Ladies and Gentlemen!
I have traveled from soul to soul.
From Stone Age to modern history...
This is the account of my journey:
One & All (70,000 words) – a novel with many footnotes.
1. Love You, Life!
Spirit is as necessary as fresh air, and I have found a good way to get plenty of it even before I was born. The sperm penetrated the egg; the egg began to divide, latched onto the flesh and was nourished with blood… I myself, however, gravitated to the attractions of the world within me, and I ventured ever further inwards until I looked through the eyes of a man.
Eagerly, I shared his restless struggle for survival, but as his fellow men made fun of him, I found myself laughing with them. I could wander from soul to soul as I pleased. I was roaring with laughter.
My own body from then on would always offer me refuge against this restless world, and when going on a journey, I was in no way responsible for the course of events. I could neither help anyone nor tell them what to do. I wasn’t even noticed. I was simply a silent observer. […]
In any case, I was delighted that I could move around freely and at anytime retreat into my mother’s womb. I generally avoided numskulls, killjoys and cannibals. The company I preferred most was that of brave huntsmen who bagged big prey and always had a good story to tell. […]
We aren’t ready to accept that my extraordinary mental abilities are due to a genetic defect, but I wouldn’t mind if everybody considered me a liar and the whole thing a joke. So stop taking this too seriously, dear reader! Bear in mind that history is nothing more than a box of toys through which we can rummage as we please! And don’t worry! I will make sure you get your money’s worth.
Women were always powerful, and in time some even became capricious. They wouldn’t dream of accepting a man at their camp fire if he wasn’t kind to them. They had, in fact, a sense for overtones and ambiguities, but they also could be brutally realistic and unrestrainedly trivial. They were frightening, these women, even when one could make them laugh.
I, however, had access to their deepest secrets, and one day I came across a passionate love affair. […]
3. Pyramid Construction
Since I have been minding my own business for a few thousand years, the following reflections aren’t based on empirical observation. […]
Copper chisels don’t even scratch granite; they just get blunt and flat. Only with harder stones such as dolerite or diorite was it possible, in those days, to quarry and hew granite. […]
The hieroglyphs in hard stones were made with chisels of flint stone - not with steel chisels, laser guns or ultrasonic machines... Egypt’s builders were faced with the same problem for a long time: How can granite be shaped without steel? […]
A straight ramp with a gradient of 10 degrees all the way to the top would have been 0.514 miles (0.830 km) long and very impractical since the gradient would always have had to be readjusted. […]
4. Culture Shock
c. 1880 BC
In the meantime, my bad mood made way for a complete indifference towards everything. I enjoyed an inexpressible peace of mind… […]
It must have been at about the tenth week. My body was the size of an apricot, and half of it was the head. […]
I treated myself to the funniest punch lines, the fullest glasses and the most beautiful women until I lost all moral stability. Torn between dark depravity and innocent pleasure, I finally snuck away. Nobody tried to hinder my departure; nobody awaited my return. Nobody cared for me. Nobody loved me. I was free.
5. Hatshepsut & Co.
c. 1470 BC
Order still reigned as the curtain rose. Under a radiant blue sky, three men and a woman were discussing the most important question of all: which is better, tea or beer?
A pedantic passion for rules and regulations dominated the next scene, but of course, life penned a script again, with almost all the causes of conflict a general public loves: prostitution, slave trade, violent crimes and trifles such as incest and adultery. […]
I already had a hard time with all the revelations when I entered the great temple.
Buffoons dressed as priests ruled there, complaining to the gods with unbelievable glibness. They survived on hereditary authority and deceit. What they practiced was not religion but a gold rush. The fear of coming second fuelled their haste, but they laughed into their sleeves about the rituals, and they did not laugh with the kind mockery of worldly men; they laughed with the cold furtiveness of conmen inaugurated into the deepest secret: the knowledge that the gods are just an invention of man. […]
6. Lovers’ Tryst
c. 1400 BC
The next act was ruled by a picture of misery, Amenhotep II. […]
Nothing and nobody could force me to live in that ruin. All around, a real historical epic was being performed again, and there were many far better lodgings for my sensitive soul. […]
c. 1320 BC
When I next saw the light of day, King Horemheb placed me in a dilemma.
His muscles were like a suit of armor. His face was a mass of dramatic furrows and cavities. He was a man of immeasurable strength, both mentally and physically.
His officers lived only for war; killing enhanced their appetite and justified celebration.
