3a 1901 CONDITIONS FOR MARRIAGE
dearest Alma, my soul, my life! I'm coming to you with a somewhat
heavy heart today for I know I have to hurt you and yet I
can't do otherwise.
is it, Gustav?
I say anything, let me ask you this: what do you expect of
am I to expect? ? I want to be what you want me to become,
what you need.
sure that you want me - and that you will help me - to develop
do you understand by personality? Do you already
consider yourself a personality?
ALMA Of course.
a composer, you see. I want to express myself through my music.
My best friends encouraged me to follow my calling as a composer:
Max Burckhard, the director of the Burgtheater, Alex Zemlinsky,
my music teacher
did, did they!
They are convinced I should pursue my career. Burckhard brought
me closer to Nietzsche, he believes in me as an individual,
and Zemlinsky finds my music superior, and - well - extremely
you are the sweetest and most attractive young creature that
I've ever met. But the sort of personality you have in mind,
you can only acquire after long experience of struggle and
suffering, and as a result of a deeply rooted dispositions.
Such a personality is rare. You are too young and inexperienced,
Almschi, to already be the sort of person who's found a rational
basis for her existence everything inside you is still
unformed, unexpressed, and undeveloped.
am I to you then? Nothing but a toy?!
Of course not. What you are to me, what you could perhaps
become for me - is the dearest and most sublime object of
my life. The loyal and courageous companion who understands
and supports me, my stronghold invulnerable to enemies from
within and without, my peace, my heaven in which I can constantly
immerse myself, find myself again, and rebuild myself - what
it is that you can be to me is so unutterably exalted and
beautiful, so much, and so great, in a word: my wife.
ALMA I do
want to be your wife! I don't see any contradiction in that.
you honestly want to be my wife, you have to forget all those
Burckhards, Zemlinskys, or whatever their names are . Forget
what they told you. Those people know nothing about true personality.
Because they are not personalities themselves. Each one of
them has his own peculiarity: an eccentric address, illegible
handwriting or some other quirk, and they defend these traits
to their last breath to avoid becoming superficial. But they
have no soul. These sort of people are full of contempt, and
their hearts are burned to ashes. That's why they hang on
to you, to your youth, your energy. They just want to be refreshed
by it. They flatter and mislead you, only to destroy you in
they love my music!
believe a word they say to you.
you are beautiful, Alma. You're very beautiful and very attractive
to men. That makes them flatter you for anything you do. Just
imagine if you were ugly. What would they say? You've become
- and however harsh it may sound - you've become what these
people think they see in you and wish to see in you.
don't believe in my music?
come to your music in a minute.
ALMA We may
have different ideas, we don't have to agree on everything.
By no means! My Alma-child, we should agree on the love in
our hearts, but what does that have to do with ideas? Alma,
what are your ideas? Schopenhauer's chapter on women, the
whole deceitful and viciously shameless immorality of Nietzsche'
idea of a Master-race, the turbid meanderings of Maeterlinck's
drunken mind which you had the temerity to set to music? These
are not your ideas, thank God!
we shouldn't live together.
do you mean by that?
ALMA I mean
we could rent separate flats, and see one another whenever
we wanted . We don't even have to marry. We can be lovers,
I'm not talking about »renting flats«. I'm talking
about living together our whole life.
what if I want to write?
ALMA My music.
I want to write music too: songs, operas, symphonies. It's
all in my head already. Chamber music, oratories... And you'll
certainly want to go on writing yours, won't you? we can't
do it all at the same time, can we? So I think we should have
separate flats, so that when I want to compose I can go to
my flat, and
me, please, excuse me, but it's absolutely imperative that
we understand one another clearly now, before we say another
word. I am sorry, but I have to defend my music from you.
You have enough courage to set your music against mine, but
the fact of the matter is that you don't really know my music,
and in any case you don't yet understand it, you're not capable
of comprehending it yet! You won't think me vain, will you,
Alma, but how do you picture the married life of a husband
and wife who are both composers? Can you imagine a household
of two composers? Have you any idea how ridiculous and degrading
for both of us such a peculiarly competitive relationship
would inevitably become? I experienced this kind of thing
before, first-hand, with my brother. And he's dead, Alma!
He's dead. I want you to be my wife, not my colleague!
not asking me to give up my music?
Most certainly am. That's exactly what I'm asking you to do.
What would happen if you were attending to your household
duties or taking care of something I needed, and you just
happened to be in the mood and decided you would
rather compose? Please don't misunderstand me and start imagining
that I think of my wife only as a diversion; on the contrary.
I'll prove it to you: let me ask you this: would it be possible
for you, from now on, to regard my music as yours? - I will
come back to your music later. - I'll repeat my question:
would it be possible for you to regard my music as yours?
your music as if it were mine?!
I have to know.
my music is so different from yours. How can you compare
Do you actually know what you're demanding of me? You ask
me to give up the thing that brings me my greatest pleasure
and happiness. When you demand that I give up my work, you're
demanding that I give up my self/soul.
»work«? What sort of work is that? Composing?
For your own pleasure or to enrich the heritage of Mankind?!
From now on you will have a true profession:: to make me happy.
what about my happiness?
will be my job. . I'll make you happy. I promise. I'm quite
aware that in order to make me happy you have to be happy
ALMA So who
should start first to make the other one happy?
is not a joke, Alma.
are asking a great deal.
I'm asking a great deal, a very great deal - and I do so because
I know what I have to give and will give in exchange.
ALMA I don't
know if I can do it. Whether I'm strong enough, you know.
I'm... my heart has stopped beating. I feel as if, you've
ripped my heart from my chest. Give up my music? Give away
the thing I've ve always lived for? I'm bewildered. I need
to think it over. - Why can't the two of us just live happily
happily together? Alma! I don't want our relationship
to degenerate into a passing flirtation. Before we talk to
each other again, things must be absolutely clear between
us. You've got to know what I desire and expect from you,
what I can offer you, and what I need you to be to me. Therefore
be absolutely merciless in trusting me with everything you
have to say to me. It would be better to separate now than
to go on deluding ourselves. I know myself. It would end up
a catastrophe for both of us. - Now, think it all over carefully,
and give me your verdict tomorrow.