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TO TRAVEL IN AN AIRPLANE is to see the world as Leonardo never saw it, or Gainsborough or Rubens or Velázquez. To look down upon the earth from sky is something quite remarkable, and it makes him feel fortunate, always, as though he has gained a perspective his predecessors lacked. Karl does not mean by this, of course, that Leonardo and the rest are his predecessors in terms of artistic achievement or the size of their respective gifts, but nevertheless he does have an advantage: no single one of the Old Masters looked down upon the earth. Tiepolo attempted to imagine it; Veronese too and Ruisdael and Hobbema and Tintoretto and the rest, but what they really saw were only the clouds' undersides, their unremarkable bottoms, and he can see the land and water from a goodly, godly, height.
It makes a person think. Globality, globicity, it gives a person pause. He knows these words are not yet current and that he has coined them, but in a hundred years or 11.less the world will have no boundaries, no borders and no passports or customs declaration forms or guards. He is admittedly an optimist but it is realistic to be hopeful in an airplane when one looks upon the land or shining sea. His brother Gustave likes to say that such an opinion is nonsense, but the planet will seem seamless, with only the equator and the poles. Kandinsky and Cézanne, Karl thinks, would have changed their way of painting had they flown across the ocean and looked down. Woodrow Wilson comprehended this, although he himself did not travel by plane, and Trygve Lie and DagHammarskjöld understood it later, with the United Nations. The world contains no boundaries that matter when you watch the earth from outer space, and the wars that so preoccupy us and the border disputes that require attention look pointless from above ...
He is not in an airplane, however. He stands at the top of his house. In Larchmont in Westchester County, New York, the first thing he did after purchase was add a third floor - a fourth floor, if you count the finished basement - underneath the eaves. Here they have built a bathroom and additional guest bedroom and a wall of windows with, most importantly, a studio; here he can keep his work-in-progress on the easel and be as messy as he chooses and leave out his brushes and paints.
His wife hates the smell of turpentine; she says she fainted, when eleven, because the painter Liebermann whom her parents hired for her portrait used turpentine-soaked rags; she had had the first of her migraines and could not endure the stench. Linseed oil is less objection-able, Julia admits, but it is also offensive, and sometimes- between the smell of kippered herrings in the kitchen and the smell of turpentine - she claims she will go mad.
Yet the studio is Karl's domain. He has relinquished kippers but draws the line at oil paint, and they have reached an understanding that here he may do what he wishes and make the mess he needs. Because painting is not mannerly; it is not good behavior, and sometimes he believes that - were it not for good behavior - he might have been an artist, truly, and not what's called a Sunday painter or gifted amateur. On weekends and on holidays and, sometimes, in the very early morning or at night he goes upstairs and feels wholly at home in his house. In the kingdom of his attic he luxuriates in color, the wash and bursting rush of it, the shapes he himself has called into being in honor and rapt emulation of the world beyond. Beyond the window he can see the wide expanse of his own lawn, the trees that make a little park, the village in the middle distance and, in the far distance, the line of the Long Is-land Sound. This day it is a deep blue-green, a combination of green earth and ultramarine, and the sky above is cobalt blue and the moon still visible above the horizon: there, there.
"Do you see that?" he can remember asking.
"Yes," said Benjamin. This was when they painted together, when the boy was young.
"But see it. I mean, really see it."
"That's what Granny asks me."
"She asked me too. In Hamburg she was known to be— well, artistic."
"Peculiar," Julia said. "That's what he really means."
"No. Unconventional. It's not the same."
"Peculiar," she repeated.
"Just put your thumb in front of you, and measure between your knuckle and your fingernail the relative height of the tree . . ."
"I'll leave you two alone," she said. "I have work to do in the kitchen."
When Benjamin was four or five he used to like to paint, and they would take their easels and go out to the garden in Hampstead or, later, in America, to the waterfront in Manor Park and make pictures side by side. It had given Karl much pleasure, and the boy had a certain facility, a sense of line and shape. But every young child finds enjoyment in drawing and very few, as they grow older, retain it, and soon enough Ben's interest flagged; he turned to books instead. All three of their sons are bookish, of course-this is Julia's influence - but he had had some hopes that Ben might continue to paint. And this was not to be. Fading, schade, a great shame, since he himself has never lost his love of drawing or the visible world and up here in his studio he surrenders to it gladly; the work of import-export and the bristle business is nobody's business here.
