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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 2 pg 33-36

Chapter 2 The Forest People

Andreas Semilasso lived among people for half a century before renouncing them. His habits ran counter to the laws of the common interest so much that his life was a constant battle. He really enjoyed this battle, even though a few tried to tell him that the will of the people was stronger and would always win. The powers were too unevenly distributed, and it was impossible for even the strongest personality to go against the written law and custom. So the people laughed at the foolishness of Andreas Semilasso and shook their heads over his eccentrics, until they began to recognize the dangerousness of his example and their smiles transformed into frowns of scorn.

They finally recognized that such resistance against society could not be allowed to go unpunished, and that such a person, who only lived for his own wild and untamed nature, could lead the herd into a revolution and uprising against customs. It was as if a beautiful, untamed beast ran around free, with its fangs and claws, and its unbounded power was an immense threat to the peaceful citizen. At first the law good naturedly overlooked the little trespasses of Andreas Semilasso, but when he threw a tax collector out the door so violently that his leg was broken, it was too much and they stuck him behind secure walls for a while.

After Andreas Semilasso was set free, public opinion turned against him. It was certain that people who had once considered him formidable were now inclined against him and decided to find ways to weaken his superior strength. But it was impossible for these crippled people, who had lost all their instincts, and their will to live. But he never again went out among them, never made friends with the students or public. He did what he should have done a long time ago. He gave up his dwelling place among people.

With his few bits and pieces, which he loaded onto a donkey, he left the city, wearing a large gray smock belted with a cord around his body and with sandals on his feet. On his head, for protection against the sun, was a broad straw hat, the remnant of a Panama hat, from which he had removed the top part. His black straggly hair protruded out from the top of it and the yellow straw of the brim surrounded his head and grim face like a massive halo. He looked like a wandering apostle, warlike and the enemy of all luxury, as he marched through the streets of the city, followed by a crowd of jubilant urchins. Andreas Semilasso let them scream and bluster behind him, but when a beefy fellow confronted him just outside the city and shouted scornful words at him, he turned around and threw a stone at his head.

So he took his leave from civilization and moved into a cave in the forest, which he had discovered on one of his day long excursions. Now he had won his solitude; now they wouldn’t lock him up anymore; now he was free, to enjoy all things above and below the earth as he pleased. He transformed the front of his cave into a comfortable chamber with windows, a door and an oven, and the back of his cave opened out into a huge cathedral. From this cathedral, whose pointed arches bored high above into the darkness, branching passages led far beneath the rock. When harsh fires burned inside of him, Andreas Semilasso often sat there in complete darkness on a pile of rubble, which had been formed by falling stone. He listened to the voices of the deep. Somewhere down below, from a split in the limestone came the sound of water, like the song of the blood that flowed in his veins.

During the course of the year he explored his cave and named the two passages with names that sounded like those found in old chronicles. He named one “Justice”, which was long and winding, very extensive and always went in ever widening circles until one finally got lost in the darkness. The other he named “Injustice”. It was short and straight and led to a hole in the rock wall from which he could look out into a valley. There was also a little room which he called the chapel, because of the white stalactite formations and a glittering pillar. In the center lay a massive, heavy black block of stone which he named “the Deed”. There was also a black pool in the back of a distant grotto, which reflected the pointed flames of the torch he carried upon the cold waters of its ebony surface. Its waters were fed by some unknown spring from somewhere deep below, but the water overflowed and poured into an abyss which he named “the Insatiable”. In the spring the snow water also came streaming in, shutting off a portion of the cave and overflowing, so that Andreas Semilasso was more than once in danger of his life. That was why he loved this traitorous pool.

This was not some silly game that the hermit was playing. When a story came to his ear about someone who was repressed by the brutal law of the majority, in which some refined sensibility became choked under its force, then he went down the passage of Justice, to where the unexplored darkness began, extinguished his torch and waited until he heard laughter in the darkness. When he heard of a brave deed that opposed the desires of the crowd, he was led to the passage of Injustice and to the window, from which he waved out at the great valley. When he wanted to strengthen his will, he went to the chamber of the glittering pillar and laid his hands upon the wet black block of stone, drawing strength from it until his own power became greater and greater and he felt prepared for anything.

Everything that he thought was superficial and foolish, any dispensable equipment and the remains of his meals, he threw into “the Insatiable”. When he wanted to rid himself of tormenting thoughts, he banished them by imprisoning their spirits in stones, which he drowned in the black pool. One of his favorite wonders in this subterranean kingdom was a temporary flight up a stone chimney which he would search out when he wanted to lighten his spirits. The chimney was a narrow fissure that led to the surface world. Fir trees stood over its entrance, which slowly leaked drops of water. The rush of the wind in the branches created a wild bellowing of strange beauty and moving rhythm, like the ridiculous beating wings of the angel of creation, and the falling drops of water counted out the beats between this wonderful song of eternity with the silver ringing trickle of time.

Often Andreas Semilasso didn’t come out of his passages and grotto into the light for weeks. But when he did he was seized with the beauty of a sunset, the green of the trees in front of his door or the purple colors of the evening sky which he glimpsed from out of some fissure. These glimpses were so powerful that he would leave the underworld and give himself entirely to the wonders of the light. That was when his life in the forest began. There in the lonely hot mountain meadows, where he lay among high weeds between the forgotten tap roots of tree trunks, from out of whose cut surfaces sparkling resin dripped.

