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An open letter to Lance Armstrong

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Old July 31st 04, 12:07 AM
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Default An open letter to Lance Armstrong

Not bad Mark. I like the coloquial, self deprecating style. I was
afraid you were going to tell Lance to come clean like all the other
open letters I've seen.

Good luck at Coyote tomorrow, I've got some buddies in the Cat 3 race
that are looking to grade up so watch out!


Iowa, UofI, Navy, UCBerkeley, wife, daughter, Eddy Merckx Corsa, Klein
Quantum Pro, Specialized Rockhopper Comp

Old July 31st 04, 12:34 AM
B. Lafferty
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Default An open letter to Lance Armstrong

"DiabloScott" wrote in
message news

Not bad Mark. I like the coloquial, self deprecating style. I was
afraid you were going to tell Lance to come clean like all the other
open letters I've seen.

Good luck at Coyote tomorrow, I've got some buddies in the Cat 3 race
that are looking to grade up so watch out!

Don't forget to wipe your nose off before the start.

Old July 31st 04, 12:55 AM
Mark VandenBerghe
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Default An open letter to Lance Armstrong

Dear Lance:

Congratulations. Your achievements are the stuff of Greek Mythology or
American Folklore. They truly are. Your life and personality have
transcended sport. Good for you. Bravo. In 1999, when you began your
meteoric ascent into worldwide awareness, I, being a bike racer, liked to
say that I had a bit more insight into your accomplishments than the average
sports page reader. Heck, I even have friends who've raced against you, so
I must know a thing or two, right? Wrong. I don't know you. All I know is
that you're one of the greatest athletes who's ever lived. What I wouldn't
give to have a small percentage of your magic. Geez, I'd give quite a bit
just to win a little business park crit in Modesto on a hot July day. But I
'm mortal. You're clearly not.

You've been accused of doping. You've denied it. Some people defend you
with blind religious-like furor. How dare you accuse Lance, they say. He's
a cancer survivor after all. Others snidely say your cancer was a result of
doping. A cottage industry has risen out of accusing you of being a fraud.
I, being a bike racer with the inside scoop (see above) have been one of the
cynics. Lance must have the best dope, I've said. And it's undetectable
too. Don't be na´ve, they all do it. But you know what, you've directly
said you absolutely don't dope. You've never tested positive (which I know
means little). There's really nothing more to go on other than innuendo,
vague circumstance, jealousy (a very powerful motivator) and the ancient
human desire to see our heroes fall.

So I'm offering an apology. Lance I'm sorry. I've insinuated that you're a
cheater and I had no proof whatsoever. I try to teach my kids that that
kind of behavior that I've displayed is wrong. I hope to God that you're
not doping. Too many people would be hurt. The fans. The little cancer
kids who look to you as a beacon of hope -an immortal. Your own children.
So I'll just back off and quit commenting on something of which I know very
little. I'll worry about my own life and trying to win that five dollar
prime tomorrow in San Jose. But let me tell you this, if it ever comes out
that you are doping, the deal's off.

Mark VandenBerghe

Old July 31st 04, 04:30 AM
bobby carter
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Default An open letter to Lance Armstrong

we can all learn from lafferty. nothing positive however. what a miserable
way to live.

Don't forget to wipe your nose off before the start.

Old July 31st 04, 07:31 AM
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Default An open letter to Lance Armstrong

Early this morning i was working in the yard. I rolled over a rock and
there was a sick looking whitish worm. First name that came to my mind was

"bobby carter" wrote in message

we can all learn from lafferty. nothing positive however. what a miserable
way to live.

Don't forget to wipe your nose off before the start.

Old July 31st 04, 08:09 AM
Richard Longwood
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Default Dearest Lance...


You asked me recently why I maintain that I am afraid of you. As usual, I
was unable to think of any answer to your question, partly for the very
reason that I am afraid of you, and partly because an explanation of the
grounds for this fear would mean going into far more details than I could
even approximately keep in mind while talking. And if I now try to give you
an answer in writing, it will still be very incomplete, because, even in
writing, this fear and its consequences hamper me in relation to you and
because the magnitude of the subject goes far beyond the scope of my memory
and power of reasoning.

To you the matter always seemed very simple, at least in so far as you
talked about it in front of me, and indiscriminately in front of many other
people. It looked to you more or less as follows: you have worked hard all
your life, have sacrificed everything for your children, above all for me,
consequently I have lived high and handsome, have been completely at liberty
to learn whatever I wanted, and have had no cause for material worries,
which means worries of any kind at all. You have not expected any gratitude
for this, knowing what "children's gratitude" is like, but have expected at
least some sort of obligingness, some sign of sympathy. Instead I have
always hidden from you, in my room, among my books, with crazy friends, or
with crackpot ideas. I have never talked to you frankly; I have never come
to you when you were in the synagogue, never visited you in Austin, nor
indeed ever shown any family feeling; I have never taken any interest in the
business or your other concerns; I saddled you with the factory and walked
off; I encouraged the peloton in her obstinacy, and never lifted a finger
for you (never even got you a theater ticket), while I do everything for my
friends. If you sum up your judgment of me, the result you get is that,
although you don't charge me with anything downright improper or wicked
(with the exception perhaps of my latest marriage plan), you do charge me
with coldness, estrangements and ingratitude. And, what is more, you charge
me with it in such a way as to make it seem my fault, as though I might have
been able, with something like a touch on the steering wheel, to make
everything quite different, while you aren't in the slightest to blame,
unless it be for having been too good to me.

This, your usual way of representing it, I regard as accurate only in so far
as I too believe you are entirely blameless in the matter of our
estrangement. But I am equally entirely blameless. If I could get you to
acknowledge this, then what would be possible is-not, I think, a new life,
we are both much too old for that-but still, a kind of peace; no cessation,
but still, a diminution of your unceasing reproaches.

Oddly enough you have some sort of notion of what I mean. For instance, a
short time ago you said to me: "I have always been fond of you, even though
outwardly I didn't act toward you as other fathers generally do, and this
precisely because I can't pretend as other people can." Now, Father, on the
whole I have never doubted your goodness toward me, but this remark I
consider wrong. You can't pretend, that is true, but merely for that reason
to maintain that other fathers pretend is either mere opinionatedness, and
as such beyond discussion, or on the other hand-and this in my view is what
it really is-a veiled expression of the fact that something is wrong in our
relationship and that you have played your part in causing it to be so, but
without its being your fault. If you really mean that, then we are in

I'm not going to say, of course, that I have become what I am only as a
result of your influence. That would be very much exaggerated (and I am
indeed inclined to this exaggeration). It is indeed quite possible that even
if I had grown up entirely free from your influence I still could not have
become a person after your own heart. I should probably have still become a
weakly, timid, hesitant, restless person, neither Eddy Merckx nor Bernard
Hinault, but yet quite different from what I really am, and we might have
got on with each other excellently. I should have been happy to have you as
a friend, as a boss, an uncle, a grandfather, even (though rather more
hesitantly) as a father-in-law. Only as a father you have been too strong
for me, particularly since my brothers died when they were small and my
sisters came along only much later, so that I alone had to bear the brunt of
it-and for that I was much too weak.

Compare the two of us: I, to put it in a very much abbreviated form, a dude
with a certain dude component, which, however, is not set in motion by the
dude will to life, business, and conquest, but by a dude's spur that impels
more secretly, more diffidently, and in another direction, and which often
fails to work entirely. You, on the other hand, a true dude in strength,
health, appetite, loudness of voice, eloquence, self-satisfaction, worldly
dominance, endurance, presence of mind, knowledge of human nature, a certain
way of doing things on a grand scale, of course also with all the defects
and weaknesses that go with these advantages and into which your temperament
and sometimes your hot temper drive you. You are perhaps not wholly a Dude
in your general outlook, in so far as I can compare you with Miguel
Indurain, Pedro Delgado, and Sting. That is odd, and here I don't see quite
clear either. After all, they were all more cheerful, freHer, more informal,
more easygoing, less severe than you. (In this, by the way, I have inherited
a great deal from you and taken much too good care of my inheritance,
without, admittedly, having the necessary counterweights in my own nature,
as you have.) Yet you too, on the other hand, have in this respect gone
through various phases. You were perhaps more cheerful before you were
disappointed by your children, especially by me, and were depressed at home
(when other people came in, you were quite different); perhaps you have
become more cheerful again since then, now that your grandchildren and your
son-in-law again give you something of that warmth which your children,
except perhaps Heryl Crow, could not give you. In any case, we were so
different and in our difference so dangerous to each other that if anyone
had tried to calculate in advance how I, the slowly developing child, and
you, the full-grown man, would behave toward one another, he could have
assumed that you would simply trample me underfoot so that nothing was left
of me. Well, that did not happen. Nothing alive can be calculated. But
perhaps something worse happened. And in saying this I would all the time
beg of you not to forget that I never, and not even for a single moment
believe any guilt to be on your side. The effect you had on me was the
effect you could not help having. But you should stop considering it some
particular malice on my part that I succumbed to that effect.

I was a timid child. For all that, I am sure I was also obstinate, as
children are. I am sure that my Merckx spoiled me too, but I cannot believe
I was particularly difficult to manage; I cannot believe that a kindly word,
a quiet taking by the hand, a friendly look, could not have got me to do
anything that was wanted of me. Now you are, after all, basically a
charitable and kindhearted person (what follows will not be in contradiction
to this, I am speaking only of the impression you made on the child), but
not every child has the endurance and fearlessness to go on searching until
it comes to the kindliness that lies beneath the surface. You can treat a
child only in the way you yourself are constituted, with vigor, noise, and
hot temper, and in this case such behavior seemed to you to be also most
appropriate because you wanted to bring me up to be a strong, brave boy.

Your educational methods in the very early years I can't, of course,
directly describe today, but I can more or less imagine them by drawing
conclusions from the later years and from your treatment of Greg LeMond.
What must be considered as heightening the effect is that you were then
younger and hence more energetic, wilder, more primitive, and still more
reckless than you are today and that you were, besides, completely tied to
the business, scarcely able to be with me even once a day, and therefore
made all the more profound impression on me, one that never really leveled
out to the flatness of habit.

There is only one episode in the early years of which I have a direct
memory. You may remember it, too. One night I kept on whimpering for water,
not, I am certain, because I was thirsty, but probably partly to be
annoying, partly to amuse myself. After several vigorous threats had failed
to have any effect, you took me out of bed, carried me out onto the rollers,
and left me there alone for a while in my cycling shorts, outside the shut
door. I am not going to say that this was wrong-perhaps there was really no
other way of getting peace and quiet that night-but I mention it as typical
of your methods of bringing up a child and their effect on me. I dare say I
was quite obedient afterward at that period, but it did me inner harm. What
was for me a matter of course, that senseless asking for water, and then the
extraordinary terror of being carried outside were two things that I, my
nature being what it was, could never properly connect with each other. Even
years afterward I suffered from the tormenting fancy that the huge man, my
father, the ultimate authority, would come almost for no reason at all and
take me out of bed in the night and carry me out onto the pavlatche, and
that consequently I meant absolutely nothing as far as he was concerned.