Karl turns from the window and back to the mirror: he looks at his face in it, hard. Today he will finish the face. His project this morning is a self-portrait, not a still-life or landscape but, as his first teacher in Germany said, the landscape of a face. Four feet tall and two feet wide, it is canvas he stretched weeks ago, with his visage in the bottom right-hand corner of the composition, and a window and bookshelf above, The Artist in His Studio, and with a jar of brushes on a table at the left. He has done self-portraits often, since he sits for himself without complaint-unlike his wife who cannot bear the smell or his children who fidget or his friends who, at a certain point, consult their watches and say, "Sorry, I have an appointment, I simply must leave."
"Just a minute, just a minute ..."
"I'm sorry, the car is waiting ..."
Then they disappear down the stairs.
Yesterday's brushwork has dried overnight. He switches off the fan. Like any other portrait painter Karl has made a study of his own facial structure and understands the distance, say, between his ears and the bridge of his nose and the distance from his eyebrows to his hairline and his upper lip to chin; he has examined himself with sufficient attention to take no present notice of the length of bone or the planes of the cheek and how they intersect. In Rembrandt's great series of self-portraits, for example, it is not the likeness that comes into question but rather the mood and the light. What varies is the artist's age, and what he is wearing and how he displays it, but not the architecture of the face as such. After forty, said Abraham Lincoln, I hold a man's face against him. The face itself, Das Ding an Sich, the proportion of the eyebrows and the nostrils, the relative width of the lips . . .
The arrangement belongs to Matisse. In the upper left-hand quadrant of the composition Karl has positioned a bottle of whiskey-he might change the J&B label, how-ever; it looks too specific and he might decide to erase it today - and an apple and a fruit knife and a loaf of bread. It had been a conscious homage, a tip of the painter's cap, although of course Matisse did not drink scotch but wine and his own compositions were lighter, flatter, more in-vested in design.
He is fifty-five years old. His eyes are brown. What hair he retains is gray-black. The nose is prominent, broad-nostriled, and he paints himself wearing large brown horn-rimmed glasses and with the weekend's stubble on his cheeks because this early Sunday morning he has not bothered to shave. To bathe before painting is wrong, or anyhow a waste of time; to bathe afterwards is welcome, and then a person shaves.
The face is good. The open white shirt and the neck and mottling of the cheeks and forehead-from yellow ochre to burnt sienna - is adequate, at least. What troubles Karl is not the face, its arrangement and proportion and knowledgeable innocence, but rather where it sits on the canvas and how it belongs to the larger idea, the change in the nature of space after Sputnik: what relation we bear to the world.
This is his third country, and it will be the last. He left Germany because of Hitler and England for Julia's sake. Had it not been for the Nazis he would have remained in Hamburg, and had it not been for Julia's conviction that their sons would thrive in the New World he might still be working in Leadenhall Street and very prosperous there. His elder brother prospers; the gallery in Cork Street has done very well indeed, and Gustave does not seem to mind that to the English his accent is strange and his clothing peculiar. I am what I am, Gustave says. Yes, Julia says, and what you are is fortunate to work in a profession where what counts is expertise and not what they call the school tie. But for my boys I want no prejudice, I want a land of opportunity where they are not a bloody foreigner and have equal opportunities; my boys will go to Harvard, she declared once the family had settled down, and in the course of time first Jacob and then Benjamin did as their mother had wished.
No doubt their third son, William, will also attend Harvard College. No doubt in the matter of where they should live his wife was as usual correct. There is, Karl knows, the landscape you are given and the landscape that you choose; often it can be the same, and then you do not need to move, but the landscape of the heart is difficult to find. He means by this that the person who lives in the mountains but was intended to sojourn by the seashore will be discontented, and vice versa, and never quite understand why. Likewise the person who was born in Rome might perhaps belong in Oslo or the person who calls Paris home should instead live in Peking. The trick of human relations, as well as human happiness, is to know-how should one put it? - the heart's geography. This does not mean, nat?rlich, that the river in and of itself is better than the lake or the lake than the ocean or the ocean than a desert, but in any case you must decide which is your own chosen landscape and try to make it your own.
