Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Noted: Ingeborg Bachmann

Also from Bachmann's novel, Malina (1971; translated from the German by Philip Boehm)
Of course men have always interested me, but that's precisely why they don't have to be liked, in fact I didn't like most of them, they always only fascinated me, just because of the thought: what's he going to do once he's finished biting my shoulder, what does he expect will happen next? Or else someone exposes his back on which, long before you, some woman once took her fingernails, her five claws, and left five stripes, forever visible, so you get completely upset or at least self-conscious, what are you supposed to do with this back, which constantly reminds you of some ecstatic moment or attack of pain, then what pain are you supposed to feel, what ecstasy? For the longest time I had no feelings at all, since during those years I was working on learning to reason. Nonetheless, like all other women I naturally always had men on my mind, for reasons mentioned earlier, and I'm sure that in turn the men gave very little thought to me, only after finishing work, or maybe on a day off.

Malina: No exception?
Me:      There was just one.
Malina: How was there just one exception?

That's simple. You only have to make someone unhappy enough, just by chance, for example, by not helping someone make up for some stupidity. Once you've really made someone miserable then he is bound to be thinking about you. However, most men usually make women unhappy, and there's no reciprocity, as our misfortune is natural, inevitable, stemming as it does from the disease of men, for whose sake women have to bear so much in mind, continually modifying what they have just learned—for, as a rule, if you have to constantly brood about somebody, and create feelings for him, then you will be unhappy. What's more, your misfortune will grow with time, it will double, triple, increase a hundredfold. But unhappiness can be avoided by finishing things every time after a few days. It's impossible to be unhappy, to cry over somebody unless he's already made you thoroughly unhappy. No one ever cries over a man after just a few hours, no matter how young or handsome, intelligent or kind. But half a year spent with a confirmed bigmouth, a notorious idiot, a repulsive weakling given to the stranger habits, that has broken even strong and rational women, driven them to suicide, just think if you will of Erna Zanetti, who on account of this lecturer in theater science—can you imagine, on account of a theatrical scientist!—is said to have swallowed forty sleeping pills, and I'm sure she's not the only one, he also got her to stop smoking, because he couldn't stand the smoke. I don't know whether she had to become a vegetarian or not, but I'm sure some other horrible things happened as well. Now instead of being glad that this idiot left her, instead of going out the next day and enjoying twenty cigarettes or eating whatever she wanted, like an idiot she tries to kill herself, she can't think of anything better since she's been thinking about him incessantly and suffering because of him for months, naturally also because of nicotine denial and all those lettuce and carrots. . . (pp. 179-181)

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