Further ahead stood the born weaklings who had been hardened through merciless drilling. […]
8. New Standards
I stayed well behaved in mother’s womb until I took risks with my mental health again.
I landed directly in a temple of Aphrodite, where two dozen priestesses performed the divine service, celebrating heavenly weddings with the believers. They lavished the men with an amorphous, all encompassing tenderness, and those who proved to be magnanimous and steadfast enough were granted union with the goddess herself. What joy for the man who succeeded! How cheerful his face, how friendly and affable his behavior!
But beware, dear friends, the essence of ecstasy is ambivalent! […]
I had no green-eyed wife to fear when I had the urge to do what even the king of the gods allegedly enjoyed doing from time to time. The art of coming down to earth as a shower of gold I had not yet mastered - but, so what? I had no heavy thunderbolt to lug around. I had no need for nymphomaniac priestesses or two-faced court poets. I certainly had no need for a one-hundred-eyed cattle hand who wouldn’t even know the meaning of sleep. And I had no ambition whatsoever to brawl with Centaurs and Cyclopes. I w a s a f r e e m a n! […]
9. The School of Athens I
At least I didn’t attack the defenseless with naked blades. In the womb, I even speculated about how the soul could live in lasting peace with itself - and then I took off again. Bright and cheerful, I stumbled over trials and tribulations right into the center of the state. […]
There was one odd customer named Socrates, who, in the company of his loutish bodyguards, roamed the city and held speeches in public places: “Citizens of Athens, you are not the measure of all things! Listen to your inner voice! […]
10. The School of Athens II
The Athenians had lost the war, and in the two years before they were able to administer their own affairs again, they had to endure thirty tyrants imposed on them by Sparta. […]
I landed at a garden party and got high on a young woman’s fits of desire. Her eyes were black as coal; her hair had the color and shine of a young raven; her skin shimmered like whipped cream; her figure was the measure of all things beautiful… I found nothing about her that couldn’t be called perfect, and one of the guests became quite lyrical at the sight of this enchanting lady. […]
He - Plato in person - cherished the hope that a revelation of the archetypal femininity would be bestowed on him!
The feet of the goddess flew like white seagulls over the black stone, and with every veil she dropped, her movements became more ecstatic, whilst he fell into a state of sheer rapture. […]
Some went into the forest to hang themselves from trees. Others went into politics where one played for high stakes. The ordinary people’s craving for self-esteem needed to be spared so they would perceive the decreed rules and orders as their own principles. Whoever wanted to impress them couldn’t show a sign of weakness; not even in the case of lovesickness, migraine or prostate trouble. […]
11. The School of Athens III
What comes around goes around. And I soon got fed up with all the thinking and screwing and all that shit. I just didn’t want to see the men’s things anymore, nor the men themselves, fiddling around with them. They had a past, and I had mine - and mine was no worse than theirs. But did they ever ask me anything? […]
It was as if heavens had opened up and buckets of joy were raining down on the town. The new contemporaries went about their business and I was sitting in the thick of it with Diogenes “the Cynic.” […]
For me, Diogenes’ message was simple: “Don’t get involved!!”
Looking through his eyes, I saw nothing but temptations to entice me from the right path. Out there, the idols of normality were being worshipped. Out there, needs had to be fulfilled, goals reached, losses suffered… […]
12. Quo Vadis, Europa?
Where are they going, these people on their rotten feet? That was the question.
The city looked like a mangy cur and the inhabitants had the most miserable feet of all living beings. They suffered from flat feet, splayfeet or fallen arches, and went out walking with their athlete’s foot, bunions and crow’s nails. Each and every one - from the toddler to the grandpa - was orthopedically impaired, but no one wanted to make this a public issue. What in Athens would have led to fierce debates relating to health policy would hardly have been worth mentioning for these people... […]
They were such mental acrobats that even Jesus Christ himself, along with all his apostles, could not have mustered enough intellect to argue with these modern theologians. If they were to talk about charity, they started at the sources of the Nile; should they speak about Lent, they quoted the twelve signs of the zodiac; if they had to explain the mystery of the Trinity, they made a detour around the Red Sea... […]
By way of example, they served the meaning and purpose of European progress: “Come on, let’s go, and ignore the pain!” […]
13. Rondo Florentino
So I fell in with a bunch of shady lawyers and a rip-off crowd of doctors, quacks, barbers and midwives, who were only out for their clients’ money.
