Page 101. " asked me if I played belote "

Belote is a French card game, invented around 1920.

Page 101. " Tu es fou, mon petit "

French: " You're crazy, son".

Page 101. " I couldn't stand Pilsudski "

Józef Klemens Piłsudski (1867–1935), Chief of State (1918–22), "First Marshal" (from 1920) and (1926–35) the authoritarian leader of the Second Polish Republic, de facto dictator of Poland.

In 1922, then Chief of State Gabriel Narutowicz was shot dead by a right-wing painter and art critic who had originally wanted to kill Piłsudski.

Page 104. " an essay of Maeterlinck's on Ruysbroek "

Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard, Count Maeterlinck (1862-1949), Belgian playwright, poet, and essayist; Nobel laureate in literature (1911).

Of Ruysbroek, Maeterlinck wrote, "He knows, though he is unaware of it, the Platonism of Greece, the Sufism of Persia, the Brahmanism of India, and the Buddhism of Thibet."

Page 104. " But Kosti talked of Plotinus and Denis the Areopagite and Jacob Boehme the shoemaker and Meister Eckhart "

Plotinus (CE 204–270), philosopher, founder of Neoplatonism. He posited an alternative to ex nihilo (out of nothing): ex deo (out of God).

Dionysius the Areopagite was the judge of the Areopagus who, as related in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 17:34), was converted to Christianity by the preaching of the Apostle Paul. To him was attributed a series of mystical writings, but this is disputed. The reference is likely to the anonymous author of these writings, known as Pseudo-Dionysius.  In addition to these teachings he is known for his portrayal of via negativa. Negative theology is an attempt to achieve unity with the Divine Good through discernment, gaining knowledge of what God is not, rather than by describing what God is.

Jakob Böhme (1575–1624), German Christian mystic and theologian, considered an original thinker within the Lutheran tradition. Boehme had a mystical vision, which he incorporated into his theology; he believed that in order to reach God, man must first pass through hell. God exists without time or space, he regenerates himself through eternity.

Eckhart von Hochheim (c1260–c1328), commonly known as Meister Eckhart, German theologian, philosopher, and mystic, belonged to the Dominican Order. One of his sermons on the "highest virtue of disinterest" conforms to the Buddhist concept of detachment and more contemporarily, Kant's "disinterestedness."

Kosti's subjects are all Neoplatonists.

Page 105. " out of nothing nothing comes "

This phrase recalls the philosophical argument, first posed by Parmenides and usually framed in Latin, "Ex nihilo nihil fit", that the world has always existed.

Page 106. " so we dawdled along through France and Belgium by way of Namur and Liège and got into Germany through Aachen "
Page 107. " on account of the Eleven Thousand Virgins "
The Church of St. Ursula, in Cologne, Germany, is said to be built on the site where the virgins were killed.

According to legend, Ursula, a Romano-British princess, set sail to join her future  husband, a pagan of Brittany, along with 11,000 virginal handmaidens.  A storm brought them over the sea in a single day. Ursula declared that before her marriage she would undertake a pan-European pilgrimage. In Rome she persuaded the Pope, Cyriacus (unknown in the pontifical records), and Sulpicius, Bishop of Ravenna, to join here and her followers. Cologne was being besieged by Huns, and it was there that all the virgins were beheaded. Ursula was shot dead.

Church of St. Ursula
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeChurch of St. Ursula - Credit: Warburg

Page 107. " he'd play skat with them "

A German trick-taking card game played with 32 cards.

Page 107. " the flight from the Alone to the Alone, of the Dark Night of the Soul and of the final ecstasy in which the creature becomes one with the Beloved "

The flight of the alone to the Alone is part of the fourth state of consciousness, the mystical marriage, the union of God and His creature. The Dark Night of the Soul is a metaphor for a person's spiritual desolation.

W.H. Auden would not write "Brothers who when the sirens roar..." until 1932; he is clearly familiar with these concepts:

Dare-devil mystic who bear the scars

Of many spiritual wars

And smoothly tell

The starving that their one salvation

Is personal regeneration

By fasting, prayer and contemplation;

Is it? Well,


Others have tried it, all delight

Sustained in that ecstatic flight

Could not console

When through exhausting hours they’d flown

From the alone to the Alone,

Nothing remained but the dry-as-bone

Night of the soul.

Page 112. " Jeunesse ne dure qu-un moment. "

French: "Youth is fleeting".

Page 113. " The situation of Joseph has always seemed to me faintly ridiculous. "

Joseph, the 11th of Jacob's 12 sons, in the Book of Genesis, was tricked by his brothers and sold when was 17 years old to Potiphar. He resisted the attempts of his employer's wife to seduce him, after which she brought accusations against him and Joseph was thrown into prison.

Page 116. " a fine portrait by Nattier of a princess of the House of France "

Jean-Marc Nattier (1685–1766), French painter, noted for his portraits of the ladies of the court.

Page 116. " a house in Astor Street "

Astor Street is a historic district of Chicago. It was designated a landmark, and it is the address of the most expensive home in Chicago.

Astor Street
Public DomainAstor Street

Google Map
Page 116. " inspired by a room in the Amelienburg Palace at Munich "

A small hunting lodge built for Electress Maria Amalia in the European Rococo style.

Page 118. " The world's great age begins anew, the golden years return. "

The opening lines of "Hellas," a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley about ancient Turkish attacks on Greece. Written in 1921, it was the last of his poems published in his lifetime.

Page 119. " You've got a Titian, haven't you? "

A painting by Tiziano Vecelli (c1488–1576), Italian painter, leader of 16th-century Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance.

Page 121. " This was not the Paris that good Americans went to when they died.The person alluded to in quot. 1858 was Thomas Gold Appleton (1812-84). Quot. 2002 alters the sense from the implied equivalence of Paris with Heaven. "

"To these must certainly be added that other saying of one of the wittiest of men: ‘Good Americans, when they die, go to Paris.’" — O.W. Holmes in Autocrat of Breakfast-Table vi,  1858, alluding to Thomas Gold Appleton.

"They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris." O. Wilde  in Woman of no Importance I. l. 16, 1894.

Page 121. " The world is too much with me "

Elliott paraphrases the title line from William Wordsworth's 1807 poem, "The world is too much with us."

Page 122. " he chose Antibes, which held a strategic position between Cannes and Monte Carlo "
Page 123. " such painters as Picasso and Braque—horrors, my dear fellows, horrors "
Page 123. " I remember a Monet of people rowing on a river, a Pissaro of a quay and a bridge on the Seine, a Tahitian landscape by Gauguin, and a charming Renoir of a young girl in profile with long yellow hair hanging down her back. "
Page 123. " a house on Cap Ferrat "
Page 124. " a very satisfactory working arrangement between God and Mammon "
Page 125. " On October the 23rd, 1929, the New York market broke. "

The most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States.