that Auden chose to
1287 repeat it in Neulengbach.  If here and there, he

           
(vl) 0045Adopted what I would disown            
(vl) 0046The preacher's loose immodest tone


1288 in the main, such a closely argued statement must surely have
1289 floated past the ear of most of his listeners.  This would not,
1290 I think, have been because of an innate lack of intelligence
1291 on their part but because the Austrian and the German academic
1292 mind tends towards compartmentalised thought more than is the
1293 case among well educated Americans, British and French people who
1294 may have acquired the ability to survey one discipline in terms
1295 of another.  This exceedingly demanding speech tells one something
1296 else about Auden:  he never talked down to people.  They would
1297 absorb as much as they were able to, as much as they were ready
1298 for;  and someone would have understood a great deal.  Auden's
1299 attitude towards language as a means towards "artistic fabrication"
1300 is I think in the exact sense of the word sacramental. Holding
1301 the insights that he did into the nature of the poet's struggle
1302 with the primary world, it is hardly surprising that he should
1303 have held strong views on modern translations of the Bible - a
1304 subject he often came back to in conversation - and revised


1305 32.a


1306 liturgies.  The new banality offended his acute sense of the
1307 power contained in words and phrases which have brought mankind
1308 into mystical contact with the primary world:  Darkness, Silence,
1309 Nothing, Death, and all those things which are held sacred by any
1310 particular cultural group.  It is consistent that Auden was
1311 suspicious of Eng.Lit. textual analysis;  that he felt the importance
1312 that - gross misunderstanding apart - the reader should receive
1313 something from a poem;  it is consistent that he should have laughed
1314 when he told me that some earnest person wanted to know just what he
1315 had meant by a word written thirty years ago.  "Ridiculous!  How
1316 should I know?"
1317      It always seemed that as the years passed Auden became more
1318 and more English;  this natural process of reverting to type annoyed
1319 Chester who would expostulate at signs of it.  He liked to listen
1320 to the cool, rounded tones of the British county gentry, he intensely
1321 admired "Akenfield", he loved the Lucia novels by E.F. Benson, he
1322 happily read and reviewed "The History of the British Nannie" and
1323 he was addicted to English detective novels - his collection is now
1324 at Fridau.  I dropped in one early afternoon on my way to Vienna,
1325 just to leave something for him, I forgot what.  Auden came pounding
1326 down the rickety outside staircase, greeted me with his usual warmth,
1327 urged me to come in, to stay ... No no, I said, we're both busy,
1328 I must get on.  "Oh!" he exclaimed, and it was as though he were
1329 begging me not to infringe the most basic rule of British hospitality:
1330 "But you can't go without having a cup of tea!"
1331      That study of his is so bare now:  it is "The Cave of Making"
1332 which he wished he could have shown to Louis MacNeice, and the house
1333 and garden.

                                      
(vl) 0047... Devoid of        
(vl) 0048flowers and family photographs, all is subordinate           
(vl) 0049here to a function, designed to        
(vl) 0050discourage daydreams - hence windows averted from plausible           
(vl) 0051videnda but admitting a light one        
(vl) 0052could mend a watch by - and to sharpen hearing:  reached                                                        
(vl) 0053by an

          
(vl) 0054outside staircase, domestic        
(vl) 0055noises and odours, the vast background of natural           
(vl) 0056life are shut off.  Here silence        
(vl) 0057is turned into objects.


1334      To write to Auden unnecessarily would have been to encroach on
1335 his time.  But Chester spent the whole of one winter in Vienna and
1336 I could hardly resist describing a party in Chester's flat.


1337 33.