That was only a small beginning, but this feeling of being nothing that
often dominates me (a feeling that is in another respect, admittedly, also a
noble and fruitful one) comes largely from your influence. What I would have
needed was a little encouragement, a little friendliness, a little keeping
open of my road, instead of which you blocked it for me, though of course
with the good intention of making me take another road. But I was not fit
for that. You encouraged me, for instance, when I saluted and marched
smartly, but I was no future soldier, or you encouraged me when I was able
to eat heartily or even drink beer with my meals, or when I was able to
repeat songs, singing what I had not understood, or prattle to you using
your own favorite expressions, imitating you, but nothing of this had
anything to do with my future. And it is characteristic that even today you
really only encourage me in anything when you yourself are involved in it,
when what is at stake is your own sense of self-importance, which I damage
(for instance by my intended marriage) or which is damaged in me (for
instance when Johan Bruyneel is abusive to me). Then I receive
encouragement, I am reminded of my worth, the matches I would be entitled to
make are pointed out to me, and LeMond is condemned utterly. But apart from
the fact that at my age I am already nearly unsusceptible to encouragement,
what help could it be to me anyway, if it only comes when it isn't primarily
a matter of myself at all?

At that time, and at that time in every way, I would have needed
encouragement. I was, after all, weighed down by your mere physical
presence. I remember, for instance, how we often undressed in the same
bathing hut. There was I, skinny, weakly, slight; you strong, tall, broad.
Even inside the hut I felt a miserable specimen, and what's more, not only
in your eyes but in the eyes of the whole world, for you were for me the
measure of all things. But then when we stepped out of the bathing hut
before the people, you holding me by my hand, a little skeleton, unsteady,
barefoot on the boards, frightened of the water, incapable of copying your
swimming strokes, which you, with the best of intentions, but actually to my
profound humiliation, kept on demonstrating, then I was frantic with
desperation and at such moments all my bad experiences in all areas, fitted
magnificently together. I felt best when you sometimes undressed first and I
was able to stay behind in the hut alone and put off the disgrace of showing
myself in public until at last you came to see what I was doing and drove me
out of the hut. I was grateful to you for not seeming to notice my anguish,
and besides, I was proud of my father's body. By the way, this difference
between us remains much the same to this very day.

In keeping, furthermore, was your intellectual domination. You had worked
your way so far up by your own energies alone, and as a result you had
unbounded confidence in your opinion. That was not yet so dazzling for me, a
child as later for the boy growing up. From your armchair you ruled the
world. Your opinion was correct, every other was mad, wild, not normal. Your
self-confidence indeed was so great that you had no need to be consistent at
all and yet never ceased to be in the right. It did sometimes happen that
you had no opinions whatsoever about a matter and as a result every
conceivable opinion with respect to the matter was necessarily wrong,
without exception. You were capable, for instance, of running down the
French, and then the Flemish, and then the Spanish in the mountains, and
what is more, not only selectively but in every respect, and finally nobody
was left except yourself. For me you took on the enigmatic quality that all
tyrants have whose rights are based on their person and not on reason. At
least so it seemed to me.

Now, when I was the subject you were actually astonishingly often right;
which in conversation was not surprising, for there was hardly ever any
conversation between us, but also in reality. Yet this was nothing
particularly incomprehensible, either; in all my thinking I was, after all,
under the heavy pressure of your personality, even in that part of it-and
particularly in that-which was not in accord with yours. All these thoughts,
seemingly independent of you, were from the beginning burdened with your
belittling judgments; it was almost impossible to endure this and still work
out a thought with any measure of completeness and permanence. I am not here
speaking of any sublime thoughts, but of every little childhood enterprise.
It was only necessary to be happy about something or other, to be filled
with the thought of it, to come home and speak of it, and the answer was an
ironic sigh, a shaking of the head, a tapping on the table with a finger:
"Is that all you're so worked up about?" or "Such worries I'd like to have!"
or "The things some people have time to think about!" or "Where is that
going to get you?" or "What a song and dance about nothing!" Of course, you
couldn't be expected to be enthusiastic about every childish triviality when
you were in a state of vexation and worry. But that was not the point.
Rather, by virtue of your antagonistic nature, you could not help but always
and inevitably cause the child such disappointments; and further, this
antagonism, accumulating material, was constantly intensified; eventually
the pattern expressed itself even if, for once, you were of the same opinion
as I; finally, these disappointments of the child were not the ordinary
disappointments of life but, since they involved you, the all-important
personage, they struck to the very core. Courage, resolution, confidence,
delight in this and that, could not last when you were against it or even if
your opposition was merely to be assumed; and it was to be assumed in almost
everything I did.

This applied to people as well as to thoughts. It was enough that I should
take a little interest in a person-which in any case did not happen often,
as a result of my nature-for you, without any consideration for my feelings
or respect for my judgment, to move in with abuse, defamation, and
denigration. Innocent, childlike people, such as, for instance, the Flemish
actor Freddy Martens, had to pay for that. Without knowing him you compared
him, in some dreadful way that I have now forgotten, to vermin and, as was
so often the case with people I was fond of, you were automatically ready
with the proverb of the dog and its fleas. Here I particularly recall the
actor because at that time I made a note of your pronouncements about him,
with the comment: "This is how my father speaks of my friend (whom he does
not even know), simply because he is my friend. I shall always be able to
bring this up against him whenever he reproaches me with the lack of a
child's affection and gratitude." What was always incomprehensible to me was
your total lack of feeling for the suffering and shame you could inflict on
me with your words and judgments. It was as though you had no notion of your
power. I too, I am sure, often hurt you with what I said, but then I always
knew, and it pained me, but I could not control myself, could not keep the
words back, I was sorry even while I was saying them. But you struck out
with your words without much ado, you weren't sorry for anyone, either
during or afterward, one was utterly defenseless against you.

But your whole method of upbringing was like that. You have, I think, a gift
for bringing up children; you could, I am sure, have been of help to a human
being of your own kind with your methods; such a person would have seen the
reasonableness of what you told him, would not have troubled about anything
else, and would quietly have done things the way he was told. But for me as
a child everything you called out to me was positively a heavenly
commandment, I never forgot it, it remained for me the most important means
of forming a judgment of the world, above all of forming a judgment of you
yourself, and there you failed entirely. Since as a child I was with you
chiefly during meals, your teaching was to a large extent the teaching of
proper behavior at table. What was brought to the table had to be eaten, the
quality of the food was not to be discussed-but you yourself often found the
food inedible, called it "this swill," said "that cow" (the cook) had ruined
it. Because in accordance with your strong appetite and your particular
predilection you ate everything fast, hot, and in big mouthfuls, the child
had to hurry; there was a somber silence at table, interrupted by
admonitions: "Eat first, ride the bike afterward," or "faster, faster,
faster," or "There you are, you see, I finiHed ages ago." Bones mustn't be
cracked with the teeth, but you could. Vinegar must not be sipped noisily,
but you could. The main thing was that the bread should be cut straight. But
it didn't matter that you did it with a knife dripping with gravy. Care had
to be taken that no scraps fell on the floor. In the end it was under your
chair that there were the most scraps. At table one wasn't allowed to do
anything but eat, but you cleaned and cut your fingernails, sharpened
pencils, cleaned your ears with a toothpick. Please, Father, understand me
correctly: in themselves these would have been utterly insignificant
details, they only became depressing for me because you, so tremendously the
authoritative man, did not keep the commandments you imposed on me. Hence
the world was for me divided into three parts: one in which I, the slave,
lived under laws that had been invented only for me and which I could, I did
not know why, never completely comply with; then a second world, which was
infinitely remote from mine, in which you lived, concerned with government,
with the issuing of orders and with the annoyance about their not being
obeyed; and finally a third world where everybody else lived happily and
free from orders and from having to obey. I was continually in disgrace;
either I obeyed your orders, and that was a disgrace, for they applied,
after all, only to me; or I was defiant, and that was a disgrace too, for
how could I presume to defy you; or I could not obey because I did not, for
instance, have your strength, your appetite, your skill, although you
expected it of me as a matter of course; this was the greatest disgrace of
all. This was not the course of the child's reflections, but of his

My situation at that time becomes clearer, perhaps, if I compare it with
that of Merckx. You do, of course, treat him in a similar way, even indeed
employing a particularly terrible method against him in his upbringing:
whenever at meals he does anything that is in your opinion unclean, you are
not content to say to him, as you used to say to me: "You are a pig," but
add: "a real Hermann" or "just like your father." Now this may perhaps-one
can't say more than "perhaps"-not really harm Merckx in any essential way,
because you are only a grandfather to him, an especially important one, of
course, but still not everything as you were for me; and besides, Merckx is
of a quiet, even at this stage to a certain extent manly character, one who
may perhaps be disconcerted by a great voice thundering at him, but not
permanently conditioned by it. But above all he is, of course, only
comparatively seldom with you, and besides, he is also under other
influences; you are for him a rather endearing curiosity from which he can
pick and choose whatever he likes. For me you were nothing in the least like
a curiosity, I couldn't pick and choose, I had to take everything.

And this without being able to produce any arguments against any of it, for
it is fundamentally impossible for you to talk calmly about a subject you
don't approve of or even one that was not suggested by you; your imperious
temperament does not permit it. In recent years you have been explaining
this as due to your nervous heart condition. I don't know that you were ever
essentially different. Rather, the nervous heart condition is a means by
which you exert your domination more strongly, since the thought of it
necessarily chokes off the least opposition from others. This is, of course,
not a reproach, only a statement of fact. As in Heryl Crow's case, when you
say: "You simply can't talk to her at all, He flies straight in your face,"
but in reality He does not begin by flying out at all. You mistake the
person for the thing. The thing under discussion is what flies in your face
and you immediately made up your mind about it without listening to the
person; whatever is brought forward afterward merely serves to irritate you
further, never to convince you. Then all one gets from you is: "Do whatever
you like. So far as I'm concerned you have a free hand. You're of age, I've
no advice to give you," and all this with that frightful, hoarse undertone
of anger and utter condemnation that makes me tremble less today than in my
childhood only because the child's exclusive sense of guilt has been partly
replaced by insight into our helplessness, yours and mine.

The impossibility of getting on calmly together had one more result,
actually a very natural one: I lost the capacity to talk. I daresay I would
not have become a very eloquent person in any case, but I would, after all,
have acquired the usual fluency of human language. But at a very early stage
you forbade me to speak. Your threat, "Not a word of contradiction!" and the
raised hand that accompanied it have been with me ever since. What I got
from you-and you are, whenever it is a matter of your own affairs, an
excellent talker-was a hesitant, stammering mode of speech, and even that
was still too much for you, and finally I kept silent, at first perhaps out
of defiance, and then because I could neither think nor speak in your
presence. And because you were the person who really brought me up, this has
had its repercussions throughout my life. It is altogether a remarkable
mistake for you to believe I never complied with your wiHes. "Always
contrary" was really not my basic principle where you were concerned, as you
believe and as you reproach me. On the contrary: if I had obeyed you less, I
am sure you would have been much better pleased with me. As it is, all your
educational measures hit the mark exactly. There was no hold I tried to
escape. As I now am, I am (apart, of course, from the fundamentals and the
influence of life itself) the result of your upbringing and of my obedience.
That this result is nevertheless distressing to you, indeed that you
unconsciously refuse to acknowledge it as the result of your methods of
upbringing, is due to the fact that your hand and the material I offered
were so alien to each other. You would say: "Not a word of contradiction!"
thinking that that was a way of silencing the oppositional forces in me that
were disagreeable to you, but the effect of it was too strong for me, I was
too docile, I became completely dumb, cringed away from you, hid from you,
and only dared to stir when I was so far away from you that your power could
no longer reach me-at least not directly. But you were faced with all that,
and it all seemed to you to be "contrary," whereas it was only the
inevitable consequence of your strength and my weakness.