Andreas Semilasso would lay for hours among these tree trunks, which he called his brothers, so still, that the emerald lizards crawled over his hands and his shoulders, even to hesitatingly come near his face. He was familiar with the Morse code that the woodpecker beat into the bark, with the cries of the sparrow hawk and falcon, with the cooing of the forest pigeons, and the busy ants in war and peace with the thieving ground beetles kept no secrets from him. He often sat naked on a high limb and felt transformed by the sun and the light. Other times he placed himself under the falling water of a forest brook and let the drops spray over his body. Sometimes he lay on his belly watching the stupid water bugs at the edges of a pool and with long patience caught the slender Gobies in the hollow of his hand, only to fling them back out into the water.

In moonlit summer nights he searched over jagged blocks for a path from his grotto to the witches’ stone, where skewed placements of bursting rock tiles created wild adventures. Grim faces looked out from the wrinkled stone fissures. There were fortune hunters, sneering gallows birds, glum mountain spirits and even moon maidens. In the crevices tree roots lay like giant sleeping snakes, and mandrakes giggled beneath the moss. From here he could look out over the sleeping forest. At first only old hares watched him from behind the bushes and fir trees. But the shimmering things came forward on the ridge to listen to his stories, until the early morning dawn when they left him and hid themselves once more in their secret corners.

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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 25-32

He appeared entirely absorbed in himself, unapproachable, unmoving like the statue of a god, behind whose stone face wild lechery lurked and whose body was completely filled with a tense power. Out of the rich treasures portrayed in the works of the poet which she had inherited, was an image that seemed to attach itself to this man, this emissary. It was the image of the Asian despot, ruler over millions of slaves as he crowded them closely together in order to transport them.

The curtain moved a little, the stranger glanced in her direction and without embarrassment gave up his comfortable posture and stood up.

“I was not announced, gracious Frau, my name is Rudolph Hainx.”

Frau Emma forced herself to nod, and then with a smile in which the corners of his mouth only lifted a little, he continued:

“I am not a journalist. I must say that first, and when I found a gentleman from the press here I immediately took the opportunity to get rid of him so he would not bother you any more. For that service I must ask you to hear me out.”

“I am prepared to listen to you.”

In the most privileged quarter of our city, there, right where the countryside presses against the city, stands a large garden and villa, one filled with every luxury that there is. The steps are made of Paris marble, and rambling Goldilocks climb upon the walls. The furniture is designed by Riemer-Schmidt and delivered from workshops in the United States. The glasses in the credenza are from Tiffany’s in New York.

In a small room, whose window shimmers with all the colors of the rainbow, you will find a chest, whose drawers protect jewelry created by Lalique. A front room, which is like an atrium, a quadrangle cut from the heavens, is cooled in the summer by one of Hermann Obrist’s elaborate fountains. Now, I know that you love paintings, so I must not forget to say that scattered through separate chambers are paintings by Bocklin, Thoma, Manet and Leibl. The stairs and front hall are filled with acrylics, and one room is decorated with original Hokusai paintings which you love so much. And for evening twilight, to inspire your dreams, is a cabinet with portraits and etchings of genuine Rembrandts.

All of the great arts are allowed to stream through this princely home. You will find a music room and a rich library with rare printings and incunables. There is an ancient Roman bath and a horse stable with English and Arabian race horses. You would not exhaust the riches of this house in an entire year. There are other collections as well that I can’t forget to mention, a weapon collection in one hall and a well organized collection of postage stamps in another.

When you go through a flight of chambers, it is like wandering through the styles and cultures of all times, from ancient Assyrian to the Epoch of Biedermeier, and I will add that the furniture and appliances in this house are not copies, but original working pieces. The gardens around the house consist of individual partitions, in which you will be enchanted by gardening arts of the past. You will find replicas of the hanging gardens of Semiramis and the intricately interlaced and precious Bosketts of Trianon. A crowd of servants will fulfill your every wish.”

“I have listened to you; why are you telling me all of this?”

“On an island in the Adriatic ocean, which has never known winter, is another house which contains all the wonders and hot freedom of paradise, built in the Grecian style. From the columned entrance you can see the ocean, which is more beautiful there than anywhere else, more moody, more moving, with many sleepy colors that awaken to play in the morning and evening. A balcony, high above the rustling tree tops, gives a free view in all directions, and the most difficult and urgent longings will find wings and become more easy and joy filled there. Nothing prevents you from living there in luxurious solitude or reveling with good friends in a Hellenistic kingdom. There in view of the ocean and the heavens you can once more find undespairing joy and build a new radiant temple over the ruins of the past. A boat floats in a little harbor, and reddish purple sails shimmer through the tips of the pines. This boat is similar to the grandness of the ship Agrippa, and like it contains rare luxuries collected together in the smallest spaces.

“Why are you telling me all this?”

“Because I come to offer you this house in the city and the one on the island.”

Frau Emma reeled under the thought, in which she appeared to fall to ruin, torn by blind and senseless forces from the solid stronghold of her newly made plans. What kind of image was this? How could this confusion of colors and brilliance be her future? Really, the description of this magnificence was dangerous. And this offer was not a joke, she could see the seriousness in the unmoving mask of this man, as he now pulled a long paper out of his breast pocket and laid it out on the writing desk.

“It goes without saying, that I would not make this offer without being prepared to also offer you the money needed for all possible trivialities that would allow you to live such a life without a care. Just name an amount, which you think will suffice, and don’t be shy. My offer has only one limit down below, but none above. Speak your fantasy, to arrange a fairy tale of gold. I am authorized to make this check out for any sum which you name.”

