Sunday, May 15, 2022

the last book I ever read (Rebellion by Joseph Roth, excerpt four)

from Rebellion by Joseph Roth (translated by Michael Hofmann):

Luigi Bernotat seemed to have been waiting for the question. Like an actor hearing his cue, he embarked slowly and confidently on a speech, with pauses for effect and occasional very rapid passages for contrast, and his voice so compelled its listener that after a short time he was only listening to the rising and falling tone, without thinking of interrupting.

‘I suppose,’ said Luigi Bernotat, ‘you take me for a blackmailer? Ach, what else could you think? People of your sort are bound to believe that every man’s honor has its price. Well, mine doesn’t! Not mine, Herr Arnold. You yourself will admit the rashness of what you attempted. There are still courts, thankfully. You never imagined an artist would be so persnickety. You’d never have laid a finger on the betrothed of a business associate of yours, or a lawyer’s, or a student’s or an officer’s. I mean to teach you that an artist’s fiancĂ©e is not there for the taking either. I might have challenged you to a duel, but for the fact that I belong to an anti-dueling society. And don’t make the mistake of supposing I’m a coward. I have a reputation. You will have heard of Martin Popovics, the wind artist. I slapped his face twice for a stupid joke he made. I’m an amateur boxer. As you see, I’m not a coward. But I won’t betray my principles either. The most important thing in life is to be true to oneself. Now you be true to yourself, and take the consequences!

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