The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:20 pm

The Golem
by Gustav Meyrink
Translated by Mike Mitchell and with an introduction and chronology by Robert Irwin
First published in Germany in 1915
First English Translation in 1928
Mike Mitchell's translation in 1995
Reprinted in 2000
Translation copyright © Mike Mitchell 1995
Introduction copyright © Robert Invin 1995





Table of Contents:

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Re: The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:26 pm


Mike Mitchell is one of Dedalus's editorial directors and is responsible for Dedalus translation programme.

His publications include The Dedalus Book of Austrian Fantasy: the Meyrink Years 1890-1932;Harrap's German Grammar and a study of Peter Hacks.

Mike Mitchell's translations include the novels of Gustav Meyrink and Herbert Rosendorfer, The Great Bagarozy by Helmut Krausser and The Road to Darkness by Paul Leppin.

His translation of Letters Back to Ancient China by Herbert Rosendorfer won the 1998 Schlegel-Tieck German Translation Prize.

His current projects include a new translation of The Other Side by Alfred Kubin.
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Re: The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:27 pm


1868 19 January. Gustav Meyer born (Meyrink will be his nom de plume), illegitimate son of Baron Karl Varnbiiler von und zu Hemmingen, minister of state for Wurttemburg, and Maria Meyer, a Bavarian actress. Born in Vienna and baptised and raised as a Protestant. Education in Munich, Hamburg and Prague.

1882-1902 One of the directors of the Meyer and Morgen-stern Bank in Prague. Becomes well known as a man about town.

1891 Nervous breakdown and suicide attempt. Interests himself in occultism and becomes a founder member of the Theosophical Lodge of the Blue Star.

1892 Marries Hedwig Aloysia Certl.

1893-6 Investigates Cabalism, freemasonry, yoga, alchemy and hashish.

1896 First meeting with Philomena Bernt, a banker's daughter.

1901 While convalescing in a tuberculosis sanatorium in Dresden, he begins to write. The first short story 'The Burning Soldier' is published in Simplicissimus on 29 October.

1902 Fights a series of duels with officers of a Prague regiment. Rumours that he was directing the bank's affairs according to spirit guidance. Accused of fraud and imprisoned. Temporarily paralysed. Freed after two and a half months, but financially ruined. Recovers his health through the practice of yoga.

1903 His first anthology of grotesque and satirical short stories published under the title 'The Burning Soldier'.

1904 Moves to Vienna. Orchids (more short stories) published.

1905 Divorces first wife and he and Philomena Bernt travel to Dover where they can get married out of the reach of scandal.

1905-6 His anti-militarist writings make it necessary for him to exile himself in Switzerland for a while.

1906 Moves to Bavaria.

1907 The Cabinet of Wax Figures published (short stories). Begins writing The Golem.

1908 His son Harro born.

1909-10 Translates the works of Dickens.

1911 Settles by Lake Starnberg in Bavaria.

1913 The Enchanted Horn of the German Petit Bourgeois published (short stories).

1913-14 The Golem appears in serial form in Die Weissen Blatter.

1914 Paul Wegener's first film version of The Golem.

1915 The Golem is published in book form by Karl Wolff, Leipzig. It is Meyrink's first novel.

1916 His second novel The Green Face published.

1917 Meets Bô Yin Râ. Official change of name to Meyrink. Walpurgisnacht published. Allegedly requested by German government to write a novel showing that the freemasons started the Great War, but refused under pressure from the freemasons.

1920 Wegener's second film version of The Golem. (It is the only one which has survived.)

1921 The White Dominican, a novel.

1921-5 Edits a series of alchemical, occult and mystical works.

1925 Tales of the Gold Seekers (short stories about alchemists).

1926 Translates Kipling.

1927 The Angel of the West Window (a novel about Elizabeth I and John Dee, the sorcerer). Money and health problems.

1928 Pemberton translation of The Golem.

1932 Harro, his son, commits suicide. 4 December Gustav Meyrink dies in The House of the Last Lamp looking east over Lake Starnberg.

1936 Duvivier film version of The Golem.

1971 French television version of The Golem.

1985 Dedalus republishes Pemberton's translation of The Golem.

1991-4 Mike Mitchell's first English translation of The Angel of the West Window; Walpurgis-nacht; The Green Face and The White Dominican published by Dedalus.

1994 A selection of Meyrink short stories translated by Maurice Raraty published by Dedalus as The Opal (and other stories).

1995 New translation of The Golem by Mike Mitchell.
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Re: The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:28 pm

by Robert Irwin 1985

The Golem has been generally acknowledged to be Mey-rink's masterpiece. In it we have the Castle which is not Kafka's Castle, The Trial which is not Kafka's Trial, and a Prague which is not Kafka's Prague. Kafka and Meyrink were contemporaries in Prague in the years before World War I. Max Brod knew and admired them both. By the time Brod met him, Meyrink was already a published writer with a life of mystery and scandal behind him, an eerie presence among the chess players and political dabblers of the city's cafe society. (Two of Meyrink's drinking companions, Teschner the puppeteer and Vrieslander the painter appear in The Golem—-Teschner as Zwakh, Vrieslander under his own name.) Meyrink's novel powerfully evokes the physical presence of Prague three quarters of a century ago—-Hradcany Castle, the Street of the Alchemists, the Charles Bridge, the Jewish Quarter. As Kafka acknowledged, Meyrink brilliantly reproduced the atmosphere of the place.

But if this were all, then the novel could only have a limited interest for us today. More importantly, The Golem, like Meyrink's earlier and shorter satirical pieces, was written to be an assault on the dubiously 'safe' values of the bourgeoisie of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in its last days. In an expressionist and melodramatic mode it anticipates the anxieties of Karl Kraus's Die Letzen Tage der Menscheit (1919) and Robert Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (1930-43). It must be admitted though that Meyrink's intellectual position was a great deal more eccentric than Kraus's or Musil's and his mode of expression willfully distorted and bizarre, for The Golem is, before all else a masterpiece of fantasy. It and Meyrink's later novels and short stories were to serve as sources of inspiration for the fantastic and expressionist movement in the German cinema—most notably, of course, for Paul Wegener's two film versions of Der Golem. Equally Meyrink's haunted visualisation of the Prague ghetto—a sunless quarter where architecture and action alike are distended, fragmented and exaggerated for expressive effect—was to inspire artists like Hugo Steiner-Prag and Alfred Kubin.

The sources of Meyrink's fantasy do not lie in whimsy or in self-reflective literary jokes. Rather he drew upon the experiences of his own life (and here the reader is referred to the chronology at the beginning of this volume). His life was a great deal stranger than fiction, though his fictions were in all conscience strange enough. In particular he drew upon his own active involvement in the intellectual and occultist movements—cabalistic, masonic and theosophical—which secretly fermented in central Europe at the beginning of the century. The Great War was to throw all into turmoil. Artists and occultists dispersed and recombined in new centres after the War and, within a few decades the world which had given birth to The Golem would be annihilated by the Third Reich. This book then leads us back into a world we have lost. Indeed it has passed away so utterly that we have not even been conscious of its passing.

What is the Golem? What is a Golem? In Old Testament Hebrew the word seems to have meant the unformed embryo. In medieval Jewish philosophy the term designated hyle or matter which had not been shaped by form. More curiously Hassidic mystics in twelfth-thirteenth century Germany are known to have practised an obscure ritual which aimed to use the Cabalistic power of the Hebrew alphabet and manipulate the material form of the universe to create a 'golem'. It was from these philosophical and mystical usages that a group of legends about the golem evolved to become one of the stock themes of Jewish folklore and Yiddish literature. In these legends a man-like monster of clay is created by a rabbi or other fraudulent mediums. He made textual and practical researches into alchemy. Later under the influence of sixteenth century Paracelsean ideas about the 'Filthy Dispensary' he was to become convinced that the key to the Philosopher's Stone was to be found in the excrement that flowed through the sewers of Prague.

Meyrink studied the Cabala of course, but also Buddhism and Hindu philosophy, and the fruits of those studies are to be found in The Golem. He experimented with hashish, yoga, sleep deprivation, fasting and breathing rituals. He took to drinking gum arabic twice a day in the hope of inducing visions. He had visions. All his novels and short stories were based on visionary experiences. It was probably in 1901 that he had his first great visionary experience. At Moldau one winter's night he was sitting with his back to a church clock tower when he saw that same clock tower in perfect but magnified detail with its clock face floating suspended before him in the sky. It was at this moment he reports that he passed from thinking in words to thinking in pictures and he became a writer. A little later, in a T.B sanatorium in Dresden, he wrote his first story, 'The Burning Soldier'. It was published in the famous satirical periodical Simplicissimus.

The following year he became involved in a mysterious sequence of scandals. While still married to his first wife, his affection for Philomena Bernt, who finally became his second wife in 1905, drew him into a series of duels with the officer corps of one of Prague's smart regiments. Then there was scandal at the bank. Meyrink was rumoured to be relying on advice from the spirit world to direct the bank's affairs. There was also talk of money having been misappropriated. He was thrown into prison and, perhaps as a result of rough treatment was temporarily paralysed. [The author's experiences in prison are also fed into The Golem.]

A few months later he was cleared of the charges and he resumed his writing and his esoteric researches. He was haunted by horrific apparitions of a green face and these visitations surfaced in a later novel, Das grime Gesicht.

He also took to travelling on the astral sphere and, it is said, that he or rather his astral double actually manifested itself to his wife one evening. So the Golem is in every sense the artist's double. The original title for the book, however, was The Eternal Jew and it seems that work on it may have been started as early as 1907. In the same year he and Richard Teschner were working together on an unsuccessful project to establish a puppet theatre. This too is in the novel, this fascination with puppets, moving figures with human shapes but no human life.

