Sunday, January 20, 2008
"I'm sitting for the first time with a poet," she said, shuddering, as it were, within herself.
He said: “You have splendid hands, Fräulein---She thought: "A true poet -- !"
Then he said: "You're pale; you seem exhausted. You must never, never, never let yourself be awakened from sleep in the morning. Who wakes you up?!"
"Sleep is the true, perhaps only charitable gift we have of an otherwise hard and pitiless nature!"
She thought: "How he expresses himself- A true poet!',
Then he said: "I'd like to be a preacher-butjust for the sanctity of slee~like Jesus Christ was for universal things, and I-iebknecht and Tolstoy for others! The exalted prophet of the holy right of the human system to abundant self~nding sleep! Woe unto you, CTimina4 murderer, ~ stroye~; who awakes a person asleep whom nature has set about healing and liberating, and so disturbs and thwarts nature's holy plans!
"A mother who awakes her daughter from sleep is no mother!
"One thing should be holy to you-nature in her mystenous woi* of replenishing what the pitiless struggle of the day has wrenched from the exhausted organism! Amen."
The young woman thought: "A prophet; a fanatic - - - too bad!"
Later, he said to her: 'Woman!? Who earned this tide of honor?!? When I asked a girl what kind of rice is the noblest, she was struck dumb and didn't know what to say! A lady once said to me: "My dear sir, we always have the finest rice, isn't that so, laarl?! Not at all bad, wouldn't you say?!?" But she had no idea what distinguishes the "finest rice"!
The young woman thought: "A cook - -- too bad!"
Then she said: "Well, what distinguishes it?!?"
He: "Every kernel of rice should be perfectly translucent, like fine aia1)~'~tcr, with no dull or cloudy places. When you cook it, it should stay very soft and yet retain its complete shape, as if it were still hard and uncooked! Firm and tender at the same time. Like refined people."
She said quite sadly: "Must a 'woman' just be able to understand
"No," he said. "But rice, one of the finest, most tender, and most easily digestible foods, a source of warmth for its coldness, represents, one could say, the holy world of substitutes for lost energies! To help a man regain his strength, his stature, his passions, his highest functioning-to want to help him so, to be able to help him so-that is what it means to be a 'woman!'
A true woman!"
The young woman thought: "I don't understand that at all. A fool --- too bad!"
Then they spoke about the glass lemon squeezer, "Columbus's egg, as he called it. That is to say, he spoke, and she yawned inwardly, appreciative and knowing. "When you think of how it used to be in the old days, it's frightful. You could get a cramp in your thumb, and half the juice remained sitting in the lemon while the unnecessary seeds were in the glass. But now, with the glass lemon squeezer for 50 hellers, the juice flows like a clear brooklet into the lower groove while the useless seeds remain in the upper one. And the skin itself is dry on the inside like the Gobi Desert. Now a usurer and a floozy can really say: 'I squeezed him like a lemon!'"
The young girl's friends were terribly envious that the poet conversed with her aside so long and so intently.
One of them said: "What could they be talking about?! I have absolutely no idea."
Another said: "Maybe about Maeterlinck, or at the most still about Ibsen."
The third said: "About love!"
The fourth: "About adultery, of course."
But the youngest thought: "What difference does it make what you talk about with a poet- you're talking with a poet"
- Peter Altenberg
Peter Altenberg was born Richard Engländer in Vienna on March 9, 1859. Altenberg did most of his writing at coffeehouses. After Café Griensteidl closed down, his favorite coffeehouse became Café Central, where he spent most of his time. He mainly wrote short, seemingly spontaneous pieces, capturing the fleeting moment by using an impressionistic style of writing.Altenberg was never a commercially successful writer and could not make a living off of his books. As a result, he was constantly short of money, but somehow managed to seek out people who would support him financially. At the small town of Altenberg where his family would spend their vacations, he became acquainted with a girl nicknamed Peter whom he dearly loved. He finally decided to adopt her name as well as the name of the town where they used to meet. Altenberg, who never married, died January 8, 1919. He was 59 years old. He is buried at Central Cemetery in Vienna, Austria.