Florence - it was the Anteroom of Paradise. Whoever had money was on top of the world and could win a court case, overcome an illness, marry an Aphrodite or rent a philosopher. Even a complete idiot could cause roses to bloom, bells to ring, trumpets to sound… […]
Stone by stone and bar by bar, they built a cage around me, and whilst doing so, many acted so impertinently as if seeking their inspiration directly from the inner sanctum of Apollo.
Such people would let themselves get ripped off by anybody who came along, but they regarded everyone who had no objections to others’ assertions as simpletons. Consequently, they skimmed the cream from others’ milk and combed Jewish, Greek and Roman works for things of note, just like merchants scoured foreign harbors for trading goods. […]
14. Risks of Parasitism
There was a knocking at the door of the workshop, and in came a young man of perfect beauty and grace. After he had looked around in amazement, he said: “My father wants to know whether you, venerable master, would like to make a portrait of St. Veronica. […]
In contrast, the career of a courtesan usually began in a tavern where her father had gambled her away to a drinking companion, or her mother had sold her off. Even as a young girl, she would learn how to lead men on and squeeze money out of them. She probably sold her virginity more often than the clerics their indulgences - and with a bit of luck and talent, she would blossom into a real femme fatale. […]
Lorenzo “the Magnificent” was at death’s door. For the relief of his stomach complaint, the physician had administered him a pulp of ground pearls, and when I visited him, in the middle of the night, he was ready for the grave, but to the priest, who wanted him to turn to God’s grace in the face of death, he replied dryly: “Of course, that’s HIS business.” And in his thoughts he added: “HIS only business as we created HIM for no other purpose, just as one hires a doctor or a lawyer.”
That was funny, wasn’t it? I certainly would have loved to laugh a bit, but everybody kept a straight face, because after all, the demise of Mr. de Medici was a national disaster. […]
15. Leonardo’s Odyssey
“To hell with painting!” flashed across his mind.
On the easel stood his Mona Lisa, and he abandoned himself to the vastness that filled the painting. […]
Sadly, I was not quite with it any more; I was already fed up with the human race. Had he been in my place, he surely would have shown more enthusiasm for this Leonardo da Vinci and the abundance of his speculations and ideas. […]
All the more, he would have felt committed to making the best of his abilities and giving mankind the benefit of his findings. […]
His work’s epoch-making impact on intellectual history would be undisputed to this day, and whoever has a penchant for thick works of literature would, sooner or later, read da Vinci: treatises, reports, commentaries, anecdotes, fairytales, animal fables, sayings, epigrams, aphorisms, proverbs, prophecies, quotations - in toto almost 6,000 pages, including his last will and testament.
The fact that the master comes across as a mysterious curiosity as early as the first line would do no harm to this masterpiece of the mind - on the contrary: “The human being is the most inscrutable part of the universe,” we already would have learned in elementary school. […]
16. The Great Fire of London
The young lady had been slumming all day, and now she needed some comfort. She paused briefly at the door to strip off the hood of her blue cape. […]
As far as I am concerned, The Anchor was the focal point of my London stay: an unpretentious little ale house with a brick fireplace and a barbeque on the terrace. The staff was very friendly and eager to assist, which really added to the atmosphere. The ale tasted like it had been brewed in a musketeer’s boot, but the food was delicious. One star for ale, but food, service and decor moved it up to two stars. To escape the crowd, it was a good choice: dirty, dingy and dreary - with a tattered clientele.
The address was Maid Lane, a narrow alley at the river end of Dead Mans Place, so called because of the pest houses established there last year when The Great Plague had broken out. Behind the brewery stood the first Independent Church of London. […]
17. The Batch of the 4th of Thermidor
Only heaven knows how much blood, sweat and tears she had to shed in order to reach 70 and sit here in the light of the evening sun and serve the audience now! […]
But, oh my goodness, they cited, recited and talked their heads off! Nobody with a sound mind would line up here in rows of four.
No. 1, stinking rich, but without even a single organ in good shape: Jean-Benjamin de Laborde (59), former land-tax collector - a rotten branch on the family tree.
No. 2 is lavishly perfumed, but there is something unpleasant in her scent, a whiff of ripeness in the bouquet. […]
The scaffold is 7 feet high, and it has railings.
It is about 8 paces long and 7 paces wide.
The machine stands in the middle and is 14 feet high.
Its blade - including the bracket - weighs 88 p. and falls 88 in. in 0.7 sec.
