Ernst Jünger

Twinnings’ telegram had arrived on Saturday: I was to come for an interview. On Sunday since I was haunted by what Twinnings had told me before I had left, I succeeded in running to earth Caretti’s family doctor. The consultation had set me at ease. The doctor did not think he was betraying a confidence when he told me what had been the matter with Caretti; in any case it was generally known. Like so many overscrupulous people at Zapparoni’s, Caretti had gradually become peculiar, eventually beyond the admissible limit. A maniac disturbance, diagnosed by the doctors as a compulsion neurosis coupled with a persecution mania, was nourished by hallucinations about automatons. In such cases the patients believe themselves threatened by cunningly devised machinery, and their world slowly transforms itself into a phantasmagoria, similar to the imaginings of medieval paintings. Caretti had suffered from the delusion of being encircled by minute, evilly-intentioned airplanes.

It is not unusual that such disturbed people disappear and never turn up again. The doctor, a slightly built, nervous psychiatrist, remembered a patient whose remains had been found after some years in a badger’s burrow: he had crawled into it and killed himself. The doctor was very voluble, describing the symptoms pedantically but with such relish that on my way home I almost reached the point of imagining myself threatened by similar phantoms. Actually, I was much relieved.

The Glass Bees

The plant now appeared in the distance: low white towers and flat-roofed ateliers in great numbers, all without antennas or chimneys. The buildings were surrounded by bright colors, since the all-encircling wall was covered with innumerable posters. A side line of the business, cultivated by Zapparoni with special devotion, was the cinema, which he had brought to an almost fabulous perfection with his robots and automatons.

Prognoses which have been made contend that our technology will terminate in pure necromancy. If so, everything we now experience would be only a departure and mechanics would become refined to a degree that would require any crude embodiment. Lights, words, yes even thoughts, would be sufficient. Clearly, the Zapparoni films had very nearly realized such a future. The dreams of old Utopians were coarse-grained in comparison. With the freedom and elegance of dancers, and automatons had opened up a world of their own. Here a principle operative only in dreams—namely, that matter thinks—seemed to be realized. Naturally, these movies had a strong attraction. Children, in particular were held spellbound. Zapparoni had dethroned the old stock figures of the fairy tales. Like one of the storytellers who sits down on a carpet in an Arabian coffeehouse and transforms the room, he spun out his fables. He created novels which could not only be read, heard, and seen but could be entered as one enters a garden. In his opinion, nature was inadequate, both in its beauty and logic, and should be surpassed. He created, in fact, a style which became a model for the actors who adapted themselves to it. Among his creations were the most charming puppets—truly enchanting visions.

The Glass Bees is published by NYRB Classics, and is available for purchase here.

Background illustration by Marcela Gutiérrez