Our forefathers whose names were Samuel and Ephraim held the books of the Law to their heart. Some of them had opened the Holy Ark of the Law. Men among men.
From within the wealth of letters they knew the proper strategy, and were not afraid in enemy lands. On very cold days they covered the Sabbath dishes with their prayer shawls and called to the great Jew to descend from the heavens and walk among them as he is, tired and filthy.
Outpourings of the soul they knew. Broken hearts they knew. If trousers remained from that time, I'd hide my face in them.
All these dead rabbis. Arranged like threads of silk from the nadir to the zenith. They accompanied me in 1958 from Marseille to Paris and from there to Amsterdam.
From a textile merchant on the Place de Clichy I received a janitor's room on the sixth floor, and in exchange for the room I promised to teach the sad boy on the fourth floor Hebrew.
Twice a week the boy put a café au lait and two warm croissants before me and I, in turn, by virtue of a tacit agreement between us, did not teach him.
Sometimes I went to Place Pigalle (nearby) and the whores called to me Viens, viens.
Two old women (whose names now escape me) baked me a cheesecake once a week and gave me what they called chocolat to drink.
I remember the woman in the Metro, at the Opéra Station, who hinted that I should follow her. She tossed her panties onto the burner in the kitchen, and the cross she removed from her neck she hung on the … What do you call it? The clock's pendulum.
Each time she said O cheri the cross struck the wooden panels. To my amazement the wall clock kept on ticking, but there was without a doubt a distortion (perhaps from the shaking) in the movement of the two hands.
In the halls of the Sorbonne the lights were low and the walls gave off a urinous scent. Words like fondamentalement were uttered there, or en principe or procés dialectique.
People sat on the surface of a planet that was burning within—all around it, in the astronomical distances, were other planets—and they spoke these words.
Later on, at cafés, within the scent of smoke, snug in corduroy jackets and wrapped in silk scarves, they waved hands in the air and said these words again. Because these words were there, like an aphrodisiac, countless bras and panties were shed.
I remember the man who taught philosophy. He was gaunt and would suddenly tilt his head (always to the left).
You need to understand, he would shout (he said comprendre), that Kant meant to say that a thing in itself is nothing.
Or when he spoke of Descartes: He didn't mean (his head tilts) that body and soul are joined in the pineal gland, but that they are reflected (se réfléchissent) in it.
Among the metal vendors and the office-supply store windows, every man longs for his mother. The gaunt man most likely had a gaunt mother, but she was his mother.
Kyrie eleison. When will we stop all this wandering from house to house and person to person and word to word.
I saw corpses. I saw my grandfather Isaac Emerich's corpse. I saw the corpse of my Aunt Edith Forshner and the corpses of my father, Andreas, and of my stepmother, Ursula.
Usually the mouth is open and the skin yellow. The body is, without a doubt, an empty shell. But where does everything go?
The sun stands over humanity by day and the moon by night. Whoever can, finds another body and lies beside it. Dreams fill us and when we're awake the things in actual space seem like dreams as well.
I remember the woman I married and how in Edinburgh we saw a cat devour a fledgling. How we drank soup in Munich. But what good is that soup we drank?
Kyrie Eleison. Just give us rolls and a clothes closet. Give us a single house slipper. The other you can hide beneath the bed. Give us a window we can open and close. Give us blotches on the back of the hand as we age.