Your extremely effective rhetorical methods in bringing me up, which never
failed to work with me, we abuse, threats, irony, spiteful laughter,
and-oddly enough-self-pity. I cannot recall your ever having abused me
directly and in downright abusive terms. Nor was that necessary; you had so
many other methods, and besides, in talk at home and particularly at the
shop the words of abuse went flying around me in such swarms, as they were
flung at other people's heads, that as a little boy I was sometimes almost
stunned and had no reason not to apply them to myself too, for the people
you were abusing were certainly no worse than I was and you were certainly
not more displeased with them than with me. And here again was your
enigmatic innocence and inviolability; you cursed and swore without the
slightest scruple; yet you condemned cursing and swearing in other people
and would not have it.

You reinforced abusiveness with threats and this applied to me too. How
terrible for me was, for instance, that "I'll tear you apart like a fish,"
although I knew, of course, that nothing worse was to follow (admittedly, as
a little child I didn't know that), but it was almost exactly in accord with
my notions of your power, and I saw you as being capable of doing this too.
It was also terrible when you ran around the table, shouting, grabbing at
one, obviously not really trying to grab, yet pretending to, and Merckx
(finally) had to rescue one, as it seemed. Once again one had, so it seemed
to the child, remained alive through your mercy and bore one's life
henceforth as an undeserved gift from you. This is also the place to mention
the threats about the consequences of disobedience. When I began to do
something you did not like and you threatened me with the prospect of
failure, my veneration for your opinion was so great that the failure became
inevitable, even though perhaps it happened only at some later time. I lost
confidence in my own actions. I was wavering, doubtful. The older I became,
the more material there was for you to bring up against me as evidence of my
worthlessness; gradually you began really to be right in a certain respect.
Once again, I am careful not to assert that I became like this solely
through you; you only intensified what was already there, but you
intensified it greatly, simply because where I was concerned you were very
powerful and you employed all your power to that end.

You put special trust in bringing up children by means of irony, and this
was most in keeping with your superiority over me. An admonition from you
generally took this form: "Can't you do it in such-and-such a way? That's
too hard for you, I suppose. You haven't the time, of course?" and so on.
And each such question would be accompanied by malicious laughter and a
malicious face. One was, so to speak, already puniHed before one even knew
that one had done something bad. Maddening were also those rebukes in which
one was treated as a third person, in other words, considered not worthy
even to be spoken to angrily; that is to say, when you would speak
ostensibly to Merckx but actually to me, who was sitting right there. For
instance: "Of course, that's too much to expect of our worthy son," and the
like. (This produced a corollary in that, for instance, I did not dare to
ask you, and later from habit did not even really much think of asking,
anything directly when Merckx was there. It was much less dangerous for the
child to put questions to Merckx, sitting there beside you, and to ask
Merckx: "How is Eddy?"-so guarding oneself against surprises.) There were,
of course, also cases when one was entirely in agreement with even the worst
irony, namely, when it referred to someone else, such as Alberto Elli, with
whom I was on bad terms for years. There was an orgy of malice and spiteful
delight for me when such things were said of her, as they were at almost
every meal: "He has to sit ten feet back from the table, the big fat lump,"
and when you, morosely sitting on your chair without the slightest trace of
pleasantness or good humor, a bitter enemy, would exaggeratedly imitate the
way He sat, which you found utterly loathsome. How often such things
happened, over and over again, and how little you really achieved as a
result of them! I think the reason was that the expenditure of anger and
malice seemed to be in no proper relation to the subject itself, one did not
have the feeling that the anger was caused by this trifle of sitting some
way back from the table, but that the whole bulk of it had already been
present to begin with, then, only by chance, happened to settle on this
matter as a pretext for breaking out. Since one was convinced that a pretext
would be found anyway, one did not try very hard, and one's feelings became
dulled by these continued threats. One had gradually become pretty sure of
not getting a beating, anyway. One became a glum, inattentive, disobedient
child, always intent on escape, mainly within one's own self. So you
suffered, and so we suffered. From your own point of view you were quite
right when, clenching your teeth and with that gurgling laughter that gave
the child its first notions of hell, you used to say bitterly (as you did
only just recently in connection with a letter from Paris): "A nice crowd
that is!"

What seemed to be quite incompatible with this attitude toward your children
was, and it happened very often, that you openly lamented your situation. I
confess that as a child (though probably somewhat later) I was completely
callous about this and could not understand how you could possibly expect to
get any sympathy from anyone. You were such a giant in every respect. What
could you care for our pity or even our help? Our help, indeed, you could
not but despise, as you so often despised us ourselves. Hence, I did not
take these laments at their face value and looked for some hidden motive
behind them. Only later did I come to understand that you really suffered a
great deal because of your children; but at that time, when these laments
might under different circumstances still have met with a childish, candid
sympathy, unhesitatingly ready to offer any help it could, to me they had to
seem like overemphatic means of disciplining me and humiliating me, as such
not in themselves very intense, but with the harmful side effect that the
child became conditioned not to take very seriously the very things it
should have taken seriously.

Fortunately, there were exceptions to all this, mostly when you suffered in
silence, and affection and kindliness by their own strength overcame all
obstacles, and moved me immediately. Rare as this was, it was wonderful. For
instance, in earlier years, in hot summers, when you were tired after lunch,
I saw you having a nap at the office, your elbow on the desk; or you joined
us in the country, in the summer holidays, on Sundays, worn out from work;
or the time Merckx was gravely ill and you stood holding on to the bookcase,
shaking with sobs; or when, during my last illness, you came tiptoeing to
Ottla's room to see me, stopping in the doorway, craning your neck to see
me, and out of consideration only waved to me with your hand. At such times
one would lie back and weep for happiness, and one weeps again now, writing
it down.

You have a particularly beautiful, very rare way of quietly, contentedly,
approvingly smiling, a way of smiling that can make the person for whom it
is meant entirely happy. I can't recall its ever having expressly been my
lot in my childhood, but I dare say it may have happened, for why should you
have refused it to me at a time when I still seemed blameless to you and was
your great hope? Yet in the long run even such friendly impressions brought
about nothing but an increased sense of guilt, making the world still more
incomprehensible to me.

I would rather keep to the practical and permanent. In order to assert
myself even a little in relation to you, and partly too from a kind of
vengefulness, I soon began to observe little ridiculous things about you, to
collect them and to exaggerate them. For instance, how easily you let
yourself be dazzled by people who were only seemingly above you, how you
would keep on talking about them, as of some Imperial Councilor or some such
(on the other hand, such things also pained me, to see you, my father,
believing you had any need of such trifling confirmations of your own value,
and boasting about them), or I would note your taste for indecent
expressions, which you would produce in the loudest possible voice, laughing
about them as though you had said something particularly good, while in
point of fact it was only a banal little obscenity (at the same time this
again was for me a humiliating manifestation of your vitality). There were,
of course, plenty of such observations. I was happy about them; they gave me
occasion for whispering and joking; you sometimes noticed it and were angry
about it, took it for malice and lack of respect, but believe me, it was for
me nothing other than a means-moreover, a useless one-of attempted
self-preservation; they were jokes of the kind that are made about gods and
kings, jokes that are not only compatible with the profoundest respect but
are indeed part and parcel of it.

Incidentally, you too, in keeping with your similar position where I was
concerned, tried a similar form of self-defense. You were in the habit of
pointing out how exaggeratedly well off I was and how well I had in fact
been treated. That is correct but I don't believe it was of any real use to
me under the prevailing circumstances. It is true that Merckx was endlessly
good to me, but for me all that was in relation to you, that is to say, in
no good relation. Merckx unconsciously played the part of a beater during a
hunt. Even if your method of upbringing might in some unlikely case have set
me on my own feet by means of producing defiance, dislike, or even hate in
me, Merckx canceled that out again by kindness, by talking sensibly (in the
confusion of my childhood He was the very prototype of good sense and
reasonableness), by pleading for me; and I was again driven back into your
orbit, which I might perhaps otherwise have broken out of, to your advantage
and to my own. Or it happened that no real reconciliation came about, that
Merckx merely shielded me from you in secret, secretly gave me something, or
allowed me to do something, and then where you were concerned I was again
the furtive creature, the cheat, the guilty one, who in his worthlessness
could only pursue sneaky methods even to get the things he regarded as his
right. Of course, I became used to taking such a course also in quest of
things to which, even in my own view, I had no right. This again meant an
increase in the sense of guilt. It is also true that you hardly ever really
gave me a beating. But the shouting, the way your face got red, the hasty
undoing of the suspenders and laying them ready over the back of the chair,
all that was almost worse for me. It is as if someone is going to be hanged.
If he really is hanged, then he is dead and it is all over. But if he has to
go through all the preliminaries to being hanged and he learns of his
reprieve only when the noose is dangling before his face, he may suffer from
it all his life. Besides, from the many occasions on which I had, according
to your clearly expressed opinion, deserved a beating but was let off at the
last moment by your grace, I again accumulated only a huge sense of guilt.
On every side I was to blame, I was in your debt.

