Act I Scene 20


Bukowina[1] front. Unit base. Lieutenants Fallot[2] and Beinstaller[3] enter.

FALLOTA:    Do you know, yesterday I picked up a really cute Polish bint – hot or what! Pity we can’t put her in the group photo for the Musket.

BEINSTELLER:    Ah, sweet enough to eat, eh! – Now then, the chaplain needs his picture taken for the Interessante, on horseback, giving the last rites to a dying man. That’s easily done of course, it can even be posed if necessary, you know, someone can just lie down, and the editor’s also asking for a prayer at a soldier’s grave, well, we can do that anytime.

FALLOTA:    Yesterday I snapped a really arresting shot. A dying Russian, a real human interest piece, with a bullet in the head, so natural. You know, he could still stare at the camera. He had a look in his eye, you know, as if he was posing, first-rate, is that one for the Interessante, would they take it?

BEINSTELLER:    Absolutely, they’d even pay as well.

FALLOTA:    You think? Listen, you missed something yesterday, we were about to execute a spy for a Sascha-Film[4] newsreel, the Ruthenian priest, you know, and the corporal holding him only fainted, pity you weren’t there.

BEINSTELLER:    What did you do with the eejit?

FALLOTA:    Tied him upright, made him do it. I wasn’t about to put him in the brig, it’s not peacetime – the brig’s just what these fellows would love.

BEINSTELLER:     You know, I don’t understand the Russians. Their prisoners say they never get the punishments back home our guys do here!

FALLOTA:    And that’s more than enough about them, a nation of slaves! Have you read Kappus’s poem[5]? It’s in verse and it even rhymes!

BEINSTELLER:    The Musket really is on the ball at the moment – I mean Schönpflug’s cartoons –

FALLOTA:    Something else altogether! Look, I’ll give you a laugh – You know what, I’m going to start a diary, with everything in it, everything that happens to me. Beginning with that piss-up the day the before yesterday. A cute little Polish piece, and when I say cute – (makes a curvaceous gesture)

BEINSTELLER:    Hmm, boobs – oh, you get on with it, you know I’m more of a culture vulture. I read a great deal. I’ve almost finished the latest from Englehorn’s Library of Romance[6]. Earlier on, when I was at the front – we had no end of piss-ups. Music too. I’ve got a gramophone I filched fromm some big house. You can lend me your Polish bint and she can dance to it.

FALLOTA:    You know who else is having the time of his life out here? Nowak of the 14th[7], he was always a great guy. If he didn’t chalk up sixty shots a day with his rifle he got very ugly with his men. Pühringer[8] sent me a note a couple of days back; Nowak was watching some old Serbian peasant who was going to draw water from the River Drina. There was a lull in the action, so he says to Pühringer, just like that, you see that one over there, then he takes aim, and boom, he bags him. Fantastic guy, Nowak. If it moves he’ll shoot it. He’s already been put up for an Order of the Iron Cross.

BEINSTELLER:    That’s a classic! Of course all those peace-pillocks just don’t get it. You know, I’ll be interested to see how Scharinger[9] worms his way out of that stupid business he got himself into, did you hear about it?

FALLOTA:    When he chickened out during an attack?

BEINSTELLER:    Excuse me, that’s no way to talk about a career officer –

FALLOTA:    Oh, right, you mean the business with the cook, when he put him right in the firing line for burning the –

BEINSTELLER:    No, it was about a coat – you must have heard, he moves into quarters where a colonel was living, Kratochwila von Schlachtentreu[10], and when he leaves he walks off with a coat that’s just lying around there. You must have heard? Well, I’ll fill you in. So the colonel bumps into him and he spots this coat, all packed to go. Scharinger trots out some excuse, he says he thought it was a coat the enemy must have nicked from the big house, and he’s about to return it. Consequently – well, you can imagine what a pig’s ear he made of it all. So now he’s got to worm his way out.

FALLOTA:    I don’t understand – crap like that. There never used to be any hassle over that sort of shit before. If it was booty – so be it! The good old days! Even an archduke like Josef Ferdinand[11] could pick up a fine carriage and pair for himself, not to mention some tasty altar cloths and vestments; we know he’s got a real feeling for art and jewellery, stuff like that. I actually got some classy pieces myself then – well, I do have a nose for it – no, really – you know the piano I nicked, no can say that’s not top-notch!

BEINSTELLER:    No, it’s fantastic.

FALLOTA:    It was what we all expected, I mean the general’s wife took all the bed linen and clothes from his billet, just for personal use naturally, and we all knew his daughter got her outfits straight from the War Office. Those were the days. We helped ourselves to grain, livestock, anything else we needed. There was always fun too, what with the punishment beatings and all that. And non-stop champagne! Now it’s just so boring. I can’t say there’s any real pleasure left for me out here, well, apart from the totty.

BEINSTELLER:    I get the feeling there’s an appetite for another big push though, I suppose it would make a bit of a change at any rate.

