Praha is wonderful in autumn, and so was Roma in late august for the Baron.
Already settled in the capital of Bohemia, with the first glimpses of a glorious autumn in the air, the Baron could be happy where it not because the Bohemian Goddess has decided, in an act of independence and utter cruelty, to live in London and not in the Praha of her youth.
The Baron's gloom was deepened when she even forbade him to visit her in Vienna this week, where she will spend some time with friends and her favourite tailors.
So the Baron, like one of Stifter's characters, is trying to soften the blow by focusing on the myriad of nuances the last summer days bring to the city. The ever-earlier sunset brings an almost Nordic orange subtlety to the rays of the sun reflecting on the venerable rooftops, while the old buildings seem severe but almost cozy on grey cloudy afternoons.
Mornings can sometimes be crisp and cold, and the Baron particularly enjoys his brisk morning walks in Letohrádek Hvězda, from where he returns full of energy, healthily red-faced, having forgotten for a while the unfathomable logic of the Goddess.
His mornings take later an ambiguous turn, since he chose Claudio Magris' "Il mito asburgico" to wait for lunch.
The book of a precocious genius (written for his doctoral thesis when 23!), it exudes young arrogance and 60's zeitgeist to demolish all the myths that had educated him.
Magris will later offer us in expiation for this first book's sins the wonderful Danubio, and the Baron cannot help but marvel at the eternal mortal poison distilled by all brilliantly intellectual youth: that of analyzing and dissecting until rendering dead the art they cherished; the beliefs they held dear; the loves they thought pure.
That enterprise of utter demolition of the soul it is one of the most dangerous a human being can accomplish. For after that, we find only desolation without consolation; a bleak boundless loneliness. Many never return from that excess of the mind, never fully recover the ability to believe in something.
The Baron knows that to live is to dream and faith alone sustains our deepest personal believes and myths. They are not ours because they are true, they are true to us because they are ours.
"Danubio" shows that Claudio Magris realized in his mature years that we all need to believe in something after all. And creation after demolition is always harder, so that it to his credit.
Mitteleuropa can be a nostalgic lost utopia, but the Baron thinks, as he walks along Na poříčí, that it created cities, customs, traditions and a style that still enlighten our lives. By now, the happy few at least, we agree that the same cannot be said of everything that followed 1918.