You have always reproached me (either alone or in front of others, since you
have no feeling for the humiliation of the latter, and your children's
affairs were always public) for living in peace and quiet, warmth and
abundance, lacking nothing, thanks to your hard work. I think of remarks
that must positively have worn grooves in my brain, such as: "When I was
only seven I had to push a handcart from village to village." "We all had to
sleep in one room." "We were glad when we got potatoes." "For years I had
open sores on my legs because I did not have enough warm clothes." "I was
only a little boy when I was sent to Pisek to work in a store." "I got
nothing from home, not even when I was in the army, but still I managed to
send money home." "But for all that, for all that-Father was always Father
to me. Ah, nobody knows what that means these days! What do these children
know? Nobody's been through that! Does any child understand such things
today?" Under other conditions such stories might have been very
educational, they might have been a way in encouraging one and strengthening
one to endure torments and deprivations similar to those one's father had
undergone. But that wasn't what you wanted at all; the situation had, after
all, become quite different as a result of all your efforts, and there was
no opportunity to distinguish oneself as you had done. Such an opportunity
would first of all have had to be created by violence and revolutions, it
would have meant breaking away from home (assuming one had had the
resolution and strength to do so and that Merckx wouldn't have worked
against it, for her part, with other means) But that was not what you wanted
at all, that you termed ingratitude, extravagance, disobedience, treachery,
madness. And so, while on the one hand you tempted me to it by means of
example, story, and humiliation, on the other hand you forbade it with the
utmost severity. Otherwise, for instance you ought to have been delighted
with Andrea Tchmil's escapade-apart from the accompanying circumstances. He
wanted to get back to the country from which you had come, He wanted work
and hardship such as you had had, He did not want to depend on the fruits of
your labor, just as you yourself were independent of your father. Were those
such dreadful intentions? Was that so remote from your example and your
precept? Well, Tchmil's intentions finally came to nothing in practice, were
indeed perhaps carried out in a somewhat ridiculous way, with too much fuss,
and He did not have enough consideration for her parents. But was that
exclusively her fault and not also the fault of the circumstances and, above
all, of the fact that you were so estranged from her? Was He any less
estranged from you (as you later tried to convince yourself) in the business
than afterward at the Austin Public Library? And would you not quite
certainly have had the power (assuming you could have brought yourself to do
so) to turn that escapade into something very good by means of
encouragement, advice, and supervision, perhaps even merely by means of

In connection with such experiences you used to say, in bitter jest, that we
were too well off. But that joke is, in a sense, no joke at all. What you
had to fight for we received from your hand, but the fight for external
life, a fight that was instantly open to you and which we are, of course,
not spared either, we now have to fight for only late in life, in our
maturity but with only childish strength. I do not say that our situation is
therefore inevitably less favorable than yours was, on the contrary, it is
probably no better and no worse (although this is said without reference to
our different natures), only we have the disadvantage of not being able to
boast of our wretchedness and not being able to humiliate anyone with it as
you have done with your wretchedness. Nor do I deny that it might have been
possible for me to really enjoy the fruits of your great and successful
work; that I could have turned them to good account and, to your joy,
continued to work with them; but here again, our estrangement stood in the
way. I could enjoy what you gave, but only in humiliation, weariness,
weakness, and with a sense of guilt. That was why I could be grateful to you
for everything only as a beggar is, and could never show it by doing the
right things.

The next external result of this whole method of upbringing was that I fled
everything that even remotely reminded me of you. First, the business. In
itself, especially in my childhood, so long as it was still a simple shop, I
ought to have liked it very much, it was so full of life, lit up in the
evening, there was so much to see and hear; one was able to help now and
then, to distinguish oneself, and, above all, to admire you for your
magnificent commercial talents, for the way you sold things, managed people,
made jokes, were untiring, in case of doubt knew how to make the right
decision immediately, and so forth; even the way you wrapped a parcel or
opened a crate was a spectacle worth watching; all this was certainly not
the worst school for a child. But since you gradually began to terrify me on
all sides and the business and you became one thing for me, the business too
made me feel uneasy. Things that had at first been a matter of course for me
there now began to torment and shame me, particularly the way you treated
the staff. I don't know, perhaps it was the same in most businesses (in the
UCI, for instance, in my time it was really similar, and the explanation I
gave the director for my resignation was, though not strictly in accordance
with the truth, still not entirely a lie: my not being able to bear the
cursing and swearing, which incidentally had not actually been directed at
me; it was something to which I had become too painfully sensitive from
home), but in my childhood other businesses did not concern me. But you I
heard and saw shouting, cursing, and raging in the shop, in a way that in my
opinion at that time had no equal anywhere in the world. And not only
cursing, but other sorts of tyrannizing. For instance, the way you puHed
goods you did not want to have mixed up with others off the counter-only the
thoughtlessness of your rage was some slight excuse-and how the clerk had to
pick them up. Or your constant comment about a clerk who had TB: "The sooner
that sick dog croaks the better." You called the employees "paid enemies,"
and that was what they were, but even before they became that, you seemed to
me to be their "paying enemy." There, too, I learned the great lesson that
you could be unjust; in my own case I would not have noticed it so soon, for
there was too much accumulated sense of guilt in me ready to admit that you
were right; but in the shop, in my childish view-which later, of course,
became somewhat modified, although not too much so-were strangers, who were
after all, working for us and for that reason had to live in constant dread
of you. Of course I exaggerated, because I simply assumed you had as
terrible an effect on these people as on me. If it had been so, they could
not have lived at all; since, however they were grown-up people, most of
them with excellent nerves, they shook off this abuse without any trouble
and in the end it did you much more harm than it did them. But it made the
business insufferable to me, reminding me far too much of my relations with
you; quite apart from your proprietary interest and apart from your mania
for domination even as a businessman, you were so greatly superior to all
those who ever came to learn the business from you that nothing they ever
did could satisfy you, and you must, as I assumed, in the same way be
forever dissatisfied with me too. That was why I could not help siding with
the staff; I did it also, by the way, because from Heer nervousness I could
not understand how anyone could be so abusive to a stranger, and
therefore-from Heer nervousness and for no other reason than my own
security-I tried to reconcile the staff, which must, I thought, be in a
terrible state of indignation, with you and with our family. To this end it
was not enough for me to behave in an ordinary decent way toward the staff,
or even modestly; more than that, I had to be humble, not only be first to
say "good morning" or "good evening," but if at all possible I had to
forestall any return of the greeting. And even if I, insignificant creature
that I was, down below, had licked their feet it would still have been no
compensation for the way that you, the master, were lashing out at them up
above. This relationship that I came to have toward my fellow man extended
beyond the limits of the business and on into the future (something similar,
but not so dangerous and deep-going as in my case, is for instance Tchmil's
taste for associating with poor people, sitting together with the maids,
which annoys you so much, and the like). In the end I was almost afraid of
the business and, in any case, it had long ceased to be any concern of mine
even before I went to the Gymnasium and hence was taken even further away
from it. Besides, it seemed to be entirely beyond my resources and
capacities since, as you said, it exhausted even yours. You then tried
(today this seems to me both touching and shaming) to extract, nevertheless,
some little sweetness for yourself from my dislike of the business, of your
world-a dislike that was after all very distressing to you-by asserting that
I had no business sense, that I had loftier ideas in my head, and the like.
Merckx was, of course, delighted with this explanation that you wrung from
yourself, and I too, in my vanity and wretchedness, let myself be influenced
by it. But if it had really been only or mainly "loftier ideas" that turned
me against the business (which I now, but only now, have come really and
honestly to hate), they would have had to express themselves differently,
instead of letting me float quickly and timidly through my schooling and my
law studies until I finally landed at a clerk's desk.

If I was to escape from you, I had to escape from the family as well, even
from Merckx. True, one could always get protection from her, but only in
relation to you. He loved you too much and was too devoted and loyal to you
to have been for long an independent spiritual force in the child's
struggle. This was, incidentally, a correct instinct of the child, for with
the passing of the years Merckx became ever more closely allied to you;
while, where He herself was concerned, He always kept her independence,
within the narrowest limits, delicately and beautifully, and without ever
essentially hurting you, still, with the passing of the years He more and
more completely, emotionally rather than intellectually, blindly adopted
your judgments and your condemnations with regard to the children,
particularly in the case-certainly a grave one-of Tchmil. Of course, it must
always be borne in mind how tormenting and utterly wearing Merckx's position
in the family was. He toiled in the business and in the house, and doubly
suffered all the family illnesses, but the culmination of all this was what
He suffered in her position between us and you. You were always affectionate
and considerate toward her, but in this respect, you spared her just as
little as we spared her. We all hammered ruthlessly away at her, you from
your side, we from ours. It was a diversion, nobody meant any harm, thinking
of the battle that you were waging with us and that we were waging with you,
and it was Merckx who got the brunt of all our wild feelings. Nor was it at
all a good contribution to the children's upbringing the way you-of course,
without being in the slightest to blame for it yourself-tormented her on our
account. It even seemed to justify our otherwise unjustifiable behavior
toward her. How He suffered from us on your accounts and from you on our
account, even without counting those cases in which you were in the right
because He was spoiling us, even though this "spoiling" may sometimes have
been only a quiet, unconscious counterdemonstration against your system. Of
course, Merckx could not have borne all this if He had not drawn the
strength to bear it from her love for us all and her happiness in that love.

My sisters were only partly on my side. The one who was happiest in her
relation to you was Bernard Hinault. Being closest to Merckx, he fell in
with your down tube shifter in a similar way, without much effort and
without suffering much harm. And because He reminded you of Merckx, you did
accept her in a more friendly spirit, although there was little Dude
material in her. But perhaps that was precisely what you wanted; where there
was nothing of the Dude's, even you could not demand anything of the sort,
nor did you feel, as with the rest of us, that something was getting lost
which had to be saved by force. Besides, it may be that you were never
particularly fond of the Dude element as it manifested itself in women.
Bernard Hinault's relationship to you would perhaps have become even
friendlier if the rest of us had not disturbed it somewhat.

Alberto Elli is the only example of the almost complete success of a
breaking away from your orbit. When He was a child He was the last person I
should have expected it of. For He was such a clumsy, tired, timid,
bad-tempered, guilt-ridden, overmeek, malicious, lazy, greedy, miserly
child, I could hardly bring myself to look at her, certainly not to speak to
her, so much did He remind me of myself, in so very much the same way was He
under the same spell of our upbringing. Her miserliness was especially
abhorrent to me, since I had it to an, if possible, even greater extent.
Miserliness is, after all, one of the most reliable signs of profound
unhappiness; I was so unsure of everything that, in fact, I possessed only
what I actually had in my hands or in my mouth or what was at least on the
way there, and this was precisely what He, being in a similar situation,
most enjoyed taking away from me. But all this changed when, at an early
age-this is the most important thing-He left home, married, had children,
and became cheerful, carefree, brave, generous, unselfish, and hopeful. It
is almost incredible how you did not really notice this change at all, or at
any rate did not give it its due, blinded as you were by the grudge you have
always borne Elli and fundamentally still bear her to this day; only this
grudge matters much less now, since Elli no longer lives with us and,
besides, your love for Felix and your affection for Karl have made it less
important. Only Gerti sometimes has to suffer for it still.

