March 15, 2018
I arrived at the Hotel Koruna on the 27th of January. The hotel is situated on the hillside above the main road through town. During my first days here, it was impossible to gather my thoughts—not that I would have written this note to you earlier, in any case. That first week seemed to have coincided with school vacation, as the hotel was full of families with children making incredible noise. Mornings, following the tumult of the common breakfast hour, were generally peaceful, but by three or four in the afternoon, after, in other words, the ski resorts would close for the day, the clamor would begin in earnest and continue until it died down around 8 or 9pm. Nights are frigid—temperatures well below zero. The pale lights of the small town are helpless against the darkness cascading down from the mountain peaks, which rise from this valley in all directions. Don’t get me wrong—I haven’t been sitting in the Hotel Koruna all day and night. On most days, I take the lift up the mountain and cross-country ski along the ridge for as many as 20 kilometers, losing myself in the fresh alpine air—and an exquisite feeling of freedom. By late afternoon, though, I am back in my room on the top floor of the hotel, sitting over these pages, trying to work my way back into this elusive past. I look on as the afternoon shadows stretch toward evening, thinning, blending together with the encroaching dusk, forming the perfect counterpoint to the gleaming snowy hillsides and meadows that sweep out from the mountain ridge. I have copied the following quote, slightly redacted, onto a notecard (in an attempt at “clarity”—one of your favorite words) and have placed it in the corner of the antique desk in my small and rather airless room: …alone here in Spindelmühle, on a forsaken road…where one keeps slipping in the snow in the dark, senseless road…without an earthly goal… I could just as easily have written: a kind of Wandering in the Wilderness in reverse, but I have chosen not to. Does anything exist between Wilderness and the Promised Land? As you can tell, it has become a habit of mine to stumble down these forsaken roads and into lost spaces, lost like the Hotel Koruna. It would be a mistake to think that a person (I, above all) could be a tourist here—could be on vacation here. There is no other way to be here than to move into this place entirely and forever, even if this “forever” is a single, sleepless night—sleepless precisely because one must sit over the desk and write a kind of ecstatic account of an ascent toward those peaks, that heaven abandoned, toward the withdrawn divine spirit, which, if it had an earthly home at all, must have been on the barren mountaintop. The bridge; the road; the river; the mountains: what can this Špindlerův Mlýn have in common with that Spindelmühle? What remains of a place long since lost to the past? What remains of me, caught in the borderland between then and now? I cannot break free of this place, Henry, despite the unsatisfactory nature of nearly everything here: the staff, the other guests, the room and its furnishings, the food. I am sinking ever deeper into the snow, sinking down into a maze of tunnels, through which pulsate the strange, historical vibrations that accompany (and often drown out) my prose.
by Seth Rogoff