Friday, June 09, 2017

An Alternative Translation of Die Billigesser by Thomas Bernhard

The Cheap-Eaters1


We seek the blueprint2 of the world.
We ourselves are this blueprint.
                                            Novalis
While taking the walk that he had been taking for the purposes of his studies every evening for weeks--and also routinely at about six in the morning for the preceding three days, a walk that passed through the Wertheimsteinpark, in which he said he had been able, owing to the ideal natural conditions prevailing in the Wertheimsteinpark, to return, after a rather long interval, from a completely worthless train of thought regarding his Physiognomy to a useful, indeed, ultimately uncommonly profitable one  and hence to a resumption of his work on his essay, which he had neglected for the longest imaginable time owing to his very real incapacity to concentrate; an essay on whose realization, he said, in the end depended a further essay, and on whose realization genuinely depended yet another essay, and on whose realization depended a fourth essay on physiognomy based on these three essays that unquestionably needed to be written; and an essay on which his future scientific work and consequently his future existence literally depended--all at once and all of a sudden, instead of walking to the old ash tree as usual he had walked to the old oak tree and thereby happened upon his so-called cheap-eaters, with whom he had eaten cheaply for many years on weekdays, and hence from Monday through Friday at the Vienna Public Kitchen and hence in the so-called VPK, and specifically the VPK in the Döblinger Hauptstrasse.  On the preceding days he had been able to go automatically to the old ash tree and not to the old oak tree, but all of a sudden he had not gone to the old ash tree, but rather to the old oak tree, for if he, said Koller, had gone to the old ash tree on the day in question, he possibly would not have happened upon the cheap-eaters, but rather upon something quite different, because no matter what, had he alighted upon a different walk than the one he had taken on that day, namely a walk leading to the old oak and not to the old ash, he would have happened upon a different subject, possibly even a diametrically opposite subject, upon a completely different one, he said, than the one he had happened upon, because he had taken that and no other walk, and hence happened upon the cheap-eaters on the day in question, because he had walked to the old oak tree and not to the old ash tree.  Something he initially had been obliged to regard as an inadmissible interruption of his concentrated, several-day-old renewed train of dedicated thought on physiognomy, his memory of the cheap-eaters whom he had forgotten about for so many years, and the train of thought resulting from this memory, the train of thought that was his suddenly all-consuming preoccupation with Einzig and Goldschmidt, Grill and Weninger had suddenly and literally unforeseeably proved to be not only useful for his Physiognomy, but even decisive for this work that he had been pursuing without interruption and intensively for nearly sixteen years and first and foremost possibly even fundamentally explicative of the essential points of this work.  The glimpse of the cheap-eaters that had initially seemed to him nothing but a barely excusable digression from his true calling, had suddenly become for him the exact opposite of that, namely a glimpse into the center of his Physiognomy, from which he had promised himself nothing less than the fulfillment of his calling in life.  At the same moment as he had suddenly been confronted by Messrs. Einzig and Goldschmidt, Grill and Weninger on his completely unexpected walk to the old oak tree and not to the old ash tree, and confronted by them with a much greater and literally more violent intensity than in reality, he had with the same suddenness begun to enjoy the possibility of continuing his work and hence his Physiognomy precisely at the point at which on the previous day it had seemed to have come to a standstill in defiance of his expectations.  Now, and specifically in instantaneous exploitation of this unexpected impulse, he, Koller, intended to make an attempt to write about the cheap-eaters under the title The Cheap-Eaters, and specifically as part of his already fairly extensive Physiognomy, and this attempt would be of foundational significance, of the greatest importance, for his Physiognomy.  His, Koller’s, gaze, had alighted on Messrs. Einzig and Goldschmidt, Grill, and Weniger in their capacity as The Cheap-Eaters at that moment, a moment that today he could readily term the decisive moment for his Physiognomy.  It had been years since he had last thought about the cheap-eaters and naturally it had not since then occurred to him for a moment that the cheap-eaters could ever be of the slightest value to his scientific work; if he had ever had such an idea, he doubtlessly would have drawn upon the cheap-eaters for his physiognomic reflections at a much earlier point in time, and so  Koller had instead pushed the cheap-eaters out of his consciousness like everything else that was inessential and irrelevant to his scientific work and ultimately had consequently forgotten them, now and specifically en route to the oak and not to the ash he was all the more compelled to be surprised that the cheap-eaters were affording him clarity on the subject of physiognomy.  Once again he, Koller, had experienced the confirmation of his conviction that the very notion of an accident was nonsensical and unthinkable, for it had of course been no accident that sixteen years earlier he had bumped into the cheap-eaters at the very moment of which he could say today that it had brought about the authentic and hence the decisive intellectual3 turn in his life and indeed precisely on the day on which he had been released from the Wilhelmine Hospital and had returned to his apartment in the Krottenbachstrasse a full seventeen weeks after the amputation of his leg, after he had definitively lost his leg thanks to what he termed the precisely fortunate as well as unfortunate dog-bite, and probably even better still, thanks assuredly, as he put it to me, to the incompetence of the doctors.  On that day, en route to the VPK and, as he precisely remembers, on the block of the Pyrkergasse containing the post office, he had for the first time happened upon the subject of physiognomy, even before he had subsequently, a couple of minutes later as he was entering the VPK, bumped into the cheap-eaters, and in the final analysis he owed his study of physiognomy exclusively to what I termed the great misfortune of his life, to the event that he too had often termed the great misfortune of his life when speaking with me, to the fact that on that to my mind unfortunate but to his mind often highly fortunate thirty-first of October the industrial glassmaker Weller’s dog had bitten his leg, which had led to that leg’s needing to be amputated and which had in turn led to Weller’s being obliged to pay him, in addition to the annuity that he was compelled to remit to him on the first of every month, the sum of two hundred thousand, which had brought him, Koller, who had originally been interested in a purely natural-science-oriented career in life, into contact with every possible philosophical idea and ultimately with physiognomy.  And so he owed his Physiognomy solely to the fact that on that fortunate/unfortunate thirty-first of October sixteen years ago he had gone into the Türkenschanzpark and not turned back prematurely, as well as to the fact that the industrial glassmaker Weller had gone into the Türkenschanzpark at the same point in time and that Weller’s dog had torn itself free of Weller’s leash and pounced on him, Koller, and bitten him.  If he, Koller, had not taken this walk into the Türkenschanzpark, if he had for example gone instead into the Wertheimsteinpark and if Weller had not gone into the Türkenschanzpark at the same point in time as Koller, for Weller had not always gone exclusively into the Türkenschanzpark either, but rather had very often, like Koller, gone into the Wertheimsteinpark and if Weller’s dog had not torn itself free of Weller’s leash at the exact moment at which he, Koller, had been walking past Weller, he, Koller, would of course never have happened upon all those philosophical ideas of his, which had preoccupied him for the last sixteen years, but above all not upon physiognomy, on which he had been principally concentrating for the past sixteen years. Quite apart from the fact that both of them, Weller and Koller, had been able to go into the Wertheimsteinpark and not into the Türkenschanzpark on the day in question.  He, Koller, said that on the day of his release from what he described as the hideous and perilous Wilhelmine Hospital he had had to go into the VPK in order to happen upon his Physiognomy and probably had had to run into the cheap-eaters for this purpose alone.  He, Koller, had always said he owed his Physiognomy to the industrial glassmaker Weller and to Weller’s dog and to all the causes and effects of being bitten by Weller’s dog and also most assuredly to the fact that upon his release from the Wilhelmine Hospital he had gone straight to the VPK and run into the cheap-eaters.   All the circumstances surrounding the dog-bite were the subject of an essay that he intended to write, an essay exclusively concentrated on this dog-bite.  But now he was concentrated solely on the cheap-eaters, who had quite spontaneously shifted themselves into the center of his Physiognomy.  It had been days since he had had nothing other than the cheap-eaters in his mind and now he was merely waiting for the moment when it would be possible for him to sit down and write The Cheap-Eaters.  Once he had written The Cheap-Eaters, he said, he would have written the most important chapter of his Physiognomy, which of course he had had in its entirety in his mind; only The Cheap-Eaters still eluded him.   Because on the very day of his release from the Wilhelmine Hospital he had not known where to go to eat, he had immediately and albeit in the understandably most difficult circumstances gone to the VPK and there he had run into the cheap-eaters.  Now, after having completely forgotten the cheap-eaters for such a long time, all of a sudden, because he had gone to the old oak and not the old ash, he had the cheap-eaters back in his mind and for several days straight since he had not been left in peace by the cheap-eaters in his mind.  All of a sudden as he had been on his way to the old oak the cheap-eaters had thrust themselves into his train of thought and had gradually attracted his entire train of thought to themselves and completely neutralized every other thought in his mind.  All of a sudden from then onwards his mind had been completely engrossed by the cheap-eaters owing to the fact that he had super-suddenly broken from his habit of walking to the old ash and had walked to the old oak.  How much I owe to the Wertheimsteinpark! he said, but naturally also to the Türkenschanzpark!, but naturally vis-à-vis the cheap-eaters and the physiognomy,  I owe everything to the Türkenschanzpark and the Wertheimsteinpark.  It had been years since he had last gone into the Türkenschanzpark, because with his prosthetic leg he had found it too difficult, at bottom literally impossible, to go there, because the Türkenschanzpark was sited much too high for somebody in his pitiful condition, whereas the Wertheimsteinpark was a perfectly ideal site for somebody in his pitiful condition.  For years he had fraternized with the cheap-eaters and had eaten cheaply with the cheap-eaters, had eaten more cheaply with the cheap-eaters than in any other setting and in point of fact in no other setting had he ever eaten both as cheaply and as well, for in the VPK he, Koller, had always eaten cheaply and well and in no other setting could he ever have eaten both more cheaply and better.  In point of fact, he owed to the VPK nothing less than the fact that he was still alive; nothing less, in point of fact, than the fact that I still exist! he had once exclaimed in my presence and nothing less than the fact that he had made it through so many appalling Viennese years and if he had to be grateful to anything in the world, he had to be grateful to the VPK, for without a doubt he owed the VPK his existence and that meant nothing more or less than his corporeal existence as well as his intellectual existence and above all his intellectual existence and the fact that he had made it to this day and this hour at all, as he said verbatim; to his mind that was hardly overestimating it; without the VPK and the conditions in the VPK he inevitably would have long since starved both corporeally and intellectually and would have long since ceased to exist altogether, not to mention the fact that, he said, in such circumstances as are making it possible for me to write this essay that I am now writing and hence to write an essay on physiognomy, I would certainly have gone under by the early fifties and gone to the dogs in this worst of all ages, from which I was rescued only thanks to the VPK; the VPK protected me from dying of hunger and thirst and snatched me out of the deepest pit of despair and I can without the slightest reservation and without further ado describe the VPK as a literal lifesaver and in the final analysis as the protectress of my life.  He had not the slightest reason to hold his peace about something he was reminded of virtually every single day of his life.  Quite apart from the fact that I happened upon the cheap-eaters in the VPK, so said Koller.  No sooner was he released from the Wilhelmine Hospital than he was in the VPK and had bumped into the cheap-eaters there; I can still remember the way I sounded as I addressed the cheap-eaters and asked their permission to take a seat at their table and they naturally had made room for me immediately, so said Koller.  It had been immediately clear to them that he, Koller, was the kind of person you immediately make room for, even if they had not immediately been able to recognize the direness of my condition, so said Koller, but merely that I had an artificial leg, that I had a prosthetic leg and that I was still not able to get around very well on my new prosthetic leg, as it would have been necessary to do in order to be less conspicuous or completely inconspicuous, but naturally I had attracted even the attention of the cheap-eaters thanks to my prosthetic leg, which in point of fact at the beginning and naturally on the first day after my release from the Wilhelmine Hospital I had not yet been able to maneuver properly and in the requisite inconspicuous manner, so said Koller; he had of course been released from the Wilhelmine Hospital first thing in the morning and had taken what he termed his first free steps into the VPK, for where should I, who had now once again found myself alone and helpless, have gone at the moment I felt hungry if not into the VPK.   The cheap-eaters had made room for him in the most agreeable and in point of fact the most courteous manner and invited him to sit down with the utmost respect and had made available to him the best spot at the table and the best chair, the so-called window spot and the so-called window chair.   He naturally had not expected so much readiness to help; he had not been prepared for that, but the cheap-eaters had been so courteous to me, so said Koller, that I had been unable to repress my surprise at it.  I had been confronted by the cheap-eaters for the first time in public after my release from the Wilhelmine Hospital and the cheap-eaters had been the first people with whom I had fallen into conversation outside the Wilhelmine Hospital, after they had let me sit down at their table, at their regulars’ table, so said Koller in so many words, which even then was said to have been their regulars’ table for ten years.  He then thought that many, many years earlier he had been at the VPK and had taken no notice of the cheap-eaters because they had not attracted his notice and had not seemed important enough for him to pay attention to, but now, upon his return to the VPK, they had immediately attracted his notice.  He could have taken a seat at a row of other tables; several other spots had been free, as he had observed immediately upon entering the VPK, but he had immediately and without hesitation headed for the cheap-eaters’ table; I had, so said Koller, been attracted to the cheap-eaters instantaneously and indeed while still standing at the door; I had had no choice but to go to their table, to no other, it had seemed obvious that I had to go to that table and to no other; the cheap-eaters’ table had seemed to me to be the most suitable one for me at that moment, whereas as I had immediately gotten the impression that all the other tables were unsuitable for my situation at that moment, the most difficult situation imaginable, so said Koller, I shall sit down at this and at no other table, I thought, and he had decisively gone to the cheap-eaters’ table and had sat down at the cheap-eaters’ table.  He had been drawn to the cheap-eaters because he knew that he could expect them, in contrast to everybody else in the VPK, to be sympathetic to his situation from the outset, and he had seen this immediately, because he had gotten the impression that they, if he sat down at their table, would leave him in peace, which in point of fact had been an apt surmise on his part, for they had in point of fact left him in peace, even if they had taken a close and inquisitive look at the prosthetic leg that was only clumsily veiled and hence concealed by his long trousers, and had formed some thoughts about this leg, as Koller had naturally noticed straight-away.  But their curiosity, said Koller, had not been of that otherwise pandemic, squalid, and repulsive sort by which people like him are universally and incessantly confronted and to and by which they are abandoned and abused in the most shameless fashion.  Never before had he—who until his release from the Wilhelmine Hospital had of course been lodged exclusively among others of his kind and had therefore naturally moved about in the most inconspicuous fashion—taken cognizance, as he was now doing for the first time upon reentering the VPK, of the fact that he was now a cripple or of what it meant to be a cripple.  The public had reacted to this fact and hence to his prosthetic leg in the vilest manner, in that they had reacted in the way in which they reacted to cripples throughout the ages, and the way in which they react to cripples is well-known, so said Koller.  But he could not have bumped into a better first group of people to bump into than the cheap-eaters, so said Koller.  During this first encounter with the cheap-eaters he had not yet had to explain anything regarding his crippled condition or his existence in general, so said Koller, because they had given him absolutely no occasion for such an explanation; as they were eating and during their eating they had naturally observed him incessantly and above all observed his prosthetic leg and all the while that they were eating and not saying a word they had subjected him to a quite thorough and by no means squeamish inspection; they had not asked him a thing and to the contrary had ultimately let him eat his entire meal, his first meal as a free man, and had left him in peace, so that even before the end of that meal he had been able to resolve to sit at their table again during his next VPK visit, and hence as soon as the following day at the same time, towards twelve noon; even before the end of that meal, which owing to the adverse circumstance of his crippling injury was naturally quite protracted, he had already opted for the cheap-eaters’ table for the future.  He, Koller, had already made friends with the cheap-eaters, even if at first merely privately and on his own.  Naturally, so Koller said, everything could have taken an entirely different course if I had not sat down at the cheap-eaters’ table, but of course I had sat down at the cheap-eaters table and at no other.  Already from the door the cheap eaters’ table had immediately struck him as the only possible table for him; that the cheap-eaters’ table was the most suitable table for him, he, Koller, had confirmed to his satisfaction very soon after having more closely inspected the cheap-eaters sitting at the cheap-eaters’ table.  But even before he had been able to conduct a proper physiognomic inspection of the cheap-eaters, he had already resolved to take a seat at the cheap-eaters’ table, under whatever circumstances, so said Koller; he would have taken a seat at the cheap-eaters’ table even if the cheap-eaters had by no means invited him to take a seat at their table; he had entered the VPK irrevocably resolved to take a seat at the cheap-eaters’ table.  At this point in time he could not have had the foggiest notion of the cheap-eaters, for at the moment of his entrance into the VPK, an entrance that in point of fact nobody apart from a kitchen worker had taken any notice of, he had seen the cheap-eaters for the very first time, for nine or ten years earlier when he had last been in the VPK and when the cheap-eaters had also already begun frequenting the VPK, he had taken absolutely no notice of the cheap-eaters and for this reason also could not remember them now.  Just as the cheap-eaters had not become aware of him until this point in time.  But in a downright compulsive manner he had been attracted to the four men at the corner table and hence to the cheap-eaters and they doubtlessly had eased his reentrance into the VPK; thanks to their advanced age and their comportment, a comportment bespeaking a high degree of intelligence, they had most certainly saved him from what would have been for him a so-called humiliating ordeal, while they had refrained from making the faintest trace of a sensation out of his entrance with his prosthetic leg.  Immediately upon entering the VPK he had doubtlessly placed his trust in the cheap-eaters and this placement of trust in the cheap-eaters had not been belied; when he had sat down at their table they had behaved as he had expected them to behave.  Doubtlessly while entering the VPK he must have made an awkward and pitiful, possibly in point of fact, as he believed, a ridiculous, indeed a repellently-ridiculous impression, albeit only on the kitchen worker, the only person who saw him as he was entering and who also in point of fact had recognized him and who naturally had also been immediately taken aback by him, for the kitchen worker had doubtlessly realized that after such a long time Koller had now entered the VPK a different person than earlier and hence than before his amputation and the kitchen worker had also immediately directed his undivided attention to Koller’s prosthetic leg, so said Koller, for the kitchen worker had been standing at the serving counter facing the entrance door and must have seen Koller as he was entering the VPK and he also must have immediately noticed a change in Koller, but initially he would not have been able to describe this change to himself; in the interval, so the kitchen worker must have thought while observing Koller, something about Koller had changed, but what had changed had not immediately been clear to him; it had become clear to him only at the moment when he had directed his gaze at Koller’s leg and more particularly at his left leg, his prosthetic leg.  The kitchen worker had nodded to Koller, once Koller had entered the VPK and was standing at the door, curtly nodded to him and nodded in such a way, according to Koller, that Koller had immediately gotten the feeling that the kitchen worker must have realized that something about Koller had changed in the interval and naturally the kitchen worker on account of his youth and high degree of attentiveness had been able to discern straight-away what about Koller had changed, because he had seen the prosthetic leg, setting completely aside the crutches that Koller had admittedly dragged behind him into the VPK, such that one had initially been unable to see them.  