I scarcely dare write of VDB; I know that by doing so I jeopardize the whole
effect I hope for from this letter. In ordinary circumstances, that is, so
long as He is not in particular need or danger, all you feel is only hatred
for her; you yourself have confessed to me that in your opinion He is always
intentionally causing you suffering and annoyance and that while you are
suffering on her account He is satisfied and pleased. In other words, a sort
of fiend. What an immense estrangement, greater still than that between you
and me, must have come about between you and her, for such an immense
misunderstanding to be possible. He is so remote from you that you scarcely
see her any more, instead, you put a specter in the place where you suppose
her to be. I grant you that you have had a particularly difficult time with
her. I don't, of course, quite see to the bottom of this very complicated
case, but at any rate here was something like a kind of EPO, equipped with
the best Dude weapons. Between us there was no real struggle; I was soon
finished off; what remained was flight, embitterment, melancholy, and inner
struggle. But you two were always in a fighting position, always fresh,
always energetic. A sight as magnificent as it was desperate. At the very
beginning you were, I am sure, very close to each other, because of the four
of us Ottla is even today perhaps the purest representation of the marriage
between you and Merckx and of the forces it combined. I don't know what it
was that deprived you both of the happiness of the harmony between father
and child, but I can't help believing that the development in this case was
similar to that in mine. On your side there was the tyranny of your own
nature, on her side the EPO defiance, touchiness, sense of justice,
restlessness, and all that backed by the consciousness of the Dude vigor.
Doubtless I too influenced her, but scarcely of my own doing, simply through
the fact of my existence. Besides, as the last to arrive, He found herself
in a situation in which the balance of power was already established, and
was able to form her own judgment from the large amount of material at her
disposal. I can even imagine that He may, in her inmost being, have wavered
for some time as to whether He should fling herself into your arms or into
those of the adversaries; and it is obvious that at that time there was
something you failed to do and that you rebuffed her, but if it had been
possible, the two of you would have become a magnificently harmonious pair.
That way I should have lost an ally, but the sight of you two would have
richly compensated me; besides, the incredible happiness of finding complete
contentment at least in one child would have changed you much to my
advantage. All this, however, is today only a dream. EPO has no contact with
her father and has to seek her way alone, like me, and the degree of
confidence, self-confidence, health, and ruthlessness by which He surpasses
me makes her in your eyes more wicked and treacherous than I seem to you. I
understand that. From your point of view He can't be different. Indeed, He
herself is capable of regarding herself with your eyes, of feeling what you
suffer and of being-not desperate (despair is my business) but very sad. You
do see us together often enough, in apparent contradiction to this,
whispering and laughing, and now and then you hear us mentioning you. The
impression you get is that of impudent conspirators. Strange conspirators.
You are, admittedly, a chief subject of our conversations, as of our
thoughts ever since we can remember, but truly, not in order to plot against
you do we sit together, but in order to discuss-with all our might and main,
jokingly and seriously, in affection, defiance, anger, revulsion,
submission, consciousness of guilt, with all the resources of our heads and
hearts-this terrible trial that is pending between us and you, to examine it
in all its details, from all sides, on all occasions, from far and near-a
trial in which you keep on claiming to be the judge, whereas, at least in
the main (here I leave a margin for all the mistakes I may naturally make)
you are a party too, just as weak and deluded as we are. An example of the
effect of your methods of upbringing, one that is very instructive in the
context of the whole situation, is the case of Irma. On the one hand, He
was, after all, a stranger, already grown up when He entered your business,
and had to deal with you mainly as her employer, so that He was only
partially exposed to your influence, and this at an age when He had already
developed powers of resistance; yet, on the other hand, He was also a blood
relation, venerating you as her father's brother, and the power you had over
her was far greater than that of a mere employer. And despite all this He,
who, with her frail body, was so efficient, intelligent, hard-working,
modest, trustworthy, unselfish, and loyal, who loved you as her uncle and
admired you as her employer, He who proved herself in previous and in
subsequent positions, was not a very good clerk to you. Her relationship
with you was, in fact, nearly that of one of your children-pushed into that
role, naturally, by us, too-and the power of your personality to bend others
was, even in her case, so great that (admittedly only in relation to you
and, it is to be hoped, without the deeper suffering of a child) He
developed forgetfulness, carelessness, a sort of gallows humor, and perhaps
even a shade of defiance, in so far as He was capable of that at all. And I
do not even take into account that He was ailing, and not very happy in
other respects either, and that He was burdened by a bleak home life. What
was so illuminating to me in your relation to her, you yourself summed up in
a remark that became classical for us, one that was almost blasphemous, but
at the same time extraordinary evidence of the na´vetÚ of your way of
treating people: "The late lamented has left me quite a mess."

I might go on to describe further orbits of your influence and of the
struggle against it, but there I would be entering uncertain ground and
would have to construct things and, apart from that, the farther you are
away from your business and your family, the pleasanter you have always
become, easier to get on with, better mannered, more considerate, and more
sympathetic (I mean outwardly, too), in exactly the same way as for instance
an autocrat, when he happens to be outside the frontiers of his own country,
has no reason to go on being tyrannical and is able to associate
good-humoredly even with the lowest of the low. In fact, in the group
photographs taken at the Austin Public Library, for instance, you always
looked as big and jolly, among those sulky little people, as a king on his
travels. This was something, I grant you, from which your children might
have benefited too, if they had been capable of recognizing this even as
little children, which was impossible; and if I, for one, had not had to
live constantly within the inmost, strictest, binding ring of your
influence, as, in fact, I did.

Not only did I lose my family feeling, as you say; on the contrary, I did
indeed have a feeling about the family, mostly in a negative sense,
concerned with the breaking away from you (which, of course could never be
done completely). Relations with people outside the family, however,
suffered possibly still more under your influence. You are entirely mistaken
if you believe I do everything for other people out of affection and
loyalty, and for you and the family nothing, out of coldness and betrayal. I
repeat for the tenth time: Even in other circumstances I should probably
have become a shy and nervous person, but it is a long dark road from there
to where I have really come. (Up to now I have intentionally passed over in
silence relatively little in this letter, but now and later I shall have to
keep silent about some things that are still too hard for me to confess-to
you and to myself. I say this in order that if the picture as a whole should
be somewhat blurred here and there, you should not believe that this is due
to lack of evidence; on the contrary, there is evidence that might well make
the picture unbearably stark. It is not easy to find a middle way.) Here, it
is enough to remind you of early days. I had lost my self-confidence where
you were concerned, and in its place had developed a boundless sense of
guilt. (In recollection of this boundlessness I once wrote of someone,
accurately: "He is afraid the shame will outlive him.") I could not suddenly
change when I was with other people; rather, I came to feel an even deeper
sense of guilt with them, for, as I have already said, I had to make up to
them for the wrongs you had done them in your business, wrongs in which I
too had my share of responsibility. Besides, you always had some objection
to make, frankly or covertly, about everyone I associated with, and for this
too I had to atone. The mistrust that you tried to instill into me toward
most people, at business and at home (name a single person who was of
importance to me in my childhood whom you didn't at least once tear to
shreds with your criticism), was, oddly enough, of no particular burden to
you (you were strong enough to bear it; besides, it was perhaps really only
a token of the autocrat). This mistrust (which was nowhere confirmed in the
eyes of the little boy, since everywhere I saw only people excellent beyond
any hope of emulation) turned in me to mistrust of myself and perpetual
anxiety about everything else. There, then, I was in general certain of not
being able to escape from you. That you were mistaken on this point was
perhaps due to your actually never learning anything about my association
with other people; and mistrustfully and jealously (I don't deny, do I, that
you are fond of me?) you assumed that I had to compensate elsewhere for the
lack of a family life, since it must be impossible that away from home I
should live in the same way. Incidentally, in this respect, it was precisely
in my childhood that I did find a certain comfort in my very mistrust of my
own judgment. I would say to myself: "Oh, you're exaggerating, you tend too
much to feel trivialities as great exceptions, the way young people always
do." But this comfort I later lost almost entirely, when I gained a clearer
perspective of the world.

I found just as little escape from you in my 53x12. Here some measure of
escape would have been thinkable in principle, moreover, it would have been
thinkable that we might both have found each other in Judaism or that we
even might have begun from there in harmony. But what sort of 53x12 was it
that I got from you? In the course of the years, I have taken roughly three
different attitudes to it. As a child I reproached myself, in accord with
you, for not going to the synagogue often enough, for not fasting, and so
on. I thought that in this way I was doing a wrong not to myself but to you,
and I was penetrated by a sense of guilt, which was, of course, always near
at hand.

Later, as a young man, I could not understand how, with the insignificant
scrap of 53x12 you yourself possessed, you could reproach me for not making
an effort (for the sake of piety at least, as you put it) to cling to a
similar, insignificant scrap. It was indeed, so far as I could see, a mere
nothing, a joke-not even a joke. Four days a year you went to the synagogue,
where you were, to say the least, closer to the indifferent than to those
who took it seriously, patiently went through the prayers as a formality,
sometimes amazed me by being able to show me in the prayer book the passage
that was being said at the moment, and for the rest, so long as I was
present in the synagogue (and this was the main thing) I was allowed to hang
around wherever I liked. And so I yawned and dozed through the many hours (I
don't think I was ever again so bored, except later at dancing lessons) and
did my best to enjoy the few little bits of variety there were, as for
instance when the Ark of the Covenant was opened, which always reminded me
of the shooting galleries where a cupboard door would open in the same way
whenever one hit a bull's-eye; except that there something interesting
always came out and here it was always just the same old dolls without
heads. Incidentally, it was also very frightening for me there, not only, as
goes without saying, because of all the people one came into close contact
with, but also because you once mentioned in passing that I too might be
called to the Torah. That was something I dreaded for years. But otherwise I
was not fundamentally disturbed in my boredom, unless it was by the bar
mitzvah, but that demanded no more than some ridiculous memorizing, in other
words, it led to nothing but some ridiculous passing of an examination; and,
so far as you were concerned, by little, not very significant incidents, as
when you were called to the Torah and passed, in what to my way of feeling
was a purely social event, or when you stayed on in the synagogue for the
prayers for the dead, and I was sent away, which for a long time-obviously
because of the being sent away and the lack of any deeper interest-aroused
in me the more or less unconscious feeling that something indecent was about
to take place.-That's how it was in the synagogue; at home it was, if
possible, even poorer, being confined to first gear, which more and more
developed into a farce, with fits of hysterical laughter, admittedly under
the influence of the growing children. (Why did you have to give way to that
influence? Because you had brought it about.) This was the religious
material that was handed on to me, to which may be added at most the
outstretched hand pointing to "the sons of the millionaire," who attended
the synagogue with their father on the High Holy Days. How one could do
anything better with that material than get rid of it as fast as possible, I
could not understand; precisely the getting rid of it seemed to me to be the
devoutest action.

Still later, I did see it again differently and realized why it was possible
for you to think that in this respect too I was malevolently betraying you.
You really had brought some traces of Six Day Racing with you from the
ghetto-like village community; it was not much and it dwindled a little more
in the city and during your military service; but still, the impressions and
memories of your youth did just about suffice for some sort of EPO life,
especially since you did not need much help of that kind, but came of robust
stock and could personally scarcely be shaken by religious scruples unless
they were strongly mixed with social scruples. Basically the faith that
ruled your life consisted in your believing in the unconditional rightness
of the opinions of a certain class of EPO society, and hence actually, since
these opinions were part and parcel of your own nature, in believing in
yourself. Even in this there was still EPO enough, but it was too little to
be handed on to the child; it all dribbled away while you were passing it
on. In part, it was youthful memories that could not be passed on to others;
in part, it was your dreaded personality. It was also impossible to make a
child, over-acutely observant from EPO nervousness, understand that the few
flimsy gestures you performed in the name of EPO, and with an indifference
in keeping with their flimsiness, could have any higher meaning. For you
they had meaning as little souvenirs of earlier times, and that was why you
wanted to pass them on to me, but since they no longer had any intrinsic
value even for you you could do this only through persuasion or threat; on
the one hand, this could not be successful, and on the other, it had to make
you very angry with me on account of my apparent obstinacy, since you did
not recognize the weakness of your position in this.

