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Authors: Philip Hensher

The Emperor Waltz

BOOK: The Emperor Waltz
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Dedication

For Thomas Adès
An E-flat sonata movement
standing at an augmented fourth to the universe.

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

BOOK 1: 1922

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

BOOK 2: 1979

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

BOOK 3: NEXT YEAR

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

BOOK 4: 1979

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

BOOK 5: 1922 (AND A LITTLE BEFORE)

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

BOOK 6: AD 203

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

BOOK 7: LAST MONTH

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

BOOK 8: 1983–1998

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

BOOK 9: 1927

Chapter 1.1

Chapter 1.2

Chapter 1.3

Chapter 1.4

Chapter 1.5

Chapter 2.1

Chapter 2.2

Chapter 2.3

Chapter 2.4

Chapter 2.5

Chapter 3.1

Chapter 3.2

Chapter 3.3

Chapter 3.4

Chapter 3.5

Chapter 4.1

Chapter 5.1

Chapter 5.2

Chapter 5.3

Chapter 5.4

EPILOGUE: 2014/1933

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Final Note

Also by Philip Hensher

About the Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

BOOK 1
1922

1.

‘You will have brought your own towels and bedlinen,’ Frau Scherbatsky said, in her lowered, attractive, half-humming voice, ‘as I instructed, as I suggested, Herr Vogt, in my telegram. Other things I can supply, should you not have them for the moment. Soap, should you wish to wash yourself before tea, of which we shall partake in the drawing room in half an hour. Should you wish for hot water, Maria will supply you with some, if you ask her, on this occasion, since you have just arrived and had a tiring journey. I know all about trains, their effects on the traveller.’

She turned, smiling graciously, making a generous but unspecific wave of the hand.

‘Shaving soap,’ she carried on, continuing across the hall, ‘I can stretch to. My husband and boys, my two boys, were killed in the war, and I have their things, their possessions and bathroom necessities, which I have no undue sentimental attachment to, if you do not feel ghoulish at the prospect of shaving with the soap of a dead man, or three dead men, rather. It is better in these days that things should be used, and not preserved. We have all lost too much to retain the conventions of our fathers. Don’t you agree, Herr Vogt?’

‘That is very kind of you,’ the young man said. ‘But I only need soap to wash after my journey, thank you so much.’ He had the appearance of someone who needed to shave once weekly, and perhaps had not started to shave at all. Too young to have known the war at first hand, blond and fresh-faced, his eyes wide open, eager to please, slight and alert. He walked behind Frau Scherbatsky, across the hallway to the heavy wooden stairs of her Weimar villa, dark-panelled and velvet-trimmed, like the interior of a ransacked jewel-box. His stance was lopsided and ungainly; his suitcase, a borrowed old paternal one, leather and scarred with journey-labels torn off, was full and heavy. He was here for three months at least.

‘It was my husband’s house,’ Frau Scherbatsky said, proceeding in her mole-coloured tea-gown with a neat black apron over the top. ‘He thought of it for many years, considering how many coat hooks should be placed in the downstairs cloakroom. “Your house is perfect, Frau Scherbatsky,” Herr Architect Neddermeyer said. Everything so well considered – and reconsidered – you know. Do you know Goethe’s house in the marketplace? No? You must go. Goethe’s study, surrounded by a corridor and an anteroom, so that he could hear the servants coming and not be unduly disturbed. And we have just the same arrangement here. Herr Neddermeyer’s bedroom, now. Necessity called, on both of us, let us say. The house –’ she continued up the stairs, stately, walking, turning at the half-landing, but not looking at Vogt exactly, giving a general smile in the direction of the English stained glass of an angel with a lily, illuminating the stairwell with sanctity ‘– the house was finished and built by my husband to his exact specifications in 1912, and we had three most happy years here. Two years and seven months. This is your room. I hope you like it. It has a view over the park, as you see. You cannot quite see the Gartenhaus of Goethe – that is only from the corner bedroom. In current circumstances, I cannot specify the exact rent from month to month, but I will not take advantage of you, Herr Vogt, I can promise you that. And I think you said you were a student of art?’

‘I am just about to start my studies,’ Christian Vogt said, setting his case down. ‘I begin on Monday, in three days’ time.’