But immediately after the kitchen worker had nodded to him, Koller had taken a couple of steps towards the center of the VPK, and then the kitchen worker had clearly discerned that Koller was now reentering the VPK with the help of a prosthetic leg and the kitchen worker thereupon directed his attention to the floor and thus to Koller’s prosthetic leg and kept his observant gaze fixed on it as long as possible, until the moment when Koller through a slight wave of his right crutch had given him to understand that he could do without such an intensive and ruthless and loutish observation of his prosthetic leg and hence of his wretchedness.  But this long and intensive observation on the part of the kitchen worker had not surprised him, Koller, because of course the kitchen worker had still retained the memory of a Koller with two healthy legs; upon Koller’s more or less abrupt appearance he must have been appalled by Koller’s alteration and hence by Koller’s prosthetic leg, quite absorbed for some time by this horrifying new aspect to Koller, for formerly when Koller had entered the VPK, he had entered the VPK very buoyantly and briskly, strikingly briskly, whereas now he had entered the VPK in a truly appalling and pitiful fashion; only months earlier he had been completely healthy and not in the least bit physically infirm, but now, so said Koller himself, he had been physically infirm in the most horrifying and the most ridiculous and repulsive manner possible.  The kitchen worker had registered Koller’s entrance into the VPK instantaneously and with the keen quick-wittedness of his age; he alone had registered it, as Koller had immediately perceived, and this naturally had pleased Koller, for in the street in front of the VPK he had been worried about his entrance into the VPK, worried, specifically, that the people in the VPK would immediately recognize that he was a cripple and stare at him and then keep their perfidious eyes glued on him for a long time, that they would make his VPK homecoming into a nightmare for him, but as a result of the fact that everybody in the VPK, the kitchen worker excepted, had directed their undivided attention to the serving counter facing the entrance door—where literally dozens of servings of food were being apportioned, which means, so said Koller, that the very instant at which I entered the VPK the soup was being apportioned—this had not been the case; in point of fact Koller had been able to enter the VPK completely unobserved and therefore completely undisturbed by the VPK customers, who naturally had been completely concentrating on the soup being apportioned, and he had been spared the dreaded nightmare of his reentrance into the VPK.  But no sooner had he directed his steps, and directed them as quickly as he possibly could, to the cheap-eaters’ table and, as mentioned before, behind the backs of the VPK customers, albeit also in front of the eyes of the kitchen worker, than he was detected by the cheap-eaters, who were being provided with soup at that instant, and quite literally even before he had asked them if he could do so, he had been invited to take a seat at their table; with the utmost obligingness the cheap-eaters had invited him, Koller, to sit down at their table, had leapt up from their chairs and had made room for him, while they had automatically closed ranks and as if self-evidently had let him seat himself at the best place at their table.  The circumstantiality entailed by his seating had naturally wrested from the cheap-eaters a series of polite expressions, but he, Koller, had refrained from acknowledging them; he had sat down and extended his prosthetic leg as far as possible and consequently, after the walk from the Krottenbachstrasse to the VPK in the Döblinger Hauptstrasse, a walk much too long for his condition, he had been able to relax, as he had also leaned far back and then brought the prosthetic leg into a suitable resting position, which naturally had wrested even greater interest in his injury from the cheap-eaters and must have caused them to observe his prosthetic leg even more emphatically as with both hands he had been making the attempt to lean the crutches against the wall behind him, which he had naturally not succeeded in doing; out of sheer worry that the crutches might fall down and hence fall to the floor, he had leant the crutches against the wall just carelessly enough to make them fall back down immediately, which in turn had prompted all four cheap-eaters to leap up from the table at the same time in order to pick the crutches up from the floor for him, Koller, and to lean them against the wall, which naturally must have attracted the attention of all those present in the VPK, and which they, the cheap-eaters, because they had all so quickly and injudiciously pounced on Koller’s crutches, had not immediately succeeded in doing; several times they, the cheap-eaters, had tried to do so, and after each and every one of these attempts Koller’s crutches had fallen down again, which ultimately must have attracted the greatest degree of attention from the entire VPK, and amid much loud and admittedly unintelligible shouting, the cheap-eaters had been obliged to bend down over and over again in order to lift up Koller’s crutches and lean them against the wall for him, as they had succeeded in doing only after some time had passed, not without their characteristic wanton fussiness, so said Koller; in their complete exhaustion, they had kept their hands on his crutches until finally his crutches had been leaning firmly against the wall and they had been able to sit back down.  While they had been busying themselves with his crutches, he had found it possible, in all calmness, as he had explicitly said, to observe the cheap-eaters carefully and first and foremost submit their physiognomies to a preliminary albeit penetrating inspection, to scrutinize those physiognomies, which at first he had been more or less unable to distinguish in the culinary haze of the VPK.  He, Koller, had introduced himself to the cheap-eaters and the cheap-eaters had introduced themselves to him, even if at the very moment of their self-introduction he had already forgotten their names.  He said he didn’t remember names, had never remembered names.  Owing to the cheap-eaters’ repeated and, as Koller explicitly said, hectic bending over to pick up his crutches the cheap-eaters had become completely winded, and it was only after a fair amount of time that they had managed to calm down.  All the while that the main course was already being placed on their table, they had spooned up their soup with a sluggishness that had been induced by the incident precipitated by him, Koller—by the fact that his crutches had fallen to the floor and they had had to pick them up—and had gazed down into their soup bowls, without glancing up at him, Koller, so much as a single time.  He had then had all the more time to study their physiognomies, and already during this first episode of contact with the cheap-eaters he had recognized the importance of this encounter with them for his physiognomy.  Doubtlessly, and this had been his first thought, they had always specialized in always eating the cheapest food at the VPK, and with this thought in mind he had also already nicknamed these people at the corner table the cheap-eaters, as if this nickname had been a completely obvious one, and thus from the very beginning they had always been the cheap-eaters for him; they had always eaten the cheapest food that had ever been served at the VPK; he, Koller, had not been mistaken; as long as he had been frequenting the VPK he had always as a matter of principle eaten the very cheapest VPK food, and they, just like him, had never under any circumstances selected any but the cheapest category of food on the menu, although at the VPK it had always been within their general discretion to select among four categories of food; he had already acquired this intuition of the uninterrupted concentration of the cheap-eaters on the cheapest food in the VPK even before he had sat down at the cheap-eaters’ table; he had already immediately been able to glean that for his purposes first from the cheap-eaters’ bodily comportment and bodily movement; then later also from their intellectual comportment and intellectual movement, he had gleaned that they were born and personified cheap-eaters just as he had always been a born and personified cheap-eater.  Time and again he had identified their physiognomies as the physiognomies of born and personified cheap-eaters.  The cheap-eaters had not only usually but actually always selected the cheapest and hence the first category of food, never the second or the third, let alone the fourth; they would have been absolutely incapable of doing that, so said Koller.  It was only because he like them had been a so-called consistent cheap-eater that he had finally and ultimately been able to prevent them from driving him away from their table and hence from the cheap-eaters’ table one fine day.  But from the beginning he had already met the qualification—and hence obtained authorization—to sit at their table and hence at the cheap-eaters’ table, inasmuch as in their eyes he himself had been a manifestly dyed-in-the-wool cheap-eater, something of which they must at bottom have been convinced even in the absence of any further comportmental down-payments from him.  Probably, so said Koller, the cheap-eaters had spontaneously recognized that he himself as well as they figured among the cheap-eaters and for this reason and primarily solely for this reason and possibly secondarily on account of his crippledness and hence for what he, Koller, called sanitary reasons, they had made room for him at their table and so to speak in the midst.  To be sure, though, so said Koller, he had at first allowed himself to sit at their table only provisionally, even though they had immediately firmly established that he like they figured among the cheap-eaters, that he like they numbered among those people who eat cheaply as a matter of principle and who as a matter of principle set great store by a cheap meal, which does not mean that these people eat less well than others, to the contrary.   Cheap-eaters are cheap-eaters by conviction, so said Koller, by nature, and the cheap-eaters at the VPK naturally would not have tolerated anybody other than a cheap-eater like themselves at their table.  As he had been taking his seat at their table, he had immediately had the feeling that he would be sitting at their table not only on this day, but rather at least for a while, even if he could not then have known that he would be eating at their table for so many years.  The place at the table that he had taken on that day had immediately been contemplated by him, Koller, as a permanent place and immediately been taken possession of by him as a permanent place.  Without a doubt, so said Koller, I had captured a permanent place.  A further point in the cheap-eaters’ favor that had been palpable from the very beginning had been the fact that from the outset they had evinced no sympathy with him, Koller, but merely interest in him, for he detested sympathy, whereas he had had no objection to interest.  Instinctively the cheap-eaters had already assigned a task to him at the moment he had been taking a seat at their table, even if he could not have known what sort of task it was.  In the expressions on all four of the cheap-eaters’ faces it had been plain to see, said Koller, that they had been in need of somebody like him at their table, that at minimum a so-called acquisition and welcome change was taking a seat at their table as he had been taking a seat at their table.  Possibly, said Koller, at the moment of his reentrance into the VPK they had arrived at a terminal point of their VPK existence and had long been waiting for something new at their table, for something that would regenerate them and possibly for an apparition and hence for a person like Koller, who, on account of his external appearance and on account of the internal state only very scantily concealed by this external appearance, had naturally brought something new to their table, something which, whatever it might have been, had obviously been eagerly awaited by them and had therefore been very agreeable to them.  It had not been for nothing that upon seeing him, Koller, they had leapt up to make room for him absolutely ungrudgingly, and their efforts to set right his crutches had not been unmotivated either, and it would be a mistake to attribute their behavior solely to his crippledness and to the fact that he had to walk with a prosthetic leg and hence to his obvious helplessness.  Probably, said Koller, they had been waiting for days, if not for weeks, for such a moment, a moment when a person extremely agreeable to them would enter the VPK and sit down at their table of all tables, waiting for such a person naturally acceptable to them, for a VPK-guest capable of rescuing them from their long prolonged monotony and lethargy and in the light of their agedness a cripple and a cheap-eater like themselves must have been just perfect for them.  He, Koller, was not mistaken, when he maintained that the cheap-eaters had been waiting for him; even if they had known nothing about him, could have known nothing about him, they had been prepared for him for the longest time; he, Koller, didn’t think that it was an absurd idea; he had immediately observed it in their physiognomies.  Regarded in that light the fact that he had taken a seat at their table on the day on which he had been released from the Wilhelmine Hospital had been no accident for the cheap-eaters either.  The empty place at the cheap-eaters’ table, said Koller, had been empty for years, because the cheap-eaters had always rejected and repelled every attempt by any party whatsoever to capture this place, and in the end, by dint of exploiting all the privileges and hence instruments of power that they had accumulated over time and that by then had really been very potent, they had managed to keep this place empty for four, five years, to keep it empty for him, Koller, and for no other person, as he had long merely believed and as he now knew, and he would even go so far as to maintain that throughout all four or five of those years the cheap-eaters had been waiting for nothing other than for him, Koller, to enter the VPK and capture from them that free place that they had been defending, but throughout those four, five years, they naturally must have been waiting out all the incidents and occurrences and hence transformations impinging on him, waiting until he and they had been ready for him to take a seat at their table.  Naturally the cheap-eaters had not acknowledged him as the fifth cheap-eater at the very first instant; he had first been obliged gradually to prove himself as a cheap-eater worthy of their company.  I was astonished by the acuity of recollection with which he had been capable of confiding, or, rather, as he described it, adumbrating to me alone his reentry into the VPK in the Döblinger Hauptstrasse, for after all, this reentry into the VPK had taken place more than sixteen years earlier, even if thanks to his so-called physiognomic studies he must have had especially keen powers of recollection and above all vis-à-vis the facts pertaining to physiognomy and to an even much greater extent he must have remembered the noteworthy characteristics of the persons and personalities he was thus confidingly adumbrating, along with their immediate and intermediate interrelations.  And the attempt that I am making here can in turn merely consist in recollecting his recollections thereof, in adumbrating his adumbration.  I had of course spent a great deal of time with him recently and in this recent period more than anything he had spoken about the cheap-eaters and about how important the cheap-eaters had been for his physiognomy, in which he had made considerable progress; exactly how considerable he had not confided to me.  But more than anything he had spoken about the cheap-eaters, to whom he intended to devote an entire chapter of his physiognomy; and this is naturally what has now prompted me to write specifically about the cheap-eaters, whom I personally have never even met and of whom I have only caught a single brief glimpse, to make this attempt for the sole purpose of once again making Koller’s confidences clear in my mind, in other words, of recollecting his recollections once again, something that I now find it temporarily and literally undisturbedly possible to do.  Several times he had quite insistently explained to me the incident, the incident that had been so decisive for him and for his physiognomy, namely his having gone to the old oak instead of the old ash on that particular day in the Wertheimsteinpark, in which I had very often accompanied him last year, because my interest in his observations had been constantly increasing; he had explained this incident to me in his characteristic unvaryingly not quite philosophical and yet extremely philosophical manner and with the distinctive mathematical thoroughness that he had acquired in the course of time, as of course it had always seemed to me in his presence as if throughout the last few years he had been working out a mathematical idea, an idea against which he had been pitting himself constantly and literally incessantly in connection with each and every thing and in all objective respects; in any case, I almost always got the impression that everything that seemed to be passing through his mind was in his view never solvable or decipherable by any but mathematical means.  The fact that thanks to being bitten by Weller’s dog he had been wrested out of what had thitherto probably been even by his standards a rigidly prescribed lifelong career path, and had been condemned for a relatively long time to physical inactivity, must have automatically and in point of fact utterly logically maneuvered him into a more and more philosophical train of thought, initially via the detour of a period of philosophical speculation, naturally, speculation that at the moment in which he must have regarded his crippled incapacitation as conclusive had naturally turned into philosophy proper, and consequently into the mathematical solution to this philosophy of his, without his having become mentally aware of this sequence of events in all its intraconnectedness.  Invariably when I had accompanied him into the Wertheimsteinpark in recent days, he found it impossible in the vicinity of the old ash or in the vicinity of the old oak not to mention once again that on that day in question he had for whatever reason gone not to the old ash but rather to the old oak, as in his view in the end and ultimately everything that had been destined to ensue from this decision had been founded on this incident, as he invariably and repeatedly ascribed everything that later eventuated to this incident, and it had always seemed to me as though his entire train of thought could be divided between a part before the incident, the fact that he had all of a sudden gone to the old oak and not to the old ash, and a part after this incident, which he himself had kept saying in so many words and which the first time had really irritated me a great deal, which had finally and ultimately disturbed me but eventually no longer disturbed me in the slightest, because it had all of a sudden became plausible even to me with reference to him.  Before the incident, he had very often said and presupposed that I knew which incident he was talking about, he had been in this or that condition, after the incident in this or that one, as he had above all said that his train of thought before the incident had been a completely different train of thought than after the incident, which had probably been the overall most important incident in his life, as I had more and more distinctly seen and had perceived and could not but have perceived.  All the threads, all the interconnections in his mind had therefore been brought into contact with one another as the center of his body of thought in the Wertheimsteinpark; everything within him was founded on it, I think.  From the moment of the incident the Wertheimsteinpark had been the absolute control center of his body of thought, regardless of where he had happened to be at any point in time after the incident.  He had once intimated to me that after the incident it had even become inconceivable for him to dream without the Wertheimsteinpark and that all his dreams had led back to the Wertheimsteinpark; naturally he had quite often doubted the actuality of this phenomenon, but he had always repeatedly alighted on this phenomenon as an actuality whenever he had taken the trouble to pursue one of these dreams; inasmuch as no matter what subject he had been pursuing he had always been able to trace this subject back to the incident in the Wertheimsteinpark; over time he had come to find it an obvious move to pursue any subject of any importance and to trace it quite infallibly back to the Wertheimsteinpark.  Naturally this procedure that for all its possible craziness had very probably acuminated his thought, this procedure of reducing everything to a rational residue and starting out by tracing it back to the Wertheimsteinpark and thereby actually clarifying it for the first time, must have stood his scientific work in good stead and he himself was conscious of the utility of his practice, for the progress his train of thought had consequently made, the considerable progress he had made in recent years thanks to this possibly absurd method, had been immediately discernable in his utterances.  In this fashion the conversations and general talk that I had engaged in with him reached a very high level of difficulty but for that very reason had been all the more refreshing.  Granted, any outsider who had come into immediate contact with him could not but have believed he was dealing with a full-blown lunatic and I myself had for a long time been unable to shake this impression, but my years of fraternization with him and with his body of thought disabused me of it.  All of a sudden I could not but feel ashamed of my doubts.  After a certain point in time that is now no longer ascertainable, my eyes had been opened; I had needed to become his apprentice, not vice-versa, as I had believed for far too long.  The incident had set him free and from the moment of the incident onwards he had been able to get his own way and to reckon with his intellectual success, as he termed it.  For a long time I had believed that I was the one from whom he was profiting so much, who was helpful to him in his helplessness in every respect and an indispensable prop to him, until I had realized that our relationship had been of a diametrically opposite kind, for in truth he had always been much more useful to me than I to him, at least in what he termed intellectual matters.  But these pages are no place for broader and more extensive elucidation of this relationship.  For me it had always been immensely interesting to observe him as he managed to proceed more clearly and more uncircumstantially in his body of thought from day to day and from object to object, as by means of his personally unique method he had managed incessantly and with the greatest probity and at the same time the greatest ruthlessness to derive his profit from this body of thought of his.  And to observe that such a manner of proceeding had been possible for a man who had not exactly been mollycoddled by nature.  If I have ever marveled at anything, it has been the intellectual comportment of this man, who, out of the two possibilities that had been available to him after the dog-bite and after the amputation of his leg, namely, on the one hand, to give up, and on the other, to squeeze the greatest possible amount of intellectual capital out of his misfortune, had opted for the second possibility, for squeezing out the intellectual capital.  Of course as far as nature goes and hence as far as the misfortune occasioned by her goes, we hear of almost nothing but disfigured creatures who have resigned themselves to their misfortune and of only the puniest of nature’s creatures, of whom we can say that their misfortune has led them along in a triumphal procession, a procession in triumph over the intellect—so he, Koller, said at one point.  In Koller I had gradually managed to study a human being in and with respect to whom an ever-growing and utterly exclusive interest in thought had been discernable.  It must be said that fraternizing with such a person over the long term is impossible.  We can get close to such a person, but if we come into contact with him we will be repelled.  Such a person quite simply has no patience for us and repels us.  Whence the complete self-evidence of the fact that these people who are preoccupied with their thoughts and who in point of fact exist only through their thoughts gradually descend into total isolation, in which they think their train of thought and intensify it and ignore everything but this train of thought of theirs until they are overwhelmed and asphyxiated and annihilated by this passion.  We are familiar with the examples.  Koller practiced such a lethal method of proceeding.  In the end everything within him and having to do with him was no longer anything but thought and intolerability.  I got close to him but he repelled me; I kept getting close to him, he kept repelling me.  But enough about that.  Basically at least from the moment of that incident, the incident of the dog-bite, onwards, he had divided the vital matter that was necessary to him into what was useful and what was useless, into what was useful to his mind and to his train of thought and what was useless to his mind and to his train of thought and had not let anything useless into his brain.  From the moment of this incident onwards he had experienced no other mechanism of life-fashioning.  His crippling injury had given him the competence requisite to the incessant and uninterrupted and lifelong exercise of this mechanism; nature in the form of Weller’s dog had put him into a position to transform the misfortune of the dog-bite into his good fortune and into his sole intellectual object and simultaneously into his intellectual cosmos and hence into his intellectual triumph—so he said.  Before this incident he had always repelled me, who had attended the same school in the Gymnasiumstrasse that he had attended; after this incident he had always attracted me, whereas he had been repelled by me.  Now, after this incident, he conceded that I could not say that I was exploiting him.  He now had no intention of parting from me.  Now, even though this incident had not always been the incident in his view, even though he had managed to recognize it as the incident only much later, beginning immediately after the incident he had been in possession of those possibilities, possibilities that I had enjoyed neither before nor after this incident, in possession of all those intellectual possibilities adequate to him.  The dog-bite had disclosed, patently disclosed, to him and hence to his body of thought all those possibilities that had been closed to it up until then.  Now he naturally wanted to possess nothing but this body of thought and expand this body of thought to its utmost limits for his own purposes.  And precisely at these utmost limits (of his body of thought) he had also ultimately and at the decisive moment been confronted by the incident, to which all other preceding incidents inclusive of what had up until then been for him the most important of incidents, namely the biting of his left leg by Weller’s dog, had been related, namely his walk to the oak and not to the ash precisely at the moment that in point of fact had then also been the intellectually decisive moment.  The moment, namely, in which he had come upon the cheap-eaters, come upon and then literally come into the center of the Physiognomy that he thenceforth ceased to refer to as his life’s work and began referring to exclusively as his life’s mission.  I myself had always been a VPK-frequenter, but never a full-fledged cheap-eater, because I had not regularly eaten cheaply and never eaten cheaply as a matter of principle, not even at the VPK and I had never had any right whatsoever to call myself a cheap-eater, and whenever I had gone to the VPK I had always gone to the VPK in the Herrengasse and never to the VPK in the Döblinger Hauptstrasse, because it had always been too inconvenient to go to the VPK in the Döblinger Hauptstrasse but I had always found it easy and completely convenient to frequent the VPK in the Herrengasse, because I had always spent more time in the Innere Stadt and not in the nineteenth district in contrast to Koller, who on account of his crippling injury had almost never gone into the Innere Stadt, and had spent his time almost exclusively in the nineteenth district, which, however, does not mean that I had ever felt a jot more at home anywhere but in the nineteenth district than he had; both of us had throughout our lives felt at home in the nineteenth district, and of course whenever I am asked whether I feel at home in it, I immediately and self-evidently reply that if there is anywhere in the world in which I feel at home it is the nineteenth district, with which I am more familiar than with any other and there is literally scarcely a single place in the nineteenth district, be it ever so unknown, with which I am unacquainted and I am familiar with almost everything in the nineteenth district and the nineteenth district has always been my favorite district; Koller, too, had always maintained that the nineteenth district and no other was his favorite district, even though of course in contrast to me he had arrived in the nineteenth district much later than me, had arrived in it only upon his matriculation at the high school in the Gymnasiumstrasse, where I made Koller’s acquaintance.  Technically speaking, I had made Koller’s acquaintance not at the high school, but rather at the pharmacy in the Hasenauerstrasse, where I had gone to pick up some medication that had been prescribed for my chronic sore throat; admittedly we had both been en route to the school, but all the same, we made each other’s acquaintance in the pharmacy, which Koller together with his mother had gone into ahead of me, likewise for the purpose of picking up some medication; although now I naturally can no longer remember what sort of medication Koller had picked up on that day, I presume it was medication for his unremitting ophthalmia, from which he suffered as long as I knew him.  Even by then I had taken notice of Koller’s ophthalmia which had been caused by his day-and-night-consuming and naturally ever-more-strenuous course of reading, a course of reading that he had already begun to term a scientific course of reading, a course of reading that I recall having already been a so-called natural-scientific course of reading in those high-school years; whereas at that time I occupied myself very little with literature, and hardly at all with scientific literature; in contrast to him, who had been obsessed with them from the beginning, I had always had a full-fledged aversion to books, to books of each and every sort, an ever-intensifying and indeed ultimately pathological aversion to everything written and printed; moreover, in contrast to him, no sooner did what he termed the world of the mind4 disclose itself than I pitted myself against it; I had resisted this Koller-styled world of the mind with every means at my disposal and I had indeed loathed the high school itself, loathed everything having to do with school; I could  not have not have been less receptive to the Koller-styled world of the mind in the light my utter detestation even of the high school, with whose existence I had come to terms only very reluctantly.  My parents had tried to force me into the Koller-styled world of the mind, but I had not complied with their desire for even the briefest of moments, which over time could not but have incensed them against me and in point of fact embittered them over the course of my middle-school years, whereas Koller’s parents could not have exerted on him even the faintest pressure in this direction, because of his own accord and with every means afforded him he had plunged into what he termed the world of the mind and hence into the world of writing and books.  That had been the most obvious difference between Koller and me—the fact that he had more than a predilection for the world of the mind and entered this world of the mind unreservedly and passionately, whereas I had actually loathed the world of the mind and had resisted this world of the mind for a great many years; at any rate I had resisted it at least as far back as the beginning of my high-school studies and for a long time after that.  Koller had spontaneously tried to conquer the world of the mind, I had never had the slightest interest in it; I had always found all exertions in the direction of this world of the mind too pathological and contrary to my nature; whereas in his, Koller’s, view, they had been not only quite legitimate but actually an existential necessity.  Today I think that even if at that time he was not already thus prepared, during those high-school days everything in Koller was preparing him, the exclusively intellectual soul, as I have always called him, to begin existing alone in this world of the mind literally overnight; in hindsight it is naturally easy to alight upon such an idea when it has long since been proved to be true.  The fact is that Koller had set off in an intellectual direction very early on and probably long before our high-school days, whereas in my case that had always been out of the question.  He had always been the man of intellect and the eye patient, whereas I had always been described by him as the man of feeling and action, and also quite often and repeatedly during the shakier moments of our mutual association as The Healthy One, whereas he usually described himself as The Invalid, and also very often as The Intellectual Invalid, which he had nevertheless always regarded as a designation to be used only in opposition to people like me, who had always struck him as commonplace and who in the final analysis had always remained incomprehensible to him; in point of fact in this self-directed expression The Intellectual Invalid he had in his hand (and in his mind) an instrument of power with which from time to time he could proceed against me in the most ruthless manner.  Already in high school he regarded himself as the intellectual and as the intellectual invalid and designated himself thus in opposition to me.  Throughout his life he had despised people who unlike him could not boast of suffering from an eye condition, and in point of fact, in hindsight everything in him, Koller, had been constituted in such a way that vis-à-vis his eye condition he had had to ascend to the higher ranks of crippledom, and the fact that one fine day he had lost his left leg—and moreover in such a suggestive way thanks to Weller’s dog in the Türkenschanzpark, in which, as he had once expressed it, his world of the mind reached its culmination in the most natural and at the same time the most complicated way—in point of fact later proved to be quite natural and logical.  The fact that from his earliest childhood onwards he had suffered from an eye condition and then, in the prime of life, had suddenly also found himself a cripple, had in point of fact conferred on him—and had been described by him as—a higher intellectual ordination and a higher intellectual dignity that nobody in his circle of acquaintances had any longer been able to ignore.  From the moment of his crippling injury onwards, his circle of acquaintances had been depressed by his disdain and in point of fact oppressed by his disdain and had ceased to be able to evade this disdain of his under any circumstances.  He had always despised people who did not have what he termed lifelong holy illnesses and had always relegated them to a very menial class of beings with whom fraternization, but especially intellectual fraternization, had always been a demeaning and if not quite squalid then at least invariably character-weakening affair for him.  He had always felt sorry for so-called healthy people because according to his lights they never emerged from the nadir of absolute intellectual torpor and moreover were condemned to languish all their lives in this vulgar intellectual torpor of theirs, no matter what they were and no matter what they did, and he despised them quite openly and invariably seemed to derive a certain enjoyment from his contempt for these miserable, wretched, mind-damaging creatures as he had once described them to me verbatim.  Probably, he had once said to me, thanks to Weller’s dog I have had the crown of my existence set upon my head; on the day in question I had, he said, literally gone to my coronation in the Türkenschanzpark, gone to be crowned by Weller the industrial glassmaker.  On that thirty-first of October the crowning event of my life took place, he once said to me.  He never could have hoped for a higher distinction than this coronation of his existence by Weller’s dog in the Türkenschanzpark.  While such an extraordinary distinction falls to the share of but a very few people, he said, at the moment of this coronation he himself naturally had been unable to become conscious of the magnitude of this distinction; his recognition of this magnitude had required the passage of no small amount of time, but at the end of that interval a truly distinguished individual arose in the most extraordinary fashion and stood gaping in astonishment.  The pitiful wretch, so he said, all of a sudden triumphs over other people, who cannot see the crown on his head, because they are too stupid and too jaded and also too vulgar to see it, in short, because they are anything but persons of intellect.  It now occurs to me that everything in Koller was developing towards the attainment of a goal and throughout his life was developing towards nothing else, at the behest of his idea and his science, initially at the behest of the idea and then at the behest of the science, and thenceforth exclusively at the behest of the science, his natural science, at the behest of his physiognomy, without he himself ever having been present in this consciousness, even at the very beginning, without his ever having been conscious in this unique strength of will that quite literally excluded everything else.  From the beginning his temperament had been completely different from mine, which was a temperament he had not been capable of accepting even a single time, because he had been obliged to deny himself such an indignity, as he had once called it.  The intellectual temperament in him had from the beginning excluded a different path from the intellectual path, as he himself had seen only later, by which point it had become completely out of the question for him to turn back on this intellectual path.  It also seems to me that it had not been by chance that I had made his acquaintance at the pharmacy in the Hasenauer Strasse, a circumstance of which he had been convinced; the circumstance that it had been the antithesis of a chance event, hence a precisely anticipated point in time and point of convergence of our existences and he had quite often attached his thoughts to this fact that the pharmacy in the Hasenauer Strasse had been our first point of mutual contact and had been compelled to orient his thoughts and his speculations towards it.  It had quite often been a pastime of his to trace his own path and his own origin as far as possible into the past and back into the present and to attempt the same experiment with my existence for my benefit and from time to time spontaneously to adduce evidence that my existence had developed along utterly precise mathematical and logical lines, in doing which he had always ultimately aimed at furnishing proof of the hardly satisfactory character of my achievements in contrast to his, in doing which he had never neglected to intimate that his development had been an intellectual one and mine a development directly antithetical to such an intellectual development and he obviously could not help having a very high estimation of his own intellectual development while mine could not but appear quite meager and contemptible from his point of view, and he did not refrain from making that clear to me.  I had only ever been able to save myself from this contemptibility of my existence by quite simply breaking off all contact with him from time to time.  So there had often been not only months but even years between our respective meetings.  Sometimes I got the feeling that I had neither the temperament nor the strength to allow myself to be annihilated by him, who had actually and naturally been my superior.  My relationship with him had always been very intense, but it had never gotten so intense that I would have been capable of surrendering to him, even though it often seemed as though he expected me to surrender and completely submit to him.  Thus my relationship with him had always consisted in the constant effort to avoid being subjugated and annihilated by him, for by nature such people demand nothing less from you than your unconditional submission and surrender and even your consent to your own annihilation and your subsequent annihilation by this consent.  Very often I had resolved to withdraw from him completely, to separate from him forever, but time and again certain remarkably logical circumstances had prevented that, but in the final analysis, I believe that these were the kinds of circumstances that were purposefully logical for him and not for me.  From time to time and repeatedly I had been afraid of him, afraid of him with good reason, although to this day I cannot explain why.  The moment I met him for the first time in the Hasenauer Strasse, I had, for whatever and however many reasons, delivered myself into his hands, as had been evident from a very early point indeed.  He had been dependent on such a person, a person utterly enslaved to him, and this had perforce eventually bound and indeed chained my existence, for this strength of will of such a strong and uncompromisingly demanding character as Koller had originated had perforce bound and indeed chained the existence of others to itself—not, I admit, completely, but nevertheless to an exceedingly high degree.  In point of fact the initiative in our mutual association had almost always been taken by me and on the first day in high school Koller had flatly, instinctively, spurned my desire to take a seat next to him, as I know for a fact today.  Thus, having been snubbed by him and sitting two rows behind him, at the time I naturally could have had no inkling of the cause of his ruthlessness on this occasion and had had to suffer for a very long time, indeed, for years, from the fact that he had rejected me.  As long as I knew him, I always had the desire to enter into a more than superficial relationship with him, into a deeper intimacy, but his character would not allow him to fulfill my desire, which had possibly even struck him as an impermissible insinuation, while I had constantly attempted to get closer to him, had incessantly and quite frankly evinced the wish to join company with him in a deeper intellectual relationship, and he had done everything even remotely in his power to thwart all of these desires and attempts of mine; the relationship between him and me could never be the still deeper one that I desired, could never be any deeper than it had already become as a natural consequence of our circumstances and of our years of mutual fraternization.  He had only reluctantly made me privy to his train of thought and had allowed me to participate in his experiences only up to a certain definite point that was not yet detrimental to him in any respect.  On the other hand he had never had a closer or more intimate relationship with any of his other classmates in high school or subsequently, as I know for a fact, with any other person than the relationship he had with me; time and again he had acknowledged this even if he had never explicitly stated it.  From a very early age he had, as I know for a fact, felt alienated at his parents’ house and he was of course not the sort of person that others could get close to in the natural way; throughout his life he himself had been one of the principal obstacles to his establishment of any relationships with any other human beings and he existed only thanks to this state of affairs; the opposite one could not but have ineluctably and emotionally weakened him and in the final analysis could not but have annihilated him.  He was by his very nature constituted to pursue an intellectual path, as he himself termed it and that meant nothing but that he would have to go it completely alone.  But he had been born to live and to exist at this utmost extremity of difficulty.  I have never subsequently met anyone more logically or consistently qualified for this.  Throughout his life he must have been under the impression that he had to reside in a world in which there were no other people but failures, who had already foundered at the first level of high intellectual difficulty, either because by nature they had not been cut out for such an intellectual path and hence for such a difficult level of living and existing or because they had never even faintly contemplated exposing themselves to such a difficult mode of living and existing.  Insofar as and because he had been very well versed in the interconnections in this matter, he was justifiably permitted to pursue his intellectual path and he did pursue it and did so more consistently than anybody else.  His social circle had naturally always been a lifelong reproach to him, but his social circle had never been of any concern to him in this respect and hence this reproach had never been of any concern to him either; throughout his life he had only ever felt himself to be responsible, and regarding himself, throughout his life he had always had a very strong so-called sense of responsibility, as he had demonstrated each and every day and literally uninterruptedly and in all his actions and utterances.  That such a person must at every moment reside at the utmost limits of insufferableness both from his own perspective and from that of other people is hardly surprising.  For years, his social circle had been confined to the cheap-eaters, but the cheap-eaters had also naturally not come any nearer to him than the limit he had established in defiance of them and hence in defiance of himself and hence for the sake of his science and hence for the sake of his natural science and hence subsequently quite exclusively for the sake of his physiognomy, a limit beyond which he had intended to live absolutely undisturbed and for himself alone and as long as the cheap-eaters had been in contact with him, they had never been anything but a source of material for his train of thought and hence for his science and ultimately for years, even if always entirely unbeknownst to himself, they had been a source of material for his intellectual and scientific purposes; over that time they had been quite simply nothing other than the scientific subject-matter that entirely engrossed his interest, a subject-matter that had become clear and distinct in his mind at the moment at which in the Wertheimsteinpark he had super-suddenly gone not to the old ash, but rather to the old oak, at the moment of his incident, the incident to which everything after this incident had had reference for him.  Precisely at the point at which he, instead of making progress, had super-suddenly been confronted by nothing other than hopelessness (in his mind) regarding his science, the cheap-eaters had come to his rescue while he had been walking to the oak (and not to the ash) and had saved his work and therefore saved him himself.  But before the incident he had naturally not been able to recognize the actual significance of the cheap-eaters; they had merely been his daily refuge in the human world, from which he had long since separated himself, from which he had logically separated himself years earlier for the sake of his science, from which and from nothing else he had always derived his existence.  For years he had been unable to tolerate the company of any people but the cheap-eaters, unable to tolerate the company of a single other human being; towards the end even I had shunned him and it had only been en route to our respective restaurants, his being the VPK in the Döblinger Hauptstrasse, mine the God’s Eye in the Nussdorfer Strasse, that we had encountered each other, almost always at the same point, the point at which our paths crossed.  We had then stopped and had conversed with each other, but it had naturally only ever been a so-called physiognomic conversation which had always been resumed and pursued from the exact point at which it had been broken off by him, Koller, at our previous meeting.  He had talked about his Physiognomy for a while and then abruptly broken off the conversation, which naturally had consisted of nothing but his talking to me insistently and my saying nothing; he had broken it off ruthlessly as always without bothering about me at all.  He would quite simply turn around and continue on his way.  He had no longer found it worth the trouble to say a parting word.  I had long since gotten used to being mistreated by him in this way.  There had naturally been times when I had dreaded encountering him and I had quite deliberately shunned him when I had ceased to feel strong enough for an encounter with him.  He had always demanded more of me than I had been capable of giving him, and he had also demanded too much of everybody else, but without exception either he had gradually given up on them or they had discarded him.  I myself, however, had never for an instant thought about withdrawing from him completely, which I probably would have found impossible, because I had understood him and because he, even in the midst of his insufferableness and grumpiness, had nearly understood me.  Only during the last eight days did he seem to be trying to get closer to me and we had been together several times at the God’s Eye, but whereas I had always eaten on each of these occasions, he, because he had already eaten at the VPK, had only drunk a glass of beer, a glass of beer that I had paid for each and every time, which he had never taken for granted.  Here, at the God’s Eye, he had expounded to me the cheap-eaters qua central chapter of his Physiognomy.  It had always been his custom and for him an obvious one to sit with his back to the wall and always to sit with his back to the wall in such a way that he could survey the entire room; he had had no patience for any other position than this one, from whose perspective nothing in the room in which as always he had only very effortfully come to sit could elude him and so that was how we naturally had always sat at the God’s Eye so that nothing could elude him, which naturally had not by any means been a simple thing to do, because the God’s Eye had also always been seated to capacity.  Apparently he had all of a sudden gotten an urge to meet me at the God’s Eye to expound the cheap-eaters to me, for it had been he who had initiated this meeting at the God’s Eye.  And I had had absolutely nothing against this meeting at the God’s Eye for the simple reason that I myself had been interested in the cheap-eaters and the manner and fashion in which he had expounded the cheap-eaters to me, a manner and fashion that I had formerly greatly admired and that had all of a sudden once again become the thing that I found most fascinating about him.  It seemed as if he had suddenly again found a theme that enthralled him like no other and in point of fact he had all of a sudden found his theme, namely, owing to the fact that on the day in question he had gone to the old oak and not to the old ash, the cheap-eaters, about whom he now naturally had to talk and talk as well, because, as he himself had once said, thinking and keeping silent on the subject in solitude probably would soon have driven him mad and as a listener I had been downright welcome to him.  Like me, he needed people around him in order to be able to be alone, and just as I had always found the God’s Eye ideal for the purpose of solitude he had always found the VPK ideal for that purpose, more ideal than the coffeehouses, which were admittedly intrinsically ideal for being alone in, and I had probably always sought out the God’s Eye for the same reason that he had sought out the VPK in the Döblinger Hauptstrasse.  For a long time the God’s Eye had been the restaurant without which I would have been unable to exist, just as he, Koller, could not have existed without his VPK, even if in point of fact it had so happened that in the final analysis he had despised the God’s Eye every bit as much as I had the VPK in the Döblinger Hauptstrasse; it had never been possible to convince him of the merit of the God’s Eye, nor me of the merit of his VPK, in which I had never managed to find everything that the God’s Eye made essential to me, just as at the God’s Eye he had never found what he regarded as the so-called bare necessities available at his VPK.  At one point he had actually said that he was a dyed-in-the-wool VPK person, and that I was just as much of a dyed-in-the-wool God’s Eye person, and it had been clear that he had a much higher opinion of the so-called VPK people than of the so-called God’s Eye people.  But in that last week of our relationship these considerations had ceased to have any significance whatsoever.  He had been not only unreluctant but even conspicuously glad to go to the God’s’ Eye; on each occasion he had encouraged me to take him with me to the God’s Eye.  Possibly he had just taken a sudden fancy to this self-conquest that was enabling him to go to the God’s Eye and specifically with me; that seemed likely.  The reason had of course been immediately obvious to me: there had been nobody at the VPK to whom he could have expounded the cheap-eaters, for to expound The Cheap-Eaters to the cheap-eaters would in point of fact have struck him as the most absurd thing imaginable; thus, because he had had nobody else to hand, he must have alighted upon me for this vitally necessary purpose and this on its own had allowed him to make this self-conquest that had allowed him to go to the God’s Eye with me to expound the cheap-eaters to me; he had had no other choice, for it had been clear to him that he could not now have done without another human being for his lecture on the cheap-eaters and that at bottom I had been the ideal person and the ideal listener to his lecture on the cheap-eaters, that in the final analysis any other person would have been out of the question for it; nobody else would have been available to him for the presentation of this argument, nobody else would have consented to this experiment.  The magnitude of the self-conquest on his part is easy to perceive when one takes into account his aversion to the God’s Eye, an aversion that he had nurtured and cherished for so many years and that he had always quite openly flaunted for the sole purpose of offending me.  Because for many years I had encouraged and invited him to come with me to the God’s Eye and he had refused and had always actually derided me while tendering his refusal.  He had always loathed the God’s Eye and in his loathing for the God’s Eye he had included all the people who had ever frequented the God’s Eye and consequently had also loathed me with the same intensity with which he had loved his VPK.  Now, though, he had actually had to conquer himself in order to go to the God’s Eye, of which he had once said that he would never in his life or under any circumstances set foot in it, because there was nothing in the world he found more repellent and the proposal that he should set foot in the God’s Eye one fine day had not even been tendered by me but rather by him; I had believed that I had misheard him once he had expressed this wish.  The personnel in the God’s Eye had naturally recognized him, because he had been one of the most visually striking phenomena in the entire ninth district, one of the four most visually striking cripples who moved through the ninth district during the day and attracted everybody’s undivided attention there; he had been, so to speak, one of the three, four extraordinary celebrities in the ninth district, who in virtue of their crippledness and their manner of handling their crutches had been instantly recognizable from a great distance by everybody, although Koller was certainly the most visually striking of all of them.  Hence everybody in the God’s Eye had immediately turned around and looked at him when I had entered the God’s Eye with him the first time and it was clear that they had recognized him, even that they had known that he was very much a VPK person and not at all a God’s Eye person; they had been totally awestruck by the fact that Koller the VPK person was entering the God’s Eye and actually taking a seat in the God’s Eye.  They never could have imagined such a thing possible.  Naturally they could not have had an inkling of the reason for this super-sudden extraordinary event.  The waiter had been more obliging to him than he had ever been to anybody else as far as I knew and had even hung Koller’s crutches on the wall, knowing full well as he did that if he merely leaned them against the wall they would immediately come tumbling down again and he had ever-so-painstakingly nudged Koller’s chair into place underneath him, even though the moment Koller had entered the God’s Eye the waiter had known that Koller wouldn’t be ordering any food but merely something to drink.  The moment he had ordered any food at the God’s Eye would have been the moment at which he could no longer have allowed himself to degrade himself as a VPK person by being at the God’s Eye.  And such being the case, he could not but have found it a degrading experience had he allowed me to pay for the beer that he subsequently ordered; he had made it clear immediately after sitting down that he was going to pay for his glass of beer himself, that it had only been on that assumption that he had even gone at all with me to the God’s Eye, about which he had never asserted anything positive.  Naturally he had set foot in the God’s Eye only with great caution.  While sitting down and while, as I said before, the waiter had been nudging his chair into place underneath him he had noticed that the table was wobbly and over a longish interval he reproachfully, albeit barely perceptibly jiggled the table, so that the waiter, once he had nudged Koller’s chair into place, had been obliged to stick a beer coaster under one of the table-legs; in order to do this the waiter had been obliged to bend over and stay bent over until the table, which Koller was jostling up and down all the while, had stopped wobbling; little by little, before he had begun his discourse on the cheap-eaters, Koller had visibly taken delight in observing and also pointing out a number of more or less serious defects in the God’s Eye; he had in fact already launched into the discourse when he had drawn the waiter’s attention to the wobbly table, but right after the waiter had stood back up Koller had indicated to him that the paintings hanging on the wall of the God’s Eye were all hanging crookedly on the wall; he, Koller, said that he naturally would not ask the waiter to straighten all these crooked pictures, paintings of mountain villages and of rural people in these mountain villages, in his, Koller’s, presence; he, Koller, would certainly make no such request, but in the long run, he had actually said in the long run, these pictures hanging crookedly on the walls would get on his nerves; all his life, he said, he had loathed crooked-hanging pictures and avoided rooms with crooked-hanging pictures; then, after the waiter had gone away, he had told me that in point of fact there were two categories of people, those who feel nothing when they see crooked pictures, and those who are driven to despair when they see them and that one could always tell to which of the two categories a person belonged, to the one comprising those who took no notice of crooked-hanging pictures and the other comprising those who over time were driven mad by the fact of crooked-hanging pictures; that he, Koller, belonged to this second category, but that he naturally had no right to ask a waiter in the God’s Eye of all places to hang its pictures straight.  He then caviled about the stale air in the God’s Eye, which he said differed from the extraordinarily fresh air in his VPK in a distinctively God’s Eye-ish way; the God’s Eye personnel never aired their restaurant at any point in the day, he said, whereas the VPK-personnel were always airing their restaurant, but the God’s-Eye personnel liked this stale, intellectually stifling air, this intellectually stifling dearth of oxygen, which was characteristic of the God’s Eye.  In such stale air, he, Koller, said, thoughts were suffocated from the outset, in their embryonic stage, were incapable of developing in any situation and a primitive person didn’t notice this and felt quite at home in the God’s Eye, because he never became even remotely conscious of the intellectually stifling quality of the atmosphere in the God’s Eye.  He, Koller, said that he had summoned up every last particle of his strength in order to be able to develop his train of thought here in the God’s Eye, but that in the final analysis this had posed no difficulties to him, because he was conscious of the actual conditions in the God’s Eye in contrast to the God’s Eye personnel, who, he said, were never conscious of the conditions that prevailed there in the God’s Eye, and proved that they were never conscious of them merely in virtue of their constant presence in the God’s Eye.  It had been for my sake, he said, that he had gone to the God’s Eye.  Whereupon I could not help reflecting that for quite a long time and quite a number of years he had only ever done anything for his own sake and that hence contrary to his assertion he had just now gone to the God’s Eye solely for his own sake as well and in point of fact he had all of a sudden begun to behave as though he had forgotten that he had invited me to go with him to the God’s Eye and not vice-versa, but I naturally could not allow myself to believe that he had forgotten that, for he had naturally not forgotten that.  Once anything whatsoever had come into contact with him, it was instantaneously subordinated to his purposes, and my unrelenting awareness of this had naturally been advantageous to me.  He had taken only a single sip of beer and leaned back and stretched out his prosthetic leg and then plunged straight into the middle of his theme, his Physiognomy, which by then had naturally come to be concerned exclusively with the cheap-eaters.  As I now observed him trying to ascertain—initially completely wordlessly and introspectively, and in the most leaned-back and stretched-out posture possible—whether I was actually worthy and at the same time capable of following his argument, which was now impending, and whether I had really and actually comprehended everything he had expounded to me in connection with his life’s theme, his Physiognomy; as I observed him—a man who was already well past forty and who in a very precise sense had long since distanced himself from the world and withdrawn into his own ultra-original body of thought, and hence into his life’s theme, which meant everything to him, given that everything else meant literally nothing to him—I could not help reflecting that it did not seem so very long ago that he had walked hand in hand with his mother into the pharmacy in the Gynasiumstrasse in order to pick up some medication for his chronic ophthalmia.  The youth that he had then been had possessed all the internal and external advantages that nature can bestow upon a young person, and had seemed to me a very successful example of a young person, and indeed in point of fact quite a handsome and fortunate young person, and this had immediately attracted me to him in the most peculiar and decisive manner.  I on the other hand had been far less blessed by nature and far less favored by fortune, even though I had always been fully conscious of my advantages.  But in Koller I had immediately envied the naturally fortunate human individual, in whom everything had been constituted in the most natural way and with every conceivable regard to future prosperity.  I had as many trump cards as it is possible to have in my hand (and in my head), but Koller seemed to have all these trump cards and then some, and even more than that to possess every desirable quality.  I envied this human individual from the very first instant onwards, as he naturally must have noticed.  Undoubtedly, I often thought, I would have been first in our class at the high school if he hadn’t been; thus I always had to be merely second-best as long as I knew him.  There had naturally been a time in which I had made the attempt to out-trump him, but I had very soon and then permanently had to renounce this attempt that had been pointless from the outset, to reconcile myself to the fact that from the moment at which he had entered my life onwards I would always have to be second-best.  I now believe that if I hadn’t happened upon him, in other words, if I hadn’t gone into the pharmacy in the Hasenauer Strasse back then, on the first day of high school, I probably would have always been in first place throughout my life; hence, thanks to the fact that I had gone into the pharmacy in the Hasenauer Strasse at the exact point in time at which Koller had gone into the pharmacy, I had forfeited this chance forever.  From my perspective, his presence very soon ceased to be able to have any other function than to weaken me, whereas he, thanks to the fact of my availability, had been able to climb higher and higher, and to the same extent that I had been weakened by him, he had—thanks to me and while making himself aware of this process—been able to strengthen himself with the utmost blatancy and ruthlessness—as I now perceive—and decisiveness.  From the very beginning there had always been an interplay between us, an interplay from which he had been able to profit to an extraordinarily high degree, whereas I in equal measure had been weakened by this interplay, and indeed crushed by it in point of fact.  In a very few moments during that meeting at the God’s Eye, moments at which he was making sure that I was paying attention to him, that I was capable of paying attention to him, for which purpose a single casting of his sagacious gaze on me sufficed, I had made my situation in relation to him at that time distinctly clear to myself, made distinctly clear to myself in a few instants all the years from the beginning of high school to the present, for I was then sitting face-to-face with him in exactly the same situation as in the old days; this for the sake of surrendering myself completely and entirely to his ruthlessness, surrendering myself, as always, to his experiment; for the sake of abusing myself for his scientific purposes, and I had paraded before him all those important and decisive images pertaining to our relationship.  I had not found it necessary now, at the God’s Eye, to ask how, in other words, owing to what natural cause, the young person he had been thirty years ago had been made into what he now was for me at the God’s Eye; how the handsome individual who had been attractive in every respect had been made into this absolutely repulsive cripple and intellectual individual.  His gaze had then been so pitiful and at the same time so repulsive that it had been only too clear that he had carried out this transformation in himself.  He had now been even more capable of triumphing, and of triumphing, as he had probably also been aware, with complete justice.  Of course he had already sequestered and isolated himself long before the point in time at which Weller’s dog had bitten him on the leg and made him into a cripple, had merely reinforced his decision to seek out sequestration and isolation for the sake of his thoughts.  It is, moreover, hardly absurd to maintain that he had to submit completely to his resolution, a resolution that had simply taken hold of him in one fell swoop and indeed in the most peremptory manner; to submit completely to his train of thought, which even then was preeminently physiognomic in character, and also that in doing so he was hoping to procure himself a distinctly visible external personal characteristic; to maintain that in such a crippling injury—for it did indeed genuinely disfigure him—he was consenting, to put it rather too strongly, to the disfigurement of his body and consequently more or less to its annihilation for the sake of his mind, for in Koller as in no other human being it was plain to see that in actual fact he had been his own achievement, in every respect.  For his disfigurement and crippling injury and his repulsive external appearance, which had ultimately quite self-evidently been produced by his disfigurement and crippling injury, had also been an instrument of power and perhaps even his most important instrument of power, which he wielded everywhere and at all times and had also never blushed to wield in settings in which such wielding had in actual fact been inadmissible and contemptible.  I would even go so far as to say that in actual fact he had attracted Weller’s dog with his strength of will and possibly even had already taken into consideration the consequences of actually being bitten by Weller’s dog even before Weller’s dog had pounced on him, for in this case, as he himself always used to say, the possibility of an accident had to be ruled out; even before the moment of its execution, Weller’s dog’s bite must have already had its place in Koller’s plan.  Finally, he, Koller, had come right out and said that Weller’s dog’s bite was in truth Koller’s achievement, and I refuse to doubt the wholehearted seriousness of this exact expression.  Weller the industrial glassmaker had proposed an out-of-court settlement, but Koller had naturally allowed it to come to a lawsuit, which had no less naturally been won by Koller, and won by him completely and down to the smallest details in his, Koller’s, opinion.  He Koller, had quite often alluded to this, and with no small amount of pride.  Koller had invested the two hundred thousand that Weller had been obliged to remit to him in such a way that their value actually never diminished and they had naturally been what he had called his principal nest-egg, but he had never touched those two hundred thousand.  But when I take all this into consideration, I really cannot but conclude that in the final analysis he was a pitiful human being, that he was also a pitiful human being.  He was precisely as much his own achievement as he was the product of the people who had reared him, his parents, although in point of fact he never acknowledged them as his parents; he had always refused to speak of parents; whenever he spoke about his parents, he had never said mother or father, even though naturally his mother had been his mother and his father his father.  He despised the very concept of parenthood, loathed everything that had anything to do with family as a matter of course and he was always literally nauseated by the word roots.  He had always found it impossible to pay a visit to a family; he had never done so as long as I knew him.  He despised nothing so much as any so-called feeling of belonging together.  He dreaded the masses in every department of life.  By the beginning of high school this lone wolf had already sequestered himself and was impervious to every temptation to join in any collective activity of any sort.  He had gone along on so-called school field trips only very reluctantly; as I recall, he managed to make it through high school as part of the student body only while kicking and screaming, because, as he so often said, the school had been dedicatedly plotting against his natural character and above all against his mind.  He said he had had to dedicate a high percentage of his energies to defending himself against the high school and its mechanism of destruction, against the school itself, which, he said, had been designed to set its sights on the natural character of everything singular, to destroy and adulterate and in the long run annihilate the natural character of everything singular.  He had always described the teachers and instructors as nothing but henchmen of this natural character-adulterating and destroying and annihilating machine by which ninety percent of intelligent human beings were annihilated every year.  Anybody who did not from a very early age devote a great part of his energy to kicking back against this madness of the masses would ineluctably fall victim to feeblemindedness—so he said.  But at the same time, he said, one had to be capable of coping with history as a mass-phenomenon as well as with the present as a mass-phenomenon; only a very few people, he said, succeeded in doing this.  The lone individual, he said, was in a very precise sense opposed by everything, and he had to cope with everything entirely on his own in a process that could naturally only ever be an ever more lethal process.  Life or existence, he said, was nothing other than the unceasing and in point of fact uninterrupted and hopeless attempt to extricate oneself from everything in every department of life and drag oneself into the future, a future that time and again had nothing to offer but a renewal of this selfsame unending lethal process.  Of course, he said, from the outset the masses refused to have anything to do with thoughts, to say nothing of thinking, because otherwise they would be annihilated, and so, he said, we were forced to deal with a completely thoughtless mass population that at bottom was against nothing, but that had always been against thinking.  The moment he was born, he said, he had had to break free of his so-called parents and from this entire parent-besotted human race, little by little, but logically and ultimately decisively lest he inevitably die of shame in the presence of his own mind.  While sitting across from him then in the God’s Eye and being observed by him and also, as I know for a fact, being seen through by him, I had been able, over a period of but a very few instants, to pursue his development and I had been horrified by the ferocity of the logic of this development.  At the same time he could not but have been clearly aware of my situation and of the direction in which I had developed, but this is of no consequence here.  To the same extent to which he had withdrawn from the world and hence also first and foremost from society, had quite simply taken up arms against it, I had immersed myself in this world and in this society; in his presence I had long been exposed to the accusation that out of intellectual weakness and in point of fact out of a complete lack of character I had surrendered to this world and this society and had been bought out by it, indeed in the final analysis absorbed by it and, as he had put it on one occasion, annihilated by it in the most ignominious fashion, and by then I could no longer elude this accusation.  He had never forgiven me for my job (as a bank clerk) or even for having embraced any sort of job, but on one occasion he had indeed said that although his development had been predictable and intrinsically logical, mine had been no less so, albeit in the diametrically opposite direction.  On the other hand he had spoken about it on one occasion and he had even spoken about it quite extensively then and it had seemed to me as though in doing so he had expounded to me a full-fledged study, a study whose thesis had been that he himself had been too weak for my level of development, just as I had always been compelled to think that I was too weak for his level of development.  He said that from the very moment of his birth onwards he had been engaged in the struggle against the masses, whereas I at the selfsame moment of my birth had sold out to these masses.  Ninety-nine percent of all people sold out to the masses at the very moment of their births, he said.  But, he said, the person of intellect was obliged to take up the struggle against the masses, to take up a stand against them, to declare his opposition to them, at the very moment of his birth; that alone, he said, legitimated such a person as a person of intellect.   He said that anybody who yielded to these masses, be it even on a single point, had forfeited his chance to be a person of intellect and was no person of intellect.  That the fact that the person of intellect always had the masses and hence, inevitably—and to put it pathetically—the whole of humankind, against him as a matter of course, was transparently clear.  And yet, he said, it was no less transparently clear that only an incredibly small number of people took up the struggle against the masses and against humankind and that even the majority of this incredibly small number lost the struggle at the outset.  But to take up this struggle against the masses at all was a colossal achievement in itself and at least for a time it legitimated one’s standing as a person of intellect.  In the long run everybody failed, even those who struggle against the masses and hence against feeblemindedness all their lives, one fine day the masses gobble up even these few individuals and debase them for their own benefit, while under certain circumstances they erect monuments to them or stick marble plaques on to the walls of their houses, he said.  Everybody, he said, even those who struggled against these masses and hence against feeblemindedness, ultimately hailed from these masses, and it was only logical and natural at the same time that they were gobbled back up by these masses.  And yet he, Koller, demanded nothing further of his journey out of the masses and back into the masses than his lifelong detour into the intellectual condition best suited to him.  His so-called parents had never had any legal hold on him; indeed, throughout their lives they had evaded their guilt for having engendered him and had thereby committed a twofold parental crime, namely and firstly, that of having made him and secondly that of having suppressed this crime that he termed a natural crime.   They had succeeded at their experiment of making him, he said, but now, he said, he was wreaking vengeance on them; they had succeeded in making him the subject of the vilest, albeit also the most natural, of experiments, while he through his own development had been uninterruptedly denouncing them and passing judgment on them throughout his life.  Because, he said, he had a right to his own development, he also had a right to be against the masses, to be against everything when it mattered to him and it mattered to him constantly and incessantly; nothing else could have sustained his existence, he said.  He said that his parents’ crime had afforded him the possibility of procuring himself the existence that precisely suited him and that he had in point of fact procured himself precisely such an existence.  That he had also never been answerable to anybody and had abided by his own laws and by no others.  That naturally at every moment a person such as he was getting dragged into every conflict, but that this was after all only natural and logical.  He was, as he had once told me, obsessed with himself and had to suffer the consequences of that and although he was constantly and in point of fact uninterruptedly suffering the consequences of that, he always remained very much himself and so forth.  Naturally he never could have been a different person just as I never could have been a different person, because we know what the story is, he said.  And in point of fact he had never wanted to be a different person, whereas I had very often wanted to be a different person.  I had very often wanted to be him, but he had never wanted to be me.  All his life he had remained himself, just as I had remained myself, but he had always been so consistently, albeit just as logically as I had.  In point of fact he had never been a victim of his own insecurity, whereas I for my part had very often been a victim of my own insecurity.  Now, as I was sitting face-to-face with him in the God’s Eye, it had once again become clear to me why I had always had to be in second place in relation to him as a matter of course.  The underdog was now sitting across from the man who was no longer at any great distance from his life’s goal.  In my mind’s ear I could still hear the sentence with which he had encouraged me to go to the God’s Eye Tavern on the spur of the moment and that had centered on my initiation into the mysteries of a more or less philosophical subject of incomparable importance to him, a sentence that he had spoken to me after he had called me over from the opposite side of the street with his right crutch held up high and I had immediately, automatically obeyed him, as I once again thought I was obliged to do; I had obeyed his order to walk over to him across the street and then go with him to the God’s Eye; time and again in the many years of our mutual fraternization I had formed the resolution to refuse to obey his orders no matter what they should turn out to be, but time and again and always on the spur of the moment I had obeyed his orders; I had had no other choice; his orders had quite simply peremptorily demanded to be carried out; I had never been able to escape from his power to deliver peremptory orders.  The reason he had called out to me, he said, was that he had wanted to explain to me the central point of his essay on physiognomy; he said that he had kept this essay to himself more than long enough; that he had reached a point at which he quite simply could not hold back any longer; that precisely at the moment at which he had felt the impulse to seek me out for the purpose of elucidating the central chapter of his Physiognomy he had run into me; that it naturally had not been by chance that I had appeared at his side just then and indeed instantaneously; that the whole matter was so important that he was even capable of deciding to go with me to the God’s Eye even though he had once sworn never to go to the God’s Eye in his life; that the cheap-eaters were more important.  In point of fact I had already been on my way to the God’s Eye, on my way there later than usual and hence was well within my rights to say that he was going to the God’s Eye with me and not I with him, even though he had obviously been of the opinion that I was going with him to the God’s Eye, this even after I had explained to him that I was in fact on my way to the God’s Eye anyhow, that I had simply been detained in the Paradisgasse by a businessman of my acquaintance whom he did not know, that otherwise I would have long since been at the God’s Eye; I had asked him if it would be all right with him if I ate my meal as he was delivering his important philosophical elucidation and he had had no problem with that; never before, I had thought, would he have had no problem with such a suggestion, a suggestion that he should converse with me in the philosophical manner while either of us was eating, but he had probably had no other choice and had been obliged to consent and so without further debate and, as it seemed to me, far too quickly by his standards, we walked down the Billrothstrasse and into the God’s Eye.  During our entrance into the God’s Eye he had several times said that the fact that he was going to the God’s Eye was an ignobly notable event that he was nevertheless permitting to take place for his Physiognomy’s sake.  He had said that from the fact that he was going to the God’s Eye with me now I should by no means draw the conclusion that he now had no problem with the God’s Eye; that he had not changed his opinion of the God’s Eye; that circumstances had forced him to pay a visit to the God’s Eye, these circumstances being my super-sudden materialization, the fact that I had met him on my way to the God’s Eye and that he had no longer been in any condition to postpone the delivery of his lecture to me any longer; that it had naturally been an enormous act of self-conquest on his part even to contemplate visiting the God’s Eye, and an act of self-abnegation actually to enter the God’s Eye, to sit down in the God’s Eye amid all these dimwitted, anti-intellectual, meat and vegetable-gourmandizing God’s Eye people, whom he had said he quite rightly despised.  But, he had said, he had just now arrived at the point at which he had to give me an account of the cheap-eaters, just now and not an instant later and in point of fact he had pushed me into the God’s Eye, as though every minute if not every second had been precious to him; indeed he had even thrust his right crutch into my back as soon as we had crossed the threshold of the God’s Eye out of a fear that we were entering the restaurant too slowly and that in the interval his will to lecture would lose some of its intensity.  Naturally the personnel of the God’s Eye had made room for us; whenever a cripple shows up people always make room for him and Koller’s entrance had exerted a remarkable effect on everybody in the God’s Eye, an effect amounting to a compulsion to accommodate his every need, an effect that had that had meant that room was made for him and for me as a matter of course and that had been a self-evident event.  He said he could not avoid feeling that to expound on the cheap-eaters to me in the God’s Eye of all places was a sacrilege, as he described it himself.  But he said he had no longer enjoyed the possibility of expounding on the cheap-eaters to me and informing me about them at a later point in time and hence not in the God’s Eye.  After he had sat down he had naturally been completely incapable of saying anything, because the walk along the Billrothstrasse and down into Nussdorfer Strasse and into the God’s Eye must have exhausted even him, for even with an artificial leg he had developed an excessively hasty gait and it had visibly distressed him to be observed by me in his exhaustion, for he naturally had been a person who had scarcely been able to tolerate such observation, and I had not been at all restrained in my observation of him; to the contrary, I had exploited this observation for the sake of my body of thought regarding him.  By the time I had ordered my meal, which, as I was now with him, the VPK person, in the God’s Eye, was obviously and naturally not the cheapest on the menu, he had recovered and very quickly his observation of my person had become more intensive than my observation of his person and in this fashion our actual relationship had been restored in full.  As an introduction, so to speak, to his subsequent lecture he had then spoken once again about his experience, about the fact that in the Wertheimsteinpark, the most beautiful, the most important of all of Vienna’s parks, he had all of a sudden broken with his habit and not gone to the old ash, but rather to the old oak and consequently, in this manner characteristic of his thought, had alighted upon the cheap-eaters, had super-suddenly set off into the very center of his philosophy.  He said that I was the only and in point of fact the most suitable person and naturally also the most suitable character for his lecture.  That of course I was well aware that he was also in touch with a few other people from our shared schooldays and university days, but that all of these people were unsuitable for it.  It was naturally clear to me that contrary to his own assertion in recent years he had not been in touch at all with any of the school or university comrades he had just mentioned, because for quite some time and in point of fact for many years he had not kept in touch with anybody at all, apart from the cheap-eaters, with whom he had been getting together in the VPK in the Döblinger Haputstrasse, but who in the final analysis could only serve as material for his train of thought and hence material for his philosophy and could never serve as partners in this pursuit.  He had never been able to express himself, to give utterance, to other people in quite the same way as he expressed himself, gave utterance, to me, which could not but make me reflect that he set very great store by me indeed; so he said.  And as for the cheap-eaters, who of course, he said, were something completely new for him as well: so far, he said, he had not uttered a single word about them to another human being.  For years I have been spending time in the company of the cheap-eaters and more intensively in their company than in that of any other human beings and in point of fact more regularly than in that of anyone or anything else full stop, so he said, and all of a sudden these very cheap-eaters whom I had never assumed to be of any greater significance to me than the common round of invariably more or less ingratiating, more or less boring or attractive or unattractive tablemates, now these very cheap-eaters have become the most important thing for me in my intellectual labors.  He himself had been extremely astonished that for so many years he had not recognized the true value of the cheap-eaters at all, for throughout all the years he had been spending time in their company he had been convinced of their general mediocrity and so-called intellectual worthlessness (to him).  But this mediocrity and insignificance and so-called intellectual worthlessness of theirs had been the very thing that had attracted him to them.  Had he sized them up as anything but completely average and above all insignificant and worthless and absolutely mediocre, they never could have attained the significance and the importance they now had for him.  As of now he had also been unable to dispense with the idea that he had not alighted upon the cheap-eaters by chance.  He said that preliminarily, before beginning his lecture proper, he wished to sketch a portrait of each of the individual cheap-eaters and he then mentioned the names Einzig and Goldschmidt, Grill and Weninger for the first time, but not without finding out beforehand from me whether I knew any of the cheap-eaters, whether I perchance knew any of them personally; I said I didn’t.  It would certainly have been possible, he said, for me to know one or another of the cheap-eaters, but, he said, that would have been rather improbable, because the cheap-eaters were, and these were his very words, the most inconspicuous people imaginable.  As I did not know any of the cheap-eaters, he said, he was naturally in an even better position to continue with his remarks than if I had known any of the cheap-eaters, which would have been possible merely because of course the cheap-eaters were from the nineteenth district and what was more they resided in the neighborhood in the nineteenth district with which I was of course more familiar than with any other and it had even surprised me that I didn’t know any of the cheap-eaters, because it had always seemed to me that I knew most people in the nineteenth district, if not personally then certainly so to speak, and as they always say, by sight.  And I knew nobody who moved about the nineteenth district with a more attentive eye than mine.  For decades I have been investigating my favorite district with the greatest attentiveness, researching its alleys, its streets, its squares, its parks, its people.  There is no place in the world with which I am more familiar.  If I have ever felt at home anywhere in the world, I have always felt at home only here in the nineteenth district.  I had grown up here; I belonged here.  But I had been primarily interested in something different than he had been; I had always seen something different than he had seen, namely, as he must have believed in order to maintain his ground, the superficial aspect of things.  But I cannot deny that as a matter of course he penetrated more deeply into everything than I did; he had always had different requirements and different goals than mine; my interests were more narrowly circumscribed; my goals had never been as ambitious.  Of course I had not pursued any sort of scientific career either; I had pursued what he had always termed a normal, mediocre career, whereas he had been ordained for a so-called extraordinary career from the outset.  His existence had always been a more perilous one than mine; the abysses into which he had gazed were undoubtedly always deeper, the altitude at which he had existed had always been a much loftier one and a vertiginous one most of the time, an altitude for which I had always lacked each and every necessary qualification.  Even then, all the time that I had been sitting across from him at the God’s Eye, I had been unable to withdraw my attention from these facts; I had not even wished to withdraw my attention from them; indeed, in his company I had been experiencing these facts as unremittingly present and incredibly prominent hallmarks of this relationship of ours.  He had always described the line that had been drawn for me by nature as a simple line; his own line, which he said he had drawn for himself in defiance of nature and in the final analysis even in defiance of his own nature, he had once termed complicated.  He said that from the outset his intellectual endowment, inherited or otherwise, had always been greater than mine and that in the course of time he had been able to augment this intellectual endowment in a manner suited to him, while he had been aiming at nothing but the enlargement of this intellectual endowment of his, had been acquiring the art of gradually enlarging one’s intellectual endowment and had ultimately perfected this art and in point of fact he had once remarked to me that for the sake of obviating all intellectual abasement and hence all intellectual adversity, he had invested every single fund of his intellectual endowment (of his mind), that in the final analysis and in point of fact very early on he had done everything to obviate an involuntary intellectual bankruptcy, that at each and every moment he had been able to fall back on this thoroughly invested intellectual endowment and had therefore always been completely intellectually independent.  He said he had always been appalled by the fact that most people squandered their intellectual endowment very early on and all of a sudden found themselves standing at the brink of nothingness and then vegetated for the rest of their lives on what he termed the minimum allowance of intellectual existence.  Just as businesspeople invest money, people of intellect should invest thoughts, and just as a businessman follows the progress of his businesses, the person of intellect must follow the progress of his thoughts; the businessman follows the stock market, said Koller, and the person of intellect follows the market of thoughts.  In this respect the thinker must behave like the businessman, and the more shrewdly the better, of course, and neither the businessman nor the thinker had any reason to be ashamed of this manner of behaving of theirs.  But just as there are famously only a few first-rate businesspeople, so there are also only a few first-rate thinkers.  As far as he was concerned, he had very early on resolved not to follow any advice whatsoever from any party whomsoever; indeed, he had made it a rule to do the very thing that he been advised not to do, had been warned against doing, and it had invariably turned out, albeit quite often only much later, that he had behaved correctly, whereas he had never followed any piece of advice, not only in completely general matters, but above all in any matter pertaining to the intellect.  He said that the person of intellect must make it a veritable precondition and governing principle of his existence not to follow any piece of advice or at least always to do the exact opposite of what he had been advised to do.  That from the beginning the most important thing for him had been to develop his obstinacy and to develop it more and more intensively even if that meant totally alienating his parents and acquaintances, that the person of intellect naturally had no right to shrink from totally alienating everyone altogether.  That from the very beginning he had never made things easy for himself, or at least had always attempted never to make things easy for himself, even though naturally everybody was uninterruptedly being tempted to make things easy for himself and everybody actually was uninterruptedly and repeatedly making things easy for himself.  As early as his childhood, and possibly at first quite unconsciously, he had undertaken to live at the highest possible level of difficulty for himself, something that he had taken no notice of until today.  