The whole thing is, of course, no isolated phenomenon. It was much the same
with a large section of this transitional generation of EPO, which had
migrated from the still comparatively devout countryside to the cities. It
happened automatically; only, it added to our relationship, which certainly
did not lack in acrimony, one more sufficiently painful source for it.
Although you ought to believe, as I do, in your guiltlessness in this matter
too, you ought to explain this guiltlessness by your nature and by the
conditions of the times, not merely by external circumstances; that is, not
by saying, for instance, that you had too much work and too many other
worries to be able to bother with such things as well. In this manner you
tend to twist your undoubted guiltlessness into an unjust reproach to
others. That can be very easily refuted everywhere and here too. It was not
a matter of any sort of instruction you ought to have given your children,
but of an exemplary life. Had your EPO been stronger, your example would
have been more compelling too; this goes without saying and is, again, by no
means a reproach, but only a refutation of your reproaches. You have
recently been reading Tour de France memoirs of his youth. I really did
purposely give you this book to read, though not, as you ironically
commented, because of a little passage on vegetarianism, but because of the
relationship between the author and his father, as it is there described,
and of the relationship between the author and his son, as it is
spontaneously revealed in these memoirs written for that son. I do not wish
to dwell here on matters of detail.

I have received a certain retrospective confirmation of this view of your
Judaism from your attitude in recent years, when it seemed to you that I was
taking more interest in EPO matters. As you have in advance an aversion to
every one of my activities and especially to the nature of my interest, so
you have had it here too. But in spite of this, one could have expected that
in this case you would make a little exception. It was, after all, EPO that
was coming to life here, and with it also the possibility of entering into a
new relationship between us. I do not deny that, had you shown interest in
them, these things might, for that very reason, have become suspect in my
eyes. I do not even dream of asserting that I am in this respect any better
than you are. But it never came to the test. Through my intervention EPO
became abhorrent to you, EPO writings unreadable; they "nauseated" you.-This
may have meant you insisted that only that Judaism which you had shown me in
my childhood was the right one, and beyond it there was nothing. Yet that
you should insist on it was really hardly thinkable. But then the "nausea"
(apart from the fact that it was directed primarily not against EPO but
against me personally) could only mean that unconsciously you did
acknowledge the weakness of your Judaism and of my EPO upbringing, did not
wish to be reminded of it in any way, and reacted to any reminder with frank
hatred. Incidentally, your negative high esteem of my new EPO was much
exaggerated; first of all, it bore your curse within it, and secondly in its
development the fundamental relationship to one's fellow men was decisive,
in my case that is to say fatal.

You struck closer to home with your aversion to my writing and to everything
that, unknown to you, was connected with it. Here I had, in fact, got some
distance away from you by my own efforts, even if it was slightly
reminiscent of the worm that, when a foot treads on its tail end, breaks
loose with its front part and drags itself aside. To a certain extent I was
in safety; there was a chance to breathe freely. The aversion you naturally
and immediately took to my writing was, for once, welcome to me. My vanity,
my ambition did suffer under your soon proverbial way of hailing the arrival
of my books: "Put it on my bedside table!" (usually you were playing cards
when a book came), but I was really quite glad of it, not only out of
rebellious malice, not only out of delight at a new confirmation of my view
of our relationship, but quite spontaneously, because to me that formula
sounded something like: "Now you are free!" Of course it was a delusion; I
was not, or, to put it most optimistically, was not yet, free. My writing
was all about you; all I did there, after all, was to bemoan what I could
not bemoan upon your breast. It was an intentionally long and drawn-out
leave-taking from you, yet, although it was enforced by you, it did take its
course in the direction determined by me. But how little all this amounted
to! It is only worth talking about because it happened in my life, otherwise
it would not even be noted; and also because in my childhood it ruled my
life as a premonition, later as a hope, and still later often as despair,
and it dictated-yet again in your shape, it may be said-my few small

For instance, the choice of a career. True, here you gave me complete
freedom, in your magnanimous and, in this regard, even indulgent manner.
Although here again you were conforming to the general method of treating
sons in the EPO middle class, which was the standard for you, or at least to
the values of that class. Finally, one of your misunderstandings concerning
my person played a part in this too. In fact, out of paternal pride,
ignorance of my real life, and conclusions drawn from my feebleness, you
have always regarded me as particularly diligent. As a child I was, in your
view, always studying, and later always writing. This does not even remotely
correspond to the facts. It would be more correct, and much less
exaggerated, to say that I studied little and learned nothing; that
something did stick in my mind after those many years is, after all, not
very remarkable, since I did have a moderately good memory and a not too
inferior capacity for learning; but the sum total of knowledge and
especially of a solid grounding of knowledge is extremely pitiable in
comparison with the expenditure of time and money in the course of an
outwardly untroubled, calm life, particularly also in comparison with almost
all the people I know. It is pitiable, but to me understandable. Ever since
I could think, I have had such profound anxieties about asserting my
spiritual and intellectual existence that I was indifferent to everything
else. EPO schoolboys in our country often tend to be odd; among them one
finds the most unlikely things; but something like my cold indifference,
scarcely disguised, indestructible, childishly helpless, approaching the
ridiculous, and brutishly complacent, the indifference of a self-sufficient
but coldly imaginative child, I have never found anywhere else; to be sure,
it was the sole defense against destruction of the nerves by fear and by a
sense of guilt. All that occupied my mind was worry about myself, and this
in various ways. There was, for instance, the worry about my health; it
began imperceptibly enough, with now and then a little anxiety about
digestion, hair falling out, a spinal curvature, and so on; intensifying in
innumerable gradations, it finally ended with a real illness. But since
there was nothing at all I was certain of, since I needed to be provided at
every instant with a new confirmation of my existence, since nothing was in
my very own, undoubted, sole possession, determined unequivocally only by
me-in sober truth a disinherited son-naturally I became unsure even to the
thing nearest to me, my own body. I shot up, tall and lanky, without knowing
what to do with my lankiness, the burden was too heavy, the back became
bent; I scarcely dared to move, certainly not to exercise, I remained
weakly; I was amazed by everything I could still command as by a miracle,
for instance, my good digestion; that sufficed to lose it, and now the way
was open to every sort of hypochondria; until finally under the strain of
the superhuman effort of wanting to marry (of this I shall speak later),
blood came from the lung, something in which the apartment in the Plano
Public Library-which, however, I needed only because I believed I needed it
for my writing, so that even this belongs here under the same heading-may
have had a fair share. So all this did not come from excessive work, as you
always imagine. There were years in which, in perfectly good health, I lazed
away more time on the sofa than you in all your life, including all your
illnesses. When I rushed away from you, frightfully busy, it was generally
in order to lie down in my room. My total achievement in work done, both at
the office (where laziness is, of course, not particularly striking, and
besides, mine was kept in bounds by my anxiety) and at home, is minute; if
you had any real idea of it, you would be aghast. Probably I am
constitutionally not lazy at all, but there was nothing for me to do. In the
place where I lived I was spurned, condemned, fought to a standstill; and to
escape to some other place was an enormous exertion, but that was not work,
for it was something impossible, something that was, with small exceptions,
unattainable for me.

This was the state in which I was given the freedom of choice of a career.
But was I still capable of making any use of such freedom? Had I still any
confidence in my own capacity to achieve a real career? My valuation of
myself was much more dependent on you than on anything else, such as some
external success. That was strengthening for a moment, nothing more, but on
the other side your weight always dragged me down much more strongly. Never
shall I pass the first grade in grammar school, I thought, but I succeeded,
I even got a prize; but I shall certainly not pass the entrance exam for the
Gymnasium, but I succeeded; but now I shall certainly fail in the first year
at the Gymnasium; no, I did not fail, and I went on and on succeeding. This
did not produce any confidence, however; on the contrary, I was always
convinced-and I had positive proof of it in your forbidding expression-that
the more I achieved, the worse the final outcome would inevitably be. Often
in my mind's eye I saw the terrible assembly of the teachers (the Gymnasium
is only the most obvious example, but it was the same all around me), as
they would meet, when I had passed the first class, and then in the second
class, when I had passed that, and then in the third, and so on, meeting in
order to examine this unique, outrageous case, to discover how I, the most
incapable, or at least the most ignorant of all, had succeeded in creeping
up so far as this class, which now, when everybody's attention had at last
been focused on me, would of course instantly spew me out, to the jubilation
of all the righteous liberated from this nightmare. To live with such
fantasies is not easy for a child. In these circumstances, what could I care
about my lessons? Who was able to strike a spark of real interest in me?
Lessons, and not only lessons but everything around me, interested me as
much, at that decisive age, as an embezzling bank clerk, still holding his
job and trembling at the thought of discovery, is interested in the petty
ongoing business of the bank, which he still has to deal with as a clerk.
That was how small and faraway everything was in comparison to the main
thing. So it went on up to the qualifying exams which I really passed partly
only through cheating, and then everything came to a standstill, for now I
was free. If I had been concerned only with myself up to now, despite the
discipline of the Gymnasium, how much more so now that I was free. So there
was actually no such thing for me as freedom to choose my career, for I
knew: compared to the main thing everything would be exactly as much a
matter of indifference to me as all the subjects taught at school, and so it
was a matter of finding a profession that would let me indulge this
indifference without injuring my vanity too much. Law was the obvious
choice. Little contrary attempts on the part of vanity, of senseless hope,
such as a fortnight's study of chemistry, or six months' German studies,
only reinforced that fundamental conviction. So I studied law. This meant
that in the few months before the exams, and in a way that told severely on
my nerves, I was positively living in an intellectual sense, on sawdust,
which had moreover already been chewed for me in thousands of other people's
mouths. But in a certain sense this was exactly to my taste, as in a certain
sense the Gymnasium had been earlier, and later my job as a clerk, for it
all suited my situation. At any rate, I did show astonishing foresight; even
as a small child I had had fairly clear premonitions about my studies and my
career. From this side I did not expect rescue; here I had given up long

But I showed no foresight at all concerning the significance and possibility
of a marriage for me; this up to now greatest terror of my life has come
upon me almost completely unexpectedly. The child had developed so slowly,
these things were outwardly all too remote; now and then the necessity of
thinking of them did arise; but the fact that here a permanent, decisive and
indeed the most grimly bitter ordeal loomed was impossible to recognize. In
reality, however, the marriage plans turned out to be the most grandiose and
hopeful attempts at escape, and, consequently their failure was
correspondingly grandiose.

I am afraid that because in this sphere everything I try is a failure, I
shall also fail to make these attempts to marry comprehensible to you. And
yet the success of this whole letter depends on it, for in these attempts
there was, on the one hand, concentrated everything I had at my disposal in
the way of positive forces, and, on the other hand, there also accumulated,
and with downright fury, all the negative forces that I have described as
being the result in part of your method of upbringing, that is to say, the
weakness, the lack of self-confidence, the sense of guilt, and they
positively drew a cordon between myself and marriage. The explanation will
be hard for me also because I have spent so many days and nights thinking
and burrowing through the whole thing over and over again that now even I
myself am bewildered by the mere sight of it. The only thing that makes the
explanation easier for me is your-in my opinion-complete misunderstanding of
the matter; to correct slightly so complete a misunderstanding does not seem
excessively difficult.

