A cryptic and mysterious case history appears in the autobiography of pioneering Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung: "A lady came to my office. She refused to give her name . . . What she had to communicate to me was a confession. Some twenty years ago, she had committed a murder . . ." Jung's encounter with the woman had an explosive effect on him, and brought him very close to total breakdown. Morris West recreates this episode in a gripping blend of truth and dramatic speculation. Set in pre-World War I Europe, The World is Made of Glass is a powerful novel of love, sexual obsession, murder and guilt. It has been called Morris West's finest creation of the imagination.
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At midnight yesterday, my whole life became a fiction: a dark Teutonic fairy tale of trolls and hob-goblins and star-crossed lovers in ruined castles full of creaks and cobwebs.
Now I must travel, veiled like a mourning wife, because my face is known to too many people in too many places. I must register in hotels under an assumed name. At frontiers I must use a set of forged documents for which I have paid a royal ransom to Gräfin Bette – who, of course, is not a Gräfin at all, but has been bawd and pander to the Hohenzollerns and their court for twenty-five years.
For emergency disguise – and for certain sexual encounters which still interest me – I shall carry a small wardrobe of male attire, tailored for me in a more cheerful time, by Poiret in Paris. Even this record, written for myself alone, must contain inventions and pseudonyms to protect my secrets from the prying eyes of chambermaids and male escorts.
But the truth is here – as much of it as I can distinguish or bear to tell – and the tale begins with a sour joke. Yesterday was my birthday and I celebrated it in Gräfin Bette's house of appointment, with a man near to death in my bed.
The event was distressing for me, but not unusual for Gräfin Bette. Middle-aged gentlemen who indulge in violent sexual exercise are prone to heart attacks. Every brothel of quality has the means to deal promptly with such matters. The house doctor provides emergency treatment. Dead or alive, the victim is dressed and transported with all decent speed to his house, his club or a hospital. If he has no coachman or chauffeur of his own, Gräfin Bette supplies one: a closemouthed fellow with a catalogue of convincing lies to explain his passenger's condition. Police enquiries are rare – and police discretion is a highly negotiable commodity.
This case, however, was not so simple. My companion and I were paying guests in the Gräfin's establishment. He was a man of title, a colonel in the Kaiser's Military Household. I am a known personage in society. I am also a physician and it was clear to me that the colonel had suffered a coronary occlusion and that a second incident during the night – always a possibility in such cases – would certainly kill him.
He was married – none too happily – to a niece of the Kaiserin and he had told his wife that he was attending a conference of staff officers. That story – thank God and the Junker code! – would hold good. But finally, my colonel, living or dead, would be delivered to his spouse and there was no way of concealing either his cardiac condition or his other injuries: lacerations of the lumbar region, two cracked vertebrae and probable kidney damage.
Gräfin Bette summed up the situation, click-clack, in the accents of a Berlin gutter girl:
"I'll clean up the mess. You'll pay for it. But understand me! You're not welcome here any more. You used to be amusing. Now you're dangerous. There'll be a wife and a son and the Kaiser himself and a whole regiment of cavalry baying for blood over this affair. If you take my advice, you'll be a clever vixen and go to earth for a while. Now I need money – lots of it."
When I asked how much, she named exactly the sum I had been paid for the six hunters I had sold that morning to Prince Eulenberg. I didn't ask how she knew the amount or how she had calculated the bill. I had the cash in my reticule and I paid it over without a murmur. She left me then to pack my clothes and to watch over the patient, who was fibrillating badly. Forty-five minutes later she was back with a set of personal documents in the name of Magda Hirschfeld and a first-class ticket on the midnight express to Paris. She also brought me an outer coat of shabby black serge and a black felt hat with a veil. I made a joke of it and said I looked like an English nanny. Gräfin Bette was not amused.
"I'm doing you a favour you don't deserve. Every time I've heard about you lately, it's been a little crazier, a little nastier. Now I understand why ..."
I asked her what she proposed to do about the colonel. She snapped at me:
"That's my affair. What you don't know can't hurt you or me. I don't like you; but I keep my bargains. Now get to hell out of here."
My colonel was unconscious but still alive when Bette hurried me out of the house and through the kitchen garden to a postern gate where a taxi-cab was waiting to take me to the station. I arrived with three minutes to spare, and paid the conductor handsomely to find me an empty compartment. Then I locked myself in and made ready for bed.
That night, for the first time, I had the nightmare: the dream of the hunt through the black valley, the fall from my horse and then being locked naked in a glass ball which rolled over and over in a desert of blood-red sand.
I woke tangled in the sheets, sweating with horror and shouting for Papa. But Papa was long dead and my cry was drowned by the wail of the train whistle, echoing over the farmlands of Hanover.
I know that I am very close to madness and I am desperately afraid. At night I lurch, panic stricken, through nightmare landscapes; seas of blood and ravines between saw-toothed mountains and dead cities white under the moon. I hear the thunder of hooves and the baying of hounds and I do not know whether I am the hunter or the hunted.
