Some of you may have heard that James Salter, the American author, has died recently; he’s truly a genius of words, a master writer. I came across him thanks to Diana who at some point somewhere mentioned his short story, The Destruction of the Goetheanum. Reading his novel Light Years right now, I’m quite disturbed by the thought that it will end; I’ll be left with my own imperfect language, my own imperfect thoughts, that never make so much sense of the world, and rarely makes it beautiful. It’s such a rare thing. I don’t know if James Salter had any particular interest in anthroposophy, though he clearly knew of it; perhaps it was more of a general interest in spiritual things and worldviews. In Light Years, Krishnamurti is mentioned in a conversation, just to give an example. Kandinsky, tarot cards, a yogi in the city (he has hairy ears, like a cat). And there certainly are various traces of ideas whose inspiration I could speculate about, but won’t. (It would be interesting to find out more. In case anyone knows.) And he pays attention to dogs — which is, I don’t have to point it out, his most important asset.
You must read The Destruction of the Goetheanum (you’ll find it in Dusk or in a fairly new volume called Collected Stories). It’s a story of a man who meets a woman in possession of an innate talent for occultism who is the friend of another man, an author writing a novel with the title The Goetheanum. None of them are overly sane or particularly lucky in life, the author is even bit by a cat; I suppose it could just as well be story about karma. Perhaps the woman doesn’t exist, like an elusive Sophia; at least the both men go crazy, they dissolve like the Goetheanum in the flames. Which reminds me: build your lives from concrete. It crumbles eventually, but doesn’t burn. Don’t get into esotericism or such things. Or writing. None of that. Avoid.
“The Goetheanum,” she said.
He was silent. The darkness of the picture, the resonance of the domes began to invade him. He submitted to it as to the mirror of a hypnotist. He could feel himself slipping from reality. He did not struggle. He longed to kiss the fingers which held the postcard, the lean arms, the skin which smelled like lemons. He felt himself trembling, he knew she could see it. They sat like that, her gaze was calm. He was entering the grey, the Wagnerian scene before him which she might close at any moment like a matchbox and replace in her bag. The windows resembled an old hotel somewhere in middle Europe. In Prague. The shapes sang to him. It was a fortification, a terminal, an observatory from which one could look into the soul.
“Who is Rudolf Steiner?” he asked.
He hardly heard her explanation. He was beginning to have ecstasies. Steiner was a great teacher, a savant who believed deep insights could be revealed in art. He believed in movements and mystery plays, rhythm, creation, the stars. Of course. And somehow from this she had learned a scenario. She had become the illusionist of Hedges’ life.
And then it all falls apart; the woman disappears, is non-existant as the first Goetheanum, the world is silent and still, like the day after the fire. It’s a brilliant story, really.