Trug und Schein: A Correspondence

05. September 1938


L., on Sep­tem­ber 5, 1938

Dear Ms. [Lau­be]!

The echo of last Sunday long reso­na­ted with me, and the­re was no dis­cord in the sound. Your ques­ti­on at the end of the let­ter said to me that you too were satis­fied. Alrea­dy when I was on the train, I was vexed by my own inept ans­wer: “Yes inde­ed, it was very nice.” You should not have asked. I will not per­mit you to belie­ve that a small annoyan­ce could so easi­ly put me in a bad mood. I was not chag­ri­ned at all that you paid our train sup­ple­ment. You know my atti­tu­de: you are sacri­fi­cing to tra­vel the far­t­her distance; I earn in one day what you earn in two; a young woman must cal­cu­la­te dif­fer­ent­ly than a young man. I awai­ted your let­ter. If it had not come on Fri­day, I would have begun to won­der.

It was good that our con­ver­sa­ti­on tur­ned to your past rela­ti­ons­hip; it was our con­ver­sa­ti­on that lead to that direct­ly, you were not respon­si­ble for that. I am not curious. I will never try to for­ce you to talk, as I know and expe­ri­ence it for mys­elf that it can some­ti­mes be hard to find the just the right word. I assu­me that you are no lon­ger con­ce­aling anything decisi­ve for the con­ti­nua­tion of our friendship. If I ask you to tell me some details only every so often, then only to free you from them and so I can bear them with you, for I am com­pli­cit.

When you told me that he gave up his posi­ti­on for you, I was a litt­le sho­cked, first, becau­se I thought: it has alrea­dy come to that bet­ween them, but then that this rela­ti­ons­hip was so laden with con­se­quen­ces for the young man. This rela­ti­ons­hip began under a bad omen. You sought to for­get but were not yet free intern­al­ly. He sought total trust, he wan­ted you com­ple­te­ly. We will be glad and thank­ful if he finds hims­elf again. In my eyes, you did not lose. It was not impul­si­ve­ness and flat­te­ry that led you to him. But you have impres­sed me. Now I am even more cer­tain that your incli­na­ti­on is not super­fi­cial. So what is my atti­tu­de about it now? You come [to me] with the riches of a [pri­or] love — I [come] poor with distrust and doubt, will exami­ne [it] first, con­si­der. I can­not do other­wi­se. That is pro­bab­ly a man’s way of doing things. And it is a safe­guard; for once I have said yes, I must stay true to it. I ask you to under­stand this [about me] and be pati­ent with me.

You may wri­te that you feel spur­ned. Yet you can­not say that I have spur­ned you. I would like to make that clear yet again. Spur­ned, that means rebuf­fed in this con­text. I have not rebuf­fed you. I sim­ply had not reck­oned with the pos­si­bi­li­ty of a rela­ti­ons­hip and initi­al­ly brushed it asi­de as implau­si­ble.

I am a per­son who reck­ons rea­listi­cal­ly.

I sup­pres­sed my fee­lings so long as I felt that the time was not yet come.

I wan­ted to approach a woman only once I had some­thing to offer her.

When I saw my com­ra­des at age 16 going around with girls, I had no under­stan­ding for how they and the girl[s] could hold out/off for six years.

When I loo­ked around for girls, then I did so among tho­se who were the same age as I.

I almost began to doubt whe­ther you were on the right track when you wro­te: “I know that ano­t­her young woman meant a lot to you.” She fell out of my reck­o­ning just becau­se of her age.

I coun­ted you among the youngs­ters, among the girls of slight and low spi­rit for whom a dal­li­an­ce doesn’t mat­ter. I know that I did an injus­ti­ce to you by it.

But tell me yourself, how could I belie­ve that a young woman, without any encou­ra­ge­ment, could lose her heart to a man 13 years her elder? And I wri­te this, as far as I know: until the long holi­days in 1937, I am not awa­re that I am guil­ty of any glan­ces [your way].

It was in the Fall of last year. We were wal­king alo­ne from Choir prac­ti­ce, you pro­bab­ly arran­ged it that way. At our par­ting it bro­ke forth from you, from qui­vering lips, dark and uncan­ny, with a clear, deep voice, grip­ping my hand, I wan­ted to with­draw it: “I have heard you are lea­ving, I thank you — —” You got no fur­ther. With a mol­li­fy­ing word, I cut off the speech.

Well, it is only real­ly today for the first time that I am sor­ry that I did not lis­ten to you, that I did not alrea­dy offer this young bur­ning heart a litt­le reli­ef. I did not intend this out­break of emo­ti­on, I fea­red it (the memo­ry of it does not need to be embarr­as­sing for you) becau­se I did not want to nou­rish any fal­se hopes. I recall qui­te clear­ly that, at the next dance, I coaxed you with many light words to avoid stir­ring up the past. From that evening on, I knew that you had an inte­rest.

Now you should torment yourself no lon­ger and be cheer­ful again.

A few more words might belong here in asso­cia­ti­on with last Sunday. I can not be cyni­cal.

Being cynical—that means to pull down the cor­ners of your mouth and sneer arro­gant­ly at someo­ne.

A cyni­cal per­son is devoid of kind­ness.

I could never der­i­de you, and if I were offen­ded by a fault or a fail­u­re in you, I would make you awa­re of it, perhaps not immedia­te­ly, that can­not always be mana­ged, but when a good oppor­tu­ni­ty aro­se.

You can­not be wily.

Young women beco­me wily when they roam around with dis­so­lu­te men. Wily young women play with love, their sen­si­bi­li­ties are no lon­ger pure and deep, it is sick­ly. Being wily in love is to be unclean in love.

You are too sweet-natu­red and kind for that, could not easi­ly knock someo­ne off. That is betray­ed alrea­dy by the soft fea­tures of your face.

That pla­ces you in a cer­tain degree of dan­ger:

You attract men who hope to find an easy game. You will not be able to fend off the more pushy, wily peop­le.


Just as one may not touch all things if they ought to pre­ser­ve their beau­ty, so one may not speak of all things if they should remain dear and holy.


That which is most bles­sed can­not be put into words.


Much beco­mes com­mon once we bespeak them, once we put them in our mouth.


Once our hand is sna­red by sin, it beco­mes visi­ble; once our mouth is sna­red by sin, it is not less gra­ve just becau­se it is invi­si­ble.

You should not take the­se remarks as direc­ted at you.

Yes­ter­day I did not get to wri­ting the let­ter. I sat down direct­ly after school. Now I will bring it with me and tomor­row I know it will be in your hands, in your pret­ty, cold hands.

May it give you con­fi­dence that not­hing dark, ali­en has for­ced its way bet­ween us.

Good-bye and best wis­hes,

[Roland Nord­hoff].

Plea­se fol­low and like us:
05. Sep­tem­ber 1938

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