Frederick Karinthy

Domestic Bliss

It is a well-known fact that it is not good for man, a selfish animal, to live alone, hence, some years ago, I took a wife unto myself, believing that this would bring me happiness. Someone to love and be loved by, someone to import heavenly bliss into my earthly existence, someone to rescue me from the stormy seas of errant passion. I rented a four-roomed flat, which was in due course filled with the happy laughter of children. The names of my children are Fritz, Franz and Liselotte. Then there is my poor dear wife Joshua, whom I call Joshua, firstly because I want at least something of her all to myself, and secondly because a masculine name fits her perfectly, for she wears her hair very short, rides, smokes and gambles like a man. The reason I call her poor dear is that she might have hooked a far better husband than myself, had she been a little more fortunate.

But, of course, there is also our domestic staff, composed of one cook, named Countess Maria Pospischilsky, one governess, Fräulein Pfingstenstern, and one tutor, Amadeus Schuchtern.

Now, the cook used to sleep at the back of the flat, behind the kitchen. The German governess had her bedroom in the drawing-room, so as not to disturb us, while the tutor had to be content with my study. We, my wife and I and our three children, slept in the remaining room.

We were living quite happily when, about six months ago, owing to an apparently insignificant incident, certain difficulties arose.

The incident was my departure, for a week or so, for the above-mentioned stormy seas of errant passion. The same day Fritz fell ill, and coughed the whole night, so that my wife could not sleep. As the German governess did not mind the coughing, she moved into our bedroom, while my wife slept in the drawing-room. In the morning it was found that my wife’s bed was too short for the Fräulein, so the problem was solved by exchanging the beds. As a result, the piano had to be pushed in front of the door leading to my study, so that the study could only be reached through the bathroom, which would not have mattered, but there was the problem that the tutor had to pass through the drawing-room and our bedroom respectively when my wife and the Fräulein respectively were dressing or undressing. At first it was suggested that he should occupy the cook’s room, but as the tutor expressed a distaste for a girl’s room when there was no girl in it, my wife eventually rented a room for him in the vicinity of our flat.

Karinthy - Domestic Bliss

Upon my return from my voyage I found my wife in an awful temper, for she had discovered that the cook had been visiting the tutor in his room and that this had come to the knowledge of our children. I immediately sacked the tutor, and after consultation with my wife we engaged a chambermaid in his place. But we retained the extra room, for the chambermaid, who was a good needlewoman, declared that she could not sew at the flat.

However, in consequence of all these excitements my wife fell ill, and our doctor could not guarantee her recovery so long as she stayed in our noisy flat, so I sent her to a nursing home. In the peaceful atmosphere of the nursing home my wife was able to take stock of the situation, and as a good mother she came to the conclusion that, deprived of her company and influence, the children would get out of hand. Accordingly, she wrote me a letter instructing me to send Fritz until her recovery (which seemed to lie in the distant future) to her aunt, Rosalinde, place Franz in a boarding school, and if possible, marry off the six-year-old Liselotte. I telephoned the nursing home doctor, who advised me to comply with my wife’s wishes in everything, as this was necessary according to the psychoanalytical method by which she was being treated.

So I sent Fritz to Aunt Rosalinde, but she would only agree to have him if he was accompanied by the governess. As Franz now remained without supervision I converted the chamber-maid into a governess. Liselotte I sent to the country. But now the cook, deprived of the chambermaid’s assistance, threatened to resign, to which I could not possibly agree because then we should have had no one to cook for the brother-in-law of my wife’s uncle, who had in the meantime moved into our flat and who, owing to his diabetes, insisted on our Maria’s cooking.

I will not bore the reader with the further complications that arose, particularly as I have already found a final solution to all my problems.

I left the brother-in-law of my wife’s uncle in the flat with the cook, sent the chambermaid to a nice boarding house at an Italian seaside resort, placed Franz in a boarding school, and rented a bachelor flat for myself in a residential suburb.

And that is where I am now doing penance for my selfishness in getting married.

SOURCE: Karinthy, Frigyes [Frederick]. “Domestic Bliss,” in Soliloquies in the Bath, translated by Lawrence Wolfe, illustrated by Franz Katzer (London; Edinburgh; Glasgow: William Hodge and Company Limited, 1937), pp. 101-105.

Frigyes Karinthy, Humorist and Thinker” by Miklós Vajda

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
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Uploaded 27 February 2022

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