“You offer me an immense treasure. I must admit that this has me all confused. What do you want of me? You speak of a contract. What is this contract? Look around you , and you will see my past. What do I have to offer that is worth such a future? Is your offer a gift? Whose gift? And what … My God!…”

“You can call my offer a gift. What is needed is so simple, that there shouldn’t be any problem. Many others would not even stop to consider it, if they were offered millions upon millions. Before I tell you what is needed, I will give you something else to think about. Do the memorials of our past depend upon objects, real things, or rather much more upon tender and incontrovertible memories of real life experiences that can’t be erased?

If Caesar had lost his fame as a warrior, would his glorious past be extinguished; if the manuscript of his memoirs over the Gaullish war had been destroyed in fire; if a thief had stolen the suit of armor, which the commander had worn in the battle against Vercingetorix? Would Tamerlane’s career have been altered, would he have not won as many victories, if the skulls of his demoralized enemies had been allowed to fall from the spear tips, decay and turn to dust?”

“Be silent, be silent, I sense…”

“You have promised to hear me out. I know from the newspapers, that your husband’s will contained a strange order concerning his head. I also know that Eleagabal Kuperus has the capability of fulfilling this wish of the dead. My offer stands therein, to offer you all of these things, which I have previously made an effort to describe to you, in exchange for that head.”

The trembling fingers of Emma played around the heavy bronze sphinx, which lay upon the writing desk. But the eyes of Rudolph Hainx suddenly lit up like flaming stars and forced her glance back down. She didn’t dare look him in the eyes anymore and allowed him to sit back down at the writing desk, pick up the quill and prepare to write. The quill, with which a poet had once written a difficult sonnet, now stood at a steep angle in the hand of this stranger.

Emma had never seen such a hand. It was a cold, scrawny hand, whose sinews suddenly sprang out from the wrist as if they could not wait to elongate into fingers and transmit their command. The fingers were crooked and pointed, and on the wrist, clusters of hair grew in rocky fissures of the wrinkled skin down to the yellow knuckles. It was a gentleman’s hand, that was soft and delicate, with beautiful rounded curves , yet without the gentle swelling of fat that would hinder its grip. It was the hand of a master that lay upon the paper, which stretched tautly, prepared to write down an endless series of numbers. Evil eyes burned like perishing stars over this decisive moment.

“You say that you are making this proposal for someone else. Won’t you tell me who this contract belongs to?”
“I see that it is important for you to know this. You should know that my client has the power to fulfil his promise, but also, that it stands in his power to make being disobedient to his wishes very taxing. He has commanded me to reveal his name in only the most exceptional case. I show you the honor of realizing that your reluctance is so heavy that this exceptional case is needed.”

“– Herr Bezug has sent me to you.”

At that the Frau sprang up to the messenger, tore the quill from out of his hand and threw it to the floor with such violence that it remained stuck upright in a black splotch.

“Get out!” She screamed, “Get out!”

And now she dared look him in the eyes; now he had no more power over her. Rudolph Hainx took his dusty gray gloves from the chair and picked up his hat.

“You will regret this!”

Frau Emma looked around, as if searching for a weapon to use against him. Then she ran to the door of the courtyard and leaned against the iron railing that sagged beneath her weight. She appeared prepared to call the entire house for help against the messenger, to set all the neighbors against him. Rudolph Hainx stepped past without her seeing, an envoy whose deal had been broken, and went forth in order to declare a war. His smooth, immaculate elegance framed the dirty walls of the stairs for a moment as he climbed down, only to once more come into view before crossing the courtyard down below and disappearing out the wide mouth of the main house door.

 

I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
http://thelastrosicrucian.is/wp/
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
Comments are welcome!

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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 21-24

The mailman, who brought a single letter, looked at Frau Emma without attempting to say anything. What could he do other than share empty words of sympathy over the death of her husband? But hidden within the large envelope was a business card and a formal letter from a publisher, who had tried in vain to make an offer while her husband was living, and who was now once more inquiring after the estate of the dead. He had carefully prepared a contract to organize and publish the collected works of her husband. The widow was assured that she would receive enough in royalties to suffice for her needs.

Her joy at this unexpected development remained, but much stronger was the bitterness that this triumph came so late. Frau Emma decided to ask some friend of her husband for counsel, but she discarded every name that she called up, until she was only left with one, who had never known him while he was alive, yet had become a strong advocate now that he was dead, and in whom she had complete trust, Eleagabal Kuperus.

She was beginning to paint the particulars of her future, when Frau Fodermayr announced the arrival of a gentleman who wished to speak with her.

“Gracious Frau,” began the little, beardless man, who followed immediately behind the servant, as if he wanted to make a refusal impossible. “I already tried to search you out yesterday, but you were not at home, and that’s why I repeated my visit today. I am a press reporter.” He called out the name of a large magazine- “I’ve come to inquire about the sensational estate of your deceased husband. We would like to publish an article in the evening paper.”

Frau Emma stood silent and pale, and didn’t find it necessary at all to invite the questioner to sit. She sensed his forceful shamelessness, his words , which came from out of a large, nervous and smiling mouth, felt like blows. She felt how his own uncomfortableness, his hasty greed after sensational stories, endangered her own delicate balance. She was determined to throw this annoying fellow out, but would welcome the entry of anyone else that would spare her this difficulty.

In the meantime the journalist continued to press her with inquiries and his questions probed an open wound. Why had the deceased ordered that his head be preserved? How would the head be preserved? Had she already made arrangements to have it done? Did this strange desire of her husband originate from some disgusting reason or other form of weakness? Would she consider allowing a plaster cast to be made of the head?

Frau Emma looked solidly into the gray eyes of this short little man with the engaging smile who was leaning upon her husband’s writing table and everything else disappeared. She tried to meet his gaze with an unrelenting stare from across the room and force him to leave. It was like looking into a funnel, in which an ugly, confused life twisted.