1338 Afterwards, I had given a lift home to a carload of people
1339 including one whose pockets, had I but known it, were stuffed
1340 with Chester's money - lifted from a jacket hanging on the
1341 bedroom door.  The party itself had been all but wrecked by a
1342 loudly argumentative individual who succeeded in clearing the
1343 sittingroom altogether as the guests gradually slunk off to the
1344 kitchen, refugees from his abrasive but tedious presence.
1345 Auden's reply was:
1346     "So!  You encountered the one-whose-name-we-never-mention.
1347 Why Chester should have been so foolish as to invite him to a
1348 party I cannot imagine.  If he is to be seen at all he is to
1349 be seen alone."
1350      My next sighting of this cloven-hooved adjunct to the
1351 Viennese literary scene was at Auden's funeral, where I watched
1352 him work his way up the procession to the church until he found
1353 the place he sought:  immediately behind the coffin among the
1354 chief mourners.  Wondering at this, and remembering Wystan's
1355 sinister euphemism, I subsequently asked Chester whether Auden
1356 had ever liked the man.  "LIKED him?" shrieked Chester.  "Why,
1357 he crossed himself whenever his name was mentioned."
1358      In that same letter to New Work I mentioned that a friend
1359 of his had quoted him as using the term - as a definition of
1360 humour - "Serious insistence on unseriousness."  His response
1361 was as follows:  "X has a genius for subtle misrepresentation.
1362 'Serious insistence on unseriousness' telescopes two distinct
1363 convictions of mine, falsifying both.
1364 One.  I believe it to be a serious moral error when an artist
1365 overestimates the importance of art and, by implication, of
1366 himself.  One must admit that the political history of Europe,
1367 with the same horrors, would be what it has been, if Dante,
1368 Shakespeare, Goethe, Titian, Mozart, et al, had never existed.
1369 Two.  I believe that the only way in which, to-day at any rate,
1370 one can speak seriously about serious matters (the alternative
1371 is silence) is comically....  I have enormously admired - and
1372 been influenced by - the tradition of Jewish humor.  More than
1373 any other people, surely, they have seen in serious matters,
1374 that is to say, human suffering, the contradictions of human
1375 existence, and the relation between man and God, occasions for
1376 humorous expression.  e.g. 'If the rich could hire other people
1377 to die for them, the poor could make a wonderful living', or,


1378 34.


1379 'Truth rests with God alone, and a little bit with me', or 'God
1380 will provide - ah, if only he would till He does so.'"  After a
1381 brief domestic chronicle he adds that a friend of his who teaches
1382 schyzophrenics had a seventeen year old girl who was interested
1383 in poetry.  Asked what poets she liked, she mentioned Auden.
1384 'I happen to know him quite well'said the friend.  To which the
1385 girl in astonishment:  'You mean to say, he's still alive?'
1386 (Auden was about 58 at the time).
1387      That deeply scored face which struck awe into so many people
1388 who saw him, that battlefield so mercilessly displayed above dozens
1389 upon dozens of newspaper articles:  when I look at my own photographs
1390 of him I am appalled at the speed of the development.  It was a
1391 head straight out of the icelandic sagas, or a prehistoric head
1392 from the bogs of Jutland.  Auden should have been carved, much
1393 larger than life, by Henry Moore and placed in effigy on a high hill.
1394      Abruptly, the way most statements emerged from Auden, he said
1395 one day at lunch:  "Kokoschka wants to paint me."  It appears that
1396 Oskar Kokoschka had written and asked him to come to Switzerland.
1397 But Auden felt it was too much of an effort, and evidently the much
1398 older man felt the same way, so that nothing came of it.  It is a
1399 great pity, because for one thing they would have enjoyed each
1400 other's company, and the sight of these physically so oddly similar
1401 men sitting together must have fired some onlooker if only to the
1402 extent of taking a historic snapshot.  Nor does Auden's closing
1403 remark on the subject provide much compensation for the lack of the
1404 portrait, though the thought satisfied him.  "After all", he said,
1405 as he reached for his wine glass and narrowed his eyes to slits
1406 against the sunlight seeping in from the garden, "After all, I AM
1407 a Kokoschka painting."
1408     But the causes:  the question needs to be answered.  Why was
1409 Auden, in his sixties and indeed much earlier, a prematurely aged
1410 man?  "Ein alter Mann", one or two German obituarists were to write,
1411 but without surprise, or:  "the aged poet" - when he was 68!
1412     Surely not.  There is one explanation which I place on record
1413 only after much hesitation.  Some time after Auden's death Chester
1414 Kallman gave me his explanation for the evidence that Wystan had
1415 become older than his years warranted:  he put the phenomenon down
1416 to Benzedrine.  "For how long?"  Oh, said Chester, he began right
1417 back in his early years in the States.  And he had carried on right
1418 through, only dropping the habit when he came to spend his summers


1419 35.