Writing was by now a matter of financial necessity for him. Though he had been exonerated, the scandal of 1902 had ruined him. He moved away from Prague and the bulk of The Golem must have been written in Bavaria. At the same time he laboured on a translation of the complete works of Dickens into German, Dicken's taste for city life, for grotesque characters and heightened sentiment was Meyrink's too and is patent in The Golem. The final version of the story was related by Meyrink into a dictaphone and transcribed by a secretary. It was first published as a serial in Die Weissen Blatter and then sold to the publisher Kurt Wolff in Leipzig for a lump sum. When the novel appeared in 1915 it was received with immediate acclaim and rapidly sold 200,000 copies.

'Lurking and waiting . . . waiting and lurking . . . the terrible perpetual motto of the Ghetto.' Cabalism is literary occultism par excellence. The Cabalist and the novelist are jointly committed to the magical creation of a world through the manipulation of words. Some novels—and the novels of David Lindsay and Charles Williams are examples—achieve an effect which is not a purely literary one and an effect which lingers on in the mind of the reader long after the reading of the book has been concluded. The Golem is one of these novels. The path I am pointing out to you is strewn with strange happenings: dead people you have known will rise up and talk with you! They are only images!'.
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Re: The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:28 pm


Y. Caroutch (ed.) Gustav Meyrink = Cahiers de 1'Herne, vol. 30 (1976)

E. Frank, Gustav Meyrink (1957)

P. Mariel (ed.) Dictionnaire des Societes Secretes en Occident (1971)

L. Pauwels and J. Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians (1963)

P. Raabe, The Era of Expressionism (1974)

G. Scholem, Kabbalah (1974)

J. Webb, The Occult Establishment (1981)

L. Eisner, The Haunted Screen (1969)
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Re: The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:34 pm


The moonlight is shining on the foot of my bed, lying there like a large, bright, flat stone.

Whenever the disc of the full moon begins to shrink and its right-hand side starts to wither—like a face approaching old age, in which one cheek becomes hollow and wrinkled first—that is the time when at night I am seized by a dark and agonising restlessness. I am not asleep, nor am I awake, and in my reverie things I have seen mingle with things I have read or heard, like rivers of different colour or clarity meeting.

I had been reading about the life of the Buddha before I went to bed, and one passage kept on running through my mind in a thousand variations, going back to the beginning again and again:

"A crow flew to a stone which looked like a lump of fat, thinking perhaps it had found something good to eat. But when the crow found that it was not good to eat, it flew off. Like the crow that went to the stone, so do we—we, the tempters—leave Gautama, the ascetic, because we have lost our pleasure in him."

And the image of the stone that looked like a lump of fat grew in my mind to enormous dimensions:

I am walking along a dried-up river-bed, picking up smooth pebbles, bluish-grey ones with specks of glittering dust. I rack my brains, but I still have no idea what to do with them. Then I find black ones with patches of sulphurous yellow, like the petrified attempts of a child to form crude, blotched salamanders.

I want to throw them away, these pebbles, far away from me, but they keep just falling out of my hand, and I cannot banish them from my sight.

All the stones that ever played a role in my life push up out of the earth around me. Some are struggling clumsily to work their way up through the sand to the light, like huge, slate-coloured crabs when the tide comes in, as if they were doing their utmost to catch my eye, in order to tell me things of infinite importance. Others, exhausted, fall back weakly into their holes and abandon all hope of ever being able to deliver their message.

At times I emerge with a start from the half-light of this reverie and see again for a moment the moonlight lying on the humped cover at the bottom of the bed like a large, bright, flat stone, only to grope my way blindly once more after my departing consciousness, restlessly searching for the stone which is tormenting me, the one which must lie hidden somewhere in the debris of my memory and which looks like a lump of fat.

The end of a rainwater pipe must once have reached the ground beside it, I imagine, bent at an obtuse angle, its rim eaten away by rust, and I furiously try to force such an image into my mind in order to beguile my startled thoughts and lull them back to sleep.

I do not succeed.

Again and again, again and again, with idiotic persistence, tireless as a shutter blown by the wind against the wall at regular intervals, an obstinate voice inside me keeps insisting, 'That is something else, something quite different, that is not the stone that looks like a lump of fat.'

There is no escape from the voice.

A hundred times I object that that is all beside the point, but, although it goes silent for a little while, it starts up again, imperceptibly at first, with its stubborn 'Yes, yes, you may be right, but it's still not the stone that looks like a lump of fat'.

I am slowly filled with an unbearable sense of my own powerlessness.

I do not know what happened after that. Did I voluntarily give up all resistance, or did my thoughts overpower me and bind me?

All I know is that my body is lying asleep in bed and my senses are detached and no longer tied to it.

'Who is this T, now?', is the question that suddenly occurs to me; but then I remember that I no longer possess an organ with which I can ask questions; and I am afraid that the voice will start up again with its endless interrogation about the stone and the lump of fat.

So I turn away.
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Re: The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:36 pm


I suddenly found myself standing in a gloomy courtyard and through the reddish arch of a gateway opposite, across the narrow, filthy street, I could see a Jewish junk-dealer leaning against a shop-front which had bits of old iron, broken tools, rusty stirrups and skates, and all kinds of other dead things hanging round the open doorway.

And this image had about it that tormenting monotony which characterises all impressions which, like pedlars, cross the threshold of our perception with a certain regularity, day in, day out, and did not arouse either curiosity or surprise within me.

I became aware that I had been living in this neighbourhood for a long time now.

In spite of its contrast with what I had perceived only shortly beforehand, and with the manner in which I had come here, this awareness did not make any deep impression on me either.

As I made my way up the worn steps to my room, musing in passing on the greasy appearance of the stone treads, I was suddenly visited by the notion that at some time I must have heard or read of a strange comparison between a stone and a lump of fat.

Then I heard footsteps going up the higher flights ahead of me, and when I reached my door I saw that it was Rosina, the fourteen-year-old red-head belonging to the junk-shop owner, Aaron Wassertrum. I had to squeeze past her, and she stood with her back against the banisters, arching her body lasciviously. She had her grubby hands curled round the iron rail for support and I could see the pale gleam of her bare arms in the murky half-light.

I avoided her glances.

Her teasing smile and waxy, rocking-horse face disgust me. I feel she must have white, bloated flesh, like the axolotl I saw just now in the tank of salamanders in the pet-shop. I find the eye-lashes of people with red hair as repulsive as those of rabbits.

I unlocked my door and quickly slammed it behind me.

From my window I could see the junk-dealer, Aaron Wassertrum, standing outside his shop. He was leaning against the wall of the arched opening, nipping at his fingernails with a pair of pliers.

Was the red-haired Rosina his daughter or his niece? He did not resemble her at all.

Among the Jewish faces that appear day by day in Hahnpassgasse I can clearly recognise different tribes, whose distinguishing features can no more be blurred by the close relationship of particular individuals than oil and water can be mixed. You cannot say, 'Those two are brothers, or father and son.' This man belongs to one tribe and that to another; that is the most that can be read from these features.

Even if Rosina did look like the junk-dealer, what would that prove?

These tribes harbour a secret loathing and revulsion for each other, which can even burst through the barriers of close blood-ties; but they know how to conceal it from the outside world, as one would guard a dangerous secret. Not one of them gives the slightest hint of it, and in this accord they resemble blind people filled with hatred who are clinging to a rope dripping with slime: some grasp it tight with both fists, others keep a reluctant hold with one finger, but all are possessed by the superstitious fear that they would be doomed to perdition the moment they abandoned their communal security and separated themselves from the rest.

Rosina is one of that red-haired tribe which is even more repulsive in its physical characteristics than the others; the men are pigeon-chested and have long, skinny necks with protuberant Adam's apples. Everything about them is freckled, and their whole life through they suffer the torments of lust, these men, and fight an unending, losing battle against their desires, on the rack of a constant, loathsome fear for their health.

It was not at all clear to me how I had come to assume Rosina and the junk-dealer, Aaron Wassertrum, were in any way related. I have never seen her anywhere near the old man, nor ever noticed them calling out to each other.

But she was almost always in our courtyard or hanging around the dark corners and passages of our house.

I am sure that all the other inhabitants of the building think she is a close relative or some kind of ward of the old junk-dealer, but I am convinced that not one of them would be able to give a reason for this supposition.

I wanted to drag my thoughts away from Rosina, so I looked out of the open window of my room, down into Hahnpassgasse. As if he had felt my eye light on him, Aaron Wassertrum suddenly turned his face up towards me, a horrible, expressionless face, with its round, fish's eyes and gaping hare-lip. He seemed to me like a human spider that can sense the slightest touch on its web, however unconcerned it pretends to be.

And whatever did he live on? What were his thoughts, his plans? I had no idea. The same dead, worthless objects hang down from the rim of the arched entrance to his shop, day after day, year in, year out. I could have drawn them with my eyes shut: the buckled tin trumpet without any keys, the picture painted on yellowing paper with that strange arrangement of soldiers; and in front, piled up close to each other on the ground so that no one can cross the threshold of his shop, a row of round, iron hotplates from kitchen stoves.

These objects never increase or decrease in number, and whenever the occasional passer-by stops and asks the price of this or that, the junk-dealer falls prey to a violent agitation. It is horrible to see then how the two parts of his hare-lip curl up as he spews out a torrent of incomprehensible words in an irritated, gurgling, stuttering bass, so that the potential buyer loses all desire to pursue the matter further, shrinks back and hurries off.