When I wake, I see in the mirror a stranger, wild-eyed and hostile. I cannot read a text-book; the words jumble themselves into gibberish. I slide into dumb depressions, explode into irrational rages which terrify my children and reduce my wife to tears or bitter recriminations. She nags me to seek medical advice or psychiatric treatment; but I know that this malady cannot be cured by a bottle of physic or the inquisitions of an analyst.
So, to affirm my sanity, I have devised a ritual. To the stranger in the mirror I recite the litany of my life, thus:
"My name is Carl Gustav Jung. I am a physician, a lecturer in psychiatric medicine, an analyst. I am thirty-eight years of age. I was born in the village of Kesswil, Switzerland, on the twenty-sixth day of July, 1875. My father, Paul, was a Protestant pastor. My mother was a local girl, Emilie Preiswerk. I am married, with four children and a fifth on the way. My wife's maiden name is Emma Rauschenbach. She was born near Lake Constance – which sometimes she seems to believe is the navel of the world."
The recitation continues all the time that I am shaving. Its purpose is to hold me fixed in space, time and circumstance, lest I dissolve into nonentity. I breakfast alone and in silence, because I am still trailing the cobwebs of my dreams.
After breakfast, I walk by the lake, gathering stones and pebbles to build the model village which is beginning to take shape at the bottom of my garden. It is a childish pastime; but it anchors my vagrant mind to simple physical realities: the chill water, the form and texture of the stones, the sound of the wind in the branches, the dapple of sunlight on the lawn. As this part of the ritual continues, I hear voices, and sometimes see personages from the past. Occasionally, I hear my father's voice expounding Christian doctrine from his pulpit in Kesswil:
"A sacrament, my dear brethren, is an outward and visible sign of an inward grace. Grace signifies a free gift from God."
I have long since rejected the religion my father preached. His God has no place in my life; but the grace, the free gift – oh, yes! This is given to me every morning when my ritual is completed and, promptly on the stroke of ten, my Antonia walks into my life.
My Antonia! Yes, I can say that, even though my possession is neither complete nor perpetual, as I would wish it to be. We are lovers, but more than lovers. Sometimes I think we have celebrated a marriage more complete than the legal one which unites Emma and me. Toni has given me her body so generously, so passionately, that even when I hear her footfall or the sound of her voice, I am alive and erect with desire. My gift to her is of herself, a singleness of spirit, a health of emotion, a wholeness, a harmony between the conscious and the subconscious. When she came to me, as a patient, she was like the princess sleeping in the enchanted forest, imprisoned by brambles and vines. I awakened her. I swept away the nightmares and confusions of her long slumber. When she was cured, I made her my pupil. Then she became my companion and collaborator.
Now, in my own time of terror, our roles are reversed. I am the patient. She is the beloved physician whose voice calms me, whose touch transmits the healing gift.
I grow lyrical, I know; but it is only in private that I can be so: for this secret journal, during the hours Antonia and I spend together, locked in my tower room, where no one else may enter uninvited. But, even here, our communion is not complete. We flirt, we fondle, we caress – we work, too, believe me! – but we never make love, because Toni refuses to surrender herself to climax in another woman's house. I regret that; but I have to admit the wisdom of it. Already Emma is rabidly jealous and we dare not risk being discovered in the sexual act.
Of course, this forced deferment of release adds to my emotional tension; but there are compensations, in that Toni is forced to observe a certain detachment which is valuable in our clinical relationship. For my part – much as I desire it – I cannot demand to stifle all my perplexities in her abundant womanhood. As well drink myself silly or stupefy myself with opiates and fall asleep mumbling that all's well with the world.
So, each morning we greet tenderly. She makes coffee for us both. We deal with the mail. Then we work together to analyse the psychic conflicts that are tearing me asunder.
In spite of our clinical relationship in these sessions, I am alive, every instant, to her sexual presence. I study the curve of her breasts, the fall of the skirt about her thighs, the wisp of hair that trails at her temple. I am in high sexual excitement; but she sits calm and cool as the Snow Queen, just as I have taught her to do, and puts her questions:
"What did you dream last night? Was it related to symbols we have discussed?"
Today we were discussing a new sequence, unrelated, or so it seemed, to any others I had experienced. I was in a town in Italy. I knew it was somewhere in the north, because it reminded me of Basel; but definitely it was Italy and the present. The people were in modern dress. There were bicycles and autobuses and even a tramway. I was strolling down the street when I saw before me a knight in full armour – armour of the twelfth century – with a red Crusader's cross upon his breast. He was armed with a great sword and he strode forward like a conqueror, looking neither to right nor left.
The extraordinary thing was that no one took any notice. It was as if I were the only one who saw him. I felt the enormous power of his presence, a sense of impending revelation, if only I could follow him; yet I could not.
