July 12, 2010

Ingeborg Bachmann quote


In the Psychological Institute in the Liebiggasse we always drank tea or coffee. I knew a man there who always used shorthand to record what everyone said, and sometimes other things besides. I don't know shorthand. Sometimes we'd give each other Rorschach tests, Szondi tests, TAT, and would diagnose each other's character and personality, we would observe our performance and behavior and examine our expressions. Once he asked how many men I had slept with, and I couldn't think of any except this one-legged thief who had been in jail, and a lamp covered with flies in a room in Mariahilf rented by the hour, but I said at random: seven! He laughed surprised and said, then naturally he'd like to marry me, our children would certainly be intelligent, also very pretty, and what did I think of that. We went to the Prater, and I wanted to go on the Ferris wheel, because at that time I was never afraid, just happy the way I felt while gliding and later on while skiing, I could laugh for hours out of sheer happiness. Of course then we didn't ever speak again. Shortly afterward I had to take my oral examinations, and in the morning before the three big exams all the embers spilled out of the oven at the Philosophical Institute, I stomped on some pieces of coal or wood, I ran to get a broom and dustpan, since the janitors hadn't come yet, it was burning and smoking terribly, I didn't want a fire, I trampled the embers with my feet, the stench stayed in the institute for days, my shoes were singed, but nothing burned down. I also opened all the windows. Even so I managed to take my first exam at eight in the morning, I was supposed to be there with another candidate but he didn't come; he had had a stroke during the night, as I found out just before going in to be examined about Leibnitz, Kant and Hume. The Old Privy Councillor, who was also Rector at the the time, was wearing a dirty gown, earlier he had received some honorary order from Greece, I don't know what for, and he began asking questions, very annoyed that a candidate had missed an exam due to demise, but at least I was there and not dead yet. In his anger he had forgotten what subjects had been agreed upon, and during the exam someone phoned - I believe it was his sister - one moment we were discussing the neo-Kantians, the next moment we were with the English deists, but still quite far from Kant himself, and I didn't know very much. After the phone call things improved a little, I proceeded right away to discuss what had been agreed upon, and he didn't notice. I asked him an anxious question relating to the problem of time and space, admittedly a question without meaning for me at the time, but he felt quite flattered that I had asked, and then I was dismissed. I ran back to our institute, it wasn't burning, and I went on to the next two exams. I passed all of them. But later I never did solve the problem relating to time and space. It grew and grew.

- Ingeborg Bachmann, Malina


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