I am nearing the end of Victor Klemperer’s gripping diary, indispensible for an understanding of Nazi Germany or of what life is like for civilians who bear the brunt of an air war, and have come upon a passage I have to commemorate here:

Yesterday evening, when we stepped out of Mayer’s into utter darkness, the wind tore the hat Agnes had given me from my head and blew it away. No chance of finding it again, we began to grope our way back… Suddenly in the darkness I saw something even darker, nudged it with my foot—it really was my hat. I should very much like to take the utterly unexpected rescue of the hat as an omen for the head which goes with it.

(I have taken the liberty of cleaning up a couple of minor errors; I don’t know whether they’re typos, editing mistakes, or bad decisions by the translator, but I don’t think Klemperer’s tightly written, effective anecdote deserves to be marred by them, with or without [sic]s attached.)


  1. dungbeattle says

    Truth is no doubt, stranger than fiction. Sometimes there is no accounting for the events that happen. We operate on such limited knowledge, That one must seek answers were logic does not operate.

  2. aldiboronti says

    Wonderful book. Klemperer also wrote specifically on the language of Nazi Germany:
    The Language of the Third Reich:
    LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii:
    A Philologist’s Notebook
    I haven’t read this one yet, but it looks fascinating.

  3. True story: I left a favourite hat on the beach during school camp one year, and by the time I noticed it was missing the tide had stolen it away. Woe was me. More than a year later, though, it washed up on the same beach during another school camp and was returned to me via the school’s Lost and Found repository — bleached and battered, but still functional and comfy. It never occured to me to see the fate of the hat as an omen for the head beneath, but now, twenty years later, it seems fairly accurate. The head, like that hat, is much the worse for wear to look at, but it works about as well as it ever did; and people say it suits me.

  4. I’m into hats at the moment. Nice things: they’ve covered a multitude of bad hair days, have my hats. I like the sound of this book (from what I’ve seen here) so I hope it’s easily available over here.

  5. Eliza, “over here” where? Klemperer’s book was widely reviewed in the US, and is easily got from bookshops.
    From the sound of things, it is a wonderful and heart-wrenching read.
    I happen not to be in heart-wrench mood, though, so it’s not on my list.

  6. What date is that entry? and what did you change?!

  7. CB: Eliza’s in South Africa, I believe. And yes, it’s not a fun read, but it’s well worth it.
    MM: It’s Apr. 2, 1945, and I deleted the -ly in “unexpectedly rescue of the hat” and the confusing comma in “the head, which goes with it.”

  8. I’m living in the UK, LH and CB. Sorry – I should have said so.

  9. Sorry, this slipped my mind – here it is, and yes, they were slips:
    Als wir gestern abend von Mayer in tiefste Dunkelheit heraustraten, riß mir der Wind den von Agnes geschenkten Hut vom Kopf und trieb ihn davon. Keine Möglichkeit ihn wiederzufinden, wir tappten ein Stück zurück, Eva verzweifelter als ich. Plötzlich sah ich im Dunkel etwas noch Dunkleres, stieß mit dem Fuß daran – es war wahrhaftig der Hut. Ich möchte gern den wider alle Möglichkeit geretteten Hut als Omen für den dazugehörigen Kopf nehmen.

  10. Thanks — it’s nice to have the passage in German!

Speak Your Mind