The beheading takes 0.02 sec. - more or less.
It is called: “The Republican Telescope,” “The National Razor,” “The Patriotic Shortener,” “The Avenger of the People,” “The Scythe of Equality,” “The Cattrap,” “The Hole”...
The French are having a brilliant time with their new toy.
Even the prisoners sing chansons alluding to “Madame Guillotine” and worship her as “Saint Guillotine,” name the thing “l’ Abbaye-de-Mont-à-Regret” (Abbey-on-Mount-Remorse) or call it - cheerfully as the masses - “The Swing.” […]
18. Lord Ludwig van Beethoven
By the Schreiber brook in the vicinity of Nussdorf near Vienna, August 8, 1808.
Leaning back against a high elm, with his eyes turned to the heavens, the composer of the Eroica Symphony abandons himself to countless reflections of light and sound. The on-going 12/8 time, the B major key and the excursions to related keys transport every sensitive listener from emotions of lively joy to tranquility and peace. The second violin and the violas begin with a lovely song that progresses in thirds and is enhanced by two cellos in the lower octave. The first violin, on the other hand, plays a corresponding contrast. By bar 5, the second violin, the violas and the two cellos are getting faster, and we actually think we can hear the soft murmur of a stream. […]
19. Miss You
I’ve been roll-in’ for-so long - you’ve been sleep-in’ all-a lone - Mom I miss you!
I’ve been ride-in’ on-a stone - you’ve been hold-in’ on-so strong - I want to kiss you!
20. Mother, How Many Steps May I Take?
I performed the serenade standing on my head - SHE deprived me of my beauty sleep.
She’d been getting on my nerves with her pregnancy exercises for some time now. And from then on, she maltreated me with shortness of breath, circulatory trouble, indigestion and a galloping abdominal migraine. […]
Was that supposed to be a birth?
That was an assassination! […]
Since then I have been striving to meet our world’s demands. What I still like best, however, is to share my amorous feelings with a beauty.
Necessarily, such an interest requires skilful juggling of the two basic principles of existence: Eros and Thanatos. Eros - as everybody knows - is the representative of the “life instinct” that strives for sensuous devotion. Thanatos is a metabolic process, not yet fully understood, that sends all organisms to meet their Maker. […]
Copyright © 2012 Harry Amon. All Rights Reserved.
Questions & Answers
What is your book about?
It is about a journey through time. The hero is an unborn man. Whilst his body grows in his mother’s womb, his spirit is able to travel freely from soul to soul.
It is written in the first person. The subjects of interest, however, are our ancestors.
So as not to be misunderstood, this is not a fantasy novel; this is a fictional eyewitness report of factual history.
Footnotes give additional information on various subjects and events.
How would you describe the voice of your book?
Bright and cheerful. I have a happy disposition; I don’t take things more seriously than necessary, but I avoid airy cynicism, violence and vulgarity.
Who do you think your book will appeal to?
I’d like to think it appeals to anyone who is interested in an unconventional approach to our historical roots and doesn’t mind having a few laughs along the way.
I can’t be everybody’s darling, but anyone with half a brain can see that it has the potential for a global audience: the stakes are high; the main character is larger than life; the settings are exotic; the style is clear, concise and short…
What did the writing demand of you?
When I came up with the idea of One & All, I was 25 and soon came to realize that this was going to be a very difficult project. As a matter of fact, I had to read hundreds of books on history, philosophy and religion… I had to write, tear up and rewrite… I had to translate the text into English and then have it proofread by five Englishmen and five Americans reading the text out loud beside me… (Chapter 16, The Great Fire of London, I wrote in English first. Chapter 18, Lord Ludwig van Beethoven, I wrote simultaneously in both languages.) German
Why so many assistants?
Seeking perfection, I simply needed them. I never forget Mark Twain’s admonition: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - 'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
The advantage was that I learned to write English at this high level - without the hope, of course, that I’d ever forgo the proofreading by native speakers.
Another benefit of this procedure was that I had some editing along the way, done by intelligent readers sitting right beside me. The book became better and better. The English and the American editions appear as if originally written in the respective language - as really good translations should.
What are your expectations?
I’ve been a scriptwriter for German TV (the Learning Channel) for a number of years, but I haven’t yet published a book.
I expect miracles.
If you have something to tell me, send me a tweet or an email.
And don't 4get 2 have a good time... BW!
Copyright © 2013 Harry Amon. All Rights Reserved.