Lothar-Günther Buchheim / Books / Kitapları
The Boat (Das Boot)
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Lothar-Günther Buchheim – The Boat – some of the e-book pages / bazı ekitap sayfaları
The swishing grows no weaker, no stronger. Somewhere beside me, I hear a grinding of teeth, then a choked sigh. Then another– more of a smothered groan. Lap of honor! The Old Man is right: they’re waiting for us to come up. All they need now is some bit of proof–pieces of wreckage, oil, a few fragments of flesh. But why don’t the swine drop any bombs? I hear water dripping. No one moves. Again the growling voice of the Old Man. “Lap of honor!” And again, “Lap of honor!” Someone whimpers. That must be the Bible Scholar again. The words fill my skull. Long-distance bicycle races in Chemnitz. The mad thrashing of legs. Then the slow pedaling with uplifted, waving hand, a huge golden wreath slung over one shoulder and across the chest – the victor! Lap of honor! At the end, brilliant fireworks, and the crowd busily winding their way homeward to the streetcar station like a great black earthworm. _Vitschivitschivitsch_. . . Reports from astern, whispered from mouth to mouth. I don’t catch them; all I hear is the beating of the propeller. It fills my whole body. I become a drum resonating under the unvarying throb of the screws. The Bible Scholar keeps on whimpering. We all look away from one another, stare at the floor plates or the walls of the control room as though expecting pictures to be projected on them. Someone says, “Jesus!” and the Old Man laughs hoarsely. _Vitschivitschivitsch_ . . Everything seems far away. A misty veil in front of my eyes. Or is it smoke? Are we on fire again someplace? My eyes focus. But the bluish haze remains. Yes, smoke! But god knows where from! I hear the words, “oil spouting!” Good god, must there be an oil leak too? I see brilliant smears, serpentine Art Nouveau configurations, marbled end papers, Icelandic moss. I try to calm myself. The current–it may be a blessing. Wash away the iridescent slick and disperse it.
But what good will that do? The Tommies know the current. They’re at home here. They’ll take it into account in their calculations; they weren’t born yesterday. God knows how much oil has spouted up from our bunkers. But if a lot has escaped, perhaps it’s a good thing. The more the better: the Tommies will think they’ve actually finished the job. Which tank can have cracked?
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Now we are struck by a single ringing blow, like a giant cudgel on a sheet of steel. Two or three men begin to stagger. The air is hazy, hanging in blue layers. And again the heavy explosions. “Thirty-four–thirty-five–thirty-six!” This time the counting comes in a whisper. The Commander remains firm. “What in the world–is bothering you?”
He withdraws into himself once more, calculating courses. It’s deathly still in the boat. After a while the whispering voice comes again. “What’s his bearing now?”
“Two hundred sixty degrees–getting louder!” The Commander raises his head. He’s reached a decision. “Hard a-starboard!” And immediately afterward, “Sound room– we’re
turning to starboard!” A wrench has to be passed through to the stern. I reach for it eagerly and hand it on. Dear god, to be able to _do_ something–turn handwheels, adjust levers, man the pumps. . . The operator leans out into the passageway again. His eyes are open but he’s staring into infinity. He sounds like a medium speaking. “Sounds growing louder–two hundred thirty–two hundred twenty.” “Nonessential lights out,” the Old Man orders. “Who the hell knows how long we may need the current!” The operator reports again, “Attacking again–sounds bearing two
hundred ten degrees–getting louder fast! Quite close!” The excitement has upset his delivery. The Commander orders: “Both engines full ahead!” The seconds stretch out. Nothing. No one moves.
“Let’s hope they don’t get their friends in on it!” The Old Man voices a fear that’s been in my bones for a long time: the sweepers, the killers . . . a pack of dogs is death to the hare.
Whoever has us on the hook now is no beginner, and we’re defenseless in spite of the five torpedoes in our tubes. We can’t surface, we can’t come speeding from behind cover and throw ourselves on the enemy. We haven’t even the grim assurance to be had from simply holding a weapon in your hand. We can’t so much as shout at them. Just creep away. Keep going deeper. How deep are we now? I can’t believe my eyes: the pointer of the manometer stands at 465. “Shipyard guarantee three hundred” flashes through my mind. Ten minutes pass and nothing happens. Another handful of pebbles hits the boat high up on the port buoyancy tank. I can see from the operator’s face that more depth charges are coming. He’s moving his lips, counting the seconds before detonation.
