Friday, February 6, 2015

Descriptive Writing by a Master.

Vienna, 1938.

I UNDERSTAND THAT people have taken television features on the holocaust very calmly. To witness the actual beating up of a Jew outside one’s hotel makes a difference. He was a respectable man of about fifty years, very well dressed and with a confident walk. He may have been taking a morning stroll. I was watching from my balcony. He paused for a moment outside the hotel and nodded affably to the commissionaire. At that moment five young men emerged from a side alley. They were dressed perfectly normally saved for the suddenly fashionable Swastika armbands. They stood around the Jew and apparently exchanged one or two words with him. I saw that he was smiling uncertainly as he answered. The commissionaire had turned his back and was walking away. Then one of the youths produced a short cudgel and struck the Jew a blow which hit his chest and sent him reeling back until he struck his head against the wall of the hotel. He looked, I remember, merely surprised, or perhaps the breath had been knocked out of him.
       All five youths now produced short truncheons. I could not from my balcony discern whether they were rubber or wood or metal. Then they beat him about the head. His face was suddenly covered with blood as though somebody had thrown a can of red paint at it. He slid down to the ground. Then two of the youths kicked him until he rolled to the edge of the pavement. There he lay quite still on his back. His jaw fell open, his eyes rolled up until they showed the whites. Clearly he was dead A passerby saw him and crossed to the other side of the street. A woman coming from the other direction was held up by the white gloved hand of the commissionaire. She seemed to protest she was in a hurry.
        The youths disappeared. The woman carried on. The commissionaire walked at a stately pace into the hotel and I imagine the receptionist made a telephone call. What happened then I do not know because I went to the bathroom and was sick. When I had recovered, the body was gone but the blood remained.

--Aubrey Menen
Space Within the the Heart Part II -- It is All Right.