FALLOTA:    The last one was crazy though. Two thousand wounded, six hundred dead – I’m not sentimental, I’m always for getting on with the job –

BEINSTELLER:    That one was definitely a mystery to me.

FALLOTA:    We didn’t take the tiniest section of trench, it was all about getting something in the papers. Four weeks the men were pinned down –

BEINSTELLER:    That’s how it is. They’ve been dealing out the tarot cards again upstairs. So let’s have a push, that’s the word. If the men are getting pissed off with the dried vegetables, let’s have a push. Just so the men don’t get stale. And afterwards Archduke Fat Freddie[12] in Vienna says: Look at it, call that a result? Oh, they reply, well, the men haven’t got anything else to do really. It’s hardly grand strategy, I have to say, and I’m certainly not the squeamish sort! I still think that whenever possible – be a bit economical with the manpower. But this – first they blow all the trained personnel, next they send men straight from their medicals to the front. Canon-fodder, they couldn’t tell a hand grenade from a piece of shit. Is that how to run things?

FALLOTA:    Well, it is how to get on the right side of Pflanzer.

BEINSTELLER:    Thank you and goodnight, the colonel goes ballistic if there are too many survivors after a retreat. You know that? He really let rip at one company, why don’t you all want to croak? Böhm-Ermolli’s[13] lot call it the Pflanzer-Baltin strategy – the only good soldier’s a dead soldier.

FALLOTA:    There was a real kerfuffle with the wounded the other day. Well, who’d have thought there’d be so many of them, just not enough ambulances. There were some cars but they were in town with the generals, at the theatre. They did phone but no one came back. It was pandemonium.

BEINSTELLER:    It’s always a hassle with the wounded though.

FALLOTA:    But they could take more care with our men. I understand we have to give the natives a bit of a kicking, but when all’s said and done one does need troops! Still, we’ve carried out two hundred and forty civilian death sentences this month, on the spot jobs, that’s running like clockwork.

BEINSTELLER:    Political prisoners?

FALLOTA:    Let’s just say politically dubious.

BEINSTELLER:    In what way?

FALLOTA:    You know, troublemakers and so on.

BEINSTELLER:    Unbelievable!

FALLOTA:    I’m not one for martial law myself, with all that obsessive, legal hair-splitting – all that ridiculous, endless paperwork: Execution ordered! Execution carried out! Have you ever looked at a legal document, I certainly haven’t. Once my sabre’s girded to my side I don’t feel the need.

BEINSTELLER:    They even expect us to turn up for the executions!

FALLOTA:    Well, at the start I was actually quite interested. But now, well if I’m in the middle of a card game, I simply send a cadet. You can hear it all from inside anyway. We’ve got a couple of decent lawyers from Vienna now. But it’s still a pig of a job. Oh, I’ve been put up for the Cross of Merit.

BEINSTELLER:    Congratulations! Tell me, how’s it going with Floderer[14]? Is the old bastard still shooting up his own men?

FALLOTA:    Absolutely! They discovered he was pretty well paralysed a year ago – but that’s no help. They keep sending him away and he just keeps coming back. It’s a complete mystery how he manages it. The other day he brought down some sergeant whose lieutenant had sent him back for more ammunition; he thought the poor sod was doing a runner. Didn’t even bother to challenge him, bang, dead and gone.

BEINSTELLER:    One more, one less. You know, after a year of this business now, on the whole – I have to say, dead, that’s no big deal. The wounded are the biggest hassle. In a year or so, come the peace, all we’ll get is organ grinders, I feel like covering my ears up already. What are we going to do with these people?  Wounded – it’s such a half-arsed business. I say: a hero’s death or nothing, anything less and you’ve only got yourself to blame.

FALLOTA:    The blind are the worst, all that creepy groping about. I was coming back from leave recently, and I got to this station just as a bunch of soldiers were pushing one of them around, laughing and having a real ball.

BEINSTELLER:    Fair enough – you should have seen how the divisional commander made a fool of one of one of those shell-shock freaks too.

FALLOTA:    Well, a man of sensitivity might want to look askance at that, but you know what I say in such cases? In such cases I say war is war.

BEINSTELLER:    So how’s your batman chappie? How old is he now?

FALLOTA:    Just forty-eight. Yesterday I gave him a clip round the ear for his birthday.

BEINSTELLER:    What did he actually do – before?

FALLOTA:    I don’t know, composer, philosopher, something like that

BEINSTELLER:    Mayerhofer[15] was in Teschen[16] last week. You know how our God and supreme commander walks the streets there, Archduke Fat Freddie? With his field marshal’s baton – purely decorative of course!

FALLOTA:    Do you think he take it with him when he goes to the khazi?

BEINSTELLER:    And he’s got an honorary one from Kaiser Willy now, perhaps he takes them both.

FALLOTA:    My God, they’ll look like a pair of crutches!

