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Pablo and Maria


Harry’s immersion in the world of dancing, drink, nightclubs, and restaurants is accompanied by what he calls a “disintegration of the personality.” In keeping with the principles set out in the Treatise, Harry starts to see himself as a composite of thousands of other souls. This disintegration is very painful, especially when these selves jar and come into conflict, which makes Harry feel that he is defiling everything he has held sacred in his life. At the same time, though, Harry is able to see for the first time the blind hypocrisy of his former life. He has been in his own way just as pompous and one-sided as the portrait of Goethe he earlier condemned.

Harry spends a considerable amount of time in the company of Pablo. He tells Pablo about his musical theories, but the response he receives is always a quiet, smiling indifference, which frustrates him. When Harry is particularly annoyed by one such exchange, Pablo offers him a pinch from his gold snuffbox, and Harry sniffs a cocaine-laced powder. One day, Harry finally manages to engage Pablo in a discussion, but Pablo responds to all of Harry’s theoretical discourse by saying that music has nothing to do with good taste, right, wrong, or education. Instead, music is about creating as much, as well, and as intensely as possible. Harry tries to defend higher, spiritual music, but he cannot argue against Pablo’s firm belief that music is made first and foremost to give pleasure.

One night, Harry is feeling particularly upset about his newfound hedonism. He is practically on the verge of cursing Hermine and going back to his original plan to commit suicide. However, when he enters his room he finds that the beautiful Maria is lying in his bed. Maria has arrived at Hermine’s request, and Hermine wants Harry to make love to Maria. That night, Harry sleeps with Maria.

Rather than feeling that Maria defiles his spirituality, Harry finds that she is its “worthy fulfillment.” The next day, he rents a room in a nearby neighborhood for their amorous meetings. Even though Harry is not Maria’s only lover, he is drunk with the sensual delights she provides. Being with her is the first time since his downfall that he has been excited about his life. Through the feeling Maria kindles in him, and through all the sensual arts she teaches him, Harry recalls all the romantic affairs of his life, as well as all the friendships. He realizes that these experiences constitute his life’s wealth.

Harry learns more about Maria and Hermine’s life of champagne, drugs, and wealthy men. He also learns about the accoutrements of love affairs and about the small gifts that lovers give each other. Like Hermine, Maria is infatuated with the young Pablo, who is apparently another of her lovers. In fact, at one point Pablo suggests that the three of them have an ménage à trois, but Harry vigorously objects. Another time, Pablo asks Harry for money, suggesting, to Harry’s horror, that he take that night with Maria in exchange.

In the three weeks preceding the annual Fancy Dress Ball organized by the Society of Artists, Harry continues to feel connected to Hermine, who understands him well. On the day before the ball, she comes to his apartment, and they have a long, intense talk. Harry explains that although he has been happy with Maria, he does not feel right about the happiness because it does not lead anywhere and because he is not made for such contentment. What Harry really wants is to suffer beautifully and long for death. Hermine understands Harry and explains that for him, as for her, life has not asked the great sacrifices and achievements they are both prepared to make. Instead it has offered a gaudy whirl of stupid, ephemeral tricks. Hermine says that the two of them are among those who suffer because they have a “dimension too many,” and she speaks of a kingdom of “eternity” that exists after death, a kingdom to which all of the geniuses and saints and heroes of history belong.