Everyman a Murderer

from Heimito von Doderer‘s EVERYMAN A MURDERER (Sun & Moon Press, paperback edition 1994, pp 234-235. The original German language edition dates from 1938.)

“‘Herr Castiletz,’ the lizard [ the author’s nickname for the criminal police detective named Inkrat ] replied with lidless gaze and total aridity, ‘they certainly do. As a matter of principle, anyone who has ever had anything to do with the police in any way remains thereafter more or less under surveillance. Of course I do not mean this literally. But the principle remains. If any police force in the world abandoned this basic principle, the assumption that crime is always threatening, just as the doctor feels about disease — it would be betraying its obligation to guard society. The physician, the policeman, and — I say this in order to delineate this type of mentality all the more clearly — the prose writer, the novelistor narrator — have all made the greatest sacrifice that can be made in the realm of the mind: they have committed themselves to seeing the world as it is, never as it ought to be. That is to say, they do so insofar as they are pure representatives of their type. “‘What is more, they repudiate all those claims to the world’s being different which reside in hidden corners of the heart or sleep in some cradle of dreams. For such minds, there is only one reality, there is no second reality they may escape to, perhaps with the pretext that it can some day be made real. But this is where the realm of another type begins, a type which is just as self-sufficient, but can live and act vigorously and finely only by taking entirely different spiritual nourishment, and only by assuming an entirely different mental posture — though without abandoning the value and the necessity of that first posture, let alone refuting it — not even if they could shape the whole world to their desires. Otherwise the world, no matter how fine it was, would lose its balance and tumble into a void. “‘. . . . Just consider the almost heroic modesty that is involved in a man’s applying his mental force to the attainment of a single goal: to be able wholly to assent, without excepting anything, without wanting to change anything. To offer a counterpoise to all things within the self. To be able to feel as a matter of deep and real experience that this world is always in order, always hung correctly on its hinges. And thus in the end we may attain, without whole personalities, a knowledge and a capacity already possessed by every loafer who stands leaning against a fence and who from the start sees the world just as it is, though it may be that he only sees it from below, sees it squirming on its belly through the mud. . . . ‘”