Act I Scene 24


Chief of the General Staff’s quarters.

(Conrad von Hötzendorf alone. Pose: arms crossed, leans with weight on one leg, reflective.)

CONRAD (glancing upwards):    If only Skolik[1] was here now!

MAJOR (entering):    Reporting for duty, Excellency, Skolik is here.

CONRAD:    Skolik? Which Skolik is that?

MAJOR:    Skolik the court photographer, from Vienna, the one who took that gorgeous photo of you back in the Balkan War, with your Excellency so engrossed in the map of the Balkans.

CONRAD:    Oh, yes, I do recall something, rather blurred.

MAJOR:    No, it was crystal clear, Excellency, and very well lit.

CONRAD:   Yes, of course, I remember, it was superb.

MAJOR:    He insists Your Excellency ordered him to come back.

CONRAD:    One wouldn’t really say ordered, but I did let drop a hint for him to come, since the man does take lovely photographs. He wrote that he just can’t cope with the demand for pictures from magazines, and that my portrait was exceptionally successful at the time, in short –

MAJOR:    He’s made a request to photograph all the generals in one go.

CONRAD:    I don’t like that! Let them get their own photographer.

MAJOR:    He says as they’ve got no heads worth talking about he’ll do them all in long shot.

CONRAD:    Ah, that’s different. All right, in with Skolik! Hang on though – should we be poring over the map of the Balkans again – that was extraordinarily – but I think maybe Italy for a change –

MAJOR:    That’s much more fitting now.

(Conrad von Hötzendorf spreads out the map and tries out various poses. When the photographer enters with the major, he is already poring over the map of the Italian theatre of war. The photographer bows low. The major stands by the table. He and Conrad stare at the map.)

CONRAD:    What is it now? Can’t I have a moment’s – I was just about to –

(The major winks at the photographer.)

SKOLKIK:    Just a little, impromptu photo, Excellency, I beg you.

CONRAD:    I’m up to my eyes in this epoch-making task, so –

SKOLIK:    I’m taking this for the Interessante, so –

CONRAD:    Ah, quite, as a memento of that epoch –

SKOLIK:    Right, it’s also for the Illustrated Week –

CONRAD:    But I could end up in there with all the other generals, I know very well, I would really much prefer –

SKOLIK:    No, Excellency, Your Excellency can be perfectly reassured on that point. With Your Excellency’s immortal name, it goes without saying that Your Excellency will be portrayed entirely separately. The rest will all be lumped together, under the headline ‘Our Glorious Military Leaders’ or something similar, all you’ll see of them as individuals will be on postcards.

CONRAD:   Really? So, who have you got, don’t forget Höfer, very capable man, he gets an extra twenty thousand crowns field allowance, just to read his own name every day when he buys his newspaper on the Ringstrasse.

SKOLIK:    I’ve already made a note Excellency, it’ll be in the first line.

CONRAD:    The first line, I was having a joke! So how will you juggle things to fit me in? Not too conspicuous though, not too conspicuous, my friend, but not with the others, something subtle! Subtlety every time!

SKOLIK:   The space has already been booked. Actually it’ll be a front page picture in the Illustrated Week.A really fascinating edition, I’ve still got to deliver some of the little mademoiselles who model for the Wiener Werkstätte[2] and a few of Treumann’s actresses, after that I absolutely know for certain there’s a piece about His Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm on a boar hunt, a previously unseen picture, right next to something truly sensational, His Royal Highness with the poet Ganghofer. I’m sure Your Excellency –

CONRAD:    All right, not bad, not bad – but I’m afraid at the moment, my friend – couldn’t you come back a bit later, I’m actually – I’ll tell you this in confidence, you mustn’t breathe a word, I’m actually poring over this map of the Balkans – oh, what am I talking about, this map of Italy –

(The major winks at the photographer, who is about to step back.)

SKOLIK:    That’s perfect – it’s a moment of intense self-composure, and we have to seize it. I can see the caption: General Conrad von Hötzendorf and aide-de-camp, Major Rudolf Kundmann[3], pore over a map of the Balkans – what am I saying, over the Italian theatre. Can we say that, Excellency?

CONRAD:    Yes, as far as I’m concerned – since Kundmann would simply adore it, he can hardly wait – (He stares at the map, the major, who hasn’t moved from the spot, does the same. They both smooth their moustaches.) Will it take long?

SKOLIK:    Just wait one historic moment, if you’ll allow me –

CONRAD:    Shall I carry on studying the map of the Balk – of Italy –

SKOLIK:    Just relax, Excellency, keep on poring over the map – there –very spontaneous – very casual – that’s it – no, that’s a little unnatural, people might think it’s posed – if I can ask the major to move back – the head – good – no, Excellency, more relaxed – undaunted, more undaunted please! – an air of authority if I can ask for that! – it has to – just – to be an historic memento of these great times – that’s it! – only – a little – just like that – Excellency, a really belligerent face! – please! Now – ah, thank you!


[1] Charles Skolik, court photographer.

[2] The Viennese Workshop, founded in 1903 by artists and designers Josef Hofmann and Kalomon Moser; it was about incorporating modern design and contemporary art into daily life, in jewellery, fabrics, fashion, ornamentation, furniture, ceramics, etc., looking back to the work of William Morris in England and forward to the Bauhaus in Germany. Hofmann and Moser were both members of the Viennese Secession; they and their collaborators took much inspiration from Art Nouveau but their style became characterised by straight lines, geometric shapes, minimal decoration. The Werkstätte closed in 1932.

[3] Rudolf Kundmann, major (1869-1934); member of the General Staff and adjutant to Hötzendorf; he kept a diary of life inside the General Staff; invested in 1918 as Knight of the Order of St Stephen of Hungary, a rare order of the Empire’s; the knights were supposedly ‘distinguished for virtue and merit and noble birth’.