Reading Selections from Embers – Sándor Márai

June 15, 2011

Finally, there is no sense in investigating the details. But one has an obligation to seek out the essentials, the truth of things, because otherwise, why has one lived at all? Why has one endured these forty-one years?

This is a wonderful book that we had spoken of earlier. Now I can offer you some firsthand evidence in the form of reading selections. Some like The Old Nurse below here show the remarkable eye for detail that Marai possessed and that now comes to us in the form of memory.

His style in this novel is elegiac, the feel is that of a legend but the echo is that of myth, truths like the gospel stories that reach far beyond the events of the story. The Trip Home selection demonstrates this.

These characters are people who are frozen in time unable to escape the traumas of their past and subjected to what Eric Ormsby, in his review A Hungarian Novelist’s Literature of Fidelity called “corrosive remembrances.” In “Embers,” the General has been waiting for 41 years to confront the friend who has betrayed him. Here memory is a “caustic,” that “strips away the cozy lies and half-truths, the well-buffed legends, we concoct about ourselves.” It leaves the characters mercilessly aware of the sins and truths of their lives.

For Márai, who had “lost his faith” according to these literary historians, the world sits “on a black lake, motionless and mirror-sharp” and “no one knows its chasms.” Yet even despite himself and his nightmare visions, Márai creates an “unexpected nobility on his characters.” These are, after all, Maritain’s human persons – “their fixation on the past stands finally revealed not as a pathological symptom but as a rare fidelity to something essential in themselves, to some small but hard-won truth about their obscure lives that even time recovered cannot eradicate.

It is, as noted below in Details vs Essentials, there is no sense in investigating details. But one has an obligation to seek out the essentials, the truth of things, because otherwise, why has one lived at all? Why has one endured these forty-one years? the General asks himself.

The Old Nurse
“Sit down, Nini,” said the General.

The nurse sat down. In the last year she had become old. After reaching ninety, one ages differently from the way one aged at fifty or sixty: one ages without bitterness. Nini’s face was rose pink and crumpled — such is the way noble fabrics age, and centuries-old silks that hold woven in their threads the assembled skills and dreams of an entire family. The previous year she had developed a cataract in one eye, leaving it gray and sad. The other eye had remained blue, the timeless blue of a mountain lake in August, and it smiled. Nini was dressed as always in dark blue, dark-blue felt skirt, simple blouse. As if she hadn’t had any new clothes made in the last seventy-five years.

The Trip Home
It was autumn when they came home, almost a year later. The foreign lady sat deep inside the coach, swathed in veils and coverlets. They took the mountain route across Switzerland and the Tyrol. In Vienna they were received by the Emperor and Empress. The Emperor was benevolent, just the way he was always described in children’s textbooks. “Beware,” he said. “In the forest where he’s taking you, there are bears. He’s a bear too.” And he smiled. Everyone smiled. It was a sign of great favor that the Emperor should joke with the French wife of the Hungarian Officer of the Guards. “Majesty,” she replied, “I shall tame him with music, as Orpheus tamed the wild beast.”

They journeyed on through fruit-scented meadows and woods. After they crossed the frontier, mountains and cities dwindled away, and the lady began to weep. “Darling, I feel dizzy. There is no end to all of this.” It was the Puszta that made her dizzy, the deserted plain stretching away under the numbing, shimmering blanket of autumn air, now bare after the harvest, transected by primitive roads along which they jolted for hour after hour, while cranes wheeled in the empty sky and the fields of maize on either side lay plundered and broken as if a retreating army had passed through at the end of a war, leaving the landscape a wasteland.

The Officer of the Guards sat silently in the coach, his arms crossed. From time to time he ordered a horse to be brought, and he rode for long distances alongside the carriage, observing his native land as if he were seeing it for the first time. He looked at the low houses, with their green shutters and white verandas, where they spent the nights, Magyar houses with their thick-planted gardens all around them, the cool rooms in which every piece of furniture, even the smell in the cupboards, was familiar to him, and the landscape whose melancholy solitude moved him as never before. He saw with his wife’s eyes the wells with their hanging buckets, the parched fields, the rosy clouds above the plain in the sunset. His homeland opened itself before them, and with a beating heart the officer sensed that the landscape that now embraced them also held the secret of their fate. His wife sat in the coach and said nothing. Sometimes she raised a handkerchief to her face, and as she did so, her husband would bend down toward her out of the saddle and cast a questioning glanced into her tear-filled eyes. But with a gesture she signaled that they should continue. Their lives were joined together now.

