Frederick Karinthy

Soliloquies in the Bath


Hot Bath.

Water is one of the most agreeable things in the world. It has beauty and grace, and there is something peculiar in its relationship to solids, in the way it clings, softly and gently, to the vessel that contains it and to objects placed into it. One might almost think —

God knows what one might think. . . . Often we are visited by vague and beautiful sensations of which we are hardly conscious. They rise in our minds when we are wishing for something better and more beautiful than our present lives, when we feel that we are not happy though we might be . . . if only we listened to the soft, sweet voice of the wistful bells in our hearts, recalling us to old dreams and past memories. . . .

Wistful bells in our hearts. . . . That’s quite nice. There’s something dreamy about it. I made it up myself. Of course, I used to write poetry in my student days, and it wasnʼt bad poetry at all. But then I gave it up.

Yes, we give up everything that’s happy and beautiful and harmonious, in order to run after stupid, worthless things that seem important. . . . Idiotic vanity! As if a warm spring evening under flowering acacias, with a lovely hand resting in yours, were not worth more than all you may be striving for! You walk hand in hand, and the wings of the night enfold you, and there is the soft splash of the fountain in the park, and all the sounds and fragrances merge with the song of the nightingale. . . ·

Oh, Gretchen, forgive me. I’ve been a beast. The way you looked at me the other day, out there on the promenade. . . . Why didn’t I realise what a look like that meant! Why didnʼt I realise that it was worth far more than my vain, ambitious strivings, more than life itself? Oh, to swoon into a passionate kiss, to forget about the world, about humanity, about petty ambitions . . . to submerge in sweet nothingness . . . with the soft rustle of the weeping willows around us . . . . Memories . . . memories. . . .

Yes, I’ve found myself at last. Now I know my real self, a noble, tender soul . . . the soul of a poet . . . the soul of a child. . . . How could I forget! To-morrow—no, to-day, I’m going to see Gretchen. Won’t she be glad ! And she’ll understand. I’ll look deep into her eyes and say, “Gretchen... Gretchen darling, would you like to go away with me? To the South, yes, the South, perhaps to North Africa, where it’s always warm. Whether it’s possible? Why, darling, there’s that hundred and fifty pounds. I’ve got it. It could be put to better use? Never!”

I’m going to call on Gretchen to-day, now! Then we’ll discuss everything together.

Where’s the towel?

Ugh! It's dashed cold out here!


Cold Bath

Ugh! Ugh! It does give you a bit of a shock at first. But it’s healthy, and that’s what matters. Queer, this slab of water in the tub. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s got claws and fangs. It scratches and bites.

I think friction with cold water’s good for you. Makes you feel a different man once your circulation’s started properly. I was a fool not to do it before. From now on I’m going to rub myself down with cold water every day. It's a bit unpleasant, but you mustn’t be too sensitive if you want to feel brisk and fresh.

I really can’t understand why I haven't done this regularly before this. Of course, one wastes one’s time with all sorts of nonsense instead of looking after one’s health, yet one can’t get on unless one’s healthy.

I was going to make a start last night, but then I went to bed intending to read that idiotic novel. Come to think of it, it wasn’t worth it. What a sickly piece of work! There were even poems in it! Funny, the things people have time for. I really can’t understand how I could read such rubbish. I wonder what the author made out of his trashy novel.

If I were a publisher I’m sure I wouldn’t pay a nickel for this sort of thing. Nothing but sentimental chatter, the very thing to make the people stupid. I was quite fuzzy by the time I’d finished. Of course, it reminded me of something in my childhood. . . . What a waste of time it is to read books. I think I’ll stop my subscription to the library. I’ll join a sports club instead. At least I’ll pick up a few useful connections for my money.

It wouldn’t be a bad thing to scrape an acquaintance with Szalkai; he might be very useful to me.

I’ll join this very day. . . . That is to say . . . I thought I had an appointment for this afternoon. . . Oh, yes Gretchen. . . . Well, well. No matter. I’ll simply stay away, and if she takes offence—well, let her, that’s all. As a matter of fact, it’d come in useful if she did. I’m getting sick of the whole affair. I’ve been neglecting my business on account of her, and business must come first. In any case, this affair with Gretchen’s grown a bit stale.

I must break it off—a brisk, abrupt farewell and no sentiment. That’s best. In medias res. I’ll just take a nice, clean, bold header. I’ll write her a note at once. Sorry and all that. Got other things to think about. I’ll call on Szalkai. He’s an expert on hides. That reminds me . . . That hundred and fifty pounds. . . . He might help me to invest it in hides. Good business, particularly now that prices are rising. Go to it, my boy. I’ll be a different man if this comes off.

Where’s the towel?

Ah! It’s nice and warm out here.

SOURCE: Karinthy, Frigyes [Frederick]. “Soliloquies in the Bath,” in Soliloquies in the Bath, translated by Lawrence Wolfe, illustrated by Franz Katzer (London; Edinburgh; Glasgow: William Hodge and Company Limited, 1937), pp. 40-44.

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:
Select Bibliography

Sándor Szathmári (1897-1974): Bibliografio & Retgvidilo / Bibliography & Web Guide

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Uploaded 26 February 2022

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