The power, which this stranger served, arranged itself into a crowd of images before her, the bleak sound of stamping machines coming from out of subterranean rooms. This was where all the events of the times were painted into stories. All of the big stories were cut out from the forest of thoughts by the screaming saws of merciless midgets. The type sprang up like goblins, as black metal letters mixed together to chatter words of beauty, and staggered back down to form entire rows of sentences, which warped and arranged themselves to once more unite to form thoughts. Dirty hands with stubby fingers were visible between whirling wheels which grabbed after the fidgety letters and held them with a solid pressure to make them rigid, while endless rolls of paper were fed into them and disappeared. No stopping or pause interrupted the swarm of unending productivity. The columns of letters marched like armies of workers, one behind the other, ceaselessly spilling out from the surrounding machines, which pressed against the paper, imprinting the white masses with their own metallic lives.

The crazy hubbub became even more chaotic. Searching hands carefully folded the papers, grabbing at the tender and majestic words, tearing away the sense of the remote and giving it back to the crowd, driving the life out of the living, which was now confined on the paper as black on white. The machine spewed pressed sheets from out of its broad mouth, which piled into two mountains, two great pillars piling up, each containing thousands of repetitions of the same stock phrases and little reports, the same gossip and politically correct thoughts, the same murders and other unsolved crimes which threatened to choke the entire world. A crane reached down from above, whose iron claw clamped onto the bales and lifted them from out of the confused tunnel while the machines stamped on, and scarcely released from their iron framework, the letters were newly pressed into service like black spirits of the earth which a mighty sorcerer had made into slaves.

Her husband’s hatred of the industrious and busy body world of the newspaper burned in Frau Emma, who knew enough not to value or think of this interview as some kind of treasure. She suddenly turned away from the confused journalist in the middle of his questions and went into her bedroom, while she waved him away with a few jerking hand movements, like those she had so often seen her husband make.

In the easy chair she reflected over it, how it was that she had taken on the habits of her departed husband, like a shell that had been left behind and awaited a new core. Was it really true, as she had so often fantasized in the evening hours, that the deeds and actions of a person, all his words and little daily habits, remained behind after death, in a type of astral body, which remained behind and continued its life? It was invisible, like thoughts, woven from the astral substance of the soul, bodiless, yet with the finest nerves and tangible like magnetic lines of force or moonbeams, which remained in this world even after the crude form of the physical body had already gone away.

In the next room she heard the coughing of the journalist, who appeared determined to besiege her, until she gave in to his questions. But then in astonishment she heard words between him and another man’s voice. His words were soft and engaging. The other’s voice was muffled, yet hard and commanding at the same time. Just then a noisy truck rumbled past and rattled the front windows, so that the words were choked in the noise. But it seemed to Emma, as if the forceful commands of the other was forcing her beleaguer out of the room and after the truck had passed, the work room lay wrapped in silence.

Frau Emma stood up and walked over to the door. A strange man sat in front of her husband’s writing desk. He had one leg crossed over the other, with hands folded around one knee, and was observing the tip of his shoe as if there were nothing more interesting in this room than the round, immaculate top of his polished, shiny boot. The elegance of the English dandy, which extended from the difficult knot of his necktie down to the heavily creased suit, lay like a mask over his face. She knew that a far more dangerous opponent was sitting there, than the one which had just left.

I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
http://thelastrosicrucian.is/wp/
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
Comments are welcome!

 

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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 17-20

When she came back to her house, the night was almost over and in the lit basement window of the bakery she saw a young boy swinging his arms as he stood waiting while the stout Master Baker counted out rolls for the morning route. Already animated noises were beginning to arise here and there in the wide and ranging building in which she lived. There was the sleepy maid with her unwillingness to work and her outrage over everything that would not leave her alone and allow her to stay in bed. On the third floor she was frightened by the cobbler’s apprentice, who suddenly appeared from some maid’s chamber of forbidden pleasures.

Then she unlocked the door to her apartment and was greeted with the ostentatious odors of funeral wreaths, frankincense and laced with the terrible odor of beginning decomposition. She opened one of the bedroom windows and allowed some of the fog filled winter morning air inside along with the first soft sounds of street traffic. Sitting in the large easy chair, in which the deceased had rested, she once more relived the experiences of the past night. No longer protected by the closeness of Eleagabal Kuperus, it all seemed miraculous and terrifying. She thought back on little incidents, which had left behind impressions like those of a gruesome dream. The servant with the head of a wolf, whose stealthy step felt like a lurking danger behind her, the head of the negro, whose skin appeared like violet velvet in the red light, and the mummy with the crumbling yellow bandages and the wrinkled and blackened forehead.

And suddenly the bleak, wasted, monotonous melody was there, whose ceaseless and rising tone was like a murderous fear that could not be tolerated. She became determined to rid herself of it, and tried to think back upon where it came from. The words, the words… She couldn’t understand the words, they must be words in a strange language. Yes, they were Latin words, and now she recognized what it was. These were the words of the Psalm, which the stubby cheeked, pious priest had sung at the coffin of her spouse while he sprinkled the corpse with Holy water. These words were echoed in the Cathedral, this melody was the voice of the empty church, an endless litany of the terrors of the dead, which promised eternal life to the living soul. But no one was certain of it, didn’t know when their ears would suddenly hear this loud and threatening melody, when their mortal body would perish. They never knew when these melancholy words would arise, impress themselves upon the walls, permeate the furniture and clothing, and take over the entire room. When they would mix with the perfume of funeral wreathes and decay, as they proclaimed victory over life and diminished it through the incessant memories of the dead.