Quick as a flash Wassertrum's gaze had slipped away from my eye to rest with studied interest on the bare walls of the neighbouring house just beyond my window. What could he find to look at there? The house turns its back on Hahnpassgasse and its windows look down into the courtyard! There is only one that gives onto the street.

By chance, someone seemed to have entered the rooms next door—I think they form part of some rambling studio—that are on the same storey as mine; through the wall I can hear a male and a female voice talking to each other.

But it would have been impossible for the junk-dealer to have heard that from down below!

Someone moved outside my door, and I guessed it must be Rosina, still standing out there, hot with expectation that I might yet call her in after all.

And below, on the half-landing, Loisa, the pockmarked adolescent, would be waiting with bated breath to see if I would open my door; even here in my room I could feel the air quiver with his hatred and seething jealousy. He is afraid to come any closer because Rosina might see him. He knows he is dependent on her, as a hungry wolf is dependent on its keeper, yet most of all he would like to leap up and abandon himself to a frenzy of rage.

I sat down at my table and took out my tweezers and gravers, but no creative work would come out right, and my hand was not steady enough to clear out the fine lines of the Japanese engraving.

There is a bleak, gloomy atmosphere hanging round this house that quietens my soul, and old images keep surfacing within me.

Loisa and his twin brother Jaromir cannot be much more than a year older than Rosina. I could scarcely remember their father, a baker who specialised in communion wafers, and now, I believe, they are looked after by an old woman, though I have no idea which one it is of the many who live in the house, like so many toads hiding under their stones. She looks after the two boys, that is, she provides them with lodgings; for that they have to hand over to her whatever they manage to beg or steal. Does she feed them as well? I shouldn't imagine so, the old woman conies home very late at night.

They say her job is laying out corpses.

I often used to see Loisa, Jaromir and Rosina playing together innocently in the yard when they were children.

Those times are long since past.

Loisa spends the whole day chasing after the red-haired Jew girl. Sometimes his search is fruitless, and if he can't find her anywhere he creeps up to my door and waits, a grimace on his face, for her to make her surreptitious way up here. At such times, as I sit at my work, I can see him in my mind's eye, lurking outside in the crooked corridor, listening with his head bent forward on his gaunt neck.

Sometimes the silence is broken by a furious outburst of noise: Jaromir, who is deaf and dumb, and whose head is permanently filled with a crazed lust for Rosina, roams the house like a wild animal, and the unarticulated howling he emits, half out of his mind with jealousy and suspicion, is so eerie that it freezes the blood in your veins.

He is looking for the pair of them. He always assumes they are together somewhere, hiding in one of the thousand filthy nooks and crannies, and he rushes about in a blind frenzy, goaded on by the idea that he must be at his brother's heels, to make sure there is nothing going on with Rosina that he doesn't know about.

And it is precisely this unceasing torment of the deaf-mute which, I suspect, keeps provoking Rosina into carrying on with his brother. Whenever her ardour or her willingness abate, Loisa always thinks up some new piece of nastiness to arouse her lust once more. For example, they let Jaromir catch them in the act, apparently or really, and then, when he is beside himself with fury, slyly lure him into dark corridors where they have set up vicious traps—rusty barrel-hoops that shoot up when he treads on them and iron rakes with the points sticking up—which he trips over, bloodying his hands and knees.

From time to time, just to tighten the screw, Rosina will think up some devilish trick of her own. All at once she will change her behaviour towards Jaromir, acting as if she has suddenly taken a liking to him. With the smile that is permanently fixed on her face, she hurriedly tells the poor deaf-mute things that drive him almost insane with arousal; to communicate with him she has invented a mysterious, only half-comprehensible sign-language which never fails to entangle him in a net of uncertainty and hope that drains all the strength from him.

Once I saw him standing in front of her in the courtyard, and she was talking to him so insistently, and with such vigorous gestures and lip movements that I thought he would collapse with nervous strain at any moment. The sweat was pouring down his face with the superhuman effort it required of him to grasp the meaning of a message which was deliberately hurried, deliberately unclear.

He spent the whole of the following day in a fever of expectation on the steps of a half-ruined house farther along the narrow, filthy Hahnpassgasse, until it was too late for him to beg for his few kreutzer on the street corners. And when he arrived home in the evening, half dead from hunger and agitation, his foster-mother had long since locked the door.

A cheerful woman's laugh came through the wall from the studio next to my room. A laugh—a cheerful laugh!—in these houses? There is no one living anywhere in the Ghetto capable of laughing cheerfully.

Then it came back to me that a few days ago Zwakh, the old puppeteer, had told me that some young gentleman had taken the room from him, at a high rent, clearly in order to be able to meet his lady-love undisturbed. And now the new tenant's expensive furniture had to be secretly carried up, gradually, so that no one in the house would notice, piece by piece every night. The kind-hearted old man had rubbed his hands with glee as he told me about it, childishly pleased at the clever way he had gone about it so that none of the other tenants would have any idea of the presence of the romantic couple. There were, he confided, entrances to the studio from three different buildings. It even had access through a trapdoor! And if you unlatched the iron door to the loft, which was very easy from the other side, you could get along the corridor past my room to the stairs in our house and use those as a way out.

Once more the cheerful laughter rang out, releasing within me the vague memory of an aristocratic family and their luxurious apartment, to which I was often called to carry out minor repairs to costly objets d'art.

Suddenly I heard a piercing scream from the room next door. Startled, I listened to what was going on. The iron door to the loft was rattled violently and the next moment a lady rushed into my room, her hair undone, her face as white as a sheet, and with a length of gold brocade flung round her bare shoulders.

"Herr Pernath, hide me, for Christ's sake hide me! Ask no questions, but just let me hide here!"

Before I could answer, my door was torn open once again and then immediately slammed to. For just a second the face of Aaron Wassertrum was visible, grinning like some horrible mask.

A round patch of gleaming light appears before me, and by the light of the moon I once more recognise the foot of my bed.

Sleep is still spread over me like a heavy, woollen coat, and the name of Pernath stands in golden letters before my memory. Now where have I read that name? Athanasius Pernath?

I think . . . I think that once, a long, long time ago, I took the wrong hat somewhere, and even then I was surprised that it fitted me so well, since my head has a very individual shape. And I looked into this hat that belonged to someone else . . . all those years ago, and .. . yes . . . there it was in letters of gold on the white silk lining:

From time to time, just to tighten the screw, Rosina will think up some devilish trick of her own. All at once she will change her behaviour towards Jaromir, acting as if she has suddenly taken a liking to him. With the smile that is permanently fixed on her face, she hurriedly tells the poor deaf-mute things that drive him almost insane with arousal; to communicate with him she has invented a mysterious, only half-comprehensible sign-language which never fails to entangle him in a net of uncertainty and hope that drains all the strength from him.

Once I saw him standing in front of her in the courtyard, and she was talking to him so insistently, and with such vigorous gestures and lip movements that I thought he would collapse with nervous strain at any moment. The sweat was pouring down his face with the superhuman effort it required of him to grasp the meaning of a message which was deliberately hurried, deliberately unclear.

He spent the whole of the following day in a fever of expectation on the steps of a half-ruined house farther along the narrow, filthy Hahnpassgasse, until it was too late for him to beg for his few kreutzer on the street corners. And when he arrived home in the evening, half dead from hunger and agitation, his foster-mother had long since locked the door.

A cheerful woman's laugh came through the wall from the studio next to my room. A laugh—a cheerful laugh!—in these houses? There is no one living anywhere in the Ghetto capable of laughing cheerfully.

Then it came back to me that a few days ago Zwakh, the old puppeteer, had told me that some young gentleman had taken the room from him, at a high rent, clearly in order to be able to meet his lady-love undisturbed. And now the new tenant's expensive furniture had to be secretly carried up, gradually, so that no one in the house would notice, piece by piece every night. The kind-hearted old man had rubbed his hands with glee as he told me about it, childishly pleased at the clever way he had gone about it so I was wary of the hat, frightened of it, though I didn't know why.

Then suddenly the voice, the voice I have forgotten, the voice which kept asking me where the stone was that looked like a lump of fat, flies towards me like an arrow.

Quickly, I imagine Rosina's sharp profile with its sickly-sweet grin and thus manage to avoid the arrow, which immediately disappears into the darkness.

Ah, Rosina's face! It is stronger than that voice and its mindless prattling. And now that I'll soon be back, safe and sound, in my room in Hahnpassgasse, I've nothing to worry about.
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Re: The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:38 pm


Unless I the feeling I have is mistaken, someone is following me up the stairs, always staying the same distance behind me, in order to visit me, and he must be just about on the last landing now.

And now he must be coming round the corner where Hillel, the archivist at the Jewish Town Hall, lives, up the worn stone stairs and out onto the top-storey landing, with its floor of red brick.

Now he is feeling his way along the wall, and now, right now, he must be reading my name on the door-plate, laboriously deciphering each letter in the dark.

I positioned myself in the middle of the room, looking towards the entrance.

The door opened, and he came in.

He took only a few steps towards me, neither removing his hat nor saying a word of greeting.

That is the way he behaves when he feels at home, I sensed, and I found it quite natural that he acted as he did and not otherwise.

He put his hand into his pocket and took out a book.

He spent a long time leafing through its pages.

The cover of the book was of metal, with indentations in the form of rosettes and sigils filled with enamel and small stones.

Finally he found the place he was looking for and pointed to it.

I could make out the title of the chapter: Ibbur—'The Impregnation of Souls'.

I automatically ran my eye over the page. Half of it was taken up with the large initial $ in red and gold which was damaged at one edge.

I was to repair it.

The initial was not stuck onto the page, as I had previously seen in old books; rather, it seemed to consist of two thin pieces of gold leaf welded together in the middle and with their ends wrapped round the edge of the parchment.

