To Emilie Fontane
August 5, 1870
[ . . . ]
The entire situation appears to me like a colossal vision, a Wild Hunt rushing past me; you find yourself standing there in amazement, without quite knowing what to make of it all. It is a Völkerwanderung [great migration of peoples] regulated by railways, organized masses, but masses all the same, ones within which you whirl around like an atom, not standing apart, not dominating; instead, you are entirely at the mercy of this great movement and have no will of your own. It is like being in a theater when someone shouts “Fire!”, you are swept toward an exit that is perhaps no exit at all, mercilessly squeezed, pushed, throttled, the victim of dark drives and forces. Some people love it because it means “excitement” – I am too artistically inclined to be able to feel comfortable under these circumstances.
[ . . . ]
Source: Theodor Fontane, letter to his wife Emilie Fontane, August 5, 1870.
Original German text reprinted in Theodor Fontane, Werke, Schriften und Briefe [Works, Writings and Letters], edited by Walter Keitel and Helmuth Nürnberger. Twenty-one volumes in four sections. Section IV, Briefe [Letters], vol. 2, 1860-1878 © 1979 Carl Hanser Verlag: Munich, p. 326.
Translation: Erwin Fink