Author: Waltraud Seidlhofer
Translator: Rosmarie Waldrop

a city consists first of all of facades.
everybody arriving in a city is immediately confronted with them.
there is no chance of escaping facades.
the facades of a city face the newcomer in a friendly, hostile or indifferent manner.
sometimes the facades of particular cities are similar.
this may be because of the kind of city (industrial, commercial, seaport etc.) or because of the period of construction.
the similarity of two cities may be a subjective feeling in a person.
here personal factors play an important part.
a special kind of similarity of two cities is their being opposites:
it is possible that 2 cities are different in almost all respects so that one can be called the negative of the other.
between such cities there is a particular kind of bond which is apt to affect individual inhabitants of these cities when they meet—perhaps by chance— in a very particular way.
when the inhabitants of the two cities have carried out their function, that is the comparison of the two cities, according to their abilities they may separate without further problems. new encounters will take place.
in all these encounters chance plays an essential part.

facades close rank.
they are serried.
their different color, form, style etc. does not keep them from lining up in blocks.
facades in closed rank are impenetrable.
from facades in closed rank no help can be expected.
it is impossible to speak to them.
it is impossible to stand up against them.
they will not answer.
one cannot demand that they take a position.
especially in late winter facades in closed rank convey disapproval.
evening and morning lights on facades in closed rank increases one’s insecurity.
facades cannot be circumvented.

here, unlike in c, said p, facades are pushed close together, it’s difficult to pass between them, occasionally you may find an unexpected doorway or alley to the next street, next square, but generally facades are forbidding if lovely, a contradiction that a non-native is hard put to get around.
in c on the other hand, said p, everything is planned on a large scale, the color white dominates, nobody has the impression of being crowded or imprisoned, rather, in c, you feel exposed to a freedom that borders on lawlessness.
did i know, asked p, that c had been planned and designed as the capital at the beginning of the century, and that these plans are still being carried out, a new government building is under construction now, the library was finished only recently.
did he know, i asked, that this city is first documented in the year 947, that even roman names for it are recorded, that large-scale building is only possible on the periphery; the inner city is simply too crowded and will or rather will have to remain so because this crowding, i.e. the inner city, is classified as a historical monument.
and historical monuments are impossible to get around.

from time to time buildings are torn down whose facades are to be left standing. it’s always facades classified as historical monuments.
for tearing down buildings whose facades are to be left standing a particular procedure has been developed.
in tearing down buildings whose facades are to be left standing particular caution is indicated.
the facades must not be damaged under any circumstances.
if, in tearing down buildings whose facades are to be left standing, there is a danger that the latter will collapse, the entire project has to be abandoned.
facades protect the buildings behind them.
facades are propped up.
access to them is made secure.
the window panes of the facades may be taken off temporarily.
jolts are to be avoided when tearing down buildings whose facades are to be left standing.
noise is to be kept to a minimum.
if need be the facades must be protected with tarps, plastic sheets etc.
loud talking is prohibited on the demolition site.
the facade is to be treated with profound respect.
debris must be cleared as quickly as possible.
the area behind the facades is off limits.
usually, when a building is torn down whose facade is to be left standing, a great many people gather.
they often wait for hours for the moment when the building that belongs to the facade is completely torn down.
the sight they are then offered is rare and therefore particularly impressive.
the facade has become transparent.

yesterday, said p, he went into city in the other direction.
he went as far as the train station,
down the steps,
through an underpass,
he heard a train pass above him,
climbed up stairs again,
walked on,
i asked him
how far
he said
he neither watched the time
nor could estimate the distance,
he could at most describe the buildings
and even that was not one hundred percent sure.
but i know exactly
how long it takes
to get to the school on the right
to the apartment blocks on the left
to the hospital
to the woods.
for me
itineraries and time are measured exactly
without exceptions
without secrets
and i am welcomed by relatives and friends
p however
has the possibility to come and go
he is not asked questions
his way is not blocked
no answers
are pushed at him
said p
he did not always find this state


Originals © Waldtraud Seidlhofer, Neue Texte, 1976
Translations © Rosemarie Waldr