A fifty-year-old professor of history and literature, Moses Herzog, wrote letters, wrote decisively to everyone in the world-people who are personally acquainted and unfamiliar, living and dead, relatives of former and existing, thinkers and presidents, publishers and fellow workers, church leaders, and so on, no one specifically, but sometimes, either to himself or to the Lord God. Among his addressees among the well-known personalities were Spinoza, Eisenhower, Nietzsche, Rozanov, Heidegger…
And on one piece of paper there was a place and controversy with Herr Nietzsche about the nature of the Dionysian beginning, and gentle words addressed to the abandoned girlfriend, and addressed to the president of Panama’s council to fight the dominance of rats in the country with the help of contraceptives.
Others explained this strangeness of the Duke by the fact that the old man, apparently, moved his mind, – and were wrong. It was just that the second divorce was too costly for him: the very fact, and the completely disgusting circumstances that accompanied him, finally knocked the soil from under the feet of the Duke. This soil, as he understood, reasonably considered, and the time for sensible reflection, like the corresponding arrangement of the spirit, suddenly appeared when the usual course of family and academic existence was interrupted-had already not been immutable for a long time: the sixth dozen was exchanged; two initially happy, but broken up marriage – from each child; some other women, like wives, who appropriated the worst particles of his soul;
Friends, with rare exceptions, turned out to be either traitors or boring idiots; Academic career, brilliantly started – the thesis of Moses Herzog “Romanticism and Christianity” was translated into a number of languages - but gradually fading away under a heap of paper that was not destined to turn into a book that answers the most pressing questions for Western people.
Perhaps, the Duke wrote his letters just to re-embark on a more or less solid ground – they served him as a thread, stretched in all sorts of directions to different epochs, ideas, social institutions, people… With their tension, these strings more or less fixed, determined the position of the Duke in the universe, asserted him, Moses Herzog, a person in the face of the rampant entropy that encroaches in our century on the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, family, professional and sexual life of the human divid,
Maybe, however, all this only seemed to him. It did not seem, but clearly passed before Duke’s mental gaze, forming in memory from disparate episodes and flowing one into another plots, the eventual, actual side of his life. Unlike our hero, we try to restore the cause-effect relationships and time sequence, we start with the background. Moses’ father, Ion Isakovich Duke, lived in Petersburg on falsified documents of the merchant of the first guild, flooding the Russian market with onion from Egypt. He flourished until the police, before the war, brought him to clean water; but the process of the dagger Duke did not wait and with his family hastily moved to Canada, where the prosperity of the Dukes came to an end. Jonah tried himself in a variety of occupations – from farming to bootlegging – but everywhere he was followed by a fatal bad luck. And after all it was necessary to feed the family, pay for housing, to take out four children – Moses, two of his brothers and sister. Only at the end of the life of Jonah, Herzog somehow got to his feet and settled in Chicago.
From the world of beggars, mostly Jewish neighborhoods, where Yiddish was heard...
But then Daisy somehow failed, they parted, and Duke began to wander from Philadelphia weekly, where he was reading his course, to see his son in New York. In Philadelphia meanwhile, in his life a touching, undemanding, tender and rather amusing Japanese Sono was formed, and a little later – Madeleine.
Madeline, with her eloquent Pontrythur name, was then a zealous Catholic convert and specialist in the history of Russian religious thought. Almost from the very beginning, she arranged for him in bed tearful scenes on the topic that she had been a Christian for weeks, but because of him, she could not go to confession anymore. The duke loved Madeleine, and therefore, having overcome inhuman difficulties, he obtained a divorce from Daisy in order to marry her;
Sonno told him that Madeleine had evil, cold eyes, but Duke then wrote off her words for jealousy.
The religious fervor Madelin soon somehow came to naught, June she never baptized. The Duke, having succumbed to the temptation of patriarchy, committed an act, which he often regretted: he lost all his father’s inheritance, twenty thousand, to purchase and equip a house in Ludeville, a place in the west of Massachusetts, not even on the state map. Ludeville’s dwelling was to become the patrimonial nest of the Dukes (this phrase was very amusing for Moses), here he planned to complete his book.
The year spent by Herzog and Madeleine in the village house was marked by his purposeful work on the improvement of the dwelling and over the book, their general loving ecstasies, but also the hysterics and attacks of Madeline’s maliciousness, which she explained – when she felt it necessary to do so-annoyed that the mercy of the Duke, she mediocrely spends the best years of life in the wilderness;
As she once aspired to this very wilderness, Madeleine seemed to have forgotten.
Over time, Madelin increasingly began to talk about moving. In the pursuit of large cities, she was supported by Valentine Gersbach, the neighbor of the Dukes, the announcer of a local radio station, constantly insisting that such a brilliant woman and promising specialist should be surrounded by interesting people who would appreciate her and her talents.
What is true is the truth. With society in Ludewila was tight – the circle of communication of the Dukes was limited to Gersbah and his colorless quiet wife, Phoebe. With them, Moses and Madeleine were close friends, Valentine aspired to create an image of a devoted, ardent friendship; sometimes taking a patronizing tone with respect to Duke, he nonetheless slavishly copied everything that he considered noble in Duke.
Madeleine managed to persevere, and the Dukes moved to Chicago, taking with them Phoebe with Valentine, to whom Moses, using old connections, found a good place in the city.
When Herzog rented the house, repaired something, arranged some more trifles, Madelin suddenly solemnly announced to him that everything was over between them, she no longer loves him and therefore he had better go somewhere, for example to New York, leaving Jun to her. Knowing that if a woman leaves a man, it is always final, the Duke did not argue or ask Madeline to think about it.