Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Herbert Rosendorfer's The Architect of Ruins

‘Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?’

‘I haven't thought about that for a long time.’

‘We – ’, he pointed to Weckenbarth, Don Emanuele Da Ceneda and himself, ‘we believe in them. Not in the form of a fiery Hell with lots of little souls being poached in cannibals' cooking-pots, as they teach children; not even’, he smiled, ‘in the rather less crude version that Dante describes. We believe in the separation of Heaven and Hell rather in the manner of – Weckenbarth, you tell him theparable.’

‘After lift-off a spaceship, with all its booster rockets and so forth, has to reach a certain speed before it can escape from - for simplicity's sake, let's say from the terrestrial sphere.’

‘The speed’, I said, ‘must be great enough for it to overcome the earth's gravitational pull.’

‘Yes, but that is not the important point here. This is: once it has left the terrestrial sphere, a rocket retains the speed it had at the moment it entered “space”. That's it; there is absolutely no way the speed can be changed.’

‘And it is the same with the soul’, continued Dr. Jacobi. ‘I have written a book on that as well.’ With visible satisfaction, he flicked some cigar ash off his waistcoat, though without noticing that it landed on his trousers. ‘You believe in life after death. I say: consciousness after death. And is it not reasonable to believe that our consciousness after death should depend on the state of our consciousness before death? You should think about that … or read my book …. Do you know’, he went on quickly, ‘how I would like to die? At one of those moments of sublime pleasure, listening to the adagio from the Prague symphony, for example, or to the first movement – ’, with tears in his eyes and a touching solemnity he gave the complete title,‘ – of the Quartet in D minor for two violins, viola and cello, Opus posthumus, known as Death and the Maiden. I imagine I would be transformed into one of those ethereally joyful melodies of Mozart or Schubert and resound from eternity to eternity.’ He smiled again in an attempt to control his emotion. ‘For me, Mozart and Schubert are the twin peaks of music. – And yes’, now he was laughing, ‘I've written a book about that too.’

‘It is in order to grant Dr. Jacobi that final wish’, said Weckenbarth, ‘and to save many others from being surprised by death, from an accidental death – ’

‘From death as a waste product of the holocaust, so to speak – ’, interrupted Dr. Jacobi, ‘such as the death by evaporation of the Japanese, it is to allow them to come through the end of the world – which, in our opinion, is nigh – unscathed and to soar into the hereafter in a state of complete mental and spiritual harmony, that we have – ’

‘ – he has – ’, said Dr. Jacobi.

‘ – built a tower. Well, “tower” is misleading, “inverse tower” might be more accurate, a tower that goes down into the earth. Just imagine a gigantic cigar going straight down into the ground; only a one hundred and twenty-fifth part of it is above ground, and that part is as high as the dome of St Peter’s in Rome, right down to the last millimetre, we attach great importance to symbolism! The whole thing is pretty extensive.’