1420 in Austria.  Most people now have forgotten about Benzedrene;
1421 other things  have taken its place.  Chester reminded me that it
1422 was the stimulant with the help of which airmen in wartime,
1423 examinees, doctors and so on, could keep themselves going in a
1424 state of complete wakefulness, to carry them through a period
1425 of temporary stress.  Taken for a restricted purpose, perhaps by
1426 a surgeon faced with operations round the clock after a major
1427 disaster, it was a blessing.  Physical reserves would be replaced
1428 later when the emergency was over.  But to take Benzedrine over a
1429 long period meant - I am quoting Kallman and subject to correction -
1430 using up ones body at an accelerated rate with the obvious
1431 consequence that it would become prematurely aged.
1432     It would be difficult to think of any reason why Chester should
1433 say this if it were not substantially true.   As to why Auden
1434 should have felt he needed such a powerful stimulant, over and
1435 above those which modern man indulges in as a matter of course -
1436 coffee, tea, alcohol and cigarettes - his friends of those
1437 years can answer.   Perhaps an extract from Edmund Wilson's
1438 "W.H. Auden in America" is helpful:  it is one of a collection of
1439 critical essays edited by Monroe Spears and published in 1964:
1440 the operative phrase lies buried in the quotation.


1441      "Since becoming an American citizen, the poet has not
1442     ceased to explore, to roam - he has covered more ground in
1443     this country than most Americans do, and he now spends every
1444     summer in Italy. This spring he returns to England to be
1445     lecturer on poetry at Oxford.  It is a part of his role to go
1446     everywhere, be accessible to all sorts of people, serve
1447     interestedly and conscientiously in innumerable varied
1448     capacities:  on the staff of a Middle Western college;  at a
1449     cultural congress in India;  on a grand jury in New York City,
1450     deciding the fate of gangsters;  on a committee of the
1451     American Academy, making handouts to needy writers.  He has
1452     above all withstood the ordeal of America through a habitation
1453     of seventeen years;  he has even 'succeeded' here." And he
1454     has made all these exploits contribute to the work of a great
1455     English poet who is also - in the not mondain sense - one
1456     of the great English men of the world."


1457 36.


1458 + + +


1459      During the uprising in Czechoslovakia in the early autumn
1460 of 1968 Vienna was filled with people who had come across the
1461 border bent on emigration, or simply to snuff the air outside
1462 their own country and explore the possibilities.  Many people
1463 had strangers in their houses and Auden wanted to do his bit.
1464 As he was just leaving Kirchstetten he left it to me to choose
1465 a suitable family, and having done so I wrote to him c/o Heyworth,
1466 32 Bryanston Square, London W.1.  A reply is dated 15 October 1968:


1467      "Got back from Oxford yesterday and found your letter waiting.
1468      1) I think I ought to take the couple in, but I must leave
1469      it to you to decide whether they are O.K. If they are, all
1470      rooms, including my study (which can't be heated) are open
1471      to them.
1472      2) How much money will they need to keep going?  And how
1473      shall I make the arrangements for payment.
1474      3) Will they be able to find work or emigrate before I
1475      return in April, when I'm afraid there will not be room
1476      for them?
1477      4) I'm worried about how they will get gas cylinders for
1478      cooking from Neulengbach, since, presumably, they have no car.
1479      I expect someone in the village will help.
1480      5) If and when they come, I must know in advance so that
1481      I can write a note to the Burgomeister..."


1482      The couple found somewhere else to live in a less remote
1483 place, the emergency was soon over and Auden did not disguise
1484 his relief:


1485                                    "77 St. Mark's Place, N.Y.C.
1486                                               Nov.6th.
1487      Many thanks for your letter.  Of course, selfishly, I'm
1488      rather relieved.  How horrid one is!
1489      The U.S. is grim."


1490      Auden was an extraordinarily generous person.  An evening
1491 at the Opern-Café comes to mind.  Wystan and Chester had been to
1492 a performance over the road and had asked me to join them afterwards
1493 It was hoped that Balanchine would join us, but to my disappointment
1494 he never turned up.  Conversation was lively, and the more so, the


1495 37.