So there must be a hole cut in the page where the letter was? If that was the case, then the J must be visible in reverse on the next page?

I turned the page and found that my assumption was correct. Without thinking, I read that page as well, and the one opposite.

And I read on and on.

The book was speaking to me, just as dreams can speak, only more clearly and much more distinctly. It was like a question that touched me to the heart.

Words streamed out from an invisible mouth, took on life and came towards me. They twisted and turned before me, changing their shapes like slave-girls in their dresses of many colours, then they sank into the ground or turned into an iridescent haze in the air and vanished, making room for the next. For a little while each hoped I would choose it and not bother to look at the next.

Some there were among them which strutted around like peacocks in shimmering garments, and their steps were slow and measured.

Others were like queens, but aged and worn out, their eyelids painted, their wrinkles covered with an ugly layer of rouge, and with a lascivious twist to their lips.

I looked past them to those that were still approaching, and my glance skimmed over long rows of grey figures with faces that were so ordinary, so devoid of expression, that it seemed impossible they could impress themselves on one's memory.

Then they dragged along a woman who was stark naked and as gigantic as a brazen colossus.

For a second the woman stopped before me and bent down to me.

Her eyelashes were as long as my whole body and she was pointing mutely to the pulse in her left wrist. Its throb was like an earthquake, and I sensed within her the life of a whole world.

From the distance a wild, bacchic procession was charging towards us. Among them were a man and a woman with their arms clasped around each other; I could see them coming when they were still far off, and nearer and nearer came the din of the procession.

Now I could hear the singing of the ecstatic dancers echoing all round me, and my eyes sought the entwined couple. But they had been transformed into a single figure, a hermaphrodite, half male, half female, sitting on a throne of mother-of-pearl.

And the hermaphrodite wore a crown of red wood with a square piece at the front into which the worm of destruction had eaten mysterious runes.

Trotting along one behind the other in a cloud of dust came a herd of small, blind sheep, animals the gigantic hermaphrodite kept to feed its bacchic horde.

At times there were among the figures that came streaming from the invisible mouth some arisen from graves, with shrouds over their faces. And they halted before me, suddenly letting their winding sheets fall to the ground, staring greedily at my heart with predatory eyes and sending an icy shock through my brain that dammed up my blood like a river into which huge boulders have suddenly fallen from the sky, blocking its course.

A woman floated past. I could not see her face, it was turned away and she was wearing a cloak of flowing teardrops.

Strings of people in fancy dress danced past, laughing, ignoring me. Only a pierrot turned and gave me a thoughtful look, then came back to plant himself in front of me and look me in the face as if it were a mirror. There was an eerie force in the bizarre faces he pulled and the movements of his arms, now hesitant, now lightning fast, that filled me with an irresistible urge to imitate him, to wink as he did, to shrug my shoulders and turn down the corners of my mouth. Then he was shouldered aside by the figures behind, impatient to push their way to the front and all wanting to show themselves to me.

But none of these beings has any permanence.

They are strings of pearls slipping along a silk thread, single notes of a melody pouring from the invisible mouth.

It was no longer a book speaking to me now, it was a voice. A voice that wanted something from me which I could not understand, however hard I tried. A voice that tormented me with burning, incomprehensible questions.

But the voice that spoke these visible words was dead and without echo. Every sound that appears in the here and now has many echoes, just as every object has one large shadow and many small shadows. But this voice no longer had any echoes, they must have long since died away and disappeared.

I had read the book right to the end and was still holding it in my hands, and yet I felt as if I had been searching through my brain and not leafing through a book!

Everything the voice had said to me I had carried within myself all my life, only it had been obscured and forgotten, had kept itself hidden from my thoughts until this day.

I looked up.

Where was the man who had brought me the book?


Will he return when it's ready? Or am I to take it to him?

But I could not remember him saying where he lived.

I tried to recall his appearance, but failed.

What had he been wearing? Was he old, was he young? And what had been the colour of his hair, his beard?

Nothing, I could see nothing with my mind's eye. Every picture I tried to conjure up disintegrated inexorably, even before it was properly fixed in my mind. I closed my eyes and pressed my hand against my lids in an attempt to catch just one tiny scrap of his portrait.

Nothing, nothing.

I stood in the middle of the room, looking at the door, just as I had been doing before, when he arrived, and pictured the scene: now he's coming round the corner, now he's crossing the red brick landing, now he's reading the nameplate—Athanasius Pernath—on my door, and now he's coming in. All to no avail. Not the faintest trace of a memory of what he looked like stirred within me.

I looked at the book lying on the table and tried to summon up in my mind the hand that went with it, that had taken it out of the pocket and handed it to me. I could not even remember whether it had a glove on or was bare, whether it was young or wrinkled, had rings on its fingers or not.

Then I had a curious idea. It was like an irresistible inspiration.

I put on my coat and hat and went out into the corridor and down the stairs, then walked slowly back to my room, slowly, very slowly, just as he had done when he came. And when I opened the door, I saw that my chamber was shrouded in dusk. Had it not been broad daylight when I went out a few seconds ago?

How long must I have stood down there, lost in thought, oblivious of the time?!

I was trying to imitate the gait and expression of the unknown man when I could not even remember them. How could I expect to imitate him if I had no clue at all as to what he looked like!

But what happened was different, completely different from what I imagined. My skin, my muscles, my body suddenly remembered, without revealing the secret to my brain. They made movements that I had not willed, had not intended.

As if my limbs no longer belonged to me!

All at once, when I took a few steps into the room, I found myself walking with a strange, faltering gait. That is the way someone walks who is constantly in fear of falling forward on to his face, I said to myself.

Yes, yes, yes! That was the way he walked!

I knew quite clearly: that is the way he is.

I was wearing an alien face, clean-shaven, with prominent cheek-bones; I was looking at my room out of slanting eyes. I could sense it, even though I could not see myself.

I wanted to scream out loud that that was not my face, wanted to feel it with my hand, but my hand would not obey me; it went into my pocket and brought out a book, just as he had done earlier.

Then, suddenly, I was sitting down again at the table, without my hat and coat, and was myself, I—I, Athanasius Pernath.

I was shaking with terror, my heart was pounding fit to burst and I knew that ghostly fingers had been poking round the crevices of my brain. They had left me a moment ago, but I could still feel the chill of their touch at the back of my head.

Now I knew what the stranger was like, and I could have felt him inside me, whenever I wanted—if I had wanted. But to picture him, to see him before me, eye to eye, that I still could not do, nor will I ever be able to.

I realised that he is like a negative, an invisible mould, the lines of which I cannot grasp, but into which I must let myself slip if I want to become aware of its shape and expression.

In the drawer of the desk I kept an iron box. I decided to lock the book away in it and only take it out again when this strange mental derangement had left me. Only then would I set about repairing the broken capital 3.

So I picked up the book from the table: it felt as if I had not touched it at all.

I took the box in my hand—the same feeling. It was as if my sense of touch had to pass through a long tunnel of deepest darkness before it surfaced in my consciousness, as if the objects were separated from me by a seam of time a year wide and were part of a past which had long since left me.

The voice, which is circling round in the darkness, searching for me to torment me with the stone or the lump of fat, has passed me by without seeing me. I know that it comes from the realm of sleep. But everything that I have just experienced was real life, and I sense that is why it could not see me, why its search for me was vain.
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Re: The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:41 pm


Standing beside me was Charousek, the collar of his thin, threadbare coat turned up; I could hear his teeth chattering. The poor student will catch his death of cold in this icy, draughty archway, I said to myself, and invited him to come over to my room with me, but he declined. "Thank you, Herr Pernath", he murmured, shivering, "but unfortunately I have not much time left. I have to get to the city as quickly as possible. Anyway, we'd be soaked to the skin after a couple of steps if we went out into the street now. This downpour just won't let up!"

Showers of water swept across the roof-tops, streaming down the faces of the houses like floods of tears.

If I turned my head a little I could see my window on the fourth floor across the street; with the rain trickling down, the panes looked like isinglass, opaque and lumpy, as if the glass were soggy. A filthy yellow stream was coursing down the street, and the archway was filling up with passers-by, who had all decided to wait for the storm to die down.

Suddenly Charousek said, "There goes a bridal bouquet", pointing to a spray of withered myrtle floating past in the dirty water. Someone behind us gave a loud laugh at this remark. When I turned round I saw that it was an elegantly dressed, white-haired old gentleman with a puffy, frog-like face. Charousek also looked round briefly and muttered something to himself.

There was something unpleasant about the old man, and I turned my attention away from him to the discoloured houses squatting side by side before me in the rain like a row of morose animals. How eerie and run-down they all looked! Plumped down without thought, they stood there like weeds that had shot up from the ground. They had been propped against a low, yellow, stone wall—the only surviving remains of an earlier, extensive building—two or three hundred years ago, anyhow, taking no account of the other buildings. There was a half house, crooked, with a receding forehead, and beside it was one that stuck out like a tusk. Beneath the dreary sky, they looked as if they were asleep, and you could feel none of the malevolent, hostile life that sometimes emanates from them when the mist fills the street on an autumn evening, partly concealing the changing expressions that flit across their faces.

I have lived here for a generation and in that time I have formed the impression, which I cannot shake off, that there are certain hours of the night, or in the first light of dawn, when they confer together, in mysterious, noiseless agitation. And sometimes a faint, inexplicable quiver goes through their walls, noises scurry across the roof and drop into the gutter, and with our dulled senses we accept them heedlessly, without looking for what causes them.