The tired arms of the Frau hung over the arms of the chair, in exactly the same posture, as those of her spouse had done. When she noticed this, she shuddered, leaned back and moved into a different position. Then she fell asleep. But outside the life in the streets kept growing louder, more penetrating and increased in the power of its demands.

When the servant rang, Emma was sleeping so heavily that she didn’t immediately wake up. Frau Fodermayr soon began to fear that perhaps the widow had done some harm to herself. Her imagination was filled with some fantasy from one of the illustrated magazines which she had read, filled with fearful family drama and a lot of blood. She finally opened the door. Frau Fodermayr, with a pale face and petrified fingers gripping the door, greeted Frau Emma like a loyal hound. The eyes of the widow were still shut from sleep, and her limbs had grown stiff from the uncomfortable position in the easy chair. But something warm entered into her. The genuine concern of her servant did Emma well. She stirred enough to answer questions about her condition. Then Frau Fodermayr offered the consolation of an old woman, that man can never know, when God will take up the heavy burdens of the dead and protect them. Today Emma found these words in strange agreement with those of Eleagabal Kuperus. Since her visit with him and her heavy sleep, her experience with him seemed much more distant, like a fairy tale or legend. It seemed totally unbelievable and at the same time so full of possibilities, and of wonder that she had really found the courage to bring her burden to him and that she had actually been in his house for one hour.

After that she washed herself, did up her hair, and then stepped out onto the wooden gallery, that went from door to door around the entire courtyard in the center of the massive quadrangle building in which she lived. In this quarter of the city rental houses were built like barracks and this was one of the largest and most beloved. A hundred and twenty renters each had their own apartments. There were all kinds of apartments here, from the studio apartments of the poor to the relatively common comfort of Emma’s apartment with its up scale trappings and comfort.

This building, four square and massive, had been built with the permission of the city, and enclosed in its courtyard was a noisy republic of children. In the summer the courtyard was never empty of drying laundry, hung out on long cords that stretched from one of the stunted little trees to the next. The tree trunks with their rough bark were marked with deep scars from the abrasive ropes. Today, the fog became entangled in the moist, untouched roofs high above and sank down to the plaster of the courtyard in layers, where the children played in the corners with the wet remains of the melting snow.

This house had been her home for such a long time and these people were her neighbors. Her husband, the creator of many beautiful words, had not been able to offer her a better world. But it had always been a home. What would it become in the future? She still hadn’t thought about it, about what would happen to it or to her. A heavy and rising fear climbed through the rubble of her happiness as she sought to dispel the superstitious words of Frau Fodermayr. Emma went into the workroom of her spouse and paced restlessly up and down, taking up a book from out of a broad, well used book shelf and then setting it back in its place without even looking at the title. She was surrounded by ruin and there was not a breath of new life anywhere.

 

I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
http://thelastrosicrucian.is/wp/
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
Comments are welcome!

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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 13-16

With a long last glance Eleagabal Kuperus parted from his souvenirs of the dead and turned to a table, which stood in the middle of the room covered with strange instruments, beakers and retorts. The wrapped head of the poet lay between sparking knives, lancets and clamps, so sharp and precise that it gave certain evidence of its reality, even though Emma knew that it had been left behind on the marble table in the domed hall. But she didn’t have time to think about it, how it could have gotten here, before the old man picked up the package with soft tenderness and began to unwrap it. As the head of her beloved appeared, a sharp pain began to climb out of the deeps, as she saw that it had begun to decompose. The eyes lay deeper, the mouth gaped open and was covered with a dull foam. Gory blood stuck to the severed surface of the neck. Under the equalizing power of death the head had lost its freshness and now showed a dull humanity, which a richer and finer spirit had once struggled to overcome.

The scrupulous finger of Kuperus lifted the lids from the eyes of the dead. The spouse, who had done the work of washing the corpse herself, watched the moderate hands work with strong emotion which she sensed as almost a rape, as this man held it as a friend cuddles what was dearest to herself.

“You are welcome here poet, far more welcome than any of the others who would despise my work.
Now you are restored,” and after a short thought, Eleagabal Kuperus added a short sentence from out of the Book of the Dead. “Even the greatest is only a cobblestone for the roads of the public to destroy.”

The spouse stood there astonished: “You know his words.”

“I don’t live in the world, yet I live with it. Should I tell you something similar? The eternal point remains unmoving, where equal forces cross each other, which are striving in opposite directions. It also exists in all streams and takes on different aspects as it flows. I live in this point called the present moment, and pour myself into every possibility. Yet the best and finest thing is to rest in peace. Everything comes to me, and I merge more deeply with the world.”

He raised his hand. “Go my dear friend. You brought a stream of beauty and love. My most diligent skill will maintain the memory of your spouse for you. You must never carry any guilt about this, because immortality can only be preserved with hands of love.”

He reached into the marble wall and hastily lifted the network of vines up to allow the Frau to step back into the domed hall, where the servant with the wolf’s face waited, in order to escort her out of the house.

She stood quietly before the door for a short time and looked over at the Cathedral, whose immense weight, seemed to have increased in the night and the heavy, unmoving fog, pushing it down into the hill upon which it stood. Tired and flickering gas lanterns fought the darkness which crawled up to the foot of the Cathedral and pulled itself up the walls, as if the ground was seeking to pull it in. She was seized with the thought that she might be singled out for attack by a drunk in these empty streets, and even more by the notion that she was afraid of the sinking Cathedral. She didn’t dare leave the door of Eleagabal Kuperus.

