Friday, April 27, 2007

Between Hope and Suspicion: a Translation From Rilke's Novel

This passage comes from Rilke's marvelously singular interpretation of the biblical story of the Lost Son (aka "Prodigal Son") at the end of Malte. My novel's title alludes to Rilke's haunting version of the old tale.

"And the house did the rest. One had merely to enter into its full smell. Already most decisions had been made. Some little thing or other might still be altered; on the whole, though, one was already that which the people here held one to be -- the one for whom they had long ago confabulated a life, from his small past and their own wishes; one who was but a confection of their spliced selves, who stood day and night under the suggestion of their love, between their hope and their suspicion, before their reproach or applause.

"So no use climbing the stairs with whatever unspeakable caution. They are all in the living room, and the door need only be nudged for their glances to find him. He stays in the dark, he will await their questions. But then comes the worst. They take him by the hands, they drag him to the table, and all of them, as many as there are, stretch themselves inquisitively before the lamp. They have it good that way, they keep themselves in the darkness, and on him alone falls, with the light, all the shame at having a face."

Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (1910)

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