Often I dreamt I had eavesdropped on these houses in their spectral communion and discovered to my horrified surprise that in secret they are the true masters of the street, that they can divest themselves of their vital force, and suck it back in again at will, lending it to the inhabitants during the day to demand it back at extortionate interest as night returns.

And when I review in my mind all the strange people who live in them, like phantoms, like people not born of woman who, in all their being and doing, seem to have been put together haphazardly, out of odds and ends, then I am more than ever inclined to believe that such dreams carry within them dark truths which, when I am awake, glimmer faintly in the depths of my soul like the afterimages of brightly coloured fairy-tales.

Then it is that a ghostly legend wakes to new life in the hidden recesses of my mind, the legend of the Golem, that man-made being that long ago a rabbi versed in the lore of the Cabbala formed from elemental matter and invested with mindless, automatic life by placing a magic formula behind its teeth. And just as the Golem returned to inert clay immediately the arcane formula was removed from its mouth, so, I imagine, must all these people fall lifeless to the ground the very second a minuscule something is erased in their brains—in some the glimmer of an idea, a trivial ambition, a pointless habit perhaps, in others merely a dull expectation of something vague and indefinite.

And the constant furtive look in their eyes! You never see them work, these creatures, and yet they are up early, at the first flicker of dawn, waiting with bated breath, as if for a victim that never comes. If it ever happens that someone enters their territory, someone defenceless they can fleece, then they are immediately paralysed by a fear which sends them scuttling back into their holes, trembling, discarding all their skulking designs. There seems to be no one so weak that they have the courage to seize him.

"Degenerate, toothless predators, who've lost their strength and their claws", said Charousek, hesitantly, looking at me.

How could he know what I was thinking? I had the feeling that sometimes you can fan the flame of your thoughts so vigorously that they give off a spray of sparks that fly to the brain of the person standing next to you.

"What on earth can they live on?" I said, after a while.

"Live? What on? Why, there are millionaires among them!"

I stared at Charousek. What could he mean by that? But the student was silent and looked up at the clouds. For a moment the murmur of voices in the archway had stopped and all one could hear was the spatter of the rain.

What ever could he mean by, 'there are millionaires among them'?

Again it was as if Charousek had guessed my thoughts. He pointed to the junk shop next door, where the water was washing off the rust from the old ironware into brownish-red puddles. "Aaron Wassertrum, for example! He's a millionaire, owns almost a third of the Jewish quarter. Didn't you know that, Herr Pernath?"

It literally took my breath away. "Aaron Wassertrum?! Aaron Wassertrum from the junk shop a millionaire?!"

"Oh, I know him well", Charousek went on, determined to tell me the story; it was as if he had just been waiting for me to ask. "I knew his son as well, Dr. Wassory. Have you never heard of him? Dr. Wassory, the eye-specialist? He was famous. Only a year ago the whole city was raving about him, about that great 'scientist'. No one knew then that he'd changed his name, that he was called Wassertrum before. He used to like to play the unworldly man of science, and if ever the conversation came round to origins, he would modestly intimate, with a few deeply felt but vague words, that his father came from the Ghetto; had to work his way up from the very bottom, you could have no idea of the cares and worries! That kind of thing. Of course! Cares and worries! But whose cares and whose worries, and by what means, that he didn't say! But I know what the connection with the Ghetto is!"

Charousek grabbed my arm and shook it violently. "Herr Pernath, I'm so poor it's beyond belief. I have to go about half-naked, like a tramp,—look—and yet I'm a medical student, I'm an educated man!"

At that he tore open his coat, and to my horror I could see that he was wearing neither jacket nor shirt; he had nothing but his bare skin under his coat.

"And I was already as poor as this when I caused the downfall of that monster, the eminent, all-powerful Dr. Wassory, and even today no one knows it was me behind it. In the city people think it was a doctor called Savioli who brought his shady practices to light and drove him to suicide. Savioli was merely my instrument, I tell you! I alone it was who thought up the plan, gathered the material, supplied the evidence; I alone it was who loosened the edifice Dr. Wassory had erected, quietly, imperceptibly, stone by stone, until it only needed the slightest nudge to send it tumbling down—and no money on earth, none of your Ghetto tricks could avert the disaster.

You know, like . . . like playing chess. Yes, just like playing chess.

And no one knows it was me!

I think there must be nights when Aaron Wassertrum can't sleep because he is haunted by the thought that there must be someone else—someone he does not know about, someone who is always close by but whom he can't catch, someone besides Dr. Savioli—who had a hand in the matter. Wassertrum is one of those men with eyes that can see through walls, but he still cannot conceive that there are minds which are capable of working out how to insert long, invisible, poison-tipped needles through such walls, between the masonry, past gold and precious stones, to pierce the hidden vital artery."

Charousek slapped his hand against his forehead and gave a wild laugh. "Aaron Wassertrum will soon find out! On the day he thinks he has Savioli at his mercy! On that very day! That's another chess game I've worked out, right down to the last move. This time it'll be the king's bishop's gambit. There's no move I can't counter with a crushing reply, right to the bitter end. Anyone who accepts my king's bishop's gambit will end up dangling in the air, I tell you, helpless as a puppet on a string, and I'll be pulling the strings, do you hear, I'll be pulling them and then it'll be goodbye to free will for him!"

Charousek was talking feverishly. I looked at him in horror. "What have old Wassertrum and his son done to you to fill you so full of hate?"

Charousek waved my question away. "Forget that! Ask instead what it was that broke Dr. Wassory's neck. Or would you like to discuss it another time? The rain's stopping, perhaps you want to get home?" He had lowered his voice, like someone who has suddenly come to his senses. I shook my head.

"Have you heard how they cure glaucoma nowadays? No? I'll have to explain it to you if you're to understand everything, Herr Pernath. Glaucoma is a malignant disease of the eyeball that leads to blindness and there is only one means of stopping its progress, an operation called an iridectomy in which a wedge-shaped sliver of the iris is snipped out. There is an unavoidable side-effect: the patient suffers from glare for the rest of his life. Usually, however, he is saved from total blindness.

But there is one odd fact about the diagnosis of glaucoma: there are times, especially in the initial stages of the disease, when the symptoms, although they have previously been most clearly evident, seem to disappear completely. In such cases it is impossible for a doctor, even though he cannot detect the slightest trace of the disease, to say for certain that his colleague who examined the patient and diagnosed glaucoma must have been wrong.

But once the iridectomy, which can, of course, be carried out on a healthy eye as well as on a diseased one, has been performed, it is impossible to determine whether glaucoma had been present or not.

It was on this and other factors that Dr. Wassory based his fiendish plan. Time after time he diagnosed glaucoma—especially in women—when the patient was suffering from some relatively harmless complaint, just so that he could perform an operation which was simple for him, but which brought in a lot of money.

You see, Herr Pernath, the people he had in his power were completely defenceless; fleecing them demanded no courage at all. The degenerate predator had found a territory where it could devour its prey without needing strength or claws. Without taking any chances! Do you understand?! Without risking anything!

By getting a large number of spurious articles published in the scientific journals Wassory had acquired the reputation of an outstanding specialist; he had even managed to pull the wool over the eyes of his colleagues, who were far too decent and naive to see through him. The logical result was a stream of patients looking for help. Whenever someone went to him with a minor impairment of their vision, he immediately set about his devilish plan. First of all, he questioned the patient in the usual manner, but to cover himself for all eventualities he was careful only to note down those answers which were compatible with glaucoma. He also carried out a thorough check as to whether the patient had already been examined by another doctor. In the course of his conversation with the patient, he would casually let drop that he had been urgently called abroad on professional business and would have to leave the following day.

His next step was to examine the patient, and when, in the course of this, he shone the light into the patient's eyes, he deliberately caused as much pain as possible. All part of his plan! All part of his plan!

When the examination was over and the patient had asked the natural question, 'Was there anything to fear', Wassory played the opening move of his gambit. He would sit down facing his patient, wait for a good minute and then pronounce, in measured, sonorous tones, "Blindness in both eyes is inevitable in the near future."

Not surprisingly, the scene that followed was harrowing. Often the people would faint, cry or scream and throw themselves to the ground in desperation.

To lose one's sight is to lose everything.

Then, when the moment came, as it invariably did, when the poor victim was clasping Wassory's knees and begging him for the love of God to help them, the fiend made his second move and transformed himself into a god in the patient's eyes by offering him a chance of saving his sight.

Everything in the world is like a game of chess, Pernath, everything.

"If we operated immediately", Wassory would muse, almost as if he were debating with himself, "there might just be a chance; anyway, it's the only hope." Then his vanity would take over and he would launch into a bombastic tirade consisting of long-winded descriptions of various cases, all of which were supposed to bear an uncommon similarity to the present one, and a list of the countless patients whom he had saved from blindness. He basked in the feeling that he was some kind of higher being, charged with the welfare of his fellow-men.

All the while his hapless victim, the cold sweat of terror on his—or, more often, her—forehead, would sit there, not daring to interrupt the torrent of words for fear of angering the one person that could help him.

Unfortunately—thus Wassory would conclude his harangue—he would not be able to perform the operation until after he had returned from his journey abroad, in a few months time. It was to be hoped—hope sprang eternal—that it would not be too late by then.

Naturally the patients would leap up in horror, insisting that they were under no circumstances prepared to wait one day longer, and plead with him to advise them as to which of the other eye-specialists in the city he might recommend to carry out the operation. Now the moment had come when Wassory could deliver the decisive blow. He would pace up and down, with furrowed brow, deep in thought, until finally he would explain, in a hesitant, concerned voice, that an operation by a different doctor would, unfortunately, require another examination of the eye, which would involve shining the torch into it again and which, because of the dazzling light,—the patient himself would remember how painful it was—could well have disastrous consequences. So another doctor—quite apart from the fact that iridectomy was one area where many of them lacked the necessary expertise—would not be able to operate for some time, not until the optic nerves had recovered from this first examination."

