Goose GirlHilbert

Gottingen, 1922

A Scene by Selim Tezel


Faculty Housing Unit at the University of Gottingen, Germany, Mathematics Institute 1922


Bernhard:  why are you here?

Helga:  i couldn’t sleep

Bernhard:  (silence) what is going on?

Helga:  … i don’t know

Bernhard:  you have been acting strange lately

Helga:  …i am sorry

Bernhard:  and distant

Helga:  i am sorry, i am so sorry

Bernhard:  …do you want to talk?

Helga:  i … i don’t know i don’t know, i am just confused, i just need some time, may be i need to be … alone please

Bernhard:  you want me to leave you alone here?

Helga:  no… yes, just a few minutes please, go to bed no need to stay out here, in the cold

Bernhard:  what is this about?

Helga:  please, please Bernhard please

Bernhard:  do you miss your parents? miss your sister?

Helga:  yes, yes i do …

Bernhard:  … but there is more to it


Bernhard:  are you not happy here? at Gottingen, not happy with me…?

Helga:  no, no it is not that, i am happy, happy to be here and with you,  i am just confused,

Bernhard:  confused about what?

Helga:  please Bernhard, i beg you give me some time to think and work this out

Bernhard:  work what out? what is on your mind, woman?

Helga:  please don’t yell

Bernhard:  what is on your mind, i said.  what the devil is this about?

Helga:  i cannot tell you

Bernhard:  you cannot tell me?

Helga:  you will get angry, you will get so angry

Bernhard:  what did you do woman?

Helga:  nothing, nothing! i swear to you i did not do anything wrong…

Bernhard:  what then? what in heavens name are you doing here in the dead cold of the night all by yourself?

Helga:  (starts crying) oh God…

Bernhard:  compose yourself woman! put it together before i lose my whatever is left of my patience…

Helga: i…

Bernhard:  “i”,  what?

Helga:  i don’t know what to do?

Bernhard:  try speaking up

Helga:  if i tell you, you will be mad, but i promise you i did nothing wrong

Bernhard:  did someone hurt you?  did someone do something?

Helga:  no , no not like that

Bernhard:  then what is it ,woman?

Helga:  i beg you don’t yell, the neighbors, i pray, i pray you keep your voice down

Bernhard:  speak then

Helga:  if i tell you, you will want to leave Gottingen

Bernhard:  what are you saying?

Helga:  if i told you what is bothering me, you would want to leave this place and i know i know how hard you worked to get here

Bernhard:  why would i want to leave? what are you saying? say it woman, say it!

Helga:  Herr Hilbert…

Bernhard:  Herr Hilbert?  Herr Hilbert, what?


Bernhard:  what are you saying? what about professor Hilbert?  what did you do?

Helga:  i … i did not do anything, i swear to you i did not do anything…

Bernhard:  what then?  what are you saying about Herr Hilbert…

Helga:  i know how much he means to you.  i know why you came here, why we came here.  i am so sorry…

Bernhard:  what happened with Herr Hilbert?

Helga:  i was coming home with groceries,

Bernhard:  when was this? what happened?

Helga:  three days ago

Bernhard:  and then what

Helga:  i was crossing the street when i saw Herr Hilbert on the other side of the street greeting me

Bernhard:  and so?

Helga:  he said, … he took out his hat, bowed down, took my hand and said he would like to help me with my groceries

Bernhard:  so what?

Helga:  i refused but he insisted, he said he also had something important to say

Bernhard:  important?

Helga:  i thought he meant something important … about you…

Bernhard:  and?

Helga:  and we walked…and talked

Bernhard:  and, so?

Helga:  then when we turned a corner…he said he is in love…with me

Bernhard:  what?

Helga:  he got on his knees

Bernhard:  on his knees? what?

Helga:  he got on his knees and he said he is in madly love with me, …even gave me a flower

Bernhard:  flower, what flower…

Helga:  i don’t know, i don’t remember what kind of flower, i didn’t know what to do, i just thanked him for helping with the groceries and ran away

Bernhard:  did anybody see you?

Helga:  no, no Oh God i don’t think so

Bernhard:  it makes no sense


Bernhard:  why would Herr Hilbert do this?

Helga:  you don’t think

Bernhard:  think what?

Helga:  you don’t think i am pretty enough for someone like Herr Hilbert to fall in love with me?

Bernhard:  not that, i did not mean that…

Helga:  what are we going to do?

Bernhard:  i don’t know, i don’t know. let me think about it, none of this makes any sense

Helga:  do you think i am making it all up?

Bernhard:  are you?

Helga:  no, no, how can you even think of such a thing?