Through the uncomfortable play of the darkness and the gloomy lights a stone face magically appeared on the front of the Cathedral with a broad talkative, but now closed mouth. There was a broken balcony and above the high arched windows appeared two mismatched silent and stubby towers. They were so misshapen and alien that they grew out of the massive structure like a finger that springs out from a head. After the impression of harmonious peace and wisdom, which Emma had sensed in the domed hall and the museum of Eleagabal Kuperus, this Cathedral across from his house appeared to her like a lurking monster of stone. One with a scornful, contorted smile that leered at the hand over the door, prepared to strike some fearful, murderous blow if it had the chance.

In the same way that the meerschaum mask of a warrior, the terrifying painted shield with the head of Medusa on its polished armor, or the locked visor of a helmet bewitched at the sight, so did this sinking Cathedral in the darkness. The friendly gestures of hospitality, which greeted the oppressed during the daylight, transformed during the night into a procession of unquiet, murmuring voices filled with a malicious joy that spread fear and terror.

And now – ever more clear, came a sad and unrelenting melody from out of the confusion of voices, rising up – a sad and unrelenting melody. A long, drawn out, dreary song, which lingered on a few notes, climbing up and down as if it were sounding a warning. Something wasted and bleak lay within it, like a breath, which comes from over infinite planes, which has uprooted all life from out of a magical world, something poisonous and offensive, like the wind that blows over a field of slaughter. This song, this unbearable, monotonous tune seemed to come from out of the solidly closed mouth of the Cathedral, as if it was searching for some way to escape. The wailing of this monotonous hum rose and died, and when it finally lost itself in the whispers of the fog, it never left the trembling Frau for a moment.

She knew that this was all related to her past life, when she was younger and had suffered under this same song, but she was not capable of finding her way free of it, and could not really say what was reality and what was dream. She just stood at the threshold of Eleagabal Kuperus and held on to the iron ring which protruded out from the carved wooden door. Some superstition and fear had her convinced that she would fall under the power of an enemy if she stepped onto the courtyard in front of the Cathedral.

Slow steps came from out of the darkness, which echoed dully and repeated against the walls of the houses. The night had produced feet and wandered across the courtyard in front of the Cathedral. But it was only a watchman, who came through the fog with heavy legs, tired from long service, and his movements were like those of a drunken sleepwalker. In the thick fog his movement appeared aimless like the movement of a ship that has lost its direction. He came up to the Frau, looked sharply into her face with a penetrating glance, was about to say something about single women walking the streets at night, but then turned and walked back up the street, stopping under a street light. He stayed there, prepared to perform the duty of his office if needed. The tip of his helmet began to glimmer under a ray of light, as if it carried a little blue flame.

His appearance broke through the spell of this place. Then Emma once more gathered her courage. She let go of the ring, whose coldness had frozen her fingers, and walked across the courtyard, between the two ill tempered saints of stone, around whose raised arms the thick fog collected and she climbed back down into the city. The cold, leering eyes of the saints and the echoing footsteps of the watchman followed her.

 

I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
http://thelastrosicrucian.is/wp/
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 9-12

“His memory permits him to be like a saint, but it will not belittle him, if I tell you that he didn’t have any more to give, that he was not producing any more great creations. The people have already glorified and immortalized his claim to fame. The world would have become very impatient if they had to wait for his final great work. They would have become very impatient with him and because of that his glory would have become less than it now is.”

“But you have only spoken to me about him, now tell me a little about yourself.”

“There is not anything to say about myself, other than that I loved him.”

“There is only one love, but it’s appearance is multifold and varied like the colorful images of this world and nature will never tire of creating ever changing shapes and blossoms. Each day is a celebration.”

The glass dome arched higher, and an exquisite silence sank down upon her that rang against the smooth marble walls like silver. Then the Frau began to talk, and the finger tips of her hands slid over the cool surface of the table.

“He lifted me up, when I was close to falling. I s pent my youth among strange people, in whose houses I had to educate spoiled children. They tolerated me at the table, because they were so disturbed by the bad habits and sassy questions of the little girls. But they never forgot to let me know that my good work was in service to them.

The grown sons and Masters of the houses often pretended to be sweet when they were alone with me. They brought little gifts and flowers, which they asked me to hide from their mothers and spouses. I pretended not to understand their hints and wishes, so I could never find a permanent home.

Going from place to place made me tired, and in the house where I finally ended up the not so subtle pressure of the gentleman wore down my resistance. He had a strange power over his entire environment and was a terrible Master. He had the cruelty and lewdness of an Assyrian conqueror.

It was one evening in a quiet park, after a difficult storm, when I felt that my power was broken and that I would soon succumb to his will. I saw swans like blue birds with large wings fly up a narrow stream, and from far away came the sounds of their music.

That was where I spoke to a young man, and his first words told me that a poet was standing in front of me. He felt my despair and the distress deep within my soul. Every one of his words was so good and kind that they seemed to caress me like soft hands and I could not resist him. When he asked me to share his happiness and his meager life, I took it as a gift from an old friend.

He led me back to the house of my oppressor, beat his empty threats into the wind, and didn’t allow himself to be intimidated by the teeth grinding and angry gestures.. Then we lived in a dream for six years and … were … happy.”

The long beard of Eleagabal Kuperus trembled on his breast. His finger followed a red marble thread on the table, at which the young blond Frau was sitting. Her eyes seemed to be blinded by a radiant glory. The dark cloth that had covered her head and shoulders had slid down onto her lap, and all the light in the room, which flowed in invisible waves, seemed to appear and collect on her transfigured pale face and radiate back at him.