“Vienna wasn’t just a city, it was a tone that either one carries forever in one’s soul or one does not. It was the most beautiful thing in my life. I was poor, but I was not alone, because I had a friend. And Vienna was like another friend. When it rained in the tropics, I always heard the voice of Vienna. And at other times too. Sometimes deep in the virgin forests I smelled the musty smell of the entrance hall in the house in Hietzing. Music and everything I loved was in the stones of Vienna, and in people’s glances and their behavior, the way pure feelings are part of one’s very heart. You know when the feelings stop hurting. Vienna in winter and spring. The allees in Schonbrunn. The blue light in the dormitory at the academy, the great white stairwell with the baroque statue. Mornings riding in the Prater. The mildew in the riding school. I remember all of it exactly, and I wanted to see it again,” he says softly, almost ashamed.

“And after forty-one years, what did you find?” the General asks again.

“A city,” says Konrad with a shrug. “Change.”

“Yes, you certainly experienced a great deal in the world out there. But it’s quickly forgotten.”

“No,” is the reply. “The world doesn’t count. One never forgets what is important. I learned that only later, when I was somewhat older. Nothing secondary remains — it gets thrown away along with one’s dreams. I have no memory of the regiment,” he says stubbornly. “For some time now all I remember is the essentials.”

“For example Vienna and this house, is that what you mean… .

“Vienna and this house,” the guest echoes mechanically. He stares straight ahead with eyes half-closed, blinking. “Memory has a wonderful way of separating the wheat from the chaff. There can be some great event, and ten, twenty years later one realizes that it had no effect on one whatsoever. And then one day, one remembers a hunt or a passage in a book or this room. Last time we sat here, there were three of us. Krisztina was alive. She sat there in that chair. These ornaments were on the table, too.”

“Yes,” says the General. “East was in front of you, South was in front of Krisztina, and West was in front of me.” “You remember it down to the details?” asks the guest, astonished.

“I remember everything.”

“Sometimes the details are extremely important. They link everything together into a whole, and bind all the ingredients of memory. I used to think about that sometimes in the tropics, when it rained. That rain!” he says, as if to change the subject. “For months on end, drumming on the tin roof like a machine gun. Steam comes up off the swamps and the rain is warm. Everything is damp, the bedclothes, your underwear, your books, the tobacco in its tin, the bread. Everything feels sticky and greasy.

You’re in your house, the Malays are singing. The woman you’ve taken to live with you sits motionless in a corner of the room and watches you. They can sit for hours like that, staring. At first you pay no attention. Then you start to feel nervous, and order them out of the room. But it doesn’t help: They go and sit somewhere else, you know, in another room and stare at you through the partitions. They have huge brown eyes like those Tibetan dogs, the ones that don’t bark, the most subservient animals in the whole world.

They look at you with those brilliant, quiet eyes, and no matter where you go, you feel that look pursuing you like some noxious ray. Scream at her and she smiles. Strike her and she smiles. Banish her and she sits on the threshold and looks in until she is called back. They are constantly having children, though nobody ever mentions this, least of all they themselves. It is as if you are sharing quarters with an animal, a murderess, a priestess, a magician and a fanatic all rolled into one. Over time it becomes exhausting; that look is so powerful that it wears down even the strongest man. It is as powerful as the touch of a hand, as if you were constantly being stroked. It drives you mad. Then that, too, begins to leave you indifferent.

It rains. You sit in your room, drink one schnapps after another, and smoke sweet tobacco. Sometimes a visitor comes, drinks schnapps, and smokes sweet tobacco. You would like to read, but somehow the rain gets into the book, too; not literally, and yet it really does, the letters are meaningless, and all you hear is the rain. You would like to play the piano, but the rain comes to sit alongside and play an accompaniment. And then dry weather returns, which is to say there is steam and bright light. People age quickly.”