Charousek clenched his fists. "That is what in chess we call zugzwang, my dear Pernath, a forced move, which leads to further forced moves.

Almost out of his mind with desperation, the patient would now beg Dr. Wassory to have pity on him and put off his departure for just one day so that he could perform the operation himself. His was, the poor victim would say, a fate worse than death; death might come quickly, but the cruel torment of the constant fear of going blind was the most wretched state imaginable.

And the more the monster refused and protested that delaying his departure might cause immeasurable damage to his reputation, the higher were the sums the patients offered him. When Wassory finally decided the sum was high enough, he gave way and on the very same day, to avoid any chance occurrence that might reveal his plan, inflicted irreversible damage on the healthy eyes of his poor victims. His treatment left them with the constant feeling of being dazzled which made their lives a torment, but which destroyed the evidence of his villainy once and for all.

Such operations on healthy eyes not only increased Wassory's fame as an incomparable doctor who had never yet failed to avert the danger of blindness, they also satisfied his lust for money and flattered his vanity. What could be more pleasing than to see those whom he had robbed of their health and their money look up to him as a good Samaritan, to hear them praise him as their saviour?

Only a man whose roots were in the Ghetto and whose every fibre was soaked in Ghetto lore, a man who had learnt from his earliest childhood to lie in wait for his prey like a spider, could have gone on perpetrating such atrocities for years without being caught. To do that, it took a man who knew everyone in the city, who knew such intimate details of their affairs and their finances that he almost seemed to have psychic powers. And if it hadn't been for me, he would still be up to his tricks, would have carried on until he retired to spend his declining years as a venerable patriarch, surrounded by his loved ones, a shining example to future generations until at last he, too, went the way of all flesh.

But I also grew up in the Ghetto, my blood is tainted with its fiendish cunning as well. I was the author of his downfall, striking him unawares, like a bolt from the blue. Dr. Savioli, a young German doctor, is generally given the credit for unmasking him, but he was merely the tool in my hand. I it was who piled up the evidence and supplied the proof, until the day came when the long arm of the law was reaching out for Dr. Wassory.

That was when the fiend committed suicide, the Lord be praised! It was as if my double had been beside him, guiding his hand! He took his life with the very phial of amyl nitrate that I had deliberately left in his surgery when I went there myself to trick him into falsely diagnosing glaucoma in me as well. When I left it I breathed a fervent prayer that it would be this phial of amyl nitrate that would deliver the coup de grace.

Word went round the city that he had died from a stroke—the effect of amyl nitrate when it is inhaled resembles a stroke. It was not long, however, before the truth was known."

Charousek stared into space, lost in thought, as if immersed in some deep problem; then he shrugged a shoulder in the direction of Aaron Wassertrum's junk shop. "Now he's alone", he muttered, "all alone with his greed and—and—and with his wax doll."

My heart began to thump. I stared at Charousek in horror. Was the man mad? It must be the wanderings of a fevered mind. Of course! Of course! He must have invented it all, dreamt it up. That tale about the eye-specialist can't be true. He's consumptive, it's the fever of death spinning round and round in his brain. I decided to make some jocular remark to calm him down, to set his thoughts moving in a more cheerful direction, but before anything suitable occurred to me, a memory struck me like a bolt of lightning: the door to my room being torn open and the face of Aaron Wassertrum with its hare-lip and round, fish's eyes staring in.

Savioli? Dr. Savioli?! Now wasn't that the name that Zwakh, the old puppeteer, had whispered to me as the name of the young gentleman who had rented his studio? Dr. Savioli! It was as if someone were screaming the name inside my head. A stream of twitching, nebulous figures danced through my mind, jostling with sudden inklings that were racing towards me.

Filled with fear, I was about to question Charousek, to tell him everything I had seen and heard from the room next to mine, when he was suddenly racked with a violent fit of coughing that almost sent him tumbling to the ground. He nodded a brief farewell, and I saw him grope his way along the wall and out into the rain. His story, I now felt, was not the figment of a fevered imagination. He was right; crime did stalk these streets, day and night, like a disembodied spirit in search of a physical form through which to manifest itself. It is in the air, but we do not see it. Suddenly, it precipitates in a human soul, but we are not aware of it and by the time we sense it, it has long since dissolved back into thin air. All that we hear are dark rumours of some hideous deed.

All at once I understood the innermost nature of the mysterious creatures that live around me: they drift through life with no will of their own, animated by an invisible, magnetic current, just like the bridal bouquet floating past in the filthy water of the gutter. I felt as if the houses were staring down at me with malicious expressions full of nameless spite: the doors were black, gaping mouths in which the tongues had rotted away, throats which might at any moment give out a piercing cry, so piercing and full of hate that it would strike fear to the very roots of our soul.

What was the last thing the medical student had said about Wassertrum? I whispered his words to myself, "Aaron Wassertrum is alone now with his greed and—his wax doll."

What in heaven's name can he have meant by the wax doll?

I told myself to calm down, he must have meant it metaphorically. It must have been one of those deranged metaphors he uses to take you by surprise; you don't understand them at first, only later they unexpectedly take shape and give you a profound shock, like a harsh light suddenly striking some unusual object.

I gave the people who were sheltering in the archway with me a closer scrutiny. Now the fat old man was standing beside me, the same one who had given that horrible laugh earlier. He was wearing gloves and a black frock coat, and his protuberant eyes were fixed on the entrance of the house opposite. His coarse-featured face was clean shaven and was twitching with excitement.

Automatically, I followed the direction of his gaze and realised that he was staring spellbound at Rosina, who was standing on the other side of the street, her permanent smile playing round her lips. The old man was trying to make signs to her, and I could tell that she was well aware of them, but was behaving as if she had no idea what he meant.

Finally the old man could stand it no longer, and waded across the street on tiptoe, bobbing up and down in a ridiculous manner, like a huge, black rubber ball bouncing over the puddles.

He seemed to be well-known, to go by all the innuendoes I could hear around me. Someone behind me—a lout with a red knitted scarf round his neck, a blue soldier's cap on his head and a half-smoked cigar behind his ear—started making leering insinuations which I did not understand. All I could make out was that in the Ghetto they called the old man the 'Freemason' and that in their jargon this was a name for a man who has sexual relations with schoolgirls but whose connections with the police render him immune to the legal consequences.

Across the street Rosina and the old man disappeared in the darkness of the entrance hall.
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Re: The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:44 pm


We had opened the window to get rid of the tobacco smoke from my tiny room. The cold night wind blew in and set the shaggy coats hanging on the door gently swinging to and fro.

"Prokop's noble specimen of the hatter's art is tempted to fly away", said Zwakh, pointing to the musician's huge floppy hat, the broad brim of which was beginning to flap like a pair of black wings.

Joshua Prokop gave a cheery wink. "It probably wants to—"

"—-go to Loisitchek's, to listen to the dance band", interrupted Vrieslander.

Prokop laughed and beat time to the music that was borne across the roofs on the thin winter air. Then he picked up my old, battered guitar that was leaning against the wall, pretended to pluck its broken strings and sang a strange song in a squawking falsetto, exaggerating the pronunciation of its canting jargon:

A dusty hen
With gelt to cough;
A zaftik naffka
For your kife;
Snout and scoff:
Nothing but fressing—-
That's the life.
"Shows a natural aptitude for thieves' slang, doesn't he?" laughed Vrieslander, joining in a reprise with his rumbling bass:
Snout and scoff:
Nothing but fressing—
That's the life.

Zwakh explained. "It's a peculiar song that Nephtali Schaffranek—the meshuggenah with the green eyeshade—croaks out every night at Loisitchek's; there's a dolled-up woman plays the accordion and joins in the words. It's an interesting dive, you should come along with us some time, Pernath. Perhaps later on, when we've run out of punch. What do you think? As a birthday treat for you?"

"Yes, you should come along with us", said Prokop, closing the window, "it really is worth seeing."

Then we went back to our hot punch, each one occupied with his own thoughts. Vrieslander was carving away at a puppet.

Zwakh broke the silence. "You literally cut us off from the outside world, Joshua, when you closed that window. Since then, no one's said a word."

"I was just thinking about the way those coats started napping earlier on", Prokop answered quickly, as if to excuse his silence. "Isn't it strange the way the wind makes inanimate objects move? Doesn't it look odd when things which usually just lie there lifeless suddenly start fluttering. Don't you agree? I remember once looking out onto an empty square, watching huge scraps of paper whirling angrily round and round, chasing one another as if each had sworn to kill the others; and I couldn't feel the wind at all since I was standing in the lee of a house. A moment later they seemed to have calmed down, but then they were seized once more with an insane fury and raced all over the square in a mindless rage, crowding into a corner then scattering again as some new madness came over them, until finally they disappeared round a corner.

There was just one thick newspaper that couldn't keep up with the rest. It lay there on the cobbles, full of spite and flapping spasmodically, as if it were out of breath and gasping for air.

As I watched, I was filled with an ominous foreboding. What if, after all, we living beings were nothing more than such scraps of paper? Could there not be a similar unseeable, unfathomable 'wind' blowing us from place to place and determining our actions, whilst we, in our simplicity, believe we are driven by our own free will? What if the life within us were nothing other than some mysterious whirlwind? The wind of which it says in the Bible, 'Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth'? Do we not sometimes dream we have plunged our hands into deep water and caught silvery fish, when all that has happened is that our hands have been in a cold draught?"

"Prokop, you're talking like Pernath. What's wrong with you?" asked Zwakh, giving the musician a suspicious look.