When young he had traveled to Venice and found the place his ancestors once lived in - a great stone pile in Dossoduro, on the Grand Canal. The Palazzo Bernardo, John Ruskin wrote, is an imposing edifice, and Karl's ancestors had occupied it in the sixteenth century; this offended the senators of the Republic of Venice, however, since they themselves could not afford so grand or so spacious a home.
And in part because of this they ordered every Jew to move to one surrounded place and proclaimed a ghetto where the ironworkers worked. Let us live in Murano, Karl's ancestors begged, we will purchase the whole is - land, but the Doge said no. Let us be surrounded by water, not iron, his ancestors petitioned, and the Doge repeated his refusal and thereby in some measure spawned that history of horrors: the ghetto vecchio, a separation of the Jews amounting to quarantine. In 1630 his family left Italy; in 1670 his ancestors were driven from Vienna and traveled on to Hamburg and resided there in comfort until Hitler threw them out. It isn't a question of whether but when: death and displacement will come.
Wind rattles the north-facing windows, here at the top of the house. When you look down upon the earth from twenty thousand feet it is impossible to see inside the desks of office buildings, or the inside of men's minds, and everything that's venal or corrupt gets leached away. At the far wall of the garden, the maples bend and wave. No doubt an Albert Einstein or an Albert Schweitzer could manage a global philosophy and understand the ways that good and evil intersect. No doubt Mahatma Gandhi or Jesus or Gautama Buddha could view with equanimity the behavior of the German people during the Third Reich; it would be wonderful, Karl thinks, to see the world in terms so high and aloof and abstract. From the perspective of an airplane, it does not matter much. From the perspective of a satellite, it scarcely matters at all. But such an attitude is, for him, too difficult to manage and such perspective too hard to attain; the inside of men's minds on Kristallnacht he neither forgives nor forgets.
And it could happen here. On a daily basis it is wise to be prepared. When John F. Kennedy was shot, and then Lee Harvey Oswald on TV, he had been fearful of mad-ness, Wahnsinn, a national catastrophe, and they would have to leave. All over America Karl was afraid there would be looting and rioting and windows smashed by men with guns. The man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald was not in the hallway by accident; Jack Ruby was a man they let into prison as part of their plan, and soon enough, he had been certain, there would be mass arrests. Once you have been a refugee you never forget it could happen again.
And so he said to Julia, "Where should we keep the packed bags?"
"What bags? What are you saying?"
"I want to be ready."
"For what?" she asked.
"In case we have to leave ..."
"We won't," she said. "I promise you. Bobby Kennedy will find it if there's anything to find."
"But if more than one person murdered his brother ..."
"We do nothing till it's proven that there has been a conspiracy, and President Johnson would tell us. He would be forced to tell us, because Bobby would certainly know. And will bring the killers to justice, of that you can be sure . . ."
The north light is sufficient now; he turns off the overhead lamp. She had been right about that also, Karl reminds himself, tying his smock; in the months since the assassination his fears have been allayed. On that fatal day, November 23rd, and in the days just afterwards he had believed that madness would be general and the murder of President Kennedy was part of a general plan. In his office they were saying that the martyred President had been shot with the prior knowledge and perhaps with the assistance of the FBI. There were news reports and articles and interviews that blamed the Mafia and Cuban exiles from the Bay of Pigs and the CIA.
But even in the worst of it - and the worst is over now, the Warren Commission is doing its work-he never quite believed that they would have to flee. In America live honorable men like Walter Cronkite and Joseph P. Welch and Chief Justice Warren, and they keep the nation honest and they will keep it safe. These people are too decent for such a thing as Kristallnacht or the abominations of the Gestapo and the Wehrmacht and SS. So even in the period of that terrible McCarthy, or during the war in Korea, even in the time of the Cuban blockade and then the missile crisis, America is hopeful; you can tell it walking down the street or by the names in taxicabs, the way the drivers of the taxis come here from all over the world ...
