Saturday, October 14, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth, excerpt thirteen)

from The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth:

Trotta thereupon wrote to his father. He reported tha the threat to his honor had been averted on the highest level. He begged forgiveness for maintaining a blasphemously long silence and not answering the district captain’s letters. He was touched and moved. And he tried to describe how touched he was. But he found no words for regret, melancholy, and longing in his meager vocabulary. It was a bitter drudgery. After he signed the letter, a sentence crossed his mind: “I am planning to apply for a furlough soon so I can ask your forgiveness in person.” For formal reasons this felicitous sentence could not be added as a postscript. So the lieutenant set about rewriting the entire letter. One hour later he was done. The style had only improved in the new final draft. And thus he felt that everything was taken care of—the whole disgusting business.

He himself marveled at his “phenomenal luck.” The grandson of the Hero of Solferino could count on the old Kaiser, come what may. No less delightful was the demonstrated fact that Carl Joseph’s father had money. Now that the threat of dishonorable discharge had been sidestepped, he could, if he liked, resign voluntarily, live with Frau von Taussig in Vienna, perhaps get a government job, and wear civvies. He hadn’t been in Vienna for a long time. He hadn’t heard from the woman. He missed her. He drank a 180 Proof and missed her even more—and he reached that beneficial degree of longing which permits a little weeping. Recently his tears had flowed quite readily. Lieutenant Trotta had another pleasurable look at the letter, his successful handiwork; then he slipped it into an envelope and cheerfully scrawled the address. To reward himself he ordered a double 180 Proof.

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