The Passion of Emma
You know why I am sitting at my typewriter in this Montevideo hotel room with its dirty rug & air heavy with dead cigar smoke, mildew & damp, and how roughly seven weeks ago, 10 December 1943, after circling around north from the Swiss border, I entered H claiming to be a Berliner recovering from pneumonia, & you have heard the bare facts as I reported them from Basle the moment I crossed back. Probably every intelligence service in the world has heard them by now. But if you stick to them, you won’t understand what really happened. Of course my original information-gathering plan was a bust, but you’ll agree that these unanticipated developments made the trip (how should I put it?) useful.
H is a heavily Catholic rural village at the edge of the Schwarzwald. I arrived on a narrow-gauge railroad train that had been gasping & shaking uphill for an hour. I’d mildly sedated myself as I always do in these circumstances as a safety measure, to keep me looking bored in the presence of police & SS & busybodies, and the pills let me doze away this trip uneventfully. On arrival I had to wait for a passing wagon to jounce me farther uphill into town. Nearly all the houses are wood, a few stucco, all with steep roofs—the town resembles some kind of giant, shabby cuckoo clock. Four shops & the mayor’s large house including the local Gasthaus & beerhall; and a large stone church. With the sun full east in the early morning, the firs above the town are nearly black against the snow’s dry glitter; the valley below is so bright that when you look back, the village is greened-out by the afterimage, and for a few moments you can barely see. The wooden houses have a cool piney fragrance inside.
About the Author
David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale.