Berlin Stories

Berlin Stories by Robert Walser Read Free Book Online

Book: Berlin Stories by Robert Walser Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert Walser
metropolis a pronounced need to avoid all superfluous rushing and haste predominates. Eating and drinking well count for a great deal here; the hungry feel anger toward their fellow men and therefore are always running up against others everywhere they go, be it with a sharp elbow or the scowls on their aggrieved, disgruntled faces. Disgruntlement is an enemy of mankind and also of the pointlessly languishing disgruntled person himself, and because it is impossible to avoid this feeling when many people find themselves pressed together in close proximity, one might say that every city, once it grows into a metropolis, gradually rids itself of this or that percentage of the annoyance that fruitlessly grieves and groans out its days there, as grudging grievers generally cannot stomach the company of others. Oh, certainly! Often we are filled with anger, fury, or hatred, but then we go and dilute ourselves, in other words seek out human company, and behold: the ills afflicting our souls quickly vanish. A sort of noble, far-seeing socialism is gaining ground here in a quite natural way, and class hatred appears no longer to exist outside the newspapers that paint its portrait. Every lowly worker or day laborer who excels in mental and physical health can calmly triumph, noting the appearance of wealthy folk who suffer physical complaints, a circumstance they are often unable to conceal; and so it is the sickly, not the poor who must be pitied, and the disenfranchised are the ones in poor health, not those who happen to have lowly origins. The metropolitan street teaches us this lesson quite convincingly. Oh Lord, enough for now, I have to go out, have to leap down into the world, I can’t stand it any longer, I have got to go laugh in someone’s face, I must go for a walk. Ah, how lovely, how very lovely it is to be alive.

The Theater

The Theater, a Dream
    The theater is a like a dream. In the Greek theater, things might have been different; ours is mysteriously, exotically enclosed in a roof-covered, dark building. You go inside, and then a few hours later you emerge again as if from a peculiar slumber, returning to nature and to real life, and the dream is dispelled.
    In this dream, the images rising up before the eye—which might be the soul’s eye—have something sharp and firmly sketched about them. Natural spatial perspectives, actual ground beneath one’s feet, and fresh air do not exist here. You inhale bedroom air while striding across mountains like the man with Seven League Boots. In this dream, everything is reduced in scale but also becomes more fearsome; faces generally bear unsettlingly fixed expressions: terribly sweet when the face is sweet and benevolent, and terribly repulsive when it’s a horror- and fear-inspiring one. In dreams we experience the ideal dramatic foreshortening. A dream’s voices possess a bewitching pliancy, its language is eloquent and at the same time well-considered; its images show us the magic of the enchanting and unforgettable because they are hyperreal, simultaneously genuine and unnatural. The hues of these images are at once sharp and soft, they cut into the eye with their sharpness like whetted knives slicing into an apple, and then are gone the next moment, so that you often—even while still in the midst of your dream—feel sorry to see certain things vanish so swiftly.
    Our theater is like a dream, and it has every reason to become even more like one. In Germany everything wants to be enveloped and enclosed, everything wants to have a roof. Even the poor, pompous works of sculpture in our gardens are dreams—but for the most part these dreams are frozen. It’s a well-known fact how bad we are at public monuments. Amid the wafting breezes of freedom, we find ourselves devoid of talent. We’d rather step into a dear, dreamlike, strange building where we encounter our true breezes, our true nature. Why are we so skilled at

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