1496 greater the contrast with the enforced silence of a young
1497 Austrian whose identity was never fully revealed, though
1498 Chester muttered to me:  "Wystan is helping with his studies
1499 at the College of Technology."  When the party broke up it
1500 turned out that the young man lived in my direction, so I took
1501 him home, and in my car he opened his mouth and spoke, and
1502 what he said became engraved on my mind.  "Who is Professor
1503 Auden?" he asked.  "Tell me about him.  Is he an important man?"
1504      This is the cue for a story which, though with names
1505 omitted, should be placed on record.  It must have been in
1506 about 1949 or 1950 that an American woman was travelling by
1507 train in Austria.  In the carriage were two Austrian boys
1508 in their early teens.  The three got into conversation, the woman
1509 asked a number of questions and heard the boys' story.  Their
1510 father was an artist, they lived in a village on a lakeside and
1511 went to the local high school.  Yes, they would be leaving school
1512 at fifteen, one of them would go as an apprentice to the local
1513 printer's.  No, there was no money for further education, there
1514 was no grammar school nearby, the family couldn't afford boarding
1515 school fees, nor lodgings.  Not long after this chance encounter
1516 the family heard that Auden would like to pay for the boys'
1517 education.  They went through grammar school in Innsbruck and
1518 never looked back;  both made swift careers in industry.  I have
1519 the impression that Auden did meet the family in later years;
1520 nothing was ever further from my mind than to bring up the story
1521 with Auden.  It was disinterested generosity of a rare order.
1522 In the light of this kindness to Austrian citizens, it is
1523 sad, and ironical too, that his final years in Austria
1524 should have brought him into conflict with the tax authorities.
1525 He had felt at peace in Kirchstetten:

           
(vl) 0058Here, though, I feel as at home            
(vl) 0059as you did:  the same            
(vl) 0060short-lived creatures re-utter            
(vl) 0061the same care-free songs,            
(vl) 0062orchards cling to the regime            
(vl) 0063they know, from April's            
(vl) 0064rapid augment of colour            
(vl) 0065till boisterous Fall,            
(vl) 0066when at each stammering gust            
(vl) 0067apples thump the ground.


1526 38.


1527 A nd in his Prologue at Sixty:

          
(vl) 0068Though the absence of hedge-rows is odd to me           
(vl) 0069(no Whig landlord, the landscape vaunts,           
(vl) 0070ever empired on Austrian ground),           
(vl) 0071this unenglish tract after ten years           
(vl) 0072into my love has looked itself...


1528      But then worry invaded it.  While all the time believing
1529 himself not to be liable for income tax, debts to the fiscus were
1530 in fact running up to such an extent that a mortgage was placed
1531 on the property in Kirchstetten.  The final amount was A.S.
1532 930,000.  What this meant to Auden was that instead of being able
1533 to take things a bit more easily, he had to pay out pretty well
1534 all that he had put on one side, and return to the lecture circuit
1535 in the States, a prospect which he viewed with dread.
1536      "Do you know" he said to me, "they're accusing me of having
1537 been inspired by the Austrian landscape!  The Weinheber poem and
1538 all that."  I said:  "You wrote the poem in Berlin" and he
1539 shrugged.  At that time I had no idea how serious the whole thing
1540 was.  As the result of an appeal in high quarters the sum was
1541 reduced by about half, and was fully paid up.  At some point, the
1542 document is undated, Auden composed a statement, consisting of
1543 three pages of typescript, giving his point of view in this
1544 extraordinary affair.  One day, if the whole official correspondence
1545 is published, this document with the rest will be numbered among
1546 the curiosities of literary history.§
1547      Having disposed of the "accusations" that he had a "material
1548 interest" in Austria, that he had been awarded the state prize for
1549 literature and that a road in Kirchstetten had been named after
1550 him (he requested the local authorities, by the way, not to do so
1551 until after his death, but they disregarded his wish) he continued:
1552      "You go on to say, correctly, that I have written a few
1553 poems on Austrian themes.  To this I should like to make three
1554 observations:
1555 1.   I have never received so much as a penny for my poetry in
1556 Austria.  A few of them were translated into German, but in this
1557 case the translators received the money, not I.


1558 § The statement is in German translation, what follows is my own
1559   re-translation back into English and not the original.


1560 39.


