Effect of a Man Without Qualities on a Man With Qualities

Walter is jealous of Clarisse’s long walks with Ulrich. He fears the influence Ulrich has on her.

He was bad for Clarisse. He ruthlessly exacerbated something inside Clarisse that Walter dared not touch: the cavern of disaster, the pitiful, the sick, the  fatal genius in her, the secret empty space where something was tearing at chains that might someday give way. (I,61)

He challenges her on what Ulrich has said.

Clarisse couldn’t help giggling again. “He says things have become more complicated meanwhile. Just as we swim in water, we also swim in a sea of fire, a storm of electricity, a firmament of magnetism, a swamp of warmth, and so on. It’s just that we can’t feel it. All that finally remains is formulas. What the meaning in human terms is hard to say; that’s all there is. I’ve forgotten whatever I learned about it at school, but I think that’s what it amounts to. Anybody nowadays, says Ulrich, who wants to call the birds ‘brothers,’ like Saint Francis or you, can’t do it so easily but must be prepared to be cast into a furnace, plunge into the earth through the wires of an electric trolley, or gurgle down the drain with the dishwater into the sewer.”

“Oh sure, sure,”Walter interrupted this report. “First, four elements are turned into several dozen, and finally we’re left floating around in relationships, processes, on the dirty dishwater of processes and formulas, on something we can’t even recognize as a thing, a process, a ghost of an idea, of a God-knows-what. Leaving no difference anymore between the sun and a kitchen match, or between your mouth at one end of the digestive tract and its other end either. Every thing has a hundred aspects, every aspect a hundred connections, and different feelings are attached to every one of them. The human brain has happily split things apart, but things have split the human heart too.” (I,65)


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