Turning the Corner: Inimical (episode seven)
She brightened. “August’s mother was a Russian Jew. You could call his parents social improvers.”
Stauber had confided, Greta in turn confided, that he’d often felt embarrassed by his mother. Unapologetic, Frau Doktor Stauber had visited the poor districts at the outskirts of Vienna; her politics Marxist, and distributed with her charity. She’d urged her husband to go to the front, to leave behind his comfortable surgery.
“Only, though,” Greta said, “she was dead set against August leaving medical school. But he couldn’t wait to volunteer for the army.” At the outbreak of fighting no one had felt more joy, none longed for victory so much, as reluctant scholar August Stauber.
And when Stauber came home, emaciated from dysentery, deaf in one ear…but counting himself among the lucky, it was his mother of whom he’d learned no word and could find no trace. He knew his father was alive; he didn’t want to see his father.
He had once been enamored of his grandfather as an ideal, embodied in the boy’s imagination as a monument, a figure seated on horseback, sabre raised. August’s grandfather still lived on a street nearby. Reared in a household of which Old Stauber disapproved, his grandson had never known him, and would not now, disabused of admiration by battles of his own, appeal to his grandfather for help. Greta told Malcolm-Webb she’d had trouble bringing Stauber out on this point: his homecoming, his desolated, hungry city.
He had, notwithstanding, a buoyant nature. He’d patronized the coffee houses, however ersatz their offerings; nudged his way deeper into a circle of ex-soldiers like himself, and with these comrades, developed his notions into theories.
He became editor of a magazine…he and his particular friend, a man named Kaufman, having also founded Radiosonde. It had been Kaufman’s vision. The name delighted the two young men; it meant, in this context, nothing. The magazine featured photography.
A photo might be taken from the Gloriette of the Schönbrunn palace, on the day of a state-sponsored rally, the near view framed by stark, winter branches. The caption might read: ‘Here is a leafless tree’. Another showed a military company, commanded by an unloved artifact of the war, while in the foreground, in sharp focus, one face filled the lower right. The caption read: “Here is an old woman’.
Kaufman insisted his magazine spoke only to art, and was not political, yet found his idea of subtle commentary produced a political effect. He was charged with throwing a bottle at a meeting. Agitators from another party had pushed in to drum up this melée.
(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)