Bernhard:  what if you are imagining all this?

Helga:  is that what you think?

Bernhard:  i don’t know what  to think?

Helga:  you think your wife is making up stories? stories about Herr Hilbert? don’t i know what this man means to you?  don’t i know how many years you have been working hard to come here, to Gottingen just to be with him? to hear his lectures…

Bernhard:  may be your mind is playing tricks on you.  you have been away from your parents, all this year…is that possible?

Helga:  i don’t know, i don’t know, i don’t think so, what are you saying? that i am going crazy? i am not making any of this up…

Bernhard:  then we are in trouble

Helga:  what are you going to do?

Bernhard:  i don’t know…what should i do?

Helga:  i think you must talk to him

Bernhard:  how?  how does one bring this up?

Helga:  he is the one who took a wrong step… he is the one to be shamed

Bernhard:  you want me to confront him?

Helga:  at least learn, what he was hoping to do…

Bernhard:  is it not obvious…?

Helga:  may be he was drunk?

Bernhard:  was he drunk?

Helga:  no, no he was as sober as i have ever seen him…

Bernhard:  what else did he say…?

Helga:  nothing, nothing, there was no time it all happened so fast, as soon as i knew what he was saying i ran away

Bernhard:  so why wouldn’t you tell this to me right away

Helga:  i don’t know… i did not know what to do.  it is Herr Hilbert we are talking about, it is your career, it is our life…

Bernhard:  …that is it?

Helga:  …what else?

Bernhard:  i feel there is something else…

Helga:  what?

Bernhard:  you were flattered…

Helga:  what are you saying…?

Bernhard:  you were flattered that Herr Hilbert would do this.  take the time to chase you, to confess his love, that he would be “madly” in love for you…

Helga:  NO, NO, … no

Bernhard:  or may be yes! i don’t need to be an expert in psychoanalysis to know that you were flattered, Helga!

Helga:  no, no nothing like that, please stop torturing me

Bernhard:  why then are you confused?  why then after three days i am hearing all this…

Helga:  i told you…(starts crying again)

Bernhard:  stop it, stop! keep your womanly tricks to yourself, pull yourself together!

Helga:  what are we going to do?

Bernhard:  i am going to think of something.  i will ask around

Helga:  ask around, no please no!

Bernhard:  i will have to be discreet.  i need to hear if anyone else knows anything about Herr Hilbert’s misdemeanors…

Helga:  what are you saying?

Bernhard:  i recall a dean of the academy once joke what a skirt-chaser Herr Hilbert was in his younger years.  i thought it was just a joke.  a man so divine, so immersed in purest rational thought, such a genius of the highest caliber unlike anything Europe and the world has seen… i thought the dean was trying to lighten Hilbert’s serious heavy aura, with some silly jokes.  but may be genius comes with a dark side…

Helga:  he can be my grandfather…

Bernhard:  oh you don’t know men… you are of age now  and honey, you are… beautiful.

(she smiles for the first time)

 Bernhard:  i cannot fault him for falling for you.  but to act on an impulse like that, like a teenager.  that i find unlikely and hard to believe

Helga:  i am not making it up

Bernhard:  sadly, i don’t think so either

Helga:  lets talk to Frau Hilbert

Bernhard:  you mean,  you and i together we go to Frau Hilbert and tell her that her genius of a husband has a crush on you and has confessed his love at a street crossing

Helga:  bent on his knees…

Bernhard:  (trying to suppress a smile) go away…

Helga:  you mean she wont believe

Bernhard:  it sounds too absurd…

Helga:  may be there were others, in the past i mean, she might understand

Bernhard:  or we might make ourselves her enemy, slandering her husband

Helga:  … she seems so nice

Bernhard:  … and so motherly to all around her

Helga:  so in loving companionship with her husband

Bernhard:  i hear she scribes all his brilliant mathematical papers

Helga:   with her beautiful handwriting

Bernhard:   oh, that beautiful exquisite handwriting

Helga:  we cannot hurt her

Bernhard:  we cannot do this we cannot do this to her or … to mathematics

(they start laughing a bit, then louder and louder until they are on the floor with laughter)

Bernhard:  Herr Hilbert, …. in love … with my 21 year old beautiful wife (laughing hard)

Helga:  the greatest genius in Europe… in love with me (laughing hard)

Bernhard:  and there is nothing i can do about it….(laughing hard)

and there is nothing we can do about it….(laughing hard)

Helga:  for the sake of mathematics, there is nothing…we can do about it(laughing hard)

Bernhard:  for the sake of mathematics… (laughing hard)