die aufzeichnungen des malte laurids brigge (ii)

‘Here I sit, and I am nothing (Ich sitze hier und bin nichts). And yet, this nothing begins to think, and five flights up (fünf Treppen hoch), on a grey Paris afternoon, thinks this:

Is it possible, it thinks, that we have neither seen nor perceived nor said anything real or of any importance (nichts Wirkliches und Wichtiges) yet? Is it possible that we have had thousands of years to look, ponder and record, and that we have let those thousands of years pass like a break at school, when one eats a sandwich and an apple?

Yes, it is possible (Ja, es ist möglich).

Is it possible that despite our inventions and progress, despite our culture, religion and knowledge of the world, we have remained on the surface of life (an der Oberfläche des Lebens)? Is it possible that even that surface, which might still have been something, has been covered with an unbelievably boring material, leaving it looking like drawing-room furniture in the summer holidays?

Yes, it is possible.

Is it possible that the entire history of the world (die ganze Weltgeschichte) has been misunderstood? Is it possible that we have the past all wrong, because we have always spoken of its masses, exactly as if we were describing a great throng of people, rather than speaking of the one man they were all gathered around — because he was a stranger and was dying (weil er fremd war und starb)?

Yes, it is possible.

Is it possible that we imagined we had to retrieve (nachholen zu müssen) what had happened before we were born? Is it possible that every single one of us had to be reminded (erinnern müßte) that he came from all those who had gone before, and that, knowing this, he would refuse to listen to others possessed of other knowledge (die anders wüßten)?

Yes, it is possible.

Is it possible that all these people have an exact knowledge of a past (eine Vergangenheit) that never happened? Is it possible that all realities (alle Wirklichkeiten) are nothing to them; that their life is winding down, connected to nothing at all (mit nichts verknüpft), like a clock in an empty room —?

Yes, it is possible.

Is it possible that one knows nothing of girls, who are nonetheless living? Is it possible that one says ›women‹, ›children‹, ›boys‹ without any suspicion (none whatsoever, despite all one's education) (und nicht ahn (bei aller Bildung nicht ahnt)) that these words have long since had no plural, but only countless singulars?

Yes, it is possible.

Is it possible that there are people who say ›God‹ (Gott) and suppose they mean something shared by all (Gemeinsames)? — (..) Ah, yes: is it possible to believe we could have a god without making use of him?

Yes, it is possible.

But if all of this is possible, if there is even so much as a glimmer of possibility to it, then something must be done, for pity's sake (um alles in der Welt). Anyone — anyone who has had these disquieting thoughts — must make a start on some of the things that we have omitted to do; anyone at all, no matter if (s)he is not the aptest to the taks: the fact is, there is no one else. This young foreigner of no consequence, Brigge, will have to sit himself down, five flights up, and write, day and night: yes, that s what it will come to — he will have to write (ja, er wird schreiben müssen, das wird das Ende sein).’

Rainer Maria Rilke, Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge.

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