“Have you told me everything?” Asked Eleagabal Kuperus.

“I have been given very much. What I mean is that we were happy.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that you were unfaithful to him?”

“It was his right as a poet to leave, and yet, he always returned to me. His love only made my conquest greater”

At that Eleagabal Kuperus bowed down and kissed the young Frau on the forehead, and she looked him quietly in the eyes as he took her by the hand.

“Now I will gladly fulfill your wish.”

“He spoke of you with reverence and conceived many plans of how he could be closer to you. Your life had a great influence over him. He often said that you were the one that had the power and courage to shake off all the things that he couldn’t. He created his island, which the entire world had to go around. He built high barriers around his life, and only narrow paths led to him. Now he himself comes on a narrow path. It was his last wish to have his head preserved. Will you deny him your skill?”

“I waited for him, and he didn’t come. I will not deny him my skill now . Follow me.”

Eleagabal took the hand of the Frau and walked with her toward the marble wall. No door was visible, and the Frau shrank back when her forehead almost touched the stone. Then she saw that delicate copper leaf vines stretched over the opening and they looked like the green and red veins in the marble. The hand of the man reached in, lifted the vines and she stepped through.

Another room lay in front of her, a type of laboratory with marble walls and like the domed hall it had a row of columns. These columns were permeated with a mild tranquil light that spread through the room in invisible waves. Marble pedestals were placed around the room near the walls, upon which, beneath glass covers, lay human limbs; arms, legs, and hands with the full appearance of life, whose cut surfaces appeared to be still fresh and bloodied. Eleagabal Kuperus lifted up one of the glass covers and invited the Frau to touch the arm, a beautiful woman’s arm. Emma obeyed without horror or disgust and felt how the skin was soft and supple, so that the flesh gave way beneath the pressure of her fingers.

“This arm is 30 years old: it belonged to my daughter Constance,” said Eleagabal. “I studied and researched for a long time until I discovered this method to bring back life from the dead. The old Egyptians preserved the bodies of their dead for life in the underworld. But those dried out, shriveled up bodies, whose cavities were filled with spices and wrapped with countless bandages, are more frightening in their decomposition because they no longer maintain the beautiful shape that life once gave them.”

He pointed to one corner where a wrinkled and ridiculous head could be seen with a narrow gold band around its forehead which appeared to be glowing. It lay within a weathered black coffin. Emma was frightened and turned quickly away, in order to follow Eleagabal, who walked in front of her explaining as he guided her from pedestal to pedestal, from one memorial of his life to the next, and at each she marveled at the perfection of his art, the perfection of its victory over the dead relatives and friends who had donated parts of their bodies to this remarkable museum. So many of them had been dead for decades and their limbs here still retained an unending freshness. They stopped in front of one where the head of a negro lay on a shiny mirrored plate beneath a bell jar.

“This head was not the best part of my Hassan,” said Eleagabal Kuperus, “but it was a strong skull and took more than one chop, which shattered the cutting board, for me to cut it off.”

The way that Eleagabal grabbed the thick curly hair with loving tenderness and softly held it showed how loyal this servant had been and Emma sensed how much he had been loved. A little breeze of eternity, uninterrupted by death, lay in this room, a continued sympathetic existence, on these pedestals placed at measured intervals. And they insured beyond any doubt that oblivion was not known here. The deep peace of a temple and quietness of a true home gave the room a deep sense of happiness. Here time was stopped and could no longer unfold. It was dammed up, and only flowed in a measure that was pleasing to the master of this house, slowly and without beating waves. The water in this chamber did not carry the smell of sewer, of decay and rot that often was given off by a cadaver, but remained refined and clear as if it was purified through a machine.

So detached from all other things, yet at the same time suspended in and through itself, a world in space, so filled with peace lay within this chamber. These things were so strange to the young Frau, so content and inoffensive as they gave themselves to this man. While she was lost in thought and kept coming back to these images of the infinite, the mild light within the room transformed to became stronger and more radiant. It seemed as if red bundles of light radiated out from the columns, until the walls lay bathed in a glowing red like the light through a stained glass window, and all of the limbs twitched upon their pedestals in these strong life giving rays.

****

I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
http://thelastrosicrucian.is/wp/
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
Comments are welcome!

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The Strangling Hand
by Karl Hans Strobl
translated by Joe E. Bandel
Copyright Joe E. Bandel
The Strangling Hand Ch 1 pg 5-8

The Frau who wanted to visit Eleagabal Kuperus had to wait a while before the heavy door opened. The faint light from a nearby lantern engaged in battle with the fog and brought the carvings on the door into sharp relief, then slid across the hand with the key as it radiated out to the edge of the darkness that lay heavy over the end of the street. The portal slowly opened and a long passage led the Frau into the interior of the house as she walked silently over soft carpet. To her left and right were glowing letters that arranged themselves into words which were not recognizable, as well as hieroglyphics, cuneiform and glimmering symbols. They gave off so much light that in the dim twilight dark paintings and statues could be seen high above all along the entrance corridor. A fountain pattered a wistful melody in a red-lit room, in which a collection of paintings were hung on the walls. A servant waited there, whose hairy head, whose pointed little ears and whose evil glimmering eyes made him look like a wolf. He raised his hand in a silencing movement.