Solitude And Faith
What’s even worse is if you take this upsurge of feeling, which has accumulated in your heart over so many lonely years and you push it back inside. And you don’t run. And you don’t kill anyone. And what do you do instead? You live, you maintain discipline. You live like a monk of some heathen worldly order. But it’s easy for a real monk, because he has his belief. A man who has signed away his soul and his fate to solitude is incapable of faith. He can only wait. For the day or the hour when he can talk about everything that forced him into solitude with the man or men who forced him into that condition. He prepares himself for that moment for ten or forty or forty-one years the way one prepares for a duel. He brings his affairs into order in case he dies in the duel. And he practices every day, as professional duelists do. And what weapon does he practice with? With his memories, so that he will not allow solitude and time to cloud his sight and weaken his heart and his soul. There is one duel in life, fought without sabers, that nonetheless is worth preparing for with all one’s strength. And it is the most dangerous. And one day the moment comes. What do you think?” he asks courteously.

“I quite agree,” says the guest, and looks at the ash of his cigar.

“I’m so glad you take the same view,” says the General. “The anticipation keeps one alive. Of course, it, too, has its limits, like everything in life. If I hadn’t known that you would come back one day, I would have probably set out myself to find you, in your house near London or in the tropics or in the bowels of hell. You know I would have come looking for you. Clearly one knows everything of real importance, and — you’re right — one knows it without benefit of radio or telephone. Here in my house I have no telephone, only the steward has one down in the office, nor do I have a radio, as I have forbidden any of the stupid, sordid daily noise of the outside world in the rooms where I make my home.

“The world holds no further threat for me. Some new world order may remove the way of life into which I was born and in which I have lived, forces of aggression may foment some revolution that will take both my freedom and my life. None of it matters. What matters is that I do not make any compromises with a world that I have judged and banished from my existence. Without the aid of any modern appliances, I knew that one day you would come to me again. I waited you out, because everything that is worth waiting for has its own season and its own logic. And now the moment has come.”

Guilt Does Not Reside In Our Acts But In The Intentions That Give Rise To Our Acts
“I am not quite certain,” says the General. “That is also why you’re here. It’s what we are discussing.” He leans back in his chair and crosses his arms calmly and with military precision. He says, “There is such a thing as factual truth. This and this happened. These things happened in this and this fashion and at this and this time. It isn’t hard to establish these things. The facts speak for themselves, as the saying goes; in the last years of our lives, facts confess themselves in ways that scream more loudly than a victim being tortured on the rack. By the end, everything has happened and the sum total is clear.

And yet, sometimes facts are no more than pitiful consequences, because guilt does not reside in our acts but in the intentions that give rise to our acts. Everything turns on our intentions. The great, ancient systems of religious law I have studied all know and preach this. A man may commit a disloyal or base act, even the worst, even murder, and yet remain blameless. The act does not constitute the whole truth, it is always and only a consequence, and if one day any of us has to become a judge and pronounce sentence, it is not enough for us to content ourselves with the facts in the police report, we also have to acquaint ourselves with motive.

The fact of your flight is easy to establish. But not your motive. Believe me, I have spent the last forty-one years turning over every possible reason for your incomprehensible act. No single examination of it led me to an answer. Only the truth can do that now.”

When The Act Of Killing Still Had A Symbolic And Religious Significance
“One evening our hosts invited Arab guests in our honor. Until then, their hospitality had been more or less in the European style; the owner of the house was both a judge and a dealer in contraband, one of the wealthiest men in the city. The guest rooms had English furniture, the bathtub was made of solid silver. But on this particular evening we saw something quite other. The guests arrived after sundown, only men, grand gentlemen with their servants. In the middle of the courtyard the fire was already lit, burning with that acrid smoke that comes from camel dung. Everyone sat down around it in silence. Krisztina was the only woman present. A lamb was brought, a white lamb, and our host took his knife and killed it with a movement I shall never forget … a movement like that is not something one learns, it is an Oriental movement straight out of the time when the act of killing still had a symbolic and religious significance, when it denoted sacrifice. That was how Abraham lifted the knife over Isaac when he was preparing to sacrifice him, that was the movement in the ancient temples when the sacrifice was made at the altar before the idols or the image of the godhead, and that was the movement that struck John the Baptist’s head from his body. . . it is utterly ancient. In the Orient it is innate to every man. Perhaps it is what first distinguished humans as a species, after the interval when they were part human, part animal…