The interpretation of the dream brought Toni and me very close to a quarrel. I was – and am – convinced that it contained magical and alchemical allegories connected with old folk lore: the Knights of the Round Table and the search for the Holy Grail – which symbolised my own search for meaning in the midst of confusion.
Toni disagreed emphatically. The knight was Freud, she said. Freud was the lonely crusader unrecognised by the heedless. She claimed that I recognised his worth and his power but could not follow him because I could not accept the fundamental thrust of his ideas – and because my affection for him had turned to hostility.
I began to be tense, as I am always at the onset of another irrational rage. Then she broke off the argument and came to me and held my throbbing head against her breast and crooned over me.
"There now! There! We'll have no arguments this beautiful morning. We're both frayed and tired. I lay awake half the night thinking about you and wanting you. Please, will you walk me home this evening and make love to me?"
Had she been combative or timid, I might have raged at her for hours, as I do sometimes with Emma; but her tenderness disarms me totally and sometimes brings me close to tears.
Even so, she surrenders no ground in clinical debate. She is convinced that my problems with Freud contribute to my psychosis. I admit that to myself; but I cannot yet admit it to her. I have never told her of the homosexual rape to which I was submitted in my youth, nor of the consequent homosexual element in my affection for Freud and how hard it is to free myself from his domination.
Sooner or later the truth must come out as we continue my analysis together. But, please God, not yet! I am a middle-aged, married fool in love with a twenty-five-year-old girl. I want to enjoy the experience as long as I can. I see battles looming with Emma; and if my dark Doppelgänger ever takes control of me, I shall be lost to all joy and all hope. Rather than endure that despair, I shall follow the example of my old friend, Honegger, and put myself to sleep for ever.
For the first time in twenty years I am not staying at the Crillon but in a modest pension near the Étoile. I take my meals in the house and my promenades in those quarters of the city where I am least likely to meet friends or acquaintances. There is a kiosk nearby where foreign newspapers are on sale and I have ordered a daily copy of the Berliner Tageblatt.
So far, I have seen no mention of my colonel or of his fate. The only reference to my presence in Berlin has been a brief item announcing that: "Prince Eulenberg has bought, from a well known stud, a string of six hunters which are being schooled on his Baltic estate for the coming season."
So, I consider the logic of the situation. My colonel is alive or he is dead. If he is dead, they will announce the news in the obituary column. They will bury him with full military honours: muffled drums, a riderless horse with empty boots in the stirrups, reversed cannon, the whole panoply of military nonsense. If he is alive, he must be at least temporarily crippled and he will have had to find some plausible explanation for his wife. I know him for an epic liar in erotic affairs; but this episode will really stretch his talent.
There is, however, a more sinister possibility: that my colonel is in convalescence but plotting my downfall. He has no reason to love me. He may well be afraid of blackmail – one of the few games I have never played. However, there is much talk lately of new struggles between the Great Powers. Bulgaria has attacked Serbia and Greece. Here in the West there are tales of spies, anarchists and assassins. Only three months ago there was an attempt on the life of King Alfonso of Spain. If the Kaiser and his colonel want to get rid of me, they can arrange it very simply. It is stale news that the Kaiser is very sensitive these days about the honour of his court. Even his royal cousin in England once remarked: "Really, Willy is so clumsy!" And I was nearly ruined by rumours which identified me – quite wrongly for once! – as "the equestrian beauty with whom the Kaiserin is reputed to be in love".
So, for the present, I sit demurely in my pension near the Étoile. I read the morning papers, shop a little, take a ladylike stroll and pray that Gräfin Bette in Berlin gives value for money! I make a joke of it, but truly it is not funny at all. I am scared, shocked to the marrow of my bones – not because of what anyone may do to me but of what I have done to myself. Suddenly, a black pit has opened at my feet and I am tottering on the brink of destruction.
The only way I can explain it is to recall what happened twenty years ago, when I had just finished my studies. Papa took Lily and me on a cruise to the Far East. We travelled on the flagship of the old Royal Dutch Line calling at Hong Kong, Shanghai, the East Indies, Siam and Singapore. One day we were ashore in Surabaja, walking through the market, when suddenly there was panic. People scattered in all directions, shouting and screaming. We looked up and saw a Malay running towards us, slashing and stabbing right and left with a big, curved kris. He was quite close to us – ten metres perhaps – when a Dutch policeman shot him dead. It was, Papa explained, the only way to stop him. The man was amok, in the grip of a murderous manic rage against which no reason could prevail.
"So, you kill him," said Papa, in that cool, smiling fashion of his. "It's a mercy to him and an act necessary to the public order. That kind of madness communicates itself like the plague among these people."
Excerpted from "The World is Made of Glass"
Copyright © 1983 The Morris West Collection.
Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
MAGDA En voyage,
MAGDA En voyage,
Fragments in Epilogue,