Radi by Wolfgang Borchert Translated from the German into English by Jennifer Burroughs Project of the GER 403 History of German Literature class Ball State University - Spring Semester 2003
Tonight Radi was with me. He was blonde as always and with laughter in his soft, broad face. His eyes were also as always: somewhat anxious and somewhat unsure. He also had a few blonde beard hairs. Everything was as usual. You are dead, Radi, I said. Yes, he answered, please don't laugh. Why should I laugh? You always laughed about me, I know that. Because I set my feet so oddly and on the way to school I always talked to all sorts of girls who I didn't even know. You always laughed about those things. And because I was always somewhat anxious, that I do know. Have you been dead long? I asked. No, not at all, he said. But I fell in winter. They couldn't get me properly into the earth. Everything was really frozen. Everything was rock hard. Oh yes, you fell in Russia, right? Yes, just in the first winter. You, don't laugh, but it is not nice to be dead in Russia. Everything is so strange to me. The trees are so strange. So sad, you know. Mostly they are alders. Where I lay stand loud, sad alders. And the stones groan also sometimes. Because they are Russian stones they moan. And the forests moan at night. Because they must be Russian trees. And the snow moans. Because it must be Russian snow. Yes, everything is strange. Everything so strange. Radi sat on the edge of my bed, and was silent. Perhaps you only find everything so, because you must die there, I said. He looked at me: Do you think so? Oh, no, you, it is all so terribly strange. Everything. He looked at his knee. Everything is so strange. Even oneself. Oneself? Yes, please don't laugh. That is exactly it. Especially one is so strange to oneself. Please don't laugh, you, that is why I came to you tonight. I want to talk with you. With me? Yes, please don't laugh, especially with you. You know me exactly, don't you? I always thought so. It doesn't matter. You know me exactly. How I look, I mean. Not how I am. I mean, how I look, you know me, right? Yes, you are blonde. You have a full face. No, say softly, I have a soft face. I know that. So- Yes, you have a soft face, which always laughs and is broad. Yes, yes. And my eyes? Your eyes were always somewhat - somewhat sad and odd. You must not lie. I had very anxious and unsure eyes, because I never knew whether you would believe everything that I told about the girls. And then? Was I always smooth in the face? No, you were not. You always had a few blonde beard hairs on your chin. You thought no one would see them. But we always saw them. And laughed. And laughed. Radi sat on the edge of my bed and rubbed his palms on this knee. Yes, he whispered, that is how I was. Exactly. And then he looked at me suddenly with his anxious eyes. Do me a favor, okay? But please don't laugh, please. Come with me. To Russia? Yes, quickly. Only for a moment. Because you know me so well, please. He took hold of my hand. He felt like snow. Very cool. Very loose. Very light. We stood between a pair of alders. There lay something light. Come, said Radi, there I lie. I saw a human skeleton, like I knew from school. A piece of brown-green metal lay nearby. That is my steel helmet, said Radi, it is completely rusty and full of moss. And then he pointed to the skeleton. Please don't laugh, he said, but that is me. Can you understand? You know me well. Say to yourself, can I be this? You know? Do you not find that terribly strange? It is really not familiar to me. One no longer knows me. But I am that. I must say it. But I cannot understand it. It is so terribly strange. All that I was before, that has nothing more to do with it. No, please don't laugh, but everything is so terribly strange to me, so incomprehensible, so far away. He sat on the dark ground and looked sadly ahead of him. That has nothing more to do with before, he said, nothing, absolutely nothing. Then with his fingertips he lifted something from the dark earth, held it high, and smelled it. Strange, he whispered, very strange. He handed the earth to me. It was like snow. It was like the hand that he held mine with: Very cool. Very loose. Very light. Smell, he said. I breathed deep. Well? Earth, I said. And? Somewhat sour. Somewhat bitter. Proper earth. But still strange? Very strange? And so revolting, right? I breathed deep in the earth. It smelled cool, loose, and light. Somewhat sour. Somewhat bitter. It smells good, I said. Like earth. Not revolting? Not strange? Radi looked at me with anxious eyes. It smells so revolting, you. I smelled. No, all earth smells like this. You think? Certainly. And you don't find it revolting? No, it smells particularly good, Radi. Smell it once more. He took a little between his fingertips and smelled. All earth smells so? he asked. Yes, all. He breathed deep. He stuck his nose right in the hand with the earth in it and smelled. Then he looked at me. You are right, he said. It really smells maybe very good. But still strange, when I think, that I am that, but terribly strange, you. Radi sat and smelled and he forgot me and he smelled and smelled and smelled. And he said the word strange less often. Always quieter he said it. He smelled and smelled and smelled. I tiptoed back home. It was five-thirty in the morning. In the front yard the earth could be seen through the snow. It was cool. And loose. And light. And it smelled. I stood and breathed deep. Yes, it smelled. It smells good, Radi, I whispered. It smelled really good. It smelled like proper earth. You can be at peace.