Already as a child, he said, one was being constantly and uninterruptedly forced, first by one’s parents and then by one’s teachers, to take detours and actual wrong turns, constantly and uninterruptedly being dissuaded from pursuing one’s goal, being tempted to give up, but from the beginning he had been able to brace himself and even defend himself against this tendency; he had ultimately not been obliged to give up; rather, his parents and his teachers, who had wounded him very early on and, probably, he said, mortally wounded him, had withdrawn from him.  At first of course there is a battle with one’s parents and then a battle with one’s teachers, a battle that must be fought and won and moreover fought and won with the utmost ruthlessness if the young person does not wish to be forced by his parents and by his teachers to give up and thereby to be destroyed and annihilated.  Society, meaning human society, he said, is constructed in such a way that it diverts the young person on to detours and destroys and annihilates him and if we take a good look around ourselves we actually see almost nothing but such young people who have been deflected onto detours and destroyed and annihilated.  Precious few young people have actually initiated the battle against their parents and waged it to its conclusion and won and fought against their teachers and won and hence against society and won and thereby, as a person of intellect, won everything.   He said that the person of intellect was well advised to pit himself against his parents and against his teachers and against all of society and against pretty much everything from the very beginning in order first to liberate himself from these parents and teachers and from this society in order to be able then over time to observe and judge matter-of-factly and keenly and mercilessly, which was ultimately his unique mission in life; that he could have no other one; that this unique mission, even if he had to pursue it without his own consent and in point of fact against his own will, was the only reason he was here.  That the person of intellect had no other excuse for existing.  It was only after a detailed inspection of the state of affairs, hence of the circumstances, that had prevailed in the God’s Eye then, that he had begun speaking about the cheap-eaters, not without having conducted an equally thorough inspection of my person, in other words, of my constitution.  The physiognomies of all four cheap-eaters, according to Koller, bore the fundamental and consequential imprint of their decades of frequentation of the VPK; all four of them had what he, Koller, termed a VPK physiognomy; hence preeminently they had this VPK physiognomy and only secondarily had their entirely personal and unique congenital physiognomy, a physiognomy that in the course of their lives had grown on their faces independently of the VPK, a physiognomy incessantly and in point of fact uninterruptedly induced on their faces by their personal history and by the entirety of world history and natural history.  More and more, though, he said, their VPK physiognomy had been emerging into the foreground and at the same time their innate personal physiognomy had been receding into the background; more than on anything else everything that he was about to propound was founded on this observation; more than anything else this observation had made the cheap-eaters into the central point of his physiognomy and into something that was like no other illustrative example, had made them into the ideal illustrative example for his purpose.  He said that he naturally also could have gone with me to the Wertheimsteinpark and explained the cheap-eaters to me there, but probably even before we had reached the Wertheimsteinpark the intensity he needed to deliver his lecture would have dwindled away; he said that as I knew, there was nothing more frangible than a scientific subject as complicated as the cheap-eaters, that it was of course enormously difficult even to keep such a theme intact in one’s own mind for any great length of time let alone to keep such a subject intact in his mind for another person, thus, he said, he had as a matter of course been obliged to beg me to go to the God’s Eye; in point of fact he had said that he had had to beg me to go to the God’s Eye and not only once but several times—he had actually had to stoop to employing such an expression, an expression that as I know for a fact he regarded as a downright ignoble one—for the sake of explaining the cheap-eaters to me because in the Wertheimsteinpark we would have had at least twice as far as into the God’s Eye; for a moment he had also alighted on and considered the idea of going to the Casino Zögernitz, which was well-known and familiar to both of us, but he had been worried about going to the Casino Zögernitz, at which I had been a daily guest for many years, always with a cup of coffee and the latest newspapers and always more or less content in the company of those people whom I had termed the Zögernitz-goers, who were also a self-contained group of people and remain so to this day like the VPK people and the God’s Eye people; it was he who had initially tendered the proposal to go to the Zögernitz, in which I always enjoyed more amenities than in all the other restaurants in the nineteenth district and in which I still enjoy them when I visit it now, quite apart from its magnificent garden and the invariably fresh Vienna Woods air in this Garden of the Zögernitz, but then he, Koller,  suddenly started worrying that at the Zögernitz he might encounter the very people who had been most abhorrent to him of late, namely the people he termed the old Zögernitz people, who had been sitting around the Zögernitz day in and day out for decades and who over time had become a category of people who were even more abhorrent to him than the God’s Eye people, because—as he had asserted several times, initially on account of his political views, but then in the course of time on account of his logically pursued natural-scientific work, which the Zögernitz people, according to him, had gotten into the habit of describing exclusively as a crazy whim; for years he had harbored the most intense hatred of the Zögernitz people, an unremitting hatred that had come into being over the past three or four years in response to what he believed to be a despicable aversion to him, a hatred that he termed an unremittingly intellectual hatred—because, as he repeatedly said, they were envious of his existence, because they were envious specifically of the fact that he was in possession of an annuity that he could be genuinely certain of receiving for the rest of his life and that each and every month was precisely adequate to his so-called living expenses and was therefore absolutely and invariably dependable and also envious of the fact that he actually received his annuity directly and not indirectly, an annuity from the industrial glassmaker Weller; indeed, the Zögernitz people went so far, according to him, as to envy him for having been bitten by Weller’s dog because, as they had allegedly complained to him at every single moment, in their own lives they had always had to work hard and indeed were still constantly working hard now, in their advanced old age, so right up until the present they had had to earn their daily bread through more or less hard labor, whatever that was, whereas he, thanks to his accidental injury by Weller’s dog, had relieved himself of all need to engage in alimentary work and thanks to the fact that on the day in question he had gone to the Türkenschanzpark and not to the Wertheimsteinpark he had so to speak landed on the so-called sunny side of life and could cultivate his madness at leisure.  The Zögernitz people, with whom in earlier years he had enjoyed quite friendly relations, as I know for a fact, had from a certain point onwards been drawing a bead on him, had all of a sudden begun finding fault with everything about him and had subsequently refused to give him a moment’s rest from their unwarranted accusations, so that all of a sudden he had ceased to frequent the Zögernitz, had been obliged to cease to frequent it in order not to be annihilated, as he put it, by the Zögernitz people, for according to him, from this certain point onwards the Zögernitz people had had nothing on their minds but the annihilation of his person, first the defamation and then the discontinuation and then the annihilation of his person and hence of his existence, a scheme that he could resist only via his absence and hence via the complete discontinuation of his frequentation of the Zögernitz; from this certain point on onwards, these Zögernitz people had been the most dangerous people in the world to him, if I was to believe what he had so often said to me.  They had begun working towards his defamation and discontinuation and annihilation, he said, at the exact moment at which he had resolved to treat himself to a trip to the Wachau valley via steamboat and starting at the very instant at which he had procured himself a raincoat precisely for use during this trip, meaning a steamboat-trip from Vienna to Melk and back, an English raincoat that was twice as expensive as a comparable raincoat of Austrian origin.  They had let him get away with the trip to the Wachau valley but not with the raincoat on top of the trip, he said, and clueless as he had then been about the Zögernitz people, he had gleefully told them about the trip to the Wachau valley and had also—and this had been his biggest mistake—made mention of the English raincoat, which had exceeded the limits of their patience.  The fact that he was treating himself to the trip to the Wachau valley, which he had ended up not even taking, because on the day before the trip he had come down with a case of the flu, and additionally to the English raincoat, in other words had in reality purchased a highly elegant Aquascutum, had instantaneously and in point of fact in a manner enormously injurious to him, Koller, drawn the Zögernitz people’s attention to the fact that his income vastly exceeded theirs and that he had always enjoyed a much broader range of possibilities than they had.  He said that in addition to all the Zögernitz people’s other discernable qualities he had been able to study their envy.  That in truth for many years, he, Koller had enjoyed much more intense relations with the so-called Zögernitz people  than with the VPK people; above all, he said, he had felt attracted to them on account of their distinctly superior intelligence, for in point of fact the Zögernitz people had been more intelligent than the VPK people and hence more intelligent than the cheap-eaters; moreover at the Zögernitz he had been able to read the newspapers and study in peace, which had always been out of the question in the VPK, because the VPK never had newspapers, which explains why the Zögernitz has always been a coffeehouse but the VPK only ever an eatery, but all of a sudden his planned and booked albeit subsequently untaken trip had precipitated, had been bound to precipitate, his breach with the Zögernitz people, said Koller, because I was naturally no longer able to keep company with people who envied me my annuity, who even envied me a ridiculous trip to the Wachau valley and wouldn’t even let me get away with buying an English raincoat.  But, he said, he had always missed the Zögernitz, had very often inwardly vacillated over whether he shouldn’t return to the Zögernitz after all, for since the cessation of his frequentation of the Zögernitz he had been obliged to forgo a great many valuable conveniences, quite apart from the newspapers he had also had to forgo the Zögernitz’s garden and his conversations with the proprietress of the Zögernitz, from which so many valuable stimuli to his scientific work had sprung, to forgo altogether the entire intellectual atmosphere in the Zögernitz, but in the end each time he had once again managed to bring himself to renounce outright the idea of setting foot in the Zögernitz for the sake of preserving his character.  He had been involved in his train of thought about the Zögernitz people for years and had schooled himself in this habit until the point at which it had become impossible for him to go to the Zögernitz thanks to that circumstance that had been intimated albeit not explicitly articulated to him and for months he had been irritated by the fact that it was now out of the question for him to set foot in the Zögernitz.  It had taken him more than a year to resolve to renounce the Zögernitz and hence the Zögernitz people and hence to make do with the cheap-eaters, which naturally, he said, signified a degree of loss, but had also ultimately been a great windfall for me, for now his ultimately intellectually damaging mental to-ing and fro-ing between the Zögernitz people and the VPK people had come to an end and he had been forced to concentrate exclusively on the VPK people and hence on the cheap-eaters.  He now found it more impossible than ever to go back to the Zögernitz, he said; those people with their loathing of me and with their loathing of my train of thought above all, with their loathing of all the plans that are so important to me, would ruin me, annihilate me, in no time at all.  So, he said, it had been entirely natural for him to ask me to go to the God’s Eye the very instant he had run into me, to make this request that had of course amounted for him to a great self-conquest, or at the very least to the surmounting of a great obstacle.  At first, he said, he had balked at tendering me the proposal; he had been unsure that I would accept such a proposal—which had indeed been a veritable impertinence, a veritable impossibility of a proposal, when he had tendered it—for he had genuinely loathed the God’s Eye as well, and loathed it no less, albeit for different reasons, than the Zögernitz; but outdoors, he said, he never would have been able to explain the cheap-eaters to me; this explanation could take place only in an enclosed space and naturally only in a coffeehouse or tavern and if the Zögernitz had not come into consideration the God’s Eye would not have come into consideration either.  He said that he had been in a state of such well-nigh pathological tension and hence a state of intellectual and physical tension, that as soon as I had reacted to his proposal he had been compelled to set foot in the God’s Eye immediately by hook or by crook; that he had resolved to do this without much consideration, let alone deliberation and that on top of this he had felt greatly embarrassed by the slatternly appearance of his attire, by his tattered trousers, by his filthy overcoat, which was literally bursting at the seams on account of the violent motions he had been putting himself through over the past week, by his general physical and intellectual condition.  Nevertheless, he said, he had really been left with no other option than to call me over from across the street and to tender to me his proposal to go to the God’s Eye.  I was of course well acquainted with his ways and I knew that it would have been pointless to reject his proposal; from the moment he had caught sight of me onwards I had been utterly at his mercy.  But in the final analysis I had had no objection to going with him to the God’s Eye, even though as soon as he was standing directly face-to-face with me I had noticed that he was in an extremely nervous and consequently dangerous state.  I couldn’t have said no if I didn’t wish to receive a beating from him, as I know for a fact.  I know that he often physically attacked people who refused to obey him, and he beat me with his crutch several times as well.  But I had always put up with it, because I knew his ways and because I had wanted to help him extricate himself from his condition, which naturally had always been a pathological condition.  But in such a state he could not get away with coming into contact with anybody who was not intimately familiar with him and with his state, which, as far as I knew, had never been the case.  He had often threatened me with his crutch and even given me a good bashing, but he had always subsequently apologized, albeit more often than not only a couple of days later.  Upon encountering him this time in the Billrothstrasse I had not been willing to risk it and had immediately followed him into the God’s Eye.  On our way down the Billrothstrasse to the God’s Eye I had naturally let him run ahead of me; I did this on the one hand, in order to avoid offending and embarrassing him; on the other hand, in order to be able to observe him better and I had been horrified by his entire demeanor.  In running along the Billrothstrasse he had been unable to pick up a swift enough pace, and I had the feeling that at any moment he would trip over his crutches and fall flat on his face, but I had undoubtedly greatly underestimated his athleticism as a runner; in the end I had found it more taxing than he had to make it down the Billrothstrasse at this pace that he had set.  He had acquired a refined method of moving himself forward and his crutches had served not only to prop him up, as I had distinctly perceived on this occasion, but also to propel him ruthlessly onward; in any event, he had been faster than me and I had found catching up with him extremely taxing.  I naturally could have conceded him first place in this race to get to the God’s Eye, but I had not had the strength of will to make such a concession and a short distance from the God’s Eye I had overtaken him and had arrived at the front door of the God’s Eye first and immediately upon reaching the front door of the God’s Eye I had turned around and instantaneously spectated on his exhaustion, unsparingly feasted my eyes on it, an act that he could not but have regarded as tactless.  In this situation I had quite simply been unprepared to spare him; to the contrary, I had had a momentary need to feast my eyes on the appalling situation he was in and on his general pitiful condition.  I had known what he would not be able to avoid feeling if I were to turn around and instantaneously stare at him.  We must not place ourselves entirely at the mercy of the cripple; we must not capitulate to the cripple; we must assert ourselves in defiance of him, even if we are compelled to take refuge in brutality.  Thus even before we had set foot in the God’s Eye he had at least contributed a share of what he owed.  Through my ruthlessness, through the fact that I had not balked at turning around to face him, I had quite clearly demonstrated to him that his body of thought exacted a very high fee, an immeasurably high fee, I believe.  But naturally I could not have dared to hope for a remission of this fee, even under the auspices of the shortest of short-term arrangements; that would have been far too absurd.  The moment of his humiliation had lasted for perhaps only a couple of seconds, perhaps even for only a fraction of a single second and the correct distribution of weight was reestablished; he, Koller, was quite simply the superior party.  For a moment he had struck me as the loneliest person in the world and I had wished that he least had a dog, which would have harmonized well with his complete intellectual high-handedness and physical wretchedness, and I had thought of Schopenhauer.  But he never would have found it possible to keep a dog, for many reasons.   He never would have been able to afford to keep a dog.  Neither a human being nor a dog, he had once said to me.  And even in continuing to support myself, I have been existing beyond my means for the longest time, he said on another occasion.  For me it was always only ever a question of time and in point of fact always a question of the briefest time, the time I still had left to pursue and persecute this person, until he couldn’t be pursued and persecuted anymore, because he would have ceased to exist.  In point of fact I always got the feeling that I was always watching him fizzle out; I have never seen another person who always looked as though he were fizzling out the way he did; time and again, whenever I saw him, I saw a person who was fizzling out.  All of us are always fizzling out, but we notice this only in a very small number of people, because we don’t wish to notice it or because we quite simply don’t take the trouble to notice it, but I certainly always noticed that Koller was fizzling out.  Fizzling out alone and ultimately left alone fizzling out.  From a certain point onwards he had divided people into three categories, into VPK people, God’s Eye people, and Zögernitz people, but not until the moment when he had become certain that the VPK people were the ones closest to him, after which he had distanced himself from the Zögernitz people and decisively severed all his ties with the God’s Eye people.  He had always had the highest esteem for the VPK people and had placed them on the highest rung of the ladder of humankind; it had been years since the God’s Eye people and the Zögernitz people had received anything but contempt from him.  And he had ultimately even separated himself from the VPK people and the only VPK people he still respected were the cheap-eaters.  I always march very quickly into the VPK and through all the others to the cheap-eaters, he said once he had grown disgusted even with the VPK people.  To be honest, said Koller, the VPK people are still the most steadfast of people, the God’s Eye people the most brutish, and the Zögernitz people the most villainous.  At the end of ten years he had been left with nobody but the cheap-eaters, but for a long time he had not even been convinced of their value; if I hadn’t suddenly gone to the old oak instead of to the old ash, he said.  His Physiognomy would have been gradually disrupted by the brutality of the God’s Eye people, would have been literally suddenly virtually annihilated by the Zögernitz people, and so solely for his Physiognomy’s sake he had been obliged to withdraw from the God’s Eye people and also from the Zögernitz people.  In order to salvage so important and singular an essay as my Physiognomy, the writer of such an essay must under certain circumstances gradually withdraw from all people, must renounce all ties, must cut himself off completely, must cease to exist except on his own–so he said.  It was only in consequence of expounding and lecturing on the cheap-eaters to me, he said, that it would be possible for him to write his text on the cheap-eaters; he could not allow himself to procrastinate any longer, and so he had to lecture to me on the cheap-eaters immediately, because he intended to write about them straight-away, to write what he termed his second essay, which he said he would have to attach to what he termed his first essay, which he had already written.  He said that his Physiognomy consisted of four essays, three of which he had been carrying in his head for years, and that the fourth and hence the principal one had first crystallized in his mind when he had gone to the old oak instead of to the old ash and that he was venturing off the cuff to entitle it The Cheap Eaters.  He said that the writer of such an essay, even if he is only planning to write such an essay, must concentrate all his energies on this essay and must focus all his energies on this essay; that nothing apart from it must be allowed to obtrude upon his thoughts if he wishes to avoid running the risk of his plan’s coming to naught even before he has begun to write the essay.  That he must not allow himself to take the slightest detour or make the slightest digression.  That it required him to keep literally the whole of nature and the whole of the science of nature in his head and at the same time gradually to extract from this nature and this science of nature the subject-matter that was exactly appropriate to the essay that was to be written.  This because in such an essay it was necessary to deal not only with its specific topic but also with the whole of nature and the whole of the science of nature, but a mind bent on completing a study like The Cheap-Eaters was only rarely capable of doing this, and quite possibly capable of doing it on only a single occasion in his entire life.  But that the leap into such an essay, and hence into such a study was initially nothing other than a leap into an infinite abyss, which he, Koller, described as an infinite scientific abyss and to make this leap was to perform an act of complete devotion and self-sacrifice.  