The Frau followed him down a narrow path between two walls of books, until he took a ball from out of a bowl and dropped it back in producing a silvery sound. From out of the folds of a curtain, a cool breeze blew against her hot face as she stepped beneath a glass dome that arched above a room of marble. It was like a temple with two rows of supporting columns, but the broad capitals of these columns were decorated with scrolls and animal heads that looked down on her and did not in any way support the dome. They apparently served no purpose except to divide the bottom portion of the chamber, while the dome itself remained unsupported and free above like a symbol of the infinity of heaven. There were all types of colorful marble collected in this chamber, from white fragments of Tyrolean marble to flaming , starry and miraculous colors of the rarest kind. Water trickled down a wall, as if a little stream of blood poured from out of some hidden opening above and silently slid down the flat surface. Nearby were tiles like those that maps were painted upon, but these showcased delicate ferns, moss or bush like veins encased within the stone, as well as blossoming corals that spread their branches out wide, as if they contained the power of unchained expansion. The impeccable surfaces of white, yellow and ivory colored marble glowed in ever changing displays of color.

This chamber presented lifeless stone, while at the same time radiating an intense sense of life and peace, which was driven by an infinite source. It was possibly like a head in which confused thoughts stormed, in which confused thoughts dwelled, and of which no one would dare speak or act upon in real life. Up above, the dome itself remained completely detached from the confusion, containing it so that none of it could escape; arched and glassy like the cornea of an eye, upon whose retina these most precious and wonderful colors played.

Eleagabal Kuperus sat at a marble table in the center, guarded by columns on the left and the right. His hand lay on the table, his finger traced some vein in the marble and his lips moved. Then he looked up and his gaze wrapped the Frau in a veil of questions. His questioning eyes lay deep inside a head that was just as much that of a patriarch as it was that of an old predator. A high forehead rose above them, furrowed with so many wrinkles that people would find it laughable in anyone else. Down below grew a wild beard that bushed out on all sides, yet remained forced down onto his chest. Beneath his mustache gaped the dark cavern of his mouth from which two canines protruded. The incisors were long lost, the canines of the upper skull had transformed into fangs through a rare power, and when Eleagabal Kuperus laughed, they crept out like daggers from their sheaths. Around his bald head lay a thin wreath of white hair, which stood out straight like bristles as if from an electric shock.

The Frau hesitated and then stepped up to him and laid a round package on the table in front of him which she had carried beneath her coat.

“You are welcome here,” said Eleagabal Kuperus and he waved away the servant with the face of a wolf, who had been crouching like a predator behind the Frau. “You are welcome here,” said Eleagabal Kuperus once more, and the Frau felt how his gaze penetrated through her. Then he added, and his hand pointed to the round package:
“You have brought me the head of your husband.”

A trembling came over the Frau, and the table, at which Eleagabal Kuperus sat, began to spin quickly around its axis, so quickly, that it seemed as if the man in front of her multiplied. Fainting, she grabbed at one of the columns for support, but she quickly pulled her fingers back, because the stone was so hot, that it almost burned her skin.

“Take it, just as it is. Death is a powerful master, almost as powerful as life itself, and often it seems as if it overcomes life. I honor your pain, and I want to fulfill your desire.”

“You know, what I want to do with it?”

I know. Your love is great, and I bow down before that love.”

Then the Frau broke out into tears and looked despairingly around her, because she felt so weak, ashamed that she had allowed herself to show weakness. Eleagabal Kuperus stood up and stepped over to her; he laid one arm around her shoulders. And then a strange thing happened, Frau Emma Rössler, despite her horror and fear of this notorious old man, this weird man she had come to, sobbed as she hid her head in the thick brush of his beard. They both stood completely still, and the silence crackled like a small blue flame. Then he led her to his chair at the marble table and asked her to sit down.

“Tell me about your husband, who was a poet and the things that shaped – his life.”

“It seems, that you knew him.”

– Eleagabal Kuperus smiled, and both fangs crept out of the hole of his mouth, while his hand motioned for her to continue –

“His name was in the mouths of all the people, and his future stood before him, brilliant and wonderful. But despite all of his promise and ability, his advancement remained bleak and gloomy. He didn’t understand how to market himself and his works with ostentatious boasting and self advertising.

People always gave him support along the way and recognized his talent., He didn’t have the proud consolation of being unrecognized. But they only bought enough of his books so that we could live in common comfort. Yet he thirsted after more, and his artistic moods continued to bring forth even more beautiful, unheard of things. But we were not rich enough to rise above the common folk, and not poor enough to give up poetic speech entirely.

He continued on indifferently, along a path that was neither difficult enough nor successful enough until in the end he became tired, and that was his life. He could not be called a fighter, but he was also no fortunate child, to whom the stars dropped fortune into his lap.

With calm, disciplined work he achieved enough to lead a life that was similar to that of a thousand others, until he sank without too much pain, without a trace of tragedy, except that a voice was silenced, which the fates should have established, and allowed his final wishes to be expressed.”

Eleagabal Kuperus stood in front of the Frau and listened to her, while he stroked his long beard with his hand like a gardener strokes his bushes. The furrows of his high forehead moved. It seemed as if his thoughts ran across them.

“His life and his death was not so bleak, as might appear to your love. His life was not allowed its full brilliance, and I know, that his power dissolved into a soft twilight. But it could have been richer and deeper, if he could have had your love. And that is why I tell you, that he did not understand how to achieve it. From out of the depths comes all happiness. Yet his death was not in vain, because of that which he was able to give to the world in the end.”

****

I am currently translating this book a few pages at a time. I will be posting them as I translate them. If you enjoy this story and type of literature please support me and become a patron. Translation is hard work and takes a lot of time. Consider donating $1 a month to help out. This book is over 500 pages long! You can donate at my website:
http://thelastrosicrucian.is/wp/
or my Patreon link: https://www.patreon.com/anarchistbanjo
Comments are welcome!

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