1561 2.  I believe you are not aware how it is that poems are
1562 written.  What is generally taken to be the subject is only
1563 a point of view, an occasion, in order to give expression to
1564 certain thoughts about nature, about God, history, mankind etc.
1565 which the poet may have had in his head for
1566 a very long time.  I wrote a poem, for instance, for the 20th
1567 anniversary of the death of Josef Weinheber.  But basically,
1568 the poem has to do with other things:  firstly with the love
1569 which every good poet, of whatever nationality he may be, has
1570 for his mother tongue, and secondly with what has happened
1571 since the war in the countries that lost it, that is to say,
1572 not only Austria, but also Germany and Italy.
1573      Then again:  in 1964 I wrote a poem with the title
1574 'Whitsunday in Kirchstetten' because I happened to be there
1575 at the time.  But the place is unimportant.  What this poem is
1576 actually about is the question:  'What is the significance
1577 for a Christian of the Feast of Pentecost?'  And this applies
1578 to all countries alike.
1579 3.  I believe that you fail to understand the financial situation
1580 of a poet.  A novelist can, if he is successful, earn a good
1581 deal of money with his books.  A poet cannot do that, even if he
1582 is very well known, because poems are only read by a minority.
1583 Far and away the greater part of my income derives, therefore,
1584 not from the sale of my volumes of verse, but from book reviews,
1585 translations, lectures etc., activities which have nothing to do
1586 with Austria.  And while on the subject of translations:  you
1587 say correctly, that I have a great interest in German and Austrian
1588 literature - I might add, also in its music, but I have no need
1589 to come to Austria to read or to hear them."
1590      Auden goes on to the length of time spent annually in
1591 Austria, and concludes:
1592      "One last word.  If this in my view utterly unjustified
1593 nonsense does not cease, I shall leave Austria never to return,
1594 which both for me and perhaps too for the shopkeepers of
1595 Kirchstetten would be very sad.  But one thing I cannot conceal
1596 from you, gentlemen:  if this should come about, the consequence
1597 might be a scandal of world-wide dimensions."


1598 + + +


1599 40.


1600      The news reached me over the car radio on the motorway near
1601 Linz, and I headed straight for Kirchstetten on the off-chance
1602 that Chester might already have come home.  Wystan had died in
1603 the night of 28/29 September, and the fact blotted out all else.
1604 Why had I gone to Linz and missed his last reading at the
1605 Society for Literature?  I had talked it over with him a few
1606 days earlier, saying that I was exasperated at finding myself
1607 committed to a meeting in Linz which I yearned to cut;
1608 particularly as I should like him to make use of my flat and
1609 perhaps spend the night there.  I was glum, and he cheered me
1610 up, saying that I'd heard it all before, and I must come over
1611 afterwards and he'd tell me how it had gone off.
1612      There was all too much time on the motorway to react, and I
1613 fought against what seemed to be unreasonable waves of emotion.
1614 Don't exaggerate, I told myself, don't flatter yourself that
1615 you have the right to mourn.  Think of Chester.  I am thinking
1616 of Chester;  I hardly dare think of him.  How will he live?
1617 Will he live?  The car radio was still muttering quietly.  As
1618 a distraction, I turned it up and the familar voice of Friedrich
1619 Heer reviewing a book was something consoling to hold on to.
1620      The green shutters on the door at Kirchstetten were closed,
1621 and there was no one there.  I wrote a note and stuck it in the
1622 centre gap, watched by the Strobls' eternally suspicious mongrel,
1623 and drove to Fridau.  An answer to the note came by telephone:
1624 Chester would like me to come over in the afternoon - by now it
1625 was Sunday.
1626      The room was full of people.  On the seat behind the coffee
1627 table sat the pathetic figure whom one instinctively acknowledged
1628 as the widow.  Mrs. Clark and her daughter had come up from
1629 Florence, the mayor of Kirchstetten was there, the headmistress
1630 of the high school, Frau Seitz, a writer friend of Chester's
1631 called Adolf Opel, and an assortment of unidentified young people.
1632 The expressions on the faces of the chief protagonists in what was
1633 clearly a heated discussion were not quite what one would expect
1634 at a gathering of mourners and local worthies who had come to
1635 offer their condolences.  The mayor was looking stubborn,
1636 Frau Seitz looked worried, the Clarks puzzled.  Chester was hardly
1637 coherent;  the rest conversed in whispers.