The first is so well aimed that I feel the shock all the way up my spine. We’re in a huge drum with a steel plate for a drum head. I see the navigator’s lips moving but I hear nothing. Have I gone deaf? But now I can hear the Commander. He’s ordering higher speed again. He raises his voice to be heard over the pandemonium. “All right! Carry on just as you are, gentlemen, pay no attention to this nonsense! At home there are . . .” He breaks off in mid-sentence. Suddenly there’s a humming stillness. Only the occasional swish and slap from the bilge. “Bow up! Steady!” the Chief orders the hydroplane men. His whisper sounds too loud in the silence. Once again the E-motors have been reduced to crawling speed. Bilge water gurgles toward the stern. Just where does
it all come from? Wasn’t it properly bailed in advance?
The Old Man seems completely relaxed. Even talkative. “We really should have taken the offensive much earlier–before the Tommies woke up and got themselves organized. Still, when war broke out we had only fifty-seven boats, and no more than thirty-five of them were suitable for the Atlantic. Obviously nowhere near enough to blockade England. Just a tentative sort of stranglehold. And the arguments! To risk everything on U-boats or to build battleships as well. We were never really trusted by the old fogeys in the Imperial Navy. They wanted their proud fleet, regardless of whether battleships were still any use or not. We’re what you might call a con-serv-a-tive club!” Later, as I am stretching my legs in the control room, a new radiogram comes in. “09.20 hours dived to avoid aircraft. One hour underwater. Enemy convoy in sight again. Square Bruno Karl. Position of enemy uncertain–UR.” “I tell you, he’s not going to let ’em slip through his fingers. Navigator, does the convoy seem to be running on a parallel course?” This time the Commander takes only a few minutes at the chart table, then turns abruptly and orders, “Course two hundred seventy degrees. Engines full speed ahead!” Orders are acknowledged. The engine telegraph rings. A heavy shudder runs through the boat, and the pounding of the engines rises to a fierce roar. Oho, so the Old Man’s going to get into it! He isn’t even waiting for an order from Kernével.
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Lothar-Günther Buchheim books – read a passage from – The Boat
Once again everything inside me begins to spin. I want to escape, smash out of the encircling jungle of pipes and machinery, flee the valves and apparatus that are no longer of any use. I suddenly feel a bitter cynicism. After all, this is exactly what you wanted. You were up to your neck in easy living. You wanted to try something heroic for a change. “To stand for once before the ineluctable You got drunk on it all. “. . . where no mother cares for us, no woman crosses our path, where only reality reigns, grim in all its majesty . . .” Well, this is it, this is reality. I can’t keep this up for long. Already self-pity is mounting and I find myself muttering, “Shit, you goddam shit!”
The propeller scratching is so loud that no one can hear me. My heart is thumping in my throat. My skull is threatening to explode. Waiting. Wasn’t that something scraping lightly along the boat–or am I raving? Waiting–waiting–waiting. Never before have I known what it’s really like to be without some weapon in my hand. No hammer to strike out with, no wrench to throw my weight behind.
The roar of the diesels swells, sings in a higher key, then once again sounds dull and rumbling, almost smothered: the diesel music of the sea. The muffled tone means a big wave meeting the bow, the clear singing that the boat is shooting through a trough. Everywhere men are at work reinspecting the connections, as they have so often before. They do it of their own accord, inconspicuously, almost surreptitiously. “Permission to come on the bridge?” “_Jawohl!_” First I look at the wake. It’s boiling-white, the huge, thick, gleaming train of a dress stretching as far as the eye can see, thinning to bottle-green at the horizon in individual tattered strands, as if it had parted at the seams. Both sides are banded in light green, the shade of translucent beer-bottle glass. Over the gratings drift bluewhite fumes from the diesels. I turn toward the bow and get struck in the face by a whiplash of spray. Sea head-on and the diesels at full speed–should have expected what it would be like. Water drips from my nose. “Congratulations,” says the Second Watch Officer. I squint to look at our foreship from the protection of the bulwark. We’re tearing along so hard that the bow is throwing out sheets of water, and broad streaks of foam boil up around the sides. The Commander’s hands are thrust deep into the pockets of his leather trousers. His once-white, battered cap with its greentarnished insignia is pulled far down over his face. He’s searching sky and water with narrowed eyes. Again and again he urges the bridge guards to keep a sharp lookout. He doesn’t go below, even to eat. A full hour passes before he climbs down to have a look at developments on the chart. I go too.