In Hamburg his father had been privileged to serve as civil magistrate and to decide, in business matters, what penalties to levy and which taxes to impose. He had been one of two such judges and it was an important post, but during the Third Reich, nat?rlich, all of this would change. One day his father was informed-by the weasel Sollenrad - that the locks on the doors had been altered and his position would have to be relinquished for "medical reasons," and he should resign. Within the week his father had been diagnosed for cancer, and within the year he died, so there had been great irony in the suggestion he save face by resigning for reasons of health. Too, Uncle Ernst took poison when they took away his job; he had been very eminent, Herr Director of the hospital, and when they decreed that no Jews could administer a hospital he wrote a letter to his colleagues deploring what had happened and went to his own private office and swallowed arsenic. When they discovered him next morning the newspapers made quite a fuss; they wondered if there might have been irregularities of bookkeeping or perhaps some sort of scandal or a romantic intrigue; they did not print his letter or announce the actual reason that the Herr Director died. Because the actual reason was a government decree, of course, and Uncle Ernst was too proud to accept it and would not resign. Then second cousin Elizabeth jumped out of the window in Bremen when they came to collect her, so that had been two suicides in a single generation, not to mention those who were in fact sent off to Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz and Dachau. The great Mephisto, Hitler, danced a dance upon their graves.
Across the sound an airplane rises glintingly from the direction of La Guardia; another plane descends.
It is nine o'clock.
Karl rolls up his shirtsleeves and takes off his watch and adds paint to the palette. He considers the tubes of alizarene carmine and cadmium red, then rejects them: too garish, too bright. He first visited America when he was twenty-two. In 1931, when he had finished his apprenticeship in his father's firm, his father said, Why not a Wanderjahr, why not enjoy yourself a little bit before you settle down? We will manage without you a little bit longer, and soon you must be serious but not just yet, not now. I will send you to America and you can have a wander-year and sleep as late and be just as lazy as ever you wish.
And this was what he did for months; he had never been so lazy in his life. In the school years at Gymnasium and then, later, in the office when the wandering was finished and during and after the war, nat?rlich, and now making a living in import-export he has always kept a schedule, and the schedule is full of appointments, a supplier or a customer to see. This is what it means, he knows, to be successful, the head of a family and with dependents-the office staff, the household staff-with clothes and cars to buy and a balance sheet to balance, the taxes and school bills and mortgage to pay. These are the trappings of responsibility and therefore a person must work.
But in 1931 it had been Gute Reise, a good journey and a period of peace. He lived alone in Greenwich Village, on the corner of Waverly Place, with no telephone or wireless and, of course, no television, since such things were not available; there had been nothing but his cot and chair and chest of drawers and, down the hall, a bathroom. The cleaning woman appeared once a week and rearranged the dishes or the small pile of his shirts. From his second-story window he could observe the traffic: cars and carts and what had seemed an endless promenade of men who worked in offices, going in and out of buildings and bustling on the crosswalks and past the changing lights. There had been a promenade also of men who went nowhere but stood in the sunshine or sat on the front steps of buildings and folded and unfolded newspapers and smoked cigarettes. For those were the Depression years, and many citizens were idle, and it had seemed acceptable to have no occupation and no one to report to; his allowance was more than sufficient and his needs were few.
He made friends with a student from Prague. This morning Karl remembers the fellow's face precisely, the sharp hooked nose and beetling brow, the way his front teeth overlapped, and the blue woolen cardigan his friend had worn all winter, and its missing buttons, and the way he rolled the sleeves. The two of them drank coffee together, and tea, and cider, engaging in impassioned conversations about the way to ease the burden of the masses and thereby improve mankind's lot.
They went together to the Metropolitan Museum and admired the collection, the Raphael and Rembrandts and the astonishing sarcophagi and the Grecian urns. At the museum with his copybook Karl spent hours copying the back of a well-muscled soldier or the arch of Cupid's bow. On the steps one afternoon he met a girl from D?sseldorf who said she would meet him in Washington Square, but although he waited in the snow at the appointed time and place the girl did not appear. She had had a dancer's upright posture and splay-footed stance; her hair was tied back with a bow. He cannot recall the girl's name, of course, if he even ever knew it; they would never meet again and it was of no consequence. But what troubles him this morning is he has forgotten his comrade's name also-Pavel, Janos, Franz?-and now thirty-three years later it is peculiar, is it not, that he should have so clear a memory of a dark blue woolen cardigan but fail to remember a name ...
