Finally, one day
I produced, almost without knowing it, a face to which I responded more
strongly than I had to any of the others. It was not the face of that
girl -- it wasn't supposed to be that any longer. It was something else,
something unreal, yet it was no less valuable to me. It looked more like
a boy's face than a girl's, the hair was not flaxen like that of my
pretty girl, but dark brown with a reddish hue. The chin was strong and
determined, the mouth like a red flower. As a whole it was somewhat
stiff and masklike but it was impressive and full of a secret life of
As I sat down in front of the completed painting, it had an odd effect on me. It resembled a kind of image of God or a holy mask, half male, half female, ageless, as purposeful as it was dreamy, as rigid as it was secretly alive. This face seemed to have a message for me, it belonged to me, it was asking something of me.
It bore a resemblance to someone, yet I did not know whom....
Then one morning, as I awoke from one of these dreams, I suddenly recognized it. It looked at me as though it were fabulously familiar and seemed to call out my name. It seemed to know who I was, like a mother, as if its eyes had been fixed on me since the beginning of time. With a quivering heart I stared at the sheet, the close brown hair, the half-feminine mouth, the pronounced forehead with the strange brightness (it had dried this way of its own accord) and I felt myself coming nearer and nearer to the recognition, the rediscovery, the knowledge.
I leapt out of bed, stepped up to the face, and from inches away looked into its wide-open, greenish, rigid eyes, the right one slightly higher than the left. All at once the right eye twitched, ever so faintly and delicately but unmistakably, and I was able to recognize the picture ....
Why had it taken me so long? It was Demian's face.
"Have you heard about it?"
I had heard nothing.
Demian squeezed my arm and turned his face toward me, with a strangely somber yet sympathetic look in his eyes.
"Yes, it's starting. You've heard about the difficulties with Russia."
"What? Is it war?"
He spoke very softly although no one was anywhere near us.
"It hasn't been declared yet. But there will be war. You can take my word for that. I didn't want to worry you but I have seen omens on three different occasions since that time. So it won't be the end of the world, no earthquake, no revolution, but war. You'll see what a sensation that will be! People will love it. Even now they can hardly wait for the killing to begin -- their lives are that dull! But you will see, Sinclair, that this is only the beginning. Perhaps it will be a very big war, a war on a gigantic scale. But that, too, will only be the beginning. The new world has begun and the new world will be terrible for those clinging to the old. What will you do?"
I was dumfounded, it all sounded so strange, so improbable.
"I don't know
-- and you?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
''I'll be called up as soon as the mobilization order comes through. I'm a lieutenant."
"You, a lieutenant! I had no idea."
"Yes, that was one of the ways
I compromised. You know I dislike calling attention to myself so much I almost always went to the other extreme, just to give a correct impression. I believe I'll be on the front in a week."
"Now don't get sentimental. Of course it's not going to be any fun ordering men to fire on living beings, but that will be incidental. Each of us will be caught up in the great chain of events. You, too, you'll be drafted, for sure."...
How curious all this was, and, fundamentally, how beautiful! And now there was to be war. What we had talked about so often was to begin.
Demian had known so much about it ahead of time.
How strange that the stream of the world was not to bypass us any more, that it now went straight through our hearts, and that now or very soon the moment would come when the world would need us, when it would seek to transform itself. Demian was right, one could not be sentimental about that.
The only remarkable thing was that I was to share the very personal matter of my fate with so many others, with the whole world in fact. Well, so be it!
Soon there was war, and Demian, strangely unfamiliar in his uniform, left us. I accompanied his mother home. It was not long before I, too, took my leave of her. She kissed me on the mouth and clasped me for a moment to her breast. Her great eyes burned close and firmly into mine.
All men seemed to have become brothers
-- overnight. They talked of "the fatherland" and of "honor," but what lay behind it was their own fate whose unveiled face they had now all beheld for one brief moment. Young men left their barracks, were packed into trains, and on many faces I saw a sign -- not ours -- but a beautiful, dignified sign nonetheless that meant love and death. I, too, was embraced by people whom I had never seen before and I understood this gesture and responded to it. Intoxication made them do it, not a hankering after their destiny. But this intoxication was sacred, for it was the result of their all having thrown that brief and terribly disquieting glance into the eyes of their fate.
It was nearly winter when I was sent to the front. Despite the excitement of being under fire for the first time, in the beginning everything disappointed me. At one time I had given much thought to why men were so very rarely capable of living for an ideal. Now I saw that many, no, all men were capable of dying for one. Yet it could not be a personal, a freely chosen ideal; it had to be one mutually accepted.
As time went on though I realized I had underestimated these men. However much mutual service and danger made a uniform mass of them, I still saw many approach the will of fate with great dignity. Many, very many, not only during the attack but at every moment of the day, wore in their eyes the remote, resolute, somewhat possessed look which knows nothing of aims and signified complete surrender to the incredible. Whatever they might think or believe, they were ready, they could be used, they were the clay of which the future could be shaped.
The more single-mindedly the world concentrated on war and heroism, on honor and other old ideals, the more remote and improbable any whisper of genuine humanity sounded -- that was all just surface, in the same way that the question of the war's external and political objectives remained superficial. Deep down, underneath, something was taking shape. Something akin to a new humanity. For I could see many men -- and many died beside me -- who had begun to feel acutely that hatred and rage, slaughter and annihilation, were not bound up with these objectives. No, these objectives and aims were completely fortuitous. The most primitive, even the wildest feelings were not directed at the enemy; their bloody task was merely an irradiation of the soul, of the soul divided within itself, which filled them with the lust to rage and kill, annihilate and die so that they might be born anew.
One night in early spring I stood guard in front of a farm that we had occupied. A listless wind was blowing fitfully; across the Flemish sky cloud armies rode on high, somewhere behind them the suggestion of a moon. I had been uneasy the entire day -- something was worrying me deeply. Now on my dark guard post I fervently recalled the images of my life and thought of Frau Eva and of Demian. I stood braced against a poplar tree staring into the drifting clouds whose mysteriously writhing patches of light soon metamorphosed into huge series of swirling images. From the strange weakness of my pulse, the insensitiveness of my skin to wind and rain, and my intense state of consciousness I could sense that a master was near me.
A huge city could be seen in the clouds out of which millions of people streamed in a host over vast landscapes. Into their midst stepped a mighty, godlike figure, as huge as a mountain range, with sparkling stars in her hair, bearing the features of Frau Eva. The ranks of the people were swallowed up into her as into a giant cave and vanished from sight. The goddess cowered on the ground, the mark luminous on her forehead. A dream seemed to hold sway over her: she closed her eyes and her countenance became twisted with pain. Suddenly she cried out and from her forehead sprang stars, many thousands of shining stars that leaped in marvelous arches and semicircles across the black sky.
-- Demian, by