He said that whoever was unready or unable to make this leap would never succeed at completing a study such as The Cheap-Eaters and that this was the always the case with every scientific enterprise that demanded to be realized in writing.  And that every thought that was not realized in writing was completely worthless in the final analysis, because at most it only had an effect on its inventor and never made history and he naturally had an ambition to make history, which had always been the foremost prerequisite of an important, epoch-making essay, as he put it.  It had been thanks solely to my presence that he had been fooled into letting slip the remark that The Cheap-Eaters was not only important but even epoch-making; he felt this and it was also allowing him to leap the leap into the scientific abyss; I could rest assured of that and quite simply keep my fingers crossed for him and hope that the leap would be successful.  He said that ultimately, albeit for the majority of this period also unconsciously, he had for his entire life been preparing for this essay and hence for the cheap-eaters and had invested in these cheap-eaters nothing less than his entire existence by the time he had brought his thoughts on the cheap-eaters to a logical conclusion.  Perhaps, he said, the God’s Eye, precisely because he abhorred it, was precisely the most suitable place for his lecture.  He had leaned back as far as possible and once again appraised the situation in the God’s Eye.  Because he had always had a fear of draughts and was feeling this fear now, he stretched his arm out against the wall and held his hand out next to the window.  On this day, too, he had not forgone what he termed his window inspection, a practice that over of the course of decades had become habitual to him.  The windows in the God’s Eye were thick; he no longer had any cause to worry about a draught.  Suddenly it had struck me that the people in the God’s Eye weren’t disturbing him any longer and he had signified to me that I should move closer to him to the extent that it was possible for me to do so.  Even though he had spoken very loudly, he had always been of the opinion that people couldn’t understand him and had for this reason always asked his prospective addressees to move closer to him to the extent that it was possible for them to do so, but not too close, as he had always said at the same time with especial emphasis.  Possibly, I had been unable to help thinking once I had moved closer to him, these cheap-eaters have already driven him mad, but I had instantly suppressed this thought and subsequently adjured myself to repress it the entire time he had been talking about the cheap-eaters, even though in point of fact this thought had been impossible to suppress for any great length of time.  But of course I had already been recurrently stumbling upon this thought, the thought that he had long since gone mad, for years and so I had also already become accustomed to thinking this thought.  For just a couple of moments he had even given me the impression that he had already gone mad and then gone the exact opposite of mad and I gave him my utterly undivided attention.  From the very beginning, he now said, he had structured his Physiognomy in such a way that today it seemed to him to refer dedicatedly to the cheap-eaters in all its parts, that it actually did refer to the cheap-eaters, and hence to Einzig, Grill, Goldschmidt, and Weninger, of each of whose lives he would have to give a brief description before he discussed their further individual points of reference.  He had broken down, so to speak, the cheap-eaters for me in terms of what he, Koller, had termed the respective characteristic, substantial, and conclusive existential features of each of the individual cheap-eaters.  Why he began specifically with Weninger the merchant I do not know, but this fact surely had a significance commensurate with it, for in retrospect it had become clear to me that he could not have begun with Grill or Goldschmidt, or with Einzig either, for if he had he would have failed at the outset in his attempt at least to adumbrate albeit certainly not to explain the cheap-eaters to me.  Weninger the merchant operated a so-called vinegar bottling company in the Heiligenstädter Strasse that he had inherited from his father, but in addition to this he ran a series of businesses that Koller described as shady businesses that very often took him up into the Waldviertel and all the way to the Czech border and that had nothing whatsoever to do with apples, pears, and wine; he, Koller, believed that over the course of time Weninger had most strikingly managed to acquire business connections on the other side of the Czech border, connections who were all involved in evading customs duties and had already brought him into conflict with the customs authorities, because Weninger, said Koller, had already been imprisoned several times on account of these businesses, had been repeatedly sentenced to pay substantial fines and to serve less substantial prison sentences, said Koller; Weninger had not shied away from continuing to develop and intensify these businesses of his that Koller ultimately described as extremely shady businesses; businesspeople of Weninger’s  stripe, said Koller, were not the types to be scared out of practicing their machinations by severe penalties; to the contrary, in such people’s eyes there was something especially alluring about them, precisely because they constantly had to struggle with enormous difficulties, meaning to scuffle with the revenue office and quarrel with the police, because they had to get involved in ever-larger-scale and ever shadier and ever riskier businesses.  Weninger, he said, was an example of a person who had based not only his existence but even his entire life on doing business and who cultivated a penchant for these so-called shady businesses that was especially characteristic of the types of men who existed along Vienna’s arterial roads, a person who quite deliberately, passionately, and constantly cultivated himself along a vector of illegality and in the final analysis a vector of fraud and criminality, but never succumbed to these tendencies completely, which meant that he was a decisive maneuverer, and in point of fact his great business enterprises and hence his great business ventures and hence what Koller termed his great mercantile raisons d’être were quite successful and invariably quite successfully concealed and his minor and most minuscule business dealings made the revenue office suspicious and invariably caused him to be reported to the police.  Weninger was a more formidable master of mercantile business than anybody else Koller knew; he had a family, which he naturally did not house on the premises of his business, but rather at the site where he plied his trade as a petit-bourgeois paterfamilias and hence a few thousand meters farther out from the city center, and indeed as far out as the leafy precincts of the suburbs; and regardless of the place or occasion, he always wore the outfit of an honest, ever-forward-moving but naturally never overweeningly ambitious small businessman in the mercantile line, the so-called practical salt-and-pepper overcoat, underneath which, said Koller, he felt absolutely secure.  The fact that he went to the VPK to eat at noon and always punctually in order to eat the simplest of all simple meals at the VPK was precisely in keeping with Weninger’s strategy, as was the fact that underneath his invariably dirty and dingy but never completely dirty and dingy salt-and-pepper overcoat he always wore a suit and a tie around his neck and naturally neither the suit nor the tie was of the very latest fashion or of the very best quality, but neither was either of them utterly and completely out of fashion or of the poorest quality.  While dining and hence while sitting at the cheap-eaters’ corner table, he always rested the hand on which he wore his wedding ring on the surface of the table; this ring was a platinum ring that, according to Weninger according to Koller, had been given to him by a Hungarian aristocrat and refugee during the so-called postwar confusion because Weninger had saved him from drowning in the Thaya River.   Weninger’s shoes had always been the same pointy-toed and actually long-since unfashionable shoes, but not always identical pairs of shoes, because Weninger had bought several pairs of these shoes, which had seemed more appropriate to his business activities than any others, and had worn these four or five pairs in constant rotation; Weninger had been so attached to these shoes that he had reportedly once told Koller they were more important to his business activities than a lot of words.  He had never gone hatless; he had always worn a leather hat that had literally been worn smooth and made downright greasy by his gripping fingers, a hat to which he had pinned an aluminum badge certifying his performance in a relay race along the Flözersteig that he had participated in thirty-three years earlier.  Back then he had been downright svelte; now he was fat and spongy.  But like most fat and spongy merchants, he moved more quickly, uncommonly more nimbly, than other people.  Out of all the cheap-eaters, he was the one who ate most heartily; he had often had himself served not merely one but two portions.  The fact that his businesses took him to lots of different places and especially often to the fruit-growing area of Lower Austria meant that the cheap-eaters were invariably treated to a conversation on country matters, a treat they inevitably would have had to forgo in Weninger’s absence, for none of the other cheap-eaters had any country contacts.  According to Koller, Weninger was a born business tactician but had also always been affable in the way that is especially characteristic of small businessmen; he had been granted admission to every sort of setting and by every sort of person and he had always received a warm welcome, even from the cheap-eaters, who had derived advantages from their connection to him and hence from his abilities whenever they could.  He, Weninger, had been the cheap eaters’ economic and monetary seismograph, so to speak; he had initiated them into the mysteries of the stock exchange index and the stock market, of which none of them had had the slightest inkling, and over the course of time he had told them hundreds and hundreds of what Koller termed police anecdotes, from which they had derived great profit in their respective homes.  He, Koller, could only describe Weninger’s wit as invariably suggestive, and his intelligence, and not only his mercantile intelligence, as higher than average, as much higher than, for example, Grill’s, but also than Einzig’s, albeit not higher than Goldschmidt’s, which he, Koller, regarded as the highest of all the cheap-eaters’.  Weninger talked a lot and about everything, not only about his businesses and therefore not only about his business connections and whatever glimpses he afforded of these had invariably proved of no use to any of them in the final analysis.  Weninger the Catholic would spend Sundays with his family at his own house at a vineyard in Nussdorf or even out in the northern or western countryside, which he knew better than any of the other cheap-eaters.  All his life, according to Koller, he had been a master and practitioner of the knack of being popular and he understood how to exploit the world.   In political matters, as an authentic representative of his social class he had never committed himself deeply enough to expose himself even to the slightest degree of danger.  It was alleged that on the so-called Old Danube he had a small boathouse into which on the few pleasant and hence warm summer evenings he would withdraw with fairly young girls from the countryside, in whom, accordingly to Koller, he had come to specialize, or alternatively with certain girls from Kaisermühlen, Kagran, or Stammerdorf to whom he was especially partial, said Koller.  He was a longtime subscriber to the Wiener Kurier and drove a twelve-year-old Volkswagen, which he had purchased eight years earlier at a price not much higher than he would have paid for it as scrap metal.  In a so-called back room of his vinegar bottling shop he would, according to Koller, play tarot two days a week, every Tuesday and Friday, with several workers from the bakery across the street from his vinegar bottling shop.  His great dream had once been to go on a so-called Indian voyage, but he had given it up about ten years earlier, when he had realized that when you really thought about it, voyages to places halfway around the world really were not much more rewarding than an hour-long walk in the Prater.  There was nothing Weninger marveled at more than the structural design of the Ferris wheel, and when he was feeling happy, he would drive by himself down to the Prater for the sole purpose of activating the so-called punching-doll; doing this, either shortly before or after drinking one or two glasses of beer at one of the nearby fair-booths, gave him the most enormous enjoyment.  Although the other cheap-eaters also had a predilection for the Prater, Weninger had come down with a full-blown case of what Koller termed the Prater disease and he basically never neglected any opportunity to visit the Prater.  He, Weninger, had done his best business, had garnered his most substantial profits, in the Prater.  When he was feeling especially good he would sing his so-called Mighty Roller Coaster Song, a song whose lyrics and music he had written himself and which he was very often obliged to sing at the request of the other cheap eaters and indeed of all the other VPK customers, but he wasn’t always prepared to do so.  Weninger was the musical cheap-eater.  One of his oddities was his gold pocket watch, which he would look at from time to time, even though he knew that it hadn’t worked in many years.  If you ask Weninger for the exact time, said Koller, he’ll take out his pocket watch and tell you what time it is.  Weninger had always told the time with exact precision, said Koller, which was inexplicable to him and the other cheap eaters alike, because in point of fact his pocket watch hadn’t indicated the time of day at all in years, because its hands had long since fallen off and its mechanism had stopped.  The other cheap-eaters often quite abruptly asked Weninger the time of day simply in the hope of showing him up once and for all, but so far they had not managed to catch him out; he had always managed to tell them the precise time of day.  How he did this was a mystery to them.  They did not doubt that they were being taken in by a very clever trick that Weninger was concealing from them.  The bookdealer Goldschmidt ran the small bookstore in the Pokornygasse, which I am acquainted with without being acquainted with its owner, Goldschmidt.  Several times over the past thirty years I have gone into the bookstore in the Pokornygasse without ever making the acquaintance of its owner, Goldschmidt, although I am certain that I have seen him before without knowing that he was Goldschmidt and hence the owner of the bookstore in the Pokornygasse; I suddenly reflected that I had even spoken with Goldschmidt once, but I said nothing about this to Koller so as not to put him off his stride, for of course by now he, Koller, had become locked into the idea that I didn’t know any of the cheap-eaters, that I knew none of them  even by sight and I wanted to leave him secure in this belief so that he could develop his argument in peace.  Goldschmidt, the Jew, was naturally the best-educated of the cheap-eaters and he, Koller, the next-best.  This gaunt man, said Koller, was almost 1.9 meters tall and lorded over a great part of the cheap-eaters’ dining interval with his knowledge and his taciturnity.  He said almost nothing, and if anything only yes or no and with this yes or no of his he unopposedly terminated whatever debates of any nature arose among the cheap-eaters.  Whenever Goldschmidt intervened in a debate, which, however, only happened perhaps three or four times in the course of an entire year, this intervention would invariably develop into a debate solely between him, Goldschmidt, and Koller, a debate in which the other cheap-eaters quite simply did not participate because they lacked the capacity necessary to do so, but all told the cheap-eaters were very good listeners and they listened especially well when Goldschmidt and Koller were engaged in a debate.  The topics discussed by the cheap-eaters were principally politics or obviously natural science or literature or philosophy or quite simply a so-called completely recreational everyday topic, which, however, said Koller, invariably at least had a natural-scientific or philosophical aspect when he, Koller, and Goldschmidt were leading the debates, because he, Koller, like Goldsmith as well, was interested solely in a conversation or in a debate with such a natural-scientific or philosophical aspect.  It was always amazing to observe how attentive Einzig and Grill were during these conversations or debates, because naturally nobody ever would have expected those two, Enizig and Grill, to have a natural-scientific or philosophical side, and yet, said Koller, this never reduced them to speechlessness; quite to the contrary.  Goldschmidt had been involved in the so-called American emigration; his parents had perished in Buchenwald.  The cheap-eaters, said Koller, had seen Goldschmidt as the embodiment of intellect and he, Koller, as the embodiment of madness, and according to Koller they had always derived enormous enjoyment from seeing intellect and madness juxtaposed and in combat with each other, and hence from seeing Goldschmidt and Koller super-suddenly embroiled in a dispute over some topic that had arisen out of the so-called blue or one that had been stipulated in advance.  More often than rarely, said Koller, Goldschmidt would refuse to see the debate through to its conclusion and would suddenly leap to his feet and race out of the VPK with the intention of never again sitting at the same table as Koller, especially if the debate hinged on some political controversy.  Koller had been fairly certain that during the war Goldschmidt, after managing to escape from Europe via Portugal, had spent several years in Moscow and while there had attended a Communist grammar school and later a Communist university as well.  That this was readily inferable from everything Goldschmidt said; that he, Koller, was not mistaken in this regard.  But it was these very circumstances, circumstances only hinted at in this setting, that distinguished Goldschmidt from the others and had joined him, Koller, to Goldschmidt in a bond of genuine sympathy, indeed in a feeling of genuine kinship with him.  He not only respected people like Goldschmidt but actually loved them because, said Koller, they, the rarest entities in the world, indisputably deserved to be described as persons of intellect.  Goldschmidt lived in a small one-bedroom apartment above his store and did everything himself.  He spent his days in his bookstore and in the company of history and literature and half his nights with their progenitors and calumniators as he, Goldschmidt, had reportedly described them to Koller.  He, Goldschmidt, reportedly had said that he served history and literature even though he knew that in doing so he was also serving some perfidious gentlemen.  Koller said that Goldschmidt had become a bookdealer because in the first place he was enough of a masochist to devote himself to such a calling and in the second place because an uncle, a brother of his mother, had bequeathed the bookstore to him.  That naturally every day and basically all the while that he was running the bookstore he was keenly attuned to the historical and intellectual inertia inextricably associated with such a business for better or for worse, but that he had come to terms with it, and although he had become sufficiently nauseated by the products that he had been selling for over three decades now, he still never failed to find a refuge in one of those historical sentences that some crackbrained so-called poet or thinker had written in attestation of his crackbrainedness.  But that it had been a long time indeed since books had been capable of rescuing him; that now it was only sentences, individual sentences by Novalis, for example, by Montaigne, by Spinoza, by Pascal, that he was compelled to cling to from time to time in order to save himself from ineluctably going under.  That the bookdealers were the most pitiable people in the world, because all the abominableness and baseness of human history and the shiftlessness and patheticness of art weighed more heavily on them than on anybody or anything else and they lived in constant fear of being crushed to death by this antihuman burden.  The bookdealer who takes his business seriously is the most pitiable person in the entire human race, because day after day and uninterruptedly he is confronted by the absolute inanity of everything ever written and more than any other person he experiences the world as a version of hell—thus spoke Goldschmidt to Koller.  But Goldschmidt, Koller said, was one of the very, very few bookdealers to whom the concept of a bookdealer was still applicable, because the bookdealers like Goldschmidt, who took their book-dealing seriously and did not regard the book trade as just an ordinary business but rather as an intellectual vocation and passion dedicated to the service of history and literature and art, had almost entirely died out.  The anti-intellectualism that reigned supreme everywhere nowadays, Koller said, had even or especially overtaken the bookdealers of Europe and probably of the entire rest of the world as well.  Goldschmidt’s most visually striking features were his angular bald head and his tall, gaunt body, which at the table was propped up by his excessively long arms; Goldschmidt naturally wore glasses, and even with the help of these glasses, actual Zeiss glasses, Koller said, his sight was poor; he had always had to strain his eyes to see Koller when he was sitting across from him.  Koller said that Goldschmidt had had an extraordinarily admirable memory for numbers.  That it had been impossible to mention to him any significant historical event whose date he had been unable to specify.  It is clear that Koller must have felt especially strongly attracted to Goldschmidt, who all in all and first and foremost had been in favor of the abolition of the class system and a person of intellect, just like Koller.  Apropos of language he had reportedly said that it consisted mainly of words of equal weight by which thoughts were incessantly weighed down and crushed to the ground and hence invariably prevented from openly realizing their full significance and actual infinitude.  Language, he reportedly had said, encumbered all comprehensible thought in the most unfortunate manner and invariably reduced it to a state of perpetual intellectual debility, a state that every thinking person was nevertheless obliged to cope with as best he could.  Thinking has never yet been rendered in all its perfection and infinitude–thus said Goldschmidt to Koller.  Nothing, said Goldschmidt, will ever change in this regard as long as thought is required to be rendered in words.  Grill, Koller said, was employed as the shipping supervisor at a wholesale ironmonger’s warehouse in Döblinger Hauptstrasse and a decent human being and an unfortunate character.  He hailed from Tyrol and had come to Vienna at the age of sixteen and had initially lived with one of his mother’s sisters in Archduke Karl Strasse right at the foot of the so-called Imperial Bridge, in a block of flats in which there were a thousand rats for every human resident and in which to this day poverty and crime were the sole viable livelihoods; he had come straight from the Inn Valley into what Grill himself repeatedly termed the dregs of humanity, in which, however, he, Grill, said he had managed to develop more easily than he would have done among the hill famers; in the midst of what Koller also described as the district of melancholy and muck, the second district, Grill with the help of his relatives had managed to complete a commercial apprenticeship at a wholesale ropemaker’s behind the Nordbahnhof and work his way up to the highest supervisory level at this firm, the only one of its kind in Austria,  said Koller.  