In the Humanities barracks


17 July 2006, 11.36 CET

“Well, I don’t want to interfere, but believe me, Hofmiller, you’re making a mistake. You don’t know what you’re doing. You are, I fancy, somewhere about twenty-five or twenty-six, and not so far off promotion to first lieutenant. And that’s something not to be sneezed at. Here in the army you’ve got your rank, you’re somebody. But the moment you try to launch out into a new career, the dirtiest ragamuffin and lousiest counter-jumper will rate more than you, for the very reason that he hasn’t got to trail around our fool prejudices like a knapsack. Believe me, when we military chaps take off our uniform, there’s not much left of what we once were . . . [As for the counter-jumper,] all you have to do is to move him from one stool to a better one, and he thinks he’s God Almighty. What does it matter to him whether he wears his trousers out on one stool or another, he’s never known anything better. But to wangle a job for someone who’s once had a star on his collar—why, that’s a horse of a different colour! No, my dear Hofmiller, the top floors are already occupied. Anyone who wants to make a start in civilian life must start at the bottom, right down in the cellar, and that doesn’t smell of roses, I can tell you.”

—Stefan Zweig. Ungeduld des Herzens. Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer, 1939.

English translation (pp. 236-37) by Phyllis and Trevor Blewitt. Translation copyright © 1982 by Atrium Press Ltd.