BEINSTELLER:    Hey, you remember that shapely little Viennese Jewess quite an in-the-know nymphet too, well, she’s back again, gagging for it – if we could just make the right arrangements, it would be no bad thing –

FALLOTA:    You’d screw anything. But you know what – I’d be happy to spend an evening at the Gartenbau again or at Sirk Corner, just like before.

BEINSTELLER:    What? The Gartenbau?  You’re scuppered there.

FALLOTA:    Why?

BEINSTELLER:    Just in Vienna and you don’t know it’s a hospital?

FALLOTA:    Oh, that’s right! (Preoccupied) of course – but look, I’ve settled in here all right. I’ve picked myself up a piano and some bits of art –

BEINSTELLER:    Bits of art for you, tits and tarts for me.

FALLOTA:   You know, I think it’s going to rain.

BEINSTELLER (looks up):    It is raining! Let’s go.

FALLOTA:    Heard anything of Doderer[17]? The luck of the Devil that one.

BEINSTELLER:    Yes, he was always a cute customer.

FALLOTA:    Cute whoor’s more like it. And a skiving bastard!


[1] Bukowina (Bucovina, Romanian; Bukovyna, Ukrainian), north-east of the Carpathian Mountains, a region now divided between Romania and Ukraine; its capital, Czernowitz (Czernivtsi) is in Ukraine.

[2] Fiddler. (Pro n.14)

[3] Scammer.

[4] Alexander Kolowrat’s film studio. (Pro n.44)

[5] Franz Xaver Kappus (1883-1966), wrote several novels and at least one screenplay (‘Der Mann, den man den Nahmen stahl’, director Wolfgang Staudte, 1944); best known for ten letters the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) wrote to him after he asked for advice about his own poetry; when he wrote to Rilke in 1902 Kappus was at the Military Academy in Vienna. Rilke writes about poetry, in the broadest terms, and a range of human ideas, experiences, emotions; he says little about Kappus’s verse except ‘Your poems have no style of their own’. Kappus abandoned poetry but this suggests he was still writing during the war.

[6] Engelhorns Allgemeine Romanbibliothek: Eine Auswahl der besten-modernen Romane aller Völker’, ‘Englehorn’s Universal Library of Fiction: A Selection of the Best Modern Fiction for All’, an anthology of popular novels, first published in 1884; though Roman means ‘novel’, not ‘romantic novel’, Kraus is not congratulating the Engelhorn anthologies on their choice of material. The Reader’s Digest anthologies of condensed books occupied a somewhat similar niche in the English-speaking world from the 1950’s.

[7] Infantry regiment.

[8] Austrian name; Pühring is in the municipality of Kronstorf in Upper Austria, near Linz.

[9] Also an Austrian name; Schärding is a town and district in Upper Austria, right on the border with Germany, close to Passau called Scharing in the area’s Austro-Bavarian dialect.

[10] Whoopee-Slaughtermain; Kratochwila is a version of a Czech and Slovak surname, Kratochwil and Kratochvil; the ch is pronounced as in ‘loch’; the Czech word kratochvile means something like ‘pastime’, ‘amusement’; Schlachtentreu was used in another double-barrelled name in the Prologue. (Pro n.17)

[11] Josef Ferdinand Salvator, archduke (1872-1942), general who successively replaced Dankl and Auffenberg after their devastating losses at the hands of the Russians; he was replaced as commander of the 4th army when he suffered the same fate; also General Inspector of the Austro-Hungarian Air Force.

[12] Friedrich, archduke, Duke of Teschen (1856-1936), supreme commander of the Austro-Hungarian army, on the presumption that he would not actually stick his nose to anything remotely operational.

[13] Eduard von Böhm-Ermolli, baron (1856-1920), general, later field marshal on the Russian front.

[14] Wobbler; Floderer is a very uncommon Austrian name; the equally uncommon verb flodern means basically ‘flutter’ or ‘flicker’; similar words can also mean ‘wobble’, ‘be unsteady’; ‘throw a wobbly’.

[15] Austrian name; several towns have localities called Mayerhof; Adolf Mayerhofer (1857-1932) was a portrait and landscape artist who painted both Franz Josef and his successor Karl.

[16] Teschen (Těšin, Czech; Cieszyn, Polish), a town in Silesia now on either side of the border between the Czech Republic and Poland; it was divided between Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1920

[17] Uncommon Austrian surname; no obvious meaning, though the Austrian word Dodel means someone ‘naïve’ or ‘stupid’. But in the spirit of Fallota: Doddler? There was one Doderer on the Galician front at this time; Heimito von Doderer (1896-1966), a law student who volunteered in 1915; captured by the Russians in 1916, released 1920; he became a writer and NSDAP member; his vast novel of 1920’s Vienna ‘Die Dämonen: Nach der Chronik des Sektionsrates Geyrenhoff’, ‘The Demons’, was published in 1956.