“According to current wisdom, being human began with the opposable thumb, which made it possible to pick up a weapon or a tool. But perhaps being human begins with the soul and not the thumb. I don’t know…. The Arab slaughtered the lamb, and as he did so, this old man in his white burnous, which remained unspotted by blood, was like an oriental high priest performing the sacrifice. His eyes gleamed, for a moment he was young again, and all around him there was absolute silence. They sat around the fire, they watched the act of killing, the flash of the knife, the twitching of the lamb, the jet of blood, and their eyes gleamed also. And then I realized that these people are still intimately familiar with the act of killing, blood is something they know well, and the flash of the knife is as natural to them as the smile of a woman, or the rain. We understood — and I think Krisztina did, too, because at that moment she was seized with emotion, she blushed, then went white, breathed with difficulty, and turned her head away, as if she were witness to some passionate encounter — we understood that people in the East still retain their knowledge of the sacred symbolism of killing and its inner spiritual meaning. These dark, noble faces were all smiling, they pursed their lips and grinned in a kind of ecstasy as they watched, as if the killing were a warm, happy event, like an embrace. Curious, that in Hungarian our words for killing and embracing (Oles and oleles) echo and heighten each other.

“Well, of course we are westerners,” he says in another voice, sounding suddenly professional. “Westerners, or at least immigrants who settled here. For us, killing is a question of law and morality, or medicine, at any rate a sanctioned or prohibited act that is very precisely delineated within our system of thought. We kill, too, but in a more complicated way; we kill according to the dictates and authorization of the law. We kill to protect high principles and important human values, we kill to preserve the social order. It cannot be any other way.

We are Christians, we have a sense of guilt, we are the product of Western civilization. Our history, right up to the present, is filled with mass murder, but whenever we speak of killing, it is with eyes lowered and in tones of pious horror; we cannot do otherwise, it is our prescribed role. There is only the hunt,” he says, suddenly sounding almost happy. “Even then, we observe rules that are both chivalrous and practical, we protect the game according to the demands of the situation in any particular area, but the hunt is still a sacrifice, a distorted residue of what can still be recognized as a ritual that once formed part of a most ancient religious act. It is not true that the huntsman kills for the prize.

That has never been the case, not even in prehistoric times, when hunting was one of the few ways to obtain food. The hunt was always surrounded by religious tribal ritual. The good huntsman was always the leader of his tribe and also in some fashion a priest. Over the course of time, all that has naturally faded, but even in their faded form, the rituals are still with us. In my whole life I think I have loved nothing so much as the first light of dawn on the day of a hunt. You get up in darkness, you put on clothes quite different from those you wear every day, and clothes that have been selected for a purpose, in a lamplit room you eat a breakfast that is quite different from the usual breakfast: you fortify your heart with schnapps and eat a slice of cold meat with it.

I loved the smell of hunting clothes; the felt was impregnated with scents of the forest, the leaves, the air and blood, because you had hung the birds you had shot from your belt, and their blood had dirtied the jacket. But is blood dirty? … I don’t believe so. It is the most noble substance in the world, and in all eras the man who wished to say something inexpressibly grand to his God made a blood sacrifice.

And the oily, metallic smell of the gun. And the raw, sour smell of the leather. I loved all of it,” he says, sounding suddenly like an old man and almost ashamed, as if admitting to a weakness. “And then you step out of the house, your hunting comrades are already waiting, the sun isn’t up yet, the gamekeeper is holding the dogs on the lead and gives a murmured report on the events of the previous night. You take your place in the shooting brake, and it starts to move. The countryside is beginning to stir, the forest stretches and rubs its eyes sleepily. Everything smells so clean, as if you have entered another homeland that existed once before, at the beginning of the world.

The brake comes to a halt at the edge of the forest, you get out, your dog and your gamekeeper follow you silently. The wet leaves under the soles of your boots make almost no noise. The clearings are full of animal tracks. Now everything is coming to life around you. The light lifts and opens the roof of sky over the forest, as if the secret mechanism in the rigging-loft of a fairy-tale theater has begun to function.

Now the birds are beginning to sing and a deer crosses the forest path a long way ahead, about three hundred paces in front of you. You pull back into the undergrowth, and watch…. The animal stands still: it cannot see you, it cannot smell you because the wind is in your face, and yet it knows that its fate is awaiting it somewhere close. It lifts its head, turns its delicate neck, its body tenses, for a few moments it stands motionless, rooted to the spot, the way one can be paralyzed by the inevitable, absolutely helpless, because one knows that the menace is no accidental piece of bad luck but the necessary consequence of incalculable and incomprehensible circumstances.

Now you are already regretting that you are not carrying a cartridge pouch. You, too, stand frozen to the spot in the undergrowth; you, too, are bound inextricably to the moment; you, the huntsman. And you feel the tremor in your hands that is as old as man himself, you prepare for the kill and feel the forbidden joy, the strongest of all passions, the urge, neither good nor evil, that is part of all living creatures: the urge to be stronger, more skilled than your opponent, to preserve your concentration, to make no mistakes.

The leopard feels it as he tenses for the spring, the snake feels it as she rears to strike among the rocks, the falcon feels it in his plummeting dive, and a man feels it when he has his quarry in his sights. And you felt it, Konrad, perhaps for the first time in your life, when you shouldered your gun and took aim, intending to kill me.”

He bends over the little table that stands between them in front of the fireplace. He pours himself a sweet liqueur in a tiny glass and tests the surface of the crimson, syrupy liquid with the tip of his tongue, then, satisfied, sets the glass back down on the table again

Every Human Relationship Has A Tangible Core
The human night is filled with the crouching forms of dreams, desires, vanities, self-interest, mad love, envy, and the thirst for revenge, as the desert night conceals the puma, the hawk and the jackal. It is the moment when it is neither night nor day in man’s heart, because the wild beasts have slunk out of the hidden corners of our souls, and something rouses itself, transmits itself from mind to hand, something we thought we had tamed and trained to obedience over the course of years, decades even. In vain, we have lied to ourselves about the significance of this feeling, but it has proved stronger than all our intentions, indissolvable, unrelenting. Every human relationship has a tangible core, and we can think about it, analyze it all we want, it is unchangeable.

The truth is that for twenty-four years you have hated me with a burning passion akin to the fire of a great affair — even love. “You have hated me, and when any one emotion or passion occupies us entirely, the need for revenge crackles and glimmers among the flames that torment us. Passion has no footing in reason. Passion is indifferent to reciprocal emotion, it needs to express itself to the full, live itself to the very end, no matter if all it receives in return is kind feelings, courtesy, friendship, or mere patience. Every great passion is hopeless, if not it would be no passion at all but some cleverly calculated arrangement, an exchange of lukewarm interests.

You have hated me, and that makes for as strong a bond as if you had loved me. Why did you hate me? … I have had plenty of time to think about it. You have never accepted either money from me or presents, you never allowed our friendship to develop into a real relationship of brothers, and if I had not been so young back then, I would have known that this was a danger signal. Whoever refuses to accept a part wants the whole, wants everything.

You hated me as a child, from the very first moment we met at the academy, where the best our Empire had to offer were reared and educated; you hated me, because there was something in me that you lacked. What was it? What talent or quality? … You were always the better student, you were always unintentionally a chef d’oeuvre of diligence, goodness, and talent, for you possessed an instrument, in the true sense of that word, you had a secret — music. You were related to Chopin, you were proud and reserved.

“But deep inside you was a frantic longing to be something or someone other than you are. It is the greatest scourge a man can suffer, and the most painful. Life becomes bearable only when one has come to terms with who one is, both in one’s own eyes and in the eyes of the world. We all of us must come to terms with what and who we are, and recognize that this wisdom is not going to earn us any praise, that life is not going to pin a medal on us for recognizing and enduring our own vanity or egoism or baldness or our potbelly. No, the secret is that there’s no reward and we have to endure our characters and our natures as best we can, because no amount of experience or insight is going to rectify our deficiencies, our self-regard, or our cupidity. We have to learn that our desires do not find any real echo in the world. We have to accept that the people we love do not love us, or not in the way we hope. We have to accept betrayal and disloyalty, and, hardest of all, that someone is finer than we are in character or intelligence.

“Over the course of my seventy-five years here in the middle of the forest, I have learned this much. But you have not been able to accept it,” he says softly, definitively. Then he stops, and his eyes stare blindly into the half-darkness.

One Can Kill A Friend, But Death Itself Cannot Undo A Friendship
“Evidently there is no external power that can alter human relationships. You killed something inside me, you ruined my life, but we are still friends. And tonight, I am going to kill something inside you, and then I shall let you go back to London or to the tropics or to hell, and yet still you will be my friend. This too is something we both need to know before we talk about the hunt and everything that happened afterwards.

Friendship is no ideal state of mind; it is a law, and a strict one, on which the entire legal systems of great cultures were built. It reaches beyond personal desires and self-regard in men’s hearts, its grip is greater than that of sexual desire, and it is proof against disappointment, because it asks for nothing. One can kill a friend, but death itself cannot undo a friendship that reaches back to childhood; its memory lives on like some act of silent heroism, and indeed there is in friendship an element of ancient heroic feats, not the clash of swords and the rattle of sabers, but the selfless human act.