In the fifties Grill had made the audacious move of changing jobs overnight with the help of an eighty-thousand schilling nest-egg and amid the elation of an equally instantaneously consummated engagement  to a beet-grower’s daughter from Gänserdor had quitted the ropemaker’s, which at the time was struggling with great financial difficulties, and had taken a position at a wholesale ironmongery, in other words, in a branch of trade that had always proved to be one of the securer if not the securest ones and in which he would be able to develop his mercantile talents in the appropriate manner.  Between the ages of twenty and thirty Grill had managed very quickly to develop from a mountain-dweller into a big-city dweller in every possible particular way and very quickly into a so-called Leopoldstädter but never into a Döblinger, which he, Grill, had always experienced as a defect and had never gotten over.  At the beginning of the sixties, said Koller, his, Grill’s, wife had died of what the doctors had allegedly called a remarkable, unresearched illness that had not been seen in Vienna in decades and which the doctors had exploited immediately and to, as Koller put it, an inadmissible extent for their so-called scientific purposes; Grill had very often said to the other cheap-eaters that the doctors had abused his wife as a teaching prop at the university clinic, that they had only ever seen his wife as a handy instructional prop and never as a mortally ill patient and in an irresponsible manner had ultimately been to blame for the early death of his wife who probably, so Grill had told Koller, would still be alive to this day had it not been for the unscrupulousness of the so-called medical experts.  The death of his wife had plunged Grill into a melancholy that had lasted for years and had never really released him from its clutches.  It was only after the death of his wife that Grill had met the cheap-eaters Einzig, Goldschmidt, and Weninger, who had helped him through the most difficult period.  The VPK had even been his salvation as it had been the salvation of so many other people who had fallen upon hard fortune through no fault of their own.  He, Grill, had never exploited his position of trust as a warehouse shipping supervisor and had been elected chief shop-steward by his fellow employees at the ironmongery and had always been active as a spokesman for them.  Short-statured, slim, and endowed with the unremitting desire to express himself orally in so-called literary language whenever possible, he had found it easy to fit into the cheap-eaters as a social group from the very beginning.  What they, the cheap-eaters, admired about him was the fact that he had risen from the very bottom and so to speak from nothing to become a wholesale ironmonger’s shipping supervisor, a position that had ultimately commanded the deepest and utmost respect from them.  They admired what Koller termed Grill’s mathematical artisanship.  He lived in a very large very cheap room in the Silbergasse with a view of the immediately neighboring Nobel Hospital, in which, as Grill was always saying to Koller, the rich died.  With Grill, said Koller, you could always count on starting a game of chess and also on winning it without being attacked by him.  He, Grill, had cultivated what he fancied was an aristocratic bearing, but in fact, said Koller, it was not aristocratic at all but quite ridiculous, but he, Koller had not found it necessary to draw this to Grill’s attention, because Grill, on account of his origins, specifically because he was a Tyrolian and then also because he had worked his way up from the very bottom, had always been extremely sensitive.  He, Grill, did not loathe and despise the big city like most people who have moved to it from the country, because he had made a career for himself in it and therefore had had no need to disparage it in the way that failures habitually do.  He, Grill, secretly wrote poems that he would every so often read to the other cheap-eaters in a monotone that was quite appropriate in a fundamentally downtrodden person like Grill but that was also really nothing short of unbearable and only permissible on special occasions like Christmas or Easter.  Koller said he had taken an especially keen interest in Grill’s dreams and had listened to Grill’s accounts of his dreams with the acutest attentiveness, because they had been useful to his scientific ambitions.  Throughout his life, Grill had been tormented by the fact that he had never attended any university and one day as Koller had been walking by a group of people at a coffeehouse in the Naschmarkt he had caught Grill professing to the rest of the group that he had gone to university, but he, Koller had never called him out on this subsequently ever-recurring lie; he had not begrudged him the use of this intermittently led trump card that was his spurious claim to be a university graduate.  A career as a business graduate had always been the lifelong besetting desire of Grill’s existence, but naturally Grill himself had also always known exactly what it meant to have worked oneself up from nothing to a wholesale ironmonger’s shipping supervisor.  In Grill’s presence Koller had been in the habit of disparaging academicians merely to wind Grill up, in the habit of ridiculing higher education, of dragging universities and academies through the mud they deserved to be dragged through, in doing which he, Koller, had of course merely been telling the truth.  He, Koller, had secretly despised academicians all his life, even if Grill naturally never could have understood this at all.  Whenever Grill had talked at length, he had invariably confined himself to two subjects; the first being his deceased wife, who was buried in the Heiligenstädter Cemetery and on whose grave he had had a thirty-thousand schilling stone erected, and the academic career that he admired like nothing else, as he admired everything academic, which had always exerted an enormous fascination on Grill.  Time and again Koller had purportedly uttered to Grill that old saying that everybody without exception carries a lifelong besetting desire within himself but that this desire is never fulfilled.  All his life Grill had been consumed by the besetting desire to attend a college or university and true to this saying had never enjoyed the fulfillment of this desire.  Absolutely all human beings exist under the auspices of this delusion and probably, said Koller, they all drop dead of this unfulfilled desire one fine day.  But there are naturally people who do enjoy the fulfillment of their lifelong besetting desire and who in point of fact enjoy it in a way that is entirely appropriate to them and that makes them happy—so said Koller.  With Grill, he said, he had been able to converse about exotic birds, which Grill took the same kind of interest in that he did; naturally they were especially interested in parrots, and he, Koller, had once gone with Grill to the Schönbrunn Palace solely for the purpose of studying its Psythaccus erithaccus;5 they had dedicated an entire sunny autumn day to this purpose—so said Koller.  Another peculiarity of Grill’s was his devotion to a hobby that he had taken up as soon as he had begun earning more than he wished to spend, namely, collecting coins and specifically only coins that were more than eight-hundred years old.  He, Grill, had a coin-collection that was admired even by the coin experts.  It was quite possible, Koller said, that this coin collection was the only thing Grill was still living for.  Like Goethe in his day, he had had several drawers custom-made for this coin-collection and in his free time he would sit busying himself with these drawers, which Koller had once gotten a glimpse of, and as he was sitting there he was never anything other than utterly happy.  It was no accident, said Koller, that Grill wholesale ironmonger’s shipping supervisor collected coins, that he spent his free time doing the same thing as what he did at work, only on an altogether higher level.  When he, Koller, had been in Grill’s company, he had often been forcibly reminded of Goethe, and not always in connection with the activity the two of them had in common, namely coin-collecting.  On Sundays, he, Grill, invariably had but two projects, which Koller described as Grill’s principal projects—in good weather visiting the grave of his deceased wife in the Heiligenstädter Cemetery, and in bad weather devoting himself wholeheartedly to his coin-collection.  Grill wore rimless eyeglasses and had a so-called receding hairline that had receded as far as his ears and he obtained his clothes from a clothier called The Railroader’s which was located not far from Franz-Josefs Bahnhof and was owned by a colleague of his from his days as an apprentice who was consequently in a position to offer him a discount of at least twenty percent off every purchase.  Einzig, said Koller, had always attached enormous importance to being addressed as von Einzig, especially in all correspondence, and whenever he had to sign his name he would always sign it as von Einzig, but even in everyday social intercourse he had preferred to be addressed as von Einzig by everybody, especially members of the lower classes; but from the very beginning the cheap-eaters had never addressed Einzig as von Einzig and from Einzig’s very first appearance onwards had refused to call him von Einzig; from the very first moment onwards they had refused to stoop to performing this ridiculous gesture of servility and Enizig had unprotestingly acquiesced in their insistence that he should immediately drop the von in front of Einzig.  In their midst he had never been anything but Mr. Einzig, had never been von Einzig even a single time, and the cheap-eaters had naturally also never granted him the privilege of allowing the VPK personnel to address him as von Einzig.  Koller said that of the four cheap-eaters Einzig was the one he knew least well and Einzig had also always done everything in his power to afford as little insight into his existence as possible, even though he had never been more effusive on any subject than on his own lineage, but the particulars he furnished on this subject had always been so flagrantly mutually inconsistent that one could not help surmising that Einzig had fabricated his entire lineage out of whole cloth, as Koller had put it.  He was sure he had not been wrong in assuming that Einzig hailed from Carinthia, from that province in which Austrian imaginations bloom most luxuriantly and he thought he had probably had no reason to doubt that he, Einzig, had moved to Vienna from the Gail valley in order to serve time, as Koller put it, in the university and ultimately to secure credentials for a teaching position in that same institution of higher learning, which was always described by Koller as the preeminent Austrian institution for the annihilation of intellect, from which according to Koller nothing but hundreds and thousands of annihilated intellects graduated every year, annihilated intellects to whom our country and our government owed its feebleness and dimwittedness and ridiculousness.  But Koller said he had always been compelled to voice his doubt as to whether there was any actual truth in what Einzig explicitly asserted and tenaciously maintained, namely that he was the scion of a primevally ancient and so to speak long-established family and that his lineage was at bottom much nobler and indeed unsurpassably more noble than the von prefixed to his surname could ever communicate.  But he, Einzig, had naturally not gotten very far among the cheap-eaters with his fantasies about a noble lineage; they, the cheap-eaters, said Koller, had seen through these fantasies for the utterly gratuitous fantasies they actually were and subsequently refused to let Einzig give vent to these fantasies; and so this man who until the moment at which he had stepped into the VPK in the Döblinger Hauptstrasse and hence become one of the cheap-eaters had probably derived his livelihood exclusively from these fantasies had suddenly had to jettison what Koller termed these ultimately unappetizing fantasies and confine himself to alluding to his actual situation in Vienna, in other words to his more or less insignificant existence as a university lecturer.  The braggart Einzig had naturally been cut down to size straight-away by the cheap-eaters; he had been forced to allude exclusively to the provable facts of his existence, said Koller, and had consequently been deprived of one of his most influential instruments of power, which had not been tolerated by the cheap-eaters an instant longer than necessary and in point of fact, said Koller, had been abolished in the very first moment, the moment at which Einzig had first turned up at the VPK.  As soon as Einzig had turned up at the VPK, the cheap-eaters had abolished his monarchy, said Koller.  They had, he said, granted Einzig a probationary membership, which he had ultimately accepted; probably simply because he had found a place at the cheap-eaters’ table more valuable than some other one, he had renounced his aristocratic privileges; at the table of the cheap-eaters—to whom he had felt attracted for some reason or other—he had first and foremost surrendered these privileges, which was as much as to say that he had first and foremost surrendered his intellect there.  But Koller remembered exactly how first and foremost Einzig had presented this alleged noble pedigree of his to the cheap-eaters and had not blushed to crow about this lineage of his that he had fabricated out of whole cloth.  But the cheap-eaters had not fallen for Einzig’s tactic even for a single instant; rather, they had rebuffed Einzig immediately and also unmistakably, and so unequivocally had they rebuffed him that he had made no further attempt, as such characters almost invariably do, to pay his share of the bill with his noble pedigree and hence with a currency that had been out of circulation for a very long time and indeed for a full half-century, a currency that had always been described by Koller merely as a base, history-sullied counterfeit currency.  Einzig, said Koller, was a typical spineless provincial of so-called humble origins who donned his supposed noble origins like a suit in the hope of securing admittance into so-called high society in order to survive.  The cheap-eaters had not a scintilla of sympathy for this behavior and had immediately offered Einzig the choice between doffing his noble-origins suit, if only in their presence, and vanishing from their table immediately.  Contrary to expectations, Koller said, and in point of fact unhesitatingly, Einzig had doffed his noble origins-suit and in this fashion he had managed to stay bearable by the cheap-eaters.  From the moment of this self-conquest, said Koller, a self-conquest that had been downright superhuman by his, Einzig’s standards, whenever Einzig spoke of Carinthia he only ever mentioned the climate of Carinthia and the famous natural sights to be marveled at there; he had not said a single further word about the nobility there, but basically and obviously from that point on he naturally need not have said anything whatsoever about Carinthia, at least not in the presence of the cheap-eaters, who had not been interested even ever so slightly in Carinthia, much less Upper Austria or Tyrol and in point fact they had taken very little interest in the provinces in general because they had found everything having to do with the provinces simply tedious.  Einzig, Koller said, had quite simply wanted to eat cheaply and had been able to fulfil this desire only at the VPK, and once at the VPK—he, Enizig, had probably thought along such lines—he had only been interested in taking a seat at the table that had been the VPK’s dominant table, namely the cheap-eaters’ table; therefore he, Einzig, had had no choice but to comply with the demands imposed on all who sat at the cheap-eaters’ table, to submit to the laws of the cheap-eaters’ table.  It had been utterly and entirely characteristic of Einzig, said Koller, to wear a heavy gold signet ring with a coat of arms on it only on his first VPK day, said Koller; by the very next day he had removed this signet ring from his finger and stuck it in his pocket before entering the VPK.  As he, Koller, knew for a fact, Einzig kept wearing this signet ring as he always had done, but before each time he entered the VPK he removed it and stuck it in his pocket.  Koller said that Einzig was as petty as his professorship, which he constantly had to fight to hold onto.  That he had a delicate complexion and was always hyper-neurotic and suffered from uninterrupted spasms all over his body.  In recent years the fear of losing his professorship, a legal professorship as Koller termed it, had made him into a heavy drinker and given him a bloated, puffy appearance.  Twice a year he would check into an alcohol detoxification clinic in the so-called St. Helena Valley south of Vienna, in which, said Koller, the best vineyards in Austria were to be found.  Every time he was staying in the alcohol detoxification clinic, they missed him, although they had never been able to figure out why.  From a certain point onwards he had quite simply belonged to them, had been their exotic bird, as Koller termed him.  As for his homosexual proclivities—with regard to which, because he was too weak to give free rein to these tastes that were quite natural in his case, he had always unfortunately and unremittingly been prey, said Koller, to a literally perverse feeling of guilt–he had almost always managed to keep them to himself.  Although Koller himself had not done this, the rest of the cheap-eaters had described him, Einzig—and naturally not in his presence—as the so-called deviant among them.  The cheap-eaters had—and this had ultimately been Koller’s irrevocable opinion—virtually forced themselves on Koller as the subject of the principal chapter of his Physiognomy; their four physiognomies, to which his own was to be added and analyzed as the fifth, had been for him those so-called classic examples in illustration of his assertions and of his entire as-yet-unproved physiognomic body of thought that he had constantly been looking for but had never found—probably, said Koller, because they had been so close to him.  But now, he said, thanks to the stroke of luck of having super-suddenly gone to the old oak and not to the old ash, he found himself in possession of the cheap-eaters and of their physiognomy, which meant nothing other than that when, as he put it, he had just been on the actual verge of giving it up, he found himself in possession of his own peculiar Physiognomy.  His intransigence—which undoubtedly had never let him tire, especially not in any literal and lethal sense, in his resolution to continue and ultimately complete his Physiognomy; that intransigence that had never let him give up—had paid off.  He said that he could specify the exact moment of his enlightenment in the Wertheimsteinpark.  That leaning back like this with his prosthetic leg stretched all the way out, he would now have found it perfectly easy to explain the cheap-eaters in detail to me, but that he had already lost too much time in simply delivering his introduction to the cheap-eaters—an introduction that he had regarded as absolutely necessary and hence absolutely essential—and hence in delivering his all-too-briefly sketched adumbration of their characters; that moreover he had suddenly ceased to regard the God’s Eye as the appropriate place for his detailed explication of the cheap- eaters.  That all of a sudden it had become quite clear to him that it would be impossible for him to explain the cheap-eaters to me at the God’s Eye, that the primary prerequisite of such a place was its being a place that was dependably hospitable to the intellect and the God’s Eye was most certainly not such an absolutely dependably intellectually hospitable place, which was what was making it impossible for him to lecture on his cheap-eaters now and to me.  He believed that he would be able to finish his lecture as promised only at some later date, possibly in the Wertheimsteinpark itself, he now said, in that park in which he hoped to find all the categorically indispensable prerequisites for the site of such a lecture, in that unique and completely disturbance-free intellectually hospitable park, as he now suddenly described the Wertheimsteinpark, in which neither man nor beast could disturb him, in which everything was at his side, nature in its entirety, history in its entirety.  Later, in the Wertheimsteinpark, he said, he would be able to spare himself even his brief characterization of the cheap-eaters and to penetrate immediately to the center of his topic, which naturally was an anti-topic.  Whereas here in the God’s Eye it was suddenly becoming clear to him that the God’s Eye itself afforded the most inauspicious conditions for expounding on his cheap-eaters, later, if possible the very next day, in the Wertheimsteinpark he would enjoy the best conditions.  Naturally, he said, when discussing a subject like the cheap-eaters its deviser could not penetrate to the heart of it immediately and in a single attempt; such a subject was far too complicated and frangible for such an attempt; he was going to stake everything on the second attempt, which he termed the decisive attempt.  By this point, as I was contemplating him, I was getting the distinct and undoubtable impression that even before he had even broached his actual subject, let alone penetrated to the heart of it, and hence before he had even properly begun his lecture on the cheap-eaters, he had already become completely exhausted.  He had also just stood up and immediately begun making his way out of the God’s Eye.  If he had had to spend even a couple of seconds longer in the God’s Eye, he probably would have suffocated in its atmosphere of utter awfulness—so he had said to me out on the street in front of the God’s Eye.  He had promised me that when the right moment had arrived he would lecture to me on the cheap-eaters in the Wertheimsteinpark.  Perhaps as early as the afternoon of the very next day—so he had said to me before walking away from me.  But he had never gotten around to delivering this lecture, because that very same evening, on account of a severe head injury that he had sustained upon tripping over his prosthetic leg and tumbling down the staircase in the Krottenbachstrasse, he had been admitted to the University clinic in a state of complete unconsciousness, after which point, as I learned from his doctors, there had been absolutely no prospect of keeping him alive.  The Cheap-Eaters had been lost forever like so many other intellectual products whose devisers have spoken to us about them.

THE END


  1. Source: Thomas Bernhard, Die Billigesser (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1988).  The first edition of Die Billigesser was published in 1980.  The only edition of Ewald Osers’s authorized English translation was published in 1990 and is now out of print.

  1. While blueprint (first attested in 1857) for Novalis(d. 1801)’s Entwurf is undoubtedly anachronistic, in my view there is no other English word in current use that as precisely captures the sense of the German word in this setting.

  1. With one exception (see n. 4 below), Geist and geistig are rendered herein as intellect and intellectual because although mind on the whole is a better word for Geist (particularly in Englishing Bernhard, who had an aversion to the word intellectual [or, rather, Intellektuelle]), mind’s most common adjectival complement, mental, is obviously all wrong for geistig.

  1. Geisteswelt.

  1. The title character’s pet parrot Friedrich in Bernhard’s 1978 play Immanuel Kant is a Psythaccus erithaccus (or, rather, Psittacus erithacus, as the scientific name of the African gray parrot is usually spelled).


Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2017 by Douglas Robertson

2 comments:

davidly said...

Brilliant! You have in my opinion captured Bernhard's voice really well.

thomasbernhard.tumblr.com said...

Thank you. You do such good work here.