Elena (I found Shostakovich)

//I feel it’s the worst cynicism to, to, to besmirch yourself with ugly behavior and then speak beautiful words. I, do you know, I think it’s preferable to say ugly words and not commit illegal acts . . .  But nothing could take me away from him now! He was everything to me. He—and Elena, of course.

//His fingers spread out on the table and he seemed to be playing a complex chord on the piano, or perhaps milking Elena’s left breast—how I loved him for his happiness!

On one of those assassination visits, which now numbered more than the total number of Allied bombing raids on Berlin, he’d confided to me that there was a certain other world he sometimes lived in, a world beneath the piano keys;

//but who can go there? Only Shostakovich himself? Can Elena go there, too? She left him because she didn’t want to go there; but what if she’d actually left him because he believed her capable of entering that world and she knew that she couldn’t? Whenever I listen to Opus 40 I believe that she can, but if that’s the case, where did the operation break down? He’d told me that toward the end she was really trying; she framed the first page of the score to Opus 40, a composition which was truly her as he knew her; and she hung it up on the wall of her little flat on Kirovsky Prospekt in Leningrad, to show him that she, that she, you know (these last six words come verbatim from Shostakovich). All right, but could he ever bring her there? Please God, why not?

William T. Vollmann // Europe Central.

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