D. M. Thomas

was born in 1935 in Cornwall, England. After studying Russian during his National Service, he read English at New College, Oxford, and was awarded first-class honours. He became a teacher, a poet and later a novelist. In 1981 his third novel, The White Hotel became an international best-seller. Described by Time magazine as “a reminder that fiction can amaze”, it won the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize, the PEN and Cheltenham prizes. Thomas’s later novels include Ararat, Pictures at an Exhibition, and most recently Eating Pavlova. His selected poems The Puberty Tree were published in 1992. He has written a memoir, Memoires & Hallucinations and has made acclaimed translations of the Russian poets Alexander Pushkin and Anna Akhmatova. His most recent book is Alexander Solzhenitsyn: a Century in his Life (1998). D. M. Thomas lives in Cornwall.
The White Hotel (part)

Standish Hotel,
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
8 September 1909

Dearest Gisela,

I give you a warm bear-hug from the new world! What with the journey, the hospitality, the lectures, the honours (mostly to Freud naturally and, to a lesser extent, Jung), there has hardly been time to blow one’s nose, and my mind is in a whirl. But it’s already more than clear that America is eager to receive our movement. Brill and Hall are excellent fellows, and everyone at Clark University has overwhelmed us with kindness and compliments. Freud astonished even me with his masterly skill, by delivering five lectures without any notes – composing them during a half-hour’s walk beforehand in my company. I need hardly add that he made a deep impression. Jung also gave two fine lectures, about his own work, without once mentioning Freud’s name! Though on the whole the three of us have got on splendidly together, in rather trying circumstances (including, I may say, attacks of diarrhoea in New York…!), there has been a little tension between Jung and Freud. Of that, more in a moment.

But you will want to hear about the voyage. It was fine – but we saw almost nothing! A great midsummer mist descended almost at once. Actually it was not unimpressive. Jung especially was gripped by the conception of this “prehistoric monster” wallowing through the daylight-darkness towards its objective, and felt we were slipping back into the primeval past. Freud teased him for being a Christian, and therefor mystical (a fate he regards the Jews as having escaped!), but confessed to feeling some sympathy for the idea as he gazed at the blank cabin window and listened to what he called “the mating cry of the foghorns”! New York was all the more impressive and unbelievable, rising out of this darkness. Brill met us, and showed us many fine things – but none finer htan a moving picture, a ‘movie’! Despite my wretched stomach I found it highly diverting; it consisted mainly of comical policemen pursuing even more comical villains through the streets. Not much of a plot, but the people actually do move in a very convincing and lifelike way. Freud, I think, was not greatly impressed!

Yes, I must tell you of the rather extraordinary occurrence in Bremen, on the eve of our departure. We were heartily thankful to have made a successful rendezvous, and naturally excited by the adventure lying ahead of us. Freud was host at a luncheon in a very luxurious hotel, and we persuaded Jung to abandon his customary abstemiousness and join us in drinking wine. Probably because he was not used to drinking he became unusually talkative and high-spirited. He turned the conversation to some “peat-bog corpses” that apparently have been found in northern Germany. they are said to be the bodies of prehistoric men, mummified by the effect of the humic acid in the bog water. Apparently the men had drowned in the marshes or been buried there. Well, it was mildly interesting; or would have been had not Jung talked on and on about it. Finally Freud burst out several times: “Why are you so concerned with these corpses?” Jung continued to be carried away by his fascination with the story, and Freud slipped off his chair in a faint.

Jung. poor fellow, was most upset by this turn of events – as was I – and couldn’t understand what he’d done wrong. When he came round, Freud accused him of wanting him out of the way. Jung, of course, denied this in the strongest terms. And he is really a kind, lively companion, much more pleasant than those gold-rimmed glasses and that close-cropped head suggests.


I dreamt of falling trees in a wild storm
I was between them as a desolate shore
came to meet me and I ran, scared stiff,
there was a trap door but I could not lift
it, I have started an affair
with your son, on a train somewhere
in a dark tunnel, his hand was underneath
my dress between my thighs I could not breathe
he took me to a white lakeside hotel
somewhere high up, the lake was emereald
I could not stop myself I was in flames
from the first spreading of my thighs, no shame
could make me push my dress down, thrust his hand
away, the two, then three, fingers he jammed
into me though the guard brushed the glass,
stopped for a moment, staring in, then passed
down the long train, his thrumming fingers filled
me with a great gape of wanting wanting till
he half supported me up the wide steps
into the vestibule where the concierge slept
so took the keys and ran up, up, my dress
above my hips not stopping to undress,
juices ran down my thighs, the sky was blue
but towards night a white wind blew
off the snowcapped mountain above the trees,
we stayed there, I don’t know, a week at least
and never left the bed, I was split open
by your son, Professor, and now come back, a broken
woman, perhaps more broken, can
you do anything for me can you understand.

I think it was the second night, the wind
came rushing through the larches, hard as flint,
the summer-house pagoda roof came down,
billows were whipped up, and some people drowned,
we heard some waiters running and some guests
but your son kept his hand upon my breast
then plunged his mouth to it, the nipple swelled,
there were shouts and there were crashes in the hotel
we thought we were in a liner out to sea
a white liner, he kept sucking sucking me,
I wanted to cry, my nipples were so drawn
out by his lips, and tender, your son moved on
from one nipple to another, both were swollen,
I think some windowpanes were broken
then he rammed in again you can’t conceive
how pure the stars are, large as maple leaves
up in the mountains, they kept falling falling
into the lake, we heard some people calling,
we think the falling stars were Leonids,
and for a time one of his fingers slid
beside his prick in me there was such room,
set up a crosswise flutter, in the gloom
bodies were being brought to shore, we heard
a sound of weeping, his finger hurt
me jammed right up my arsehole my nail began
caressing where his prick so fat it didn’t
belong to him any more was hidden
away in my cunt, came a lightning flash
a white zig-zag that went so fast
it was gone before the thunder cracked
over the hotel, then it was black
again with just a few lights on the lake,
I think the billiard room was flooded, we ached
he couldn’t bring himself to let it gush
it was so beautiful, it makes me blush
now to be telling you, Professor, I
wasn’t ashamed then, although I cried,
after about an hour he came inside,
we heard doors banging they were bringing in
the bodies from the lake, the wind
was very high still, we kept
our hands still on each other as we slept.

One evening they rescued a cat, its black fur
had been almost lost against the dark-green fir,
we stood naked by the window as a hand
searched among the foliage, it scratched,
it had been up there two days since the flood,
that was the night I felt a trickle of blood,
he was showing me some photographs, I said
Do you mind if the trees are turning red?
I don’t mean that we literally never left
the bed, after the cat was taken down, we dressed
and went downstairs to eat, between the tables
there was a space to dance, I was unstable,
I had the dress I stood up in, no more,
I felt air on my flesh, the dress was short,
weakly I tried to push away his hand,
he said, I can’t stop touching you, I can’t,
please, you must let me, please,
couples were smiling at us indulgently,
he licked his glistening fingers as we sat,
I watched his red hand cut away the fat,
we ran down to the larches, I felt a cool
breeze blow on my skin and it was beautiful,
we couldn’t hear the band in the hotel
though now and then some gypsy music swelled,
that night he almost burst my cunt apart
being tighter from my flow of blood, the stars
were huge over the lake, there was no room
for a moon, but the stars fell in our room,
and lit up the summer house’s fallen roof
pagoda-like, and sometimes the white cap
of the mountain was lit by a lightning flash.