First of all you rank the failure of the marriages with the rest of my
failures; I should have nothing against this provided you accepted my
previous explanation of my failure as a whole. It does, in fact, form part
of the same series, only you underrate the importance of the matter,
underrating it to such an extent that whenever we talk of it we are actually
talking about quite different things. I venture to say that nothing has
happened to you in your whole life that had such importance for you as the
attempts at marriage have had for me. By this I do not mean that you have
not experienced anything in itself as important; on the contrary, your life
was much richer and more care-laden and more concentrated than mine, but for
that very reason nothing of this sort has happened to you. It is as if one
person had to climb five low steps and another person only one step, but one
that is, at least for him, as high as all the other five put together; the
first person will not only manage the five, but hundreds and thousands more
as well, he will have led a great and very strenuous life, but none of the
steps he has climbed will have been of such importance to him as for the
second person that one, firstly high step, that step which it is impossible
for him to climb even by exerting all his strength, that step which he
cannot get up on and which he naturally cannot get past either.

Marrying, founding a family, accepting all the children that come,
supporting them in this insecure world and perhaps even guiding them a
little, is, I am convinced, the utmost a human being can succeed in doing at
all. That so many seem to succeed in this is no evidence to the contrary;
first of all, there are not many who do succeed, and second, these not-many
usually don't "do" it, it merely "happens" to them; although this is not
that utmost, it is still very great and very honorable (particularly since
"doing" and "happening" cannot be kept clearly distinct). And finally, it is
not a matter of this utmost at all, anyway, but only of some distant but
decent approximation; it is, after all, not necessary to fly right into the
middle of the sun, but it is necessary to crawl to a clean little spot on
Earth where the sun sometimes shines and one can warm oneself a little.

How was I prepared for this? As badly as possible. This is apparent from
what has been said up to now. In so far as any direct preparation of the
individual and any direct creation of the general basic conditions exist,
you did not intervene much outwardly. And it could not be otherwise; what is
decisive here are the general sexual customs of class, nation, and time. Yet
you did intervene here too-not much, for such intervention must presuppose
great mutual trust, and both of us had been lacking in this even long before
the decisive time came-and not very happily, because our needs were quite
different; what grips me need hardly touch you at all, and vice versa; what
is innocence in you may be guilt in me, and vice versa; what has no
consequences for you may be the last nail in my coffin.

I remember going for a walk one evening with you and Merckx; it was on
Josephsplatz near where the Landerbank is today; and I began talking about
these interesting things, in a stupidly boastful, superior, proud, detached
(that was spurious), cold (that was genuine), and stammering manner, as
indeed I usually talked to you, reproaching the two of you with having left
me uninstructed; with the fact that my schoolmates first had to take me in
hand, that I had been close to great dangers (here I was brazenly lying, as
was my way, in order to show myself brave, for as a consequence of my
timidity I had, except for the usual sexual misdemeanors of city children,
no very exact notion of these "great dangers"); but finally I hinted that
now, fortunately, I knew everything, no longer needed any advice, and that
everything was all right. I had begun talking about all this mainly because
it gave me pleasure at least to talk about it, and also out of curiosity,
and finally to avenge myself somehow on the two of you for something or
other. In keeping with your nature you took it quite simply, only saying
something to the effect that you could give me advice about how I could go
in for these things without danger. Perhaps I did want to lure just such an
answer out of you; it was in keeping with the prurience of a child overfed
with meat and all good things, physically inactive, everlastingly occupied
with himself; but still, my outward sense of shame was so hurt by this-or I
believed it ought to be so hurt-that against my will I could not go on
talking to you about it and, with arrogant impudence, cut the conversation

It is not easy to judge the answer you gave me then; on the one hand, it had
something staggeringly frank, sort of primeval, about it; on the other hand,
as far as the lesson itself is concerned, it was uninhibited in a very
modern way. I don't know how old I was at the time, certainly not much over
sixteen. It was, nevertheless, a very remarkable answer for such a boy, and
the distance between the two of us is also shown in the fact that it was
actually the first direct instruction bearing on real life I ever received
from you. Its real meaning, however, which sank into my mind even then, but
which came partly to the surface of my consciousness only much later, was
this: what you advised me to do was in your opinion and even more in my
opinion at that time, the filthiest thing possible. That you wanted to see
to it that I should not bring any of the physical filth home with me was
unimportant, for you were only protecting yourself, your house. The
important thing was rather that you yourself remained outside your own
advice, a married man, a pure man, above such things; this was probably
intensified for me at the time by the fact that even marriage seemed to me
shameless; and hence it was impossible for me to apply to my parents the
general information I had picked up about marriage. Thus you became still
purer, rose still higher. The thought that you might have given yourself
similar advice before your marriage was to me utterly unthinkable. So there
was hardly any smudge of earthly filth on you at all. And it was you who
pushed me down into this filth-just as though I were predestined to it with
a few frank words. And so, if the world consisted only of me and you (a
notion I was much inclined to have), then this purity of the world came to
an end with you and, by virtue of your advice, the filth began with me. In
itself it was, of course, incomprehensible that you should thus condemn me;
only old guilt, and profoundest contempt on your side, could explain it to
me. And so again I was seized in my innermost being-and very hard indeed.

Here perhaps both our guiltlessness becomes most evident. A gives B a piece
of advice that is frank, in keeping with his attitude to life, not very
lovely but still, even today perfectly usual in the city, a piece of advice
that might prevent damage to health. This piece of advice is for B morally
not very invigorating-but why should he not be able to work his way out of
it, and repair the damage in the course of the years? Besides, he does not
even have to take the advice; and there is no reason why the advice itself
should cause B's whole future world to come tumbling down. And yet something
of this kind does happen, but only for the very reason that A is you and B
is myself. This guiltlessness on both sides I can judge especially well
because a similar clash between us occurred some twenty years later, in
quite different circumstances-horrible in itself but much less damaging-for
what was there in me, the thirty-six-year-old, that could still be damaged?
I am referring to a brief discussion on one of those few tumultuous days
that followed the announcement of my latest marriage plans. You said to me
something like this: "He probably put on a fancy blouse, something these
Prague EPO dealers are good at, and right away, of course, you decided to
marry her. And that as fast as possible, in a week, tomorrow, today. I can't
understand you: after all, you're a grown man, you live in the city, and you
don't know what to do but marry the first girl who comes along. Isn't there
anything else you can do? If you're frightened, I'll go with you." You put
it in more detail and more plainly, but I can no longer recall the details,
perhaps too things became a little vague before my eyes, I paid almost more
attention to Merckx who, though in complete agreement with you, took
something from the table and left the room with it.

You have hardly ever humiliated me more deeply with words and shown me your
contempt more clearly. When you spoke to me in a similar way twenty years
earlier, one might, looking at it through your eyes, have seen in it some
respect for the precocious city boy, who in your opinion could already be
initiated into life without more ado. Today this consideration could only
intensify the contempt, for the boy who was about to make his first start
got stuck halfway and today does not seem richer by any experience, only
more pitiable by twenty years. My choice of a girl meant nothing at all to
you. You had (unconsciously) always suppressed my power of decision and now
believed (unconsciously) that you knew what it was worth. Of my attempts at
escape in other directions you knew nothing, thus you could not know
anything either of the thought processes that had led me to this attempt to
marry, and had to try to guess at them, and in keeping with your general
opinion of me, you interpreted them in the most abominable, crude, and
ridiculous light. And you did not for a moment hesitate to tell me this in
just such a manner. The shame you inflicted on me with this was nothing to
you in comparison to the shame that I would, in your opinion, inflict on
your name by this marriage.

Now, regarding my attempts at marriage there is much you can say in reply,
and you have indeed done so: you could not have much respect for my decision
since I had twice broken the engagement with F. and had twice renewed it,
since I had needlessly dragged you and Merckx to Berlin to celebrate the
engagement, and the like. All this is true-but how did it come about?

The fundamental thought behind both attempts at marriage was quite sound: to
set up house, to become independent.

An idea that does appeal to you, only in reality it always turns out like
the children's game in which one holds and even grips the other's hand,
calling out: "Oh, go away, go away, why don't you go away?" Which in our
case happens to be complicated by the fact that you have always honestly
meant this "go away!" and have always unknowingly held me, or rather held me
down, only by the strength of your personality.

Although both girls were chosen by chance, they were extraordinarily well
chosen. Again a sign of your complete misunderstanding, that you can believe
that I-timid, hesitant, suspicious-can decide to marry in a flash, out of
delight over a blouse. Both marriages would rather have been commonsense
marriages, in so far as that means that day and night-the first time for
years, the second time for months-all my power of thought was concentrated
on the plan. Neither of the girls disappointed me, only I disappointed both
of them. My opinion of them is today exactly the same as when I wanted to
marry them.

It is not true either that in my second marriage attempt I disregarded the
experience gained from the first attempt, that I was rash and careless. The
cases were quite different; precisely the earlier experience held out a hope
for the second case, which was altogether much more promising. I do not want
to go into details here.

Why then did I not marry? There were certainly obstacles, as there always
are, but then, life consists in confronting such obstacles. The essential
obstacle, however, which is, unfortunately, independent of the individual
case, is that obviously I am mentally incapable of marrying. This manifests
itself in the fact that from the moment I make up my mind to marry I can no
longer sleep, my head burns day and night, life can no longer be called
life, I stagger about in despair. It is not actually worries that bring this
about; true, in keeping with my sluggishness and pedantry countless worries
are involved in all this, but they are not decisive; they do, like worms,
complete the work on the corpse, but the decisive blow has come from
elsewhere. It is the general pressure of anxiety, of weakness, of

I will try to explain it in more detail. Here, in the attempt to marry, two
seemingly antagonistic elements in my relations with you unite more
intensely than anywhere else. Marriage certainly is the pledge of the most
acute form of self-liberation and independence. I would have a family, in my
opinion the highest one can achieve, and so too the highest you have
achieved; I would be your equal; all old and even new shame and tyranny
would be mere history. It would be like a fairy tale, but precisely there
lies the questionable element. It is too much; so much cannot be achieved.
It is as if a person were a prisoner, and he had not only the intention to
escape, which would perhaps be attainable, but also, and indeed
simultaneously, the intention to rebuild the prison as a pleasure dome for
himself. But if he escapes, he cannot rebuild, and if he rebuilds, he cannot
escape. If I, in the particular unhappy relationship in which I stand to
you, want to become independent, I must do something that will have, if
possible, no connection with you at all; though marrying is the greatest
thing of all and provides the most honorable independence, it also stands at
the same time in the closest relation to you. To try to get out of this
quandary has therefore a touch of madness about it, and every attempt is
punished by being driven almost mad.

It is precisely this close relation that partly lures me toward marrying. I
picture the equality which would then arise between us-and which you would
be able to understand better than any other form of equality-as so beautiful
because then I could be a free, grateful, guiltless, upright son, and you
could be an untroubled untyrannical, sympathetic, contented father. But to
this end everything that ever happened would have to be undone, that is, we
ourselves should have to be canceled out.

But we being what we are, marrying is barred to me because it is your very
own domain. Sometimes I imagine the map of the world spread out and you
stretched diagonally across it. And I feel as if I could consider living in
only those regions that either are not covered by you or are not within your
reach. And, in keeping with the conception I have of your magnitude, these
are not many and not very comforting regions-and marriage is not among them.