‘And you allowed yourself three days to settle in, most wise,’ Frau Scherbatsky said. ‘Those long train journeys are immeasurably exhausting. You would wish to do yourself justice. If I could only ask that, should you decide to paint in your room, you place on the floor, and especially over this rug, some newspaper. You are a painter, I hope – I do hope those are a painter’s sensitive fingers. Just remember, Herr Vogt, the newspaper over floor and rug. That would be so kind. And no models, please, no models, that I must ask you. And …’

Frau Scherbatsky looked at him with one eyebrow cocked. Christian did not at once know what she meant. But then he recalled the agreement that his father and she had reached about the payment for the accommodation, and took the old gold watch of Great-grandfather from his waistcoat pocket. He handed it over. Frau Scherbatsky, almost unnoticeably, ran her thumb and forefinger along the gold chain and bar. She placed it safely, and with due carefulness, in her apron. That would cover the costs for the three months (at least) and then they could enter into more negotiations, his father and Frau Scherbatsky. ‘But does the room suit you?’ she said.

‘It’s charming, Frau Scherbatsky,’ Christian Vogt said, not wanting to commit himself in speech to being a painter, or anything in particular, just yet. Something of her stately, half-generous manner had got into his way of talking. The room was plain, but well lit, through the diamond-leaded windows the light from the north, illuminated warmly by the last of the summer greenery in garden and park. On the bed was a practical counterpane of woollen stars in primary colours, knitted together; two stained oak wardrobes built into the wall; a dark green English pattern of wallpaper and, over the bed, a small oil copy of
The Isle of the Dead
, almost expertly done.

‘And here is Maria, with some hot water,’ Frau Scherbatsky said. The maid came in; she poured her pewter pitcher of hot water into the washbowl with minute attention, her hand trembling slightly in the steam with the weight. Her face was freckled; her uncovered hair was gingery, smoothed back in a practical bun. Maria, watched benevolently by Frau Scherbatsky, finished pouring. She transferred the pitcher from one hand to the other and, with a curious gesture, drew the back of her right hand across her smooth hair. The maid caught Christian Vogt’s eye; she gave a cryptic, inward smile with the movement of her hand across the gloss of her ginger hair. ‘We will see you downstairs in half an hour, Herr Vogt,’ Frau Scherbatsky said. ‘Welcome to Weimar.’ And they withdrew, Maria closing the door behind her, not turning as she went.

As the door shut, Christian Vogt was made aware of the sound of birdsong, close at hand, in either parkland or garden, in Frau Scherbatsky’s bereaved garden or Weimar’s long, quiet landscapes. It was a blackbird, and if he closed his eyes, he could see the bird’s open yellow bill and shining black eye, the angle of its neck as it sat in a tree and sang to the empty air in pleasure.

‘I am an artist,’ Christian said, experimentally, to the empty room.

2.

He had been an artist since the eleventh of May that year. Christian Vogt lived with his father and brother in a second-floor apartment in Charlottenburg, in Berlin. White plaster dragons and Atlases held up the entrance to their block, a polished dark oak door in between, and Frau Miller, the concierge, behind her door with a series of notes explaining her absence or place, to be put up with drawing pins according to need. The apartment was serviced and kept going by their cook, Martha, and Alfred, the manservant. Since their mother had died, the spring before, Herr Vogt had decided that it was not necessary to keep a maid as well, that Alfred was quite capable – Christian could remember Alfred’s departure for the war, years before. He had been a big boy, limber and grinning. When he returned from the army, he still had a sort of smile on his face, but a skinny, bony, pulled-apart one. His father had offered him his old job back. ‘I could do nothing else,’ he said, and let the maid go a few weeks later without complaining. There was no way of doing without the cook, however. When Christian’s mother had still been alive, there had been a succession of varied dishes, and complaints if the food, even in the depths of war, had sunk into monotony and repetition. His mother had made things so much nicer. Now there was more food to be had in the markets, but the cook had settled into a routine, and plain grilled lamb chops alternated with veal – sometimes flounder, and sometimes even horse, done plainly. Nobody seemed to notice.

Egon would drive the motor, if it were needed, but it was rarely needed. There were large changes in the household since his mother’s death in the epidemic, the year before. One of the smaller changes, which had also gone unattended, was that Christian’s future was no longer a matter of concern. Among the large and heavy furniture, Christian and his brother Dolphus went, wearing the clothes they had had for two years, filling the time as best they could between meals. His father went to the office, or he stayed at home, working in his study. Dolphus went to school under his own steam. Christian, who had finished at the Gymnasium in the springtime, spent his days quietly and without much sense that anything was expected of him.

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