"Verweile doch, du bist so schön." This is Goethe's phrase. This was the agreement Faust arrived at with the devil: he never would or could be so enchanted by a single moment that he wished it would not change. As long as Faust remained both restless and unsatisfied, he would be permitted to live; no moment would appear so beautiful he would regret its passing, and as long as he had no regrets he could continue on. When I declare, Verweile doch, the philosopher had boasted, then you may take my soul from me and it will rest in peace.
For Mephistopheles, of course, the bargain is an easy one and sooner or later he'll win. He offers riches, beauty, fame, and the mortal man accepts them turn by turn but is not beguiled. His devil's compact lasts quite a long time; for most of the poem Johannes Faust submits to but is not seduced by temptation. What he is seduced by in the end is work, good works, the reclamation of the land from sea and how it brings prosperity and safety to the people of the region; this brings him satisfaction and he says to the passenger moment, please stay, and is on the instant condemned. "Remain awhile, you are so lovely," Faust cries and therefore dies.
But nothing is ever so simple, in Goethe or in life. The line that damns him is the line that saves him equally; the desire to help others is the cause of his salvation. When Julia was in her second and difficult labor, when Benjamin was born during an air raid, their neighbor Mrs. Plimsoll crossed the street, carrying a pot of jam, and she had seemed an emissary from the charitable world. The jam was homemade; the Plimsolls had a very good plum tree in the corner garden, and it yielded quantities of plums. "I have heard your wife shouting," she said. "This will make her feel better, poor thing."
Such was the decency of England, the kind concern of wartime, and although Karl has lived in Larchmont now for as many years as, earlier, in Hampstead, he does not regard his neighbors the same way. Americans are friendly people; they call you by your first name, always, and say, "Hi," and wave and keep their lawns mowed and their hedge lines trim but do not bring you jam.
He turns to the floor-length mirror behind him - a composition grows more clear when examined in the mirror- and, studying the canvas, shuts his good right eye. The cheekbone has been smudged, he sees, and so he takes a palette knife and incises the line of the cheek. Next he pours an additional measure of turpentine and linseed oil into their tin cups, then caps the bottles carefully and re- turns them to their shelf. In 1931 he had been his own master; he could stay in bed all afternoon or not go to bed until six o'clock in the morning and nobody complained. He took long solitary walks, circling endlich back to Waverly Place or choosing to continue and be lost, a little, but never in a way that mattered, since he had made no promises or appointments and therefore had none to break. He did take painting lessons in a studio on Bleecker Street and afterwards sketched men in threadbare jackets, waiting on the corner and selling apples to the passersby; he drew children at a fire hydrant and, in the windows of the shops, the hanging sausages and the plucked scrawny fowl. His teacher said, Yes, yes, you have a real facility for line. You are not advanced with color and you should pay attention to color, but line is something else again; line you understand.
At night Karl listened to Die Dreigroschenoper or that peculiar form of American expression, jazz, and when sum-mer arrived he grew restless and continuing his Wanderjahr took a Greyhound bus across the country-visiting the Mississippi and Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park. He improved his English and his understanding of the problems of perspective: how to establish the vanishing point and where the light must fall. In villages and cities and in landscapes with a ruined hut or abandoned copper mine he drew and drew and drew. But he had been an innocent, a nearly total innocent, and when a woman in the Greyhound bus station in Phoenix said, We could get off here together and have a good time, he said, Entschuldigen Sie, I do wish to see the Grand Canyon. She looked at him, astonished, and collected her handbag and left.
Verweile doch, du bist so schön, is something he said often then, for this is a form of indulgence an adult rarely knows. Karl traveled alone; he ate and drank by himself, sparingly, in restaurants; he went where no one he knew would have been able to find him, admiring the buffalo and the alien corn. His father and he exchanged letters, and every week he sent Elsa his mother a postcard with a picture of the sights. He sent her the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Old Faithful and, from Colorado, Pikes Peak. In New Mexico he bought a turquoise bracelet and a matching ring and necklace for her, from a man with a face like an Indian mask; he also bought bright weavings and intricately fashioned ornamental bowls. And now that he himself has sons he wishes to be generous, as open-handed as his own dear father was, enabling them to make their way untrammeled in the world ...
Karl adds a spot of Naples yellow on the too-white shirt. Then he daubs yellow ochre lightly where the white shirt meets the neck. He had primed the canvas with sienna and raw umber and left it that way to begin with, but it makes the portrait somber, too serious this morning, and he wants to improve the mood of the picture and bring it up from too-great pessimism into the optimistic range of colors: yellow, a single spot of orange above his horn-rimmed glasses and, elsewhere, a bright green. He puts an orange highlight on the bottle in the background and feathers out the label, J&B, then changes the slope on the shoulders of the bottle also, so that now it looks like wine.
Next it is time to decide on the wall. Attentively, meticulously, he selects a two-inch brush. From time to time and for the sake of variety he likes to draw or use watercolors or pastel, but his chosen medium is oil. He orders his supplies from Grumbacher and Winsor & Newton, and because he is in the bristle business, he can recognize the quality of the kolinsky or the badger hair and how well or loosely they bind it; he uses only the very best brushes and paints. Again he considers the cadmium red and, once again, rejects it, but vermilion yes, vermilion possibly, why not? The world itself, he tells himself, is coming out of darkness and why should his self-portrait not reflect just such enlightenment, the end of a dark age? Globality is what one sees, globicity is the wave of the future, he's sure.
Julia calls up the stairs. "Karlchen," she calls. "Have you had breakfast?"
"Well, do you want anything?"
"Not even coffee?"
"I drank some orange juice," he lies.
"All right, then. Come down for coffee when you want it. And croissants, we have croissants."
"Later, thank you. I'm all right."
"I'll leave you alone, then," she says. "But when Billy wakes up we'll have brunch."
There are books in the bookshelf behind him: Budden-brooks, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, two auction-house catalogues of African art and an illustrated volume on the lost wax method and one on Donatello and the notebook of Paul Klee. He pulls out and leafs through Paul Klee. For he has lost the gift of concentration; he imagines their son Jacob where he works now in a hospital or Benjamin living in London or Billy eating a croissant, and everything else - the Greyhound bus, Kristallnacht, Waverly Place in a snowstorm - all of it flies from his head. He should not have allowed himself to think about his father; it has made him feel sorry, and sorrow is nothing from which one can paint. Desire, Karl reminds himself, is something else again, it is altogether different and a source for painting, often, as in Déjeuner sur l'Herbe. Or the women of Courbet.
He had hoped to be an architect; his best friend in Hamburg became an architect and they might have studied together after finishing Gymnasium; it would have been a pleasure to build buildings, and he has an eye for design. In Manhattan he deplores the way the space in skyscrapers confines the men who work there, rather than releasing them into open air. The Lever Brothers Building and the Seagram's Building are, to this rule, exceptions; they have been designed with care and those who work inside them must be happy and productive, and every time he sees them Karl approves. In public or in private rooms he notices proportion, and how der Goldene Schnitt pertains, and how much more productive it would be to live in harmony. But his brother chose to study art, and their father expected a son in the firm, and he had had no choice. And now that he himself has sons from time to time he has wondered aloud if one or the other might enter the firm, but Julia said, "Over my dead body," and that was effectively that.
She has no respect for business, has taken it for granted, always, believing money grows on trees and it is beneath her to concern herself with how it has been earned. If he reproaches her for spending in a fashion that's extravagant - the piles of shrimp, the dozens of shoes, the quantity of orchids that she orders from her catalogues-she says, "The problem isn't that I spend too much but that you earn too little; we must have more money to spend. I thought many things about our marriage, I thought about it long and hard, but one of the things I never considered was that I couldn't buy shrimp." When she speaks this way it is pointless to argue, but if he dares to mention that their expenditures might be reduced she offers him her phrase about fate, "Tu l'as voulu, Georges Dandin".
