‘Doom’ vs. ‘Der Schicksal’

I’m still plowing my way very slowly, but  more quickly in recent days, through William Gass’ troubling masterpiece, The Tunnel. I think I’ve managed to write more notes on some pages than there is text, what with the horrific gems on every tenth or so page. I offer this up for your edification, nude of context, in its birthday suit, as it were:

‘Doom’ has become a comic word as well: “Der Führer went recklessly to his doom.” It’s silly–‘doom.’ But I write down ‘doom’–I prefer the word ‘doom’ to others–because of its skull-like eye-holes, sockets into which darkness can be screwed like a dead bulb. Sein Schicksal ereilte ihn. Adolf Hitler could go to his doom because he had one. Only those who have made a pact with the devil have a doom. Hitler, Faust, Don Juan, Leverkühn, have dooms. I’m sure none of my students merits such distinction. The devil does not sign contracts with just anyone. Upon the tens of tons of anonymous millions, no judgment is pronounced. For them there is death, of course, but no doom. The trouble with history is its incorrigible and horrifying  honesty. Only the truly damned matter a damn to it. History is the abyss of the doomed. How does that hit you, Henry? Doom. Yes. ‘Doom’ is securely Middle English. ‘Doom’ is not der Schicksal. Der Schicksal cannot hack it. Der Schicksal is a shop where you can buy pork. So I write down ‘doom’–I prefer the word ‘doom’ to its brothers–because it looks like a busker’s malevolent mask; the consonants hook over the ears. And those same ears do not fail to hear the snickers which arise from my class like a rustle of leaves when I complete block-lettering the big pair on the blackboard and turn my unsmiling face to them. Damn you, I think. What do you aspire to? Nothing. Me too. But I want to be made an offer. I want a doom to go to. I aspire to the abyss.” (William Gass, The Tunnel, p. 185).

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