Ellen, somewhere in her childhood, has split her life into two opposing camps: On the one hand there is the "tomb world," which includes her physical and social existence. Her body, with its low needs, distracts her from her purposes. It gets older every day. Her society is bourgeois and corrupt. The people around her seem oblivious to all the evil and all the suffering. In the tomb world, everything is degenerate and degenerating, everything is being pulled down, into the grave, into a hole. 

On the other hand there is the "ethereal world," the world of the soul, pure and clean, a world where what needs to be done is done, where acts are effortless because unencumbered by the weight of matter. In the ethereal world, we can be free and fly.

Taken from: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/binswanger.html

Ellen West

...About five years ago, I was in a restaurant,  
eating alone
                   with a book. I was
not married, and often did that ...

—I’d turn down
dinner invitations, so I could eat alone;

I’d allow myself two pieces of bread, with  
butter, at the beginning, and three scoops of  
vanilla ice cream, at the end,—

                                                sitting there alone  
with a book, both in the book
and out of it, waited on, idly
watching people,—

                           when an attractive young man  
and woman, both elegantly dressed,
sat next to me.
                        She was beautiful—;

with sharp, clear features, a good
bone structure—;
                         if she took her make-up off  
in front of you, rubbing cold cream
again and again across her skin, she still would be  
               more beautiful.

And he,—
            I couldn’t remember when I had seen a man  
so attractive. I didn’t know why. He was almost

a male version
                      of her,—

I had the sudden, mad notion that I  
wanted to be his lover ...

—Were they married?
                              were they lovers?

They didn’t wear wedding rings.

Their behavior was circumspect. They discussed  
politics. They didn’t touch ...

—How could I discover?

                                  Then, when the first course  
arrived, I noticed the way

each held his fork out for the other  

to taste what he had ordered ...

                                                 They did this
again and again, with pleased looks, indulgent  
smiles, for each course,
                                     more than once for each dish—;  
much too much for just friends ...

—Their behavior somehow sickened me;

the way each gladly
put the food the other had offered into his mouth—;

I knew what they were. I knew they slept together.  

An immense depression came over me ...

—I knew I could never
with such ease allow another to put food into my mouth:

happily myself put food into another’s mouth—;

I knew that to become a wife I would have to give up my ideal.

.            .            .

...Callas is my favorite singer, but I’ve only  
seen her once—;

I’ve never forgotten that night ...

—It was in Tosca, she had long before
lost weight, her voice
had been, for years,
                               deteriorating, half itself ...

When her career began, of course, she was fat,

enormous—; in the early photographs,  
sometimes I almost don’t recognize her ...

The voice too then was enormous—
healthy; robust; subtle; but capable of  
crude effects, even vulgar,
                                          almost out of  
high spirits, too much health ...

But soon she felt that she must lose weight,—
that all she was trying to express

was obliterated by her body,
buried in flesh—;
                           abruptly, within
four months, she lost at least sixty pounds ...

—The gossip in Milan was that Callas  
had swallowed a tapeworm.

But of course she hadn’t.

                                       The tapeworm
was her soul ...

—How her soul, uncompromising,  
                  must have loved eating the flesh from her bones,

revealing this extraordinarily
mercurial; fragile; masterly creature ...

—But irresistibly, nothing  
stopped there; the huge voice

also began to change: at first, it simply diminished  
in volume, in size,
                              then the top notes became  
shrill, unreliable—at last,
usually not there at all ...

—No one knows why. Perhaps her mind,  
ravenous, still insatiable, sensed

that to struggle with the shreds of a voice

must make her artistry subtler, more refined,  
more capable of expressing humiliation,  
rage, betrayal ...

—Perhaps the opposite. Perhaps her spirit  
loathed the unending struggle

to embody itself, to manifest itself, on a stage whose

mechanics, and suffocating customs,
seemed expressly designed to annihilate spirit ...

—I know that in Tosca, in the second act,  
when, humiliated, hounded by Scarpia,  
she sang Vissi d’arte
                               —“I lived for art”—  

and in torment, bewilderment, at the end she asks,  
with a voice reaching
                                 harrowingly for the notes,

“Art has repaid me LIKE THIS?”

                                              I felt I was watching  
                     an art; skill;

miles distant from the usual soprano’s  
                   the usual musician’s dream  
of virtuosity without content ...
—I wonder what she feels, now,  
listening to her recordings.

For they have already, within a few years,  
begun to date ...

Whatever they express
they express through the style of a decade  
and a half—;
                   a style she helped create ...

—She must know that now
she probably would not do a trill in  
exactly that way,—  
                           that the whole sound, atmosphere,  
dramaturgy of her recordings

have just slightly become those of the past ...

—Is it bitter? Does her soul  
tell her

that she was an idiot ever to think  
             material wholly could satisfy? ...

—Perhaps it says: The only way  
to escape
the History of Styles

is not to have a body.

.            .            .

...Dearest.—I remember how
at eighteen,
                   on hikes with friends, when  
they rested, sitting down to joke or talk,

I circled
around them, afraid to hike ahead alone,

yet afraid to rest
when I was not yet truly thin.

You and, yes, my husband,—
you and he

have by degrees drawn me within the circle;  
forced me to sit down at last on the ground.

I am grateful.

But something in me refuses it.

—How eager I have been
to compromise, to kill this refuser,

but each compromise, each attempt  
to poison an ideal
which often seemed to me sterile and unreal,

heightens my hunger.

I am crippled. I disappoint you.

Will you greet with anger, or  

the news which might well reach you  
before this letter?

                              Your Ellen.

Frank Bidart. Excerpts from Ellen West, 1990

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