"It's the story about the Book of Ibbur that we heard earlier—pity you came too late to hear it—that's given him such strange ideas", said Vrieslander.

"A story about a book?"

"Actually about the odd appearance of a man who brought a book. Pernath doesn't know what he's called, where he lives or what he wanted, and although he says his appearance was very striking, he can't describe it."

Immediately Zwakh pricked up his ears. "That's remarkable", he said after a pause. "Did this stranger happen to be smooth-faced, without any growth of beard? Did he have slanting eyes?"

"I think so", I said. "That is, I . . . I'm quite certain of it. Do you know him?"

The puppeteer shook his head. "It's just that it reminded me of the Golem."

Vrieslander put down his knife. "Golem? I've heard so many people talk about that. Do you know anything about the Golem, Zwakh?"

"Who can claim to know anything about the Golem?" replied Zwakh with a shrug of the shoulders. "Everyone says it's a myth until one day there's something happens in the streets that brings it back to life. Then for a while everybody talks about it, and the rumours grow and grow until they're so blown up, so exaggerated they become completely implausible and everyone dismisses them. The origin of the story is supposed to go back to the sixteenth century. A rabbi, following instructions in a lost book of the Cabbala, is said to have created an artificial man, the so-called Golem, as a servant to help him ring the synagogue bells and do other menial tasks."

But it had never become a true human being, Zwakh went on. It led a kind of semi-conscious, vegetable existence, and that only by day, so it is said, through the power of a scrap of paper with a magic formula that was placed behind its teeth, attracting free stellar energy from the cosmos. And when, one evening before prayers, the rabbi forgot to take this seal out of the Golem's mouth, it went raging through the streets in the dark, crushing everything that happened to be in its way. Finally the rabbi managed to block the creature in its path and destroy the scrap of paper. At that, the Golem sank lifeless to the ground. Nothing was left of it but the dwarf clay figure which can be seen over there in the Old-New Synagogue even today.

"That same rabbi is supposed to have been summoned to the Emperor in the castle on the Hradschin, where he called up the spirits of the dead in visible form", added Prokop. "Modern scientists claim he must have used a magic lantern."

"A magic lantern! People will believe anything nowadays", Zwakh rejoindered, unperturbed. "As if Emperor Rudolf, who had devoted his whole life to such matters, would not have seen through a crude trick like that right away.

It is true that I don't know where the legend of the Golem originated, but of this I am sure: there is something abroad in the Jewish quarter, something connected with it that never dies. My ancestors have lived here for many generations and I think I can say that there is no one who has more evidence, ancestral and personal, of the periodic appearance of the Golem than I have."

Zwakh suddenly stopped talking and we, too, could feel how his thoughts had wandered off into the past. Seeing him sitting there at the table, his head propped in his hand, the light emphasising the strange contrast between the youthful redness of his cheeks and the whiteness of his hair, I could not help comparing his features with the mask-like faces of his puppets which he had shown me so often.

Strange how like them the old man was! The same profile, the same expression!

There are, I felt, some things on earth which cannot keep apart. As I contemplated Zwakh's simple life, it suddenly seemed monstrous, even uncanny, that someone like him, even though he had had a better education than his forebears and been intended for the acting profession, should have suddenly returned to the shabby puppet booths and fairgrounds of his ancestors, putting the same puppets with which they had made their meagre living through the same clumsy movements and acting out the same threadbare plots. I realised that he was unable to abandon them. They were part of his life, and when he was far away from them, they changed into thoughts which lodged in his mind and made him unsettled and restless until he returned home. That is why he looked after them so lovingly and proudly dressed them up in their tawdry finery.

"Aren't you going to tell us more, Zwakh?" asked Prokop, with a questioning look at Vrieslander and myself, to see whether we agreed.

The old puppeteer began hesitantly. "I don't know where to begin", he said, "the story of the Golem is so difficult to pin down. It's just like Pernath said, he knows exactly what the stranger looked like, but he can't describe him. Roughly every thirty-three years something happens in these streets which is not especially exciting in itself and yet which creates a sense of horror for which there is no justification nor any satisfactory explanation: at these intervals a completely unknown person, smooth-faced, with a yellow complexion and mongoloid features, dressed in faded, old-fashioned clothes and with a regular but oddly stumbling gait, as if he were going to fall down on his face at any moment, is seen going through the Ghetto from the direction of Altschulgasse until . . . the figure suddenly vanishes.

Usually it turns a corner and disappears.

Once, so it is said, it walked in a circle and returned to the point from which it started out, an ancient house close to the Synagogue.

On the other hand, you come across agitated people who maintain they saw it coming round a corner towards them. Although it was quite clearly walking towards them, it gradually grew smaller and smaller, like the figure of someone disappearing into the distance, until it finally disappeared.

Sixty-six years ago it must have made a particularly profound impression; I can still remember—I was just a little boy at the time—how they searched the house in Altschulgasse from top to bottom. All that they discovered was that there really was a room in the house with a barred window to which there was no access. They hung washing from all the windows, so as to check the rooms from the street, and that's how they found out about it. As there was no other way in, a man had himself let down by a rope from the roof in order to look in. Scarcely had he reached the window, however, than the rope broke and the unfortunate man smashed his skull on the pavement. And when they decided to try and repeat the experiment some time later, they could not agree on which was the right window and gave up the whole idea.

It was about thirty-three years ago that I encountered the Golem myself for the first time in my life. It was coming towards me in a passageway and we almost knocked against each other. Even today I still can't work out precisely what was going on inside me. You don't go around, day in, day out, expecting to meet the Golem, for God's sake, and yet I'm certain, absolutely certain, that in the instant before I saw it something inside me screamed The Golem!' And at that very moment something came stumbling out of the darkness of a doorway and an unknown figure passed me. A second later a stream of pale, agitated faces was coming towards me, bombarding me with questions. Had I seen it?! Had I seen it?!

When I answered them, it felt as if my tongue were suddenly free, although before I had not been aware of being unable to speak. I felt astonished that I could move my limbs, and I realised that I must have suffered from a kind of paralysis, even if only for a fraction of a second.

I have thought about this long and often, and I think that the closest approach to the truth is something like this: once in every generation a spiritual epidemic spreads like lightning through the Ghetto, attacking the souls of the living for some purpose which is hidden from us, and causing a kind of mirage in the shape of some being characteristic of the place that, perhaps, lived here hundreds of years ago and still yearns for physical form.

Perhaps it is right here among us, every hour of the day, only we cannot perceive it. You can't hear the note from a vibrating tuning fork until it touches wood and sets it resonating. Perhaps it is simply a spiritual growth without any inherent consciousness, a structure that develops like a crystal out of formless chaos according to a constant law.

Who can say?

Just as on sultry days the static electricity builds up to unbearable tension until it discharges itself in lightning, could it not be that the steady build-up of those never-changing thoughts that poison the air in the Ghetto lead to a sudden, spasmodic discharge? A spiritual explosion blasting our unconscious dreams out into the light of day and creating, as the electricity does the lightning, a phantom that in expression, gait and behaviour, in every last detail, would reveal the symbol of the soul of the masses, if only we were able to interpret the secret language of forms?

And just as there are natural phenomena which suggest that lightning is about to strike, so there are certain eerie portents which presage the irruption of that spectre into the physical world. The plaster flaking off a wall will resemble a person striding along the street; the frost patterns on windows will form into the lines of staring faces; the dust drifting down from the roofs will seem to fall in a different way from usual, suggesting to the observant that it is being scattered by some invisible intelligence lurking hidden in the eaves in a secret attempt to create all sorts of strange patterns. Whether the eye rests on a uniform sameness of texture or focuses on irregularities of the skin, we fall prey to our unwelcome talent for discerning everywhere significant, ominous shapes which grow to gigantic proportions in our dreams. And always, behind the spectral attempts of these gathering swarms of thoughts to gnaw through the walls surrounding our everyday existence, we can sense with tormenting certainty that our own inmost substance is, deliberately and against our will, being sucked dry so that the phantom may take on physical form.

When I heard Pernath tell us just now that he had encountered a man with a beardless face and slanting eyes, the Golem immediately appeared before my inward eye, just as I had seen it all those years ago. It just seemed to materialise from nowhere, as if by magic. For a moment I was seized with a vague fear that once again something inexplicable was about to happen. It was the same fear I had felt as a child when the first eerie portents foreshadowed the appearance of the Golem.

That must have been sixty-six years ago now. It happened one evening when my sister's fiance was visiting us and the date of their wedding was decided upon. For amusement, they decided to tell their fortunes by dropping molten lead into water. I looked on open-mouthed, not really understanding what they were doing. In my confused, childish imagination I connected it with the Golem I had often heard of in my grandfather's tales. I could almost visualise the door opening and the strange figure entering the room.

My sister poured the spoonful of molten metal into the tub of water and, when she saw me looking on all agog, gave me a merry laugh. With wrinkled, trembling hands, my grandfather picked the glittering lump of lead out of the water and held it up to the light. Immediately the grown-ups became excited and all started talking at once. I tried to push my way to the front, but they held me back. Later on, when I was older, my father told me that the molten metal had solidified into the distinct shape of a small head, smooth and round, as if it had been poured into a mould. Its resemblance to the Golem was so uncanny that they all felt a shiver of horror.

I have often discussed it with Shemaiah Hillel, the archivist at the Jewish Town Hall and Warden of the Old-New Synagogue who also looks after that clay model from Emperor Rudolf's time that I told you about. He has studied the Cabbala and thinks the lump of clay shaped into human form is a portent from the old days, just like the lead that shaped itself into a human head in my youth. He believes the unknown figure that haunts the district must be the phantasm that the rabbi in the Middle Ages had first "to create in his mind, before he could clothe it in physical form. It reappears at regular intervals, when the stars are in the same conjunction under which it was created, tormented by its urge to take on physical existence.