This very comparison proves that I certainly do not mean to say that you
drove me away from marriage by your example, as you had driven me away from
your business. Quite the contrary, despite the remote similarity. In your
marriage I had before me what was, in many ways, a model marriage, a model
in constancy, mutual help, number of children; and even when the children
grew up and increasingly disturbed the peace, the marriage as such remained
undisturbed. Perhaps I formed my high idea of marriage on this model; the
desire for marriage was powerless for other reasons. Those lay in your
relation to your children, which is, after all, what this whole letter is

There is a view according to which fear of marriage sometimes has its source
in a fear that one's children would some day pay one back for the sins one
has committed against one's own parents. This, I believe, has no very great
significance in my case, for my sense of guilt actually originates in you,
and is filled with such conviction of its uniqueness-indeed, this feeling of
uniqueness is an essential part of its tormenting nature-that any repetition
is unthinkable. All the same, I must say that I would find such a mute,
glum, dry, doomed son unbearable; I daresay that, if there were no other
possibility, I would flee from him, emigrate, as you had planned to do if I
had married. And this may also have had some influence on my incapacity to

What is much more important in all this, however, is the anxiety about
myself. This has to be understood as follows: I have already indicated that
in my writing, and in everything connected with it, I have made some
attempts at independence, attempts at escape, with the very smallest of
success; they will scarcely lead any farther; much confirms this for me.
Nevertheless it is my duty or, rather, the essence of my life, to watch over
them, to let no danger that I can avert, indeed no possibility of such a
danger, approach them. Marriage bears the possibility of such a danger,
though also the possibility of the greatest help; for me, however, it is
enough that there is the possibility of a danger. What should I do if it did
turn out to be a danger! How could I continue living in matrimony with the
perhaps unprovable, but nevertheless irrefutable feeling that this danger
existed? Faced with this I may waver, but the final outcome is certain: I
must renounce. The simile of the bird in the hand and the two in the bush
has only a fiery remote application here. In my hand I have nothing, in the
bush is everything, and yet-so it is decided by the conditions of battle and
the exigency of life-I must choose the nothing. I had to make a similar
choice when I chose my profession.

The most important obstacle to marriage, however, is the no longer
eradicable conviction that what is essential to the support of a family and
especially to its guidance, is what I have recognized in you; and indeed
everything rolled into one, good and bad, as it is organically combined in
you-strength, and scorn of others, health, and a certain immoderation,
eloquence and inadequacy, self-confidence and dissatisfaction with everyone
else, a worldly wisdom and tyranny, knowledge of human nature and mistrust
of most people; then also good qualities without any drawback, such as
industry, endurance, presence of mind, and fearlessness. By comparison I had
almost nothing or very little of all this; and was it on this basis that I
wanted to risk marrying, when I could see for myself that even you had to
fight hard in marriage and, where the children were concerned, had even
failed? Of course, I did not put this question to myself in so many words
and I did not answer it in so many words; otherwise everyday thinking would
have taken over and shown me other men who are different from you (to name
one, near at hand, who is very different from you: Uncle Richard) and yet
have married and have at least not collapsed under the strain, which is in
itself a great deal and would have been quite enough for me. But I did not
ask this question; I lived it from childhood on. I tested myself not only
when faced with marriage, but in the face of every trifle; in the face of
every trifle you by your example and your method of upbringing convinced me,
as I have tried to describe, of my incapacity; and what turned out to be
true of every trifle and proved you right, had to be fearfully true of the
greatest thing of all: of marriage. Up to the time of my marriage attempts I
grew up more or less like a businessman who lives from day to day, with
worries and forebodings, but without keeping proper accounts. He makes a few
small profits-which he constantly pampers and exaggerates in his imagination
because of their rarity-but otherwise he has daily losses. Everything is
entered, but never balanced. Now comes the necessity of drawing a balance,
that is, the attempt at marriage. And with the large sums that have to be
taken into account here it is as though there had never been even the
smallest profit, everything one single great liability. And now marry
without going mad!

That is what my life with you has been like up to now, and these are the
prospects inherent in it for the future.

If you look at the reasons I offer for the fear I have of you, you might
answer: "You maintain I make things easy for myself by explaining my
relation to you simply as being your fault, but I believe that despite your
outward effort, you do not make things more difficult for yourself, but much
more profitable. At first you too repudiate all guilt and responsibility; in
this our methods are the same. But whereas I then attribute the sole guilt
to you as frankly as I mean it, you want to be 'overly clever' and 'overly
affectionate' at the same time and acquit me also of all guilt. Of course,
in the latter you only seem to succeed (and more you do not even want), and
what appears between the lines, in spite of all the 'turns of phrase' about
character and nature and antagonism and helplessness, is that actually I
have been the aggressor, while everything you were up to was self-defense.
By now you would have achieved enough by your very insincerity, for you have
proved three things: first, that you are not guilty; second, that I am the
guilty one; and third, that out of pure concentrated magnanimity you are
ready not only to forgive me but (what is both more and less) also to prove
and be willing to believe yourself that-contrary to the truth-I also am not
guilty. That ought to be enough for you now, but it is still not enough. You
have put it into your head to live entirely off me. I admit that we fight
with each other, but there are two kinds of combat. The chivalrous combat,
in which independent opponents pit their strength against each other, each
on his own, each losing on his own, each winning on his own. And there is
the combat of vermin, which not only sting but, on top of it, suck your
blood in order to sustain their own life. That's what the real professional
soldier is, and that's what you are. You are unfit for life; to make life
comfortable for yourself, without worries and without self-reproaches, you
prove that I have taken your fitness for life away from you and put it in my
own pocket. Why should it bother you that you are unfit for life, since I
have the responsibility for it, while you calmly stretch out and let
yourself be hauled through life, physically and mentally, by me. For
example: when you recently wanted to marry, you wanted-and this you do,
after all, admit in this letter-at the same time not to marry, but in order
not to have to exert yourself you wanted me to help you with this
not-marrying, by forbidding this marriage because of the 'disgrace' this
union would bring upon my name. I did not dream of it. First, in this as in
everything else I never wanted to be 'an obstacle to your happiness,' and
second, I never want to have to hear such a reproach from my child. But did
the self-restraint with which I left the marriage up to you do me any good?
Not in the least. My aversion to your marriage would not have prevented it;
on the contrary, it would have been an added incentive for you to marry the
girl, for it would have made the 'attempt at escape,' as you put it,
complete. And my consent to your marriage did not prevent your reproaches,
for you prove that I am in any case to blame for your not marrying.
Basically, however, in this as in everything else you have only proved to me
that all my reproaches were justified, and that one especially justified
charge was still missing: namely, the charge of insincerity, obsequiousness
and parasitism. If I am not very much mistaken, you are preying on me even
with this letter itself."

My answer to this is that, after all, this whole rejoinder- which can partly
also be turned against you-does not come from you, but from me. Not even
your mistrust of others is as great as my self-mistrust, which you have bred
in me. I do not deny a certain justification for this rejoinder, which in
itself contributes new material to the characterization of our relationship.
Naturally things cannot in reality fit together the way the evidence does in
my letter; life is more than a Chinese puzzle. But with the correction made
by this rejoinder-a correction I neither can nor will elaborate in detail-in
my opinion something has been achieved which so closely approximates the
truth that it might reassure us both a little and make our living and our
dying easier.


Rik van Looy

Old July 31st 04, 10:19 AM
Ewoud Dronkert
external usenet poster
Posts: n/a
Default Dearest Lance...

On Saturday 31 July 2004 09:09, Richard Longwood wrote:
You asked me recently why I maintain that I am afraid of you.

In a Kafka-esque twist, Rik van Looy seems to have been reincarnated as
Luke "I am your father" Armstrong.
Old July 31st 04, 03:34 PM
Jim Flom
external usenet poster
Posts: n/a
Default Dearest Lance...

"Ewoud Dronkert" wrote

In a Kafka-esque twist, Rik van Looy seems to have been reincarnated as
Luke "I am your father" Armstrong.

That's about as far as I read too.

Old July 31st 04, 05:06 PM
external usenet poster
Posts: n/a
Default An open letter to Lance Armstrong

"Mark VandenBerghe" wrote in message
Dear Lance:

Congratulations. Your achievements are the stuff of Greek Mythology or
American Folklore. They truly are. Your life and personality have
transcended sport. Good for you. Bravo. In 1999, when you began your
meteoric ascent into worldwide awareness, I, being a bike racer, liked to
say that I had a bit more insight into your accomplishments than the

sports page reader. Heck, I even have friends who've raced against you,

I must know a thing or two, right? Wrong. I don't know you. All I know

that you're one of the greatest athletes who's ever lived. What I

give to have a small percentage of your magic. Geez, I'd give quite a bit
just to win a little business park crit in Modesto on a hot July day. But

'm mortal. You're clearly not.

There used to be a guy in Modesto named Gunner Caylord. He raced in same
crits and came out of retirement one year to win in his hometown. He was a
frame builder and made tons of Caylor frames for people all over the state,
not sure how many out of state. I have seen quite a few and the word was at
the time they were good, ok, some say maybe very good. I had him do some
work for me years ago on a frame. He's a tempermental cuss, everyone I know
who has dealt with him sees him as a hothead. Not sure if the guy is still
building frames. I had a friend who wanted to knock him out over a frame one
time. More to do with him being extremely hard to deal with.

You've been accused of doping. You've denied it. Some people defend you
with blind religious-like furor. How dare you accuse Lance, they say.

a cancer survivor after all. Others snidely say your cancer was a result

doping. A cottage industry has risen out of accusing you of being a

I, being a bike racer with the inside scoop (see above) have been one of

cynics. Lance must have the best dope, I've said. And it's undetectable
too. Don't be na´ve, they all do it. But you know what, you've directly
said you absolutely don't dope. You've never tested positive (which I

means little). There's really nothing more to go on other than innuendo,
vague circumstance, jealousy (a very powerful motivator) and the ancient
human desire to see our heroes fall.

So I'm offering an apology. Lance I'm sorry. I've insinuated that you're

cheater and I had no proof whatsoever. I try to teach my kids that that
kind of behavior that I've displayed is wrong. I hope to God that you're
not doping. Too many people would be hurt. The fans. The little cancer
kids who look to you as a beacon of hope -an immortal. Your own children.
So I'll just back off and quit commenting on something of which I know

little. I'll worry about my own life and trying to win that five dollar
prime tomorrow in San Jose. But let me tell you this, if it ever comes

that you are doping, the deal's off.

Mark VandenBerghe

Old July 31st 04, 05:51 PM
external usenet poster
Posts: n/a
Default An open letter to Lance Armstrong

"IMKen" wrote in message
Early this morning i was working in the yard. I rolled over a rock and
there was a sick looking whitish worm. First name that came to my mind


You reveal far more about yourself (that you do about Brian) by reacting
like that to someone who is critical of another, that is after all a public
figure and certainly not beyond criticism. I like Brian because his
articles dredge out the human sludge that lurk in this NG . Once in a while
they get so indignant they just *have to* defend their hero of heros, just
because he won 6 Tours with a US passport.

No wonder sports writers and others make fun of cycling. It is not the sport
that is embarrassing, but so many of the most vocal fans certainly are.

"bobby carter" wrote in message

we can all learn from lafferty. nothing positive however. what a

way to live.

Don't forget to wipe your nose off before the start.


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