And as you raised the gun to kill me, our friendship was more alive than ever before in the twenty-four years we had known each other. One remembers such moments because they become part of the content and meaning of the rest of one’s life. And I remember.

The Shape of Fate
Outside, beyond the windows, the landscape and the town are invisible in the darkness; not a single lantern is burning in the night. “One can also shape what happens to one. One shapes it, summons it, takes hold of the inevitable. It’s the human condition. A man acts, even when he knows from the very onset that his act will be fatal. He and his fate are inseparable, they have a pact with each other that molds them both. It is not true that fate slips silently into our lives. It steps in through the door that we have opened, and we invite it to enter.

Perhaps this entire way of life which we have known since birth, this house, this dinner, even the words we have used this evening to discuss the questions of our lives, perhaps they all belong to the past. There’s too much tension, too much animosity, too much craving for revenge in us all. We look inside ourselves and what do we find? An animosity that time damped down for a while but now is bursting out again. So why should we expect anything else of our fellow men? And you and I, too, old and wise, at the end of our lives, we, too, want revenge…Against whom? Each other? Or against the memory of someone who is no longer with us? Pointless.

And yet it burns on in our hearts. Why should we expect better of the world, when it teems with unconscious desires and their all-too-deliberate consequences, and young men are bayoneting the hands of young men of other nations, and strangers are hacking each other’s backs to ribbons, and all laws and conventions have been voided and instinct rules, and the universe is on fire?..  

Revenge. I came back from a war in which I could have died, yet didn’t, because I was waiting for my opportunity to take revenge. `How?’ you may ask. `What kind of revenge?’ I can see from your face that you do not understand this need. `What revenge is still possible between two old men who are already waiting for death? Everyone is dead, what point is there in revenge?’ you seem to be saying. And this is my answer: Yes — revenge. That is what I have lived for, for forty-one years, that is why I neither killed myself nor allowed others to kill me, and that is why I have not killed anyone myself, thank heaven.

The time for revenge has come, just as I have wished for so long. My revenge is that you have come here across the world, through the war, over mine-infested seas, to the scene of the crime, to answer to me and to uncover the truth together. That is my revenge. And now you must answer.

I have thought a great deal about this too. Is the idea of fidelity not an appalling egoism and also as vain as most other human concerns? When we demand fidelity, are we wishing for the other person’s happiness? And if that person cannot be happy in the subtle prison of fidelity, do we really prove our love by demanding fidelity nonetheless? And if we do not love that person in a way that makes her happy, do we have the right to expect fidelity or any other sacrifice? Now, in my old age, I would not dare answer these questions as unequivocally as I would have done forty-one years ago, when Krisztina left me alone in your apartment, where she had been so often before me, where you had assembled all those objects in order to receive her, where two people close to me betrayed and deceived me so vulgarly, so ignominiously, and — as I realize now — with such banality. That is what happened.” His voice is indifferent, almost bored.

“And what people call `deceit,’ the sad and banal rebellion of a body against a situation and a third person — in retrospect is almost alarmingly a matter of indifference, almost the source of pity like a quarrel or an accident. I did not understand this back then. I stood in your secret apartment as if I were taking in the details of a crime, I stared at the furniture, the French bed…. When one is young and one’s own wife deceives one with the only friend who is closer than a brother, it is natural to feel that the world has crashed around one. It is inevitable, because jealousy, disappointment, and vanity are all excruciating. But it passes … not consciously, and not from one day to the next. Years later, the fury is still there — and yet finally it is over, just as life will be one day. I went back to the castle, to my room, and waited for Krisztina. I waited to kill her or to have her tell me the truth so that I could forgive her. I waited until evening, then I went to the hunting lodge, because she had not come. Which was perhaps childish…. Now, looking back, when I want to pass judgment on myself and others, I see this pride, this waiting, this departure, as somewhat childish. But that’s how things are, do you see, and neither reason nor experience can do much to change one’s stubborn nature. You, too, must know this now.

Details vs Essentials
Finally, there is no sense in investigating the details. But one has an obligation to seek out the essentials, the truth of things, because otherwise, why has one lived at all? Why has one endured these forty-one years?

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