Hillel's late wife also saw the Golem face to face and had the same sensation as I did of being paralysed as long as the mysterious being was in the vicinity. She used to say she was firmly convinced that it could only have been her own soul which had left her body for a moment and confronted her for a brief second with the features of an alien creature. In spite of the terrible dread with which she was seized, she said she was never in the slightest doubt that the other could only be part of her inmost self."

"Incredible", muttered Prokop, lost in thought. Vrieslander also seemed engrossed in his ruminations.

Then there was a knock on the door and, without a word, the old woman who brings me water and anything else I need in the evening came in, put the earthenware jug on the floor and went out. We all looked up, staring round the room as if we had just woken, but for a long time no one spoke. It was as if some new influence had slipped in through the door behind the old woman and we needed time to get used to it.

"Yes!" said Zwakh suddenly, apropros of nothing, "that Rosina with the red hair, she has one of those faces that you can't get out your mind, that keep on popping up all over the place. That frozen, grinning smile has accompanied me throughout my life; first her grandmother, then her mother! Always the same face, not the slightest change. The same name, Rosina, each was the resurrection of the previous one."

"Isn't Rosina the daughter of Wassertrum, the junk-dealer?" I asked.

"So people say", replied Zwakh. "But Aaron Wassertrum has any number of sons and daughters people don't know about. As for Rosina's mother, no one knows who her father was either, nor what became of her; she had a child when she was fifteen and no one's seen her since. As far as I can remember, her disappearance was connected with a murder, of which she was the cause and which took place in this house.

Just like Rosina today, her image used to haunt the minds of all the young men. One of them's still alive; I see him quite often, but I've forgotten his name. The others did not live long. In fact, all I can remember from those days are brief episodes that drift through my memory like faded pictures. For example, there was a simple-minded man who used to go from bar to bar at night, cutting out silhouettes of the customers from black paper for a few kreutzer. And whenever they managed to get him drunk, he would become unutterably sad, and sob and weep as he snipped away at a girl's pert profile, always the same one, until his stock of paper was all used up. I have long since forgotten the details, but I think it was suggested that, while still not much more than a child, he had fallen so deeply in love with a certain Rosina—presumably the grandmother of the current one—that he had gone out of his mind. Yes, when I count back over the years, it can have been none other than the grandmother of the current Rosina."

Zwakh stopped talking and leant back in his chair.

In this house, destiny seems to run round and round in circles, always returning to the same point. As this thought came to mind, it was accompanied by a horrible image: a cat with one half of its brain damaged staggering round and round in a circle . . .

I was suddenly aware of Vrieslander's high voice saying, "And now for the head", and he took a round piece of wood from his pocket and began carving it. My eyes grew heavy with tiredness and I pushed my chair back out of the light. The water for the punch was bubbling in the kettle, and Joshua Prokop refilled our glasses. Softly, very softly the sound of the dance music could be heard through the window; sometimes it would fade away and then return, depending on whether the wind dropped it on the way or carried it up to us.

After a while I heard Prokop ask me whether I wasn't at least going to say cheers, but I gave no answer. I had so completely lost the will-power to make my limbs move, that it did not even occur to me to open my mouth. I thought I was asleep, so rock-like was the calm that had taken possession of me. I had to look across at the glitter of Vrieslander's shining knife as it restlessly sliced tiny shavings off the wood to convince myself that I was awake.

Far away, I could hear Zwakh's rumbling voice telling all kinds of strange stories about marionettes and recounting the elaborate fairytales he thought up for his puppet-plays. He came round to talking about Dr. Savioli again and the fine lady, the wife of some aristocrat, who secretly visited Savioli in his hide-out in the studio.

And once again in my mind's eye I saw the mocking, triumphant expression on Wassertrum's face.

I wondered whether I shouldn't tell Zwakh what I had seen, then I decided it was of such trifling importance it wasn't worth the effort. Anyway, I realised that at the moment my will-power would not be strong enough to enable me to speak.

Suddenly the three of them round the table gave me a sharp look and Prokop said quite loud, "He's fallen asleep", so loud, indeed, that it almost sounded as if it were meant as a question. Then they went on talking in subdued voices, and I realised they were talking about me. Vrieslander's knife went on dancing up and down; it caught the light from the lamp and the reflection burnt into my eyes. Someone said something like "be mad', and I listened to what they were saying to each other.

"Topics such as the Golem shouldn't be mentioned when Pernath's around", said Prokop reproachfully. "When he told us earlier on about the Book of Ibbur, we just sat still and asked no questions. I wouldn't mind betting he dreamed it all up."

Zwakh nodded. "You're quite right. It's like taking a naked light into a dusty chamber, where the walls and ceiling are lined with mouldy cloth and the floor is ankle-deep in the withered debris of the past: one little touch and the whole lot would burst into flames."

"Did Pernath spend a long time in the lunatic asylum?" asked Vrieslander. "It's a pity about him, he can't be any more than forty."

"I don't know, nor have I any idea where he might come from or what work he did before. With his slim figure and pointed beard he looks like some ancient French nobleman. A long, long time ago an old doctor I was friendly with asked me to take him under my wing and find him a room somewhere round here, where no one would notice him or bother him with questions about old times." Again Zwakh gave me a concerned look. "Since then he's lived here repairing antiques and engraving gems, and he's managed to make a decent living out of it. The fortunate thing is that he seems to have forgotten everything to do with his madness. I beg of you, never ask him about things that might call the past back to mind for him. How often the old doctor used to emphasise that. 'You know, Zwakh', he would always say, 'we have our method for dealing with this; with great effort, we've managed to wall up his illness, if I can put it like that, just as you might build a wall round the site of some tragedy, because of the unhappy memories associated with it."

Zwakh's words had grasped me like a slaughterer grasping a defenceless animal and were squeezing my heart with rough, cruel hands. There had always been a vague torment gnawing at my soul, a feeling as if something had been taken from me and as if I had passed through long periods of my life like a sleepwalker going along the edge of a precipice, but I had never been able to find the cause. Now the secret was out, and it stung unbearably like an open wound.

My morbid dislike of any indulgence in reminiscences of the past; this strange dream that keeps on returning from time to time of being locked in a house with room after room that I can't get into; the frightening failure of my memory in things concerning my youth—suddenly there was a terrible explanation for it all: I had been mad and they had used hypnosis to treat me, they had closed off the 'room' that gave access to those chambers of my brain, rendering me homeless in the midst of the life around me.

And without any hope of ever recovering the lost memories!

I realised that the mainspring of all my thoughts and actions lay hidden in another, forgotten existence, and that I would never be able to uncover it. I am a cutting that has been grafted onto another stem, a branch sprouting from an alien stock. Even if I were to succeed in forcing my way into that locked 'room', would that not just mean I would once again fall prey to the ghosts that have been locked away in it?

The story of the Golem that Zwakh told us an hour ago went through my mind and suddenly I saw that there was a gigantic, secret link between the legendary chamber without an entrance in which the unknown being was said to live, and my ominous dream. Yes! And if I were to try to look in through the barred window in my psyche, my 'rope' would break too!

The strange connection became clearer and clearer to me and began to take on an aspect of indescribable horror. I could sense that there are things, incomprehensible things, which are yoked together and race along side by side like blind horses, not knowing where their course is taking them.

And in the Ghetto: a chamber, a room to which no one can find the entrance, and a shadowy being that lives there, occasionally feeling its way through the streets to sow terror and panic among men.

Vrieslander was still carving away at the puppet-head, I could hear the rasp of the blade against the wood. The sound of it was almost painful, and I looked over to see if it was soon going to be finished. The way the head moved to and fro in the painter's hand made it look as if it were alive and were peering into every corner of the room. Then the eyes stayed fixed on me for a long time, satisfied that they had finally found me. I could not turn my eyes away and stared, as if hypnotised, at the wooden face. For a while Vrieslander's knife seemed to hesitate, unsure of itself, then it scored a firm, decisive line and the wooden features suddenly took on a frightening life of their own.

I recognised the yellow face of the stranger who had brought me the book.

Then everything went blurred. The vision had only lasted for a second, but I could feel my heart stop beating and then start fluttering nervously. And yet, just as when it had brought the book, I still retained awareness of its face.

I had turned into it and was lying on Vrieslander's lap, peering round. My gaze wandered round the room, someone else's hand moving my head. All at once I saw an expression of dismay etch itself on Zwakh's features, and heard him exclaim, "Good God! That's the Golem!"

There was a brief struggle as they tried to prise the carving from Vrieslander's grasp, but he pushed them off, laughing, "What do you mean? It's just a botched job." He tore himself away from them, opened the window and threw the head down into the street.

Consciousness left me and I plunged into a profound darkness with shimmering gold threads running through it. It seemed to me that it was only after a long, long time that I came to, and it was only then that I heard the clatter of the wooden head on the cobblestones outside.

"You were so sound asleep that you didn't even notice we were shaking you", said Prokop. "The punch is all finished, there's not even a glass left for you."

A burning pain at the things I had overheard swept through me, and I wanted to scream at them that I had not dreamt up the story of the man with the Book of Ibbur, I could take it out of the iron box and show it to them. But these thoughts could not find words to express themselves and they were drowned in the atmosphere of general bustle that had overtaken my guests as they prepared to leave.

Zwakh insisted on putting my coat round my shoulders, shouting, "Come along to Loisitchek's with us, Pernath, it'll revive your spirits."
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