This is supposed to mean, he knows, that Georges Dandin embraced his fate, that Dandin wished for something once and cannot complain when in the end he receives it. He, Karl, does not complain. At the bristle merchants' convention last spring, a meeting he attended by himself because Billy had a fever and Julia would not leave the house, at the Greenbriar Resort in the mountains a woman with too much to drink came up to him and asked if he would care to dance and after they performed a foxtrot said he was an excellent dancer. She said why don't we sit one out and have a drink together; he agreed. They had a pleasant chat and drink and then she suggested they go to her room and continue the entertainment upstairs. He told her no, he was happily married, and when he told this story to Michael Kasdan at breakfast next morning-not being specific, of course, not pointing to the lady in question at the corner table-Mike said, "Sie sind ?berheiratet."
But there is no such thing as overmarried, no pleasure like the pleasure of this home to return to at night. The wife he proposed to in England, who said, "We might as well go through with it," has been his true companion since and he believes when optimistic that she too has no com-plaints. He has been a good provider; that much she will admit. There is nothing the family lacks. The rest is a matter of good luck or bad, a question of globality, and though Julia concerns herself with what will happen to their three boys on a daily, an hourly basis, he thinks about it less and less and thinks more and more about the flow of capital in outer space and the remarkable prospect of the United States of the World and how Tiepolo would render clouds if he looked down not up.
For the truth is Karl enjoys his office, and he likes the work. He likes it that his father's father went to Russia every year in order to buy fur and hides, and then his own dear father for two decades did the same. It is not a tradition exactly but a form of expectation: what his father and forefathers did is what he learned to do. He has done what was expected and will not complain.
The nature of the business has altered in this country, however, and synthetic fibers have increased their market share. Because of the embargo on supplies from mainland China, where the best bristles come from, he cannot make much profit as a bristle merchant; his London partners no longer require his office for their China trade. Therefore at the suggestion of his accountant he has branched out into paint sleeves and the import-export of artificial Christmas trees and wigs, and next year is preparing to import Italian bicycles; he does not mind that he must work in order to keep up this establishment-the gardener, the laundress and the maid from Switzerland who takes care of their youngest son and cooks. To be überheiratet is a pleasure; to be standing in a studio is fortunate; to have survived Mephisto has been his great good luck.
He hears music in the living room, but faintly, it is far beneath: Vivaldi, perhaps, or Telemann, a composition by Bach. The pattern of it - not the melody but rhythm-rises through the floor. What he is proud of are his wife and sons; what he enjoys is for five days a week to earn a living in Manhattan, and then on weekends and on holidays to climb up to his kingdom and complete a portrait of the landscape of a face. He is no good at hands, has never had success with them, and therefore keeps the image of his own two hands off the canvas - the right one below the brown plane of the table, the left at the end of the sleeve. What he wants is just to get it right, to render it exactly, so that years from now a man may say, standing in front of this portrait, yes, that is what it looked like, that's the way it was.
Posted December 9, 2008
The rise of Hitler forced German Jewish brothers Karl and Gustave to relocate their family to London. After the war ended, Karl, at the urging of his spouse Julia moves across the ocean to America where they raise their two children, Benjamin and Jacob. Gustave chose to remain in London. <P>In 1964, Karl and his family fly to London on a family visit. Benjamin and Jacob recall life as children in London during World War II when Hitler and his air force sent bomb after bomb trying to devastate the English. Benjamin and Jacob also have memories of Germany, but they are through the eyes of their parents, grandparents, and Gustave. However, as second generation Americans they are beginning the assimilation process and though their grandmother wants to return to pre-Hitler Hamburg, Benjamin and Jacob know that Thomas Wolfe is right as they can never go home again. <P> WHAT REMAINS is a powerful look at national identity especially for those individuals displaced and forced to flee deadly events in their native homeland. The tale works as readers understand the different outlooks of the three generations. Nicholas Delbanco writes a tremendously deep, thought-provoking tale that relies on the characters to unfold their feelings and motives for their lifestyles. The use of flashbacks by the cast to reflect how each one sees the monumental events that shaped their destiny strengthens a book that will send the audience seeking the author¿s previous tales (see OLD SCORES and IN THE NAME OF MERCY). <P>Harriet Klausner
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