1638 41


1639      Chester tried to explain, and gradually his wishes became
1640 clear.  He hated everything in the shape of pompes funèbres.
1641 He wanted Wystan buried quietly and at once, if possible on
1642 Tuesday, telegrams had been sent to John Auden, to Stephen
1643 Spender and others telling them to come on Tuesday morning or
1644 earlier.   The mayor, Chester said, wanted a big funeral at the
1645 following weekend, with the town band out, a hearse coming to
1646 the door, representatives of the Ministry of Education, the Land
1647 and all the rest of it.  He, Chester, couldn't bear it and
1648 wouldn't have it.  Knowing Austrian burial customs it was evident
1649 that we were faced with a cultural clash of no mean proportions.
1650 A hurried private funeral of the kind envisaged by Chester might
1651 seem normal in western intellectual circles.  In Austria it
1652 was an affront to the decencies and carried a whiff of pauperism,
1653 suicide or both.  Now the mayor had his say.  "First of all" he
1654 said, "the body has not yet been released.  As in all cases of
1655 sudden death in a hotel, where the circumstances are not wholly
1656 clear, there has had to be an inquest, and even with intervention,
1657 these things take time."  And then:  "Imagine not even informing
1658 the ministry, the department of culture of the Land government -
1659 it would be more than my job is worth."  Frau Seitz now gave it as
1660 her view that Kirchstetten would hardly bury a dog in the way
1661 intended by Herr Kallman, let alone a major poet, a man moreover
1662 whom they had all known and loved.
1663      The discussion continued, the young people drifted like
1664 autumn leaves hither and thither, whispering and bearing bottles.
1665 Frau Strobl made frequent dramatic entrances for reasons which
1666 were never quite clear.   It was not, it occurred to us, only a
1667 question of when and how much, but:  what kind of a funeral service
1668 should it be?  Auden was a practising member of the Church of
1669 England§- or of the Episcopalian Church in the States - but he
1670 had regularly attended Mass in the Catholic Church of Kirchstetten
1671 and had wished to be buried there.  Should not the Anglican
1672 chaplain in Vienna be asked to participate?   []No one seemed to
1673 have any ideas, but it was finally agreed that an ecumenical
1674 service would be appropriate, the texts to be spoken being left to
1675 John Auden to decide in conjunction with the clergy.


1676 § Few people would question this, but in view of two or three
1677 statements in the press that he became R.C., the fact perhaps
1678 needs emphasising.


1679 42.


1680      The room was stifling.  It seemed that Chester needed to
1681 have fewer people around him and that the party needed to be
1682 broken up.  The chance came when Chester agreed to have the
1683 funeral postponed.  If my memory of events is correct, agreement
1684 was first reached only over the vital point that Tuesday was
1685 impossible and that people in England should be notified at once,
1686 leaving the final date over for the moment.  This decision
1687 conveniently created a natural pause, and now the Clarks undertook
1688 to send the telegrams and were driven to the post office by Frau
1689 Strobl.  We all stood up, Chester came over and asked me to
1690 carry on discussions for the funeral arrangements with the mayor
1691 and Frau Seitz.  It was all, he said, more than he could bear,
1692 I must just try to hold the others in check but he would agree
1693 to anything I said.  He was all right really, he was
1694 full to the brim with tranquillisers and only needed a bit of peace.
1695 We hugged each other warmly and, together with the mayor, I left
1696 in Frau Seitz's car and we drove to her house at the other end of
1697 the village.
1698      This was not the sort of talk in which one can whip through
1699 the agenda, and we took our time.  If only Chester had realised
1700 it, compared with the style in which an Austrian village carries
1701 its senior citizens to the grave, what he was being asked to
1702 consent to was not a tall order.  There would be no voluntary
1703 fire brigade, no gamekeepers with their ancient ritual and their
1704 wishes for good hunting in the fields of Elysium bellowed into the
1705 open grave, no linesmen from the local railway, no representatives
1706 of the local football club, marksmen's association et al.
1707 And since none of them would be there, they would not have to be
1708 fed afterwards.  All the mayor wanted was the brass band;  I felt
1709 that Wystan would have been amused, and might, if he were watching,
1710 even enjoy it, and I agreed.  Thursday was chosen to keep down
1711 the number of idle onlookers, a great concession for which I was
1712 grateful.  Chester had told me that he had a phobia about hearses
1713 being brought to the door.  What he wanted was for the coffin to
1714 be carried to the bottom of the hill, if not further, and only then
1715 placed in the hearse.  But the thought of the weighty coffin
1716 being carried down a narrow lane, pitted with ruts and potholes
1717 and strewn with loose stones, made my hair stand on end.  The
1718 mayor and Frau Seitz felt the same way, and here too, Chester
1719 later agreed to our compromise.  Subsequently, I was to blame
1720 myself very much for not raising the question of who was to


1721 43.


