What with one thing and another — that cup of coffee (which must nowadays be drunk with reverence, for each day it may be our last)…
Trans: A Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941 – 1943, pp. 82
“… Nowadays there are hardly any accidental relationships left; you have a deep if subtly different relationship with each person, and must not be disloyal to one for the sake of the other. There are no wasted and boring minutes any longer, one has to keep learning how to take one’s rest between two deep breaths or in a five-minute chat.
“…It is a good thing from time to time to feel the emptiness and wariness in yourself for a moment or two, just to recall how things used to be and how they are now. The tree outside the house seemed a lifeless lump of timber stabbing a dull sky. But the feeling of deep unhappiness lasted for only a moment. The day seemed to start out so bleakly yesterday. But after an hour of calm and concentrated work everything was fine again.”
cited: Trans: A Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941 – 1943, pp. 82-85
Nikon D750 f/8 1/30s 105mm 400 ISO edited Capture One 20
comes to call (Saigyō Trans: B Watson, Poems of a Mountain Home)
“One can live without coffee and without cigarettes, Liesl said rebelliously, but not without nature, that’s impossible, no one should be allowed to deprive you of that. I said, ‘Think of it as if we’d got to spend a prison sentence here, for a few years perhaps, and learn to look at the couple of trees over there across the road as if they were a forest. …” (Etty Hillesum, Trans: A Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943. pg. 127)
“… Were it possible for us to see further than our own knowledges reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidences than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown, our feelings grow more mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdrawn, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent. …” (Rainer Maria Rilke Trans: M D Herter Norton, Letters to a Young Poet. pg.40
“FRIDAY MORNING, 9 O’CLOCK. People complain about how dark it is in the mornings. But this is often the best time of my day, when the dawn peers grey and silent into my pale windows. Then my bright little table lamp becomes a blazing spotlight and floods over the big black shadow of my desk. … This morning I am wonderfully peaceful. Just like a storm that spent itself. I have noticed that this always happens following days of intense inner striving after clarity, birth pangs with sentences and thoughts that refuse to be born and make tremendous demands on you. Then suddenly it drops away, all of it, and a benevolent tiredness enters the brain, then everything feels calm again …”
cited: Trans: Arno Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, pg 69.
…first I myself must find the right pattern, my own pattern
“4 July. . I am full of unease, a strange, infernal agitation, which might be productive if only I knew what to do with it. A ‘creative’ unease. Not of the body – not even a dozen passionate nights of love could assuage it. It is almost a ‘sacred’ unease. ‘Oh God, take me into Your great hands and turn me into Your instrument, let me write.’ This all came about because of red-haired Lenie and philosophical Joop. S. reached straight into their hearts with his analysis, but I still think people can’t be reduced to psychological formulate, that only the artist can render human beings down to their last irrational elements.
“I don’t know how to settle down to my writing. Everything is still much too chaotic and I lack self-confidence, or perhaps the urgent need to speak out. I am still waiting for things to come out and find form of their own accord. But first I myself must find the right pattern, my own pattern.”
cited: Trans: Arno Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diary of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943. pg. 26
“At night, as I lay in the camp on my plank bed, surrounded by women and girls gently snoring, dreaming aloud, quietly sobbing and tossing and turning, women and girls who often told me during the day, ‘We don’t want to think, we don’t want to feel, otherwise we are sure to go out of our minds,’ I was sometimes filled with an infinite tenderness, and lay awake for hours letting all the many, too many impressions of a much too long day wash over me, and I prayed, ‘Let me be the thinking heart of these barracks.’ And that is what I want to be again. The thinking heart of a whole concentration camp. I lie here so patiently and now so calmly again, that I feel quite a bit better already. I feel my strength returning to me; I have stopped making plans and worrying about risks. Happen what may, it is bound to be for the good.
cited: E Hillesum, An Interrupted Life. p.191 Trans: A Pomerans)
“Klaas, all really wanted to say is this: we have so much work to do on ourselves that we shouldn’t even be thinking of hating our so-called enemies. We are hurtful enough to one another as it is. And I don’t really know what I mean when I say that there are bullies and bad characters among our own people, for no one is really ‘bad’ deep down. I should have liked to reach out to that man with all his fears, I should have liked to trace the source of his panic, to drive him ever deeper into himself, that is the only thing we can do, Klass, in times like these.
“And you, Klass, give a tired and despondent wave and say, ‘But what you propose to do takes such a long time and we don’t really have all that much time, do we? …
“And I repeat with the same old passion, although I am gradually beginning to think that I am being tiresome, ‘It is the only thing we can do, Klass, I see no alternative, each of us must turn inwards and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. And remember that every atom of hate we add to this world makes it still more inhospitable. …'”
cited: The Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, pp.179-180.
“…talking to you, God. Is that all right? With the passing of people, I feel a growing need to speak to You alone. I love people terribly, because in every human being I love something of You. And I seek You everywhere in them and often do find something of You. But now I need so much patience, patience and thought, and things will be very difficult. …”
~Trans: Arno Pomerans Hillesum, E. An Interrupted Life p. 16
“… What a bizarre new landscape, so full of eerie fascination, yet one we might also come to love again. We human beings cause monstrous conditions, but precisely because we cause them we soon learn to adapt ourselves to them. Only if we become such that we can no longer adapt ourselves, only if, deep inside, we rebel against very kind of evil, will we be able to put a stop to it. Aeroplanes, streaking down in flames, still have a weird fascination for us – even aesthetically – though we know, deep down, that human beings are being burnt alive. As long as that happens, while everything within us does not yet scream out in protest, so long will we find ways of adapting ourselves, and the horrors will continue.”
cited: Trans: Arno Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941 – 1943, p. 81.