1722 pay for the band.  As Chester was being compelled to comply with
1723 local customs, and the district council in the person of its mayor
1724 wished to honour a citizen who had brought it great fame, it never
1725 occurred to me that it was not free of charge.  Nor did it occur
1726 to Chester, whose anger at being sent in a bill precipitated a chain
1727 of events which badly hampered the efforts of the Society for
1728 Literature to preserve the house as a place of memorial for W.H. Auden.
1729 At the time, however, we thought we had troubles enough, and the
1730 misunderstanding was born.
1731      Meanwhile the mayor was worrying about something else altogether:
1732 the safety of Auden's manuscripts and papers in the attic room.
1733 Altogether, he took a distrustful view of the fate of the house and
1734 everything in it once Chester went back to Athens.  He was afraid
1735 that in his state of despair and nervous exhaustion Chester might
1736 agree to almost anything that was suggested to him with sufficient
1737 force or calculation.  But to pursue this subject further would be to
1738 reach out too far beyond the death of Auden.
1739      When I got back to the house it was to find Chester in a calmer
1740 frame of mind and body and able to talk in that gentle and
1741 affectionate way, with occasional burst of sardonic humour, which
1742 his friends will remember, overlooking all else.
1743      In attempting a memoir of Auden in his latter years it would be
1744 unreasonable to leave Chester Kallman to play a purely walking on
1745 part, the more so as in articles by visitors to Kirchstetten
1746 Chester was invariably the fall-guy.  It would be very difficult
1747 fully to understand the relationship between Auden and Kallman, and
1748 it never seemed to me that it was any business of mine to try to do so.
1749 But I saw something of Chester without Wystan:  during the winter
1750 that he spent alone in Vienna in a flat in the Esslarngasse not far
1751 from my own, and when he was in hospital in St.Pölten for treatment.
1752 He was a person full of contrasts where vulgarity and second-rate
1753 humour and tastes lived side by side with a remarkable personal
1754 sensitivity and with talent and discrimination in the spheres of
1755 literature and music.  It seems clear from their writings alone,
1756 that when both men went their own ways in sexual matters, Auden's
1757 heart was not involved, whereas Kallman's relationship with Jean
1758 Boras was both passionate and emotionally degrading.  Both men
1759 needed each other and perhaps it would have been better if Chester


1760 44.


1761 had never left New York for Athens.  Apart, both lapsed into
1762 squalor;  together, they kept the pot boiling and the stove
1763 crackling.  The daily routine was maintained, drink disciplined
1764 and loneliness banished.  When Boras died, Auden wondered how
1765 Kallman would get through the Austrian summer.  When Auden died,
1766 Kallman pined away.
1767      The gathering in the livingroom on the eve of the funeral
1768 prompted that banal, well-known reflection about how much the
1769 deceased would have enjoyed it.  There was the comforting presence
1770 of John Auden, Stephen Spender was there, David Luke, the Clarks,
1771 Sonia Orwell.  There were no more conflicts of interest, no more
1772 cultural confrontations, merely a group of people bent on
1773 mutual consolation.
1774      Then Auden came home to Kirchstetten, that un-English tract.
1775 He had celebrated Kirchstetten village, the church where he sang
1776 so flat and now lies buried, and the house he lived.  He had
1777 celebrated Josef Weinheber, Franz Jägerstätter, Emma Eiermann
1778 and the cats.  He had celebrated the whole quiet, unexciting
1779 landscape and its war-torn past and even the autobahn which lies
1780 between the church and his home, bisecting the invisible line
1781 joining one to the other.  Though as we know from his statement
1782 for the taxation people, he would not want us to take him too
1783 literally.  "What is taken to be the subject of a poem is only a
1784 point of view, an occasion, in order to give expression to certain
1785 thoughts about nature, about God..."  In other words:

          
(vl) 0073To speak is human because human to listen,           
(vl) 0074beyond hope, for an Eighth Day,           
(vl) 0075when the creature's Image shall become the Likeness:           
(vl) 0076Giver-of-Life, translate for me           
(vl) 0077till I accomplish my corpse at last.