A stunning correspondence from the author of All Quiet on the Western Front recording an inextinguishable love for Princess Natalia Paley, a member of the Romanoff family. In a tumultuous world edging toward war, Remarque's personal life was nothing short of tumultuous too. After divorcing his first wife, Ilse Jutta Zambona in 1930, he remarried her in 1938 in order to enable her to escape to Switzerland and subsequenly settle in America. Stripped of his German citizenship by the Nazi's in July 1938, Remarque lived in exile from his homeland, dividing his time between America and Switzerland.
Paley escaped Russia in 1920 and found exile in France. She married Lucien Camille Lelong in 1927 but by 1937 they were divorced. Paley eventually made her way to America and dabbled in film, experiencing brief success. She married the theatre producer John Chapman Wilson in 1937 and settled in Manhattan working in public relations for the fashon designer Mainbocher.
Remarque met Princess Natalia Paley in the early 1940s and by 1943 their relationship was in full swing as evidenced by the present correspondence. There is no doubt, Remarque fell head over heels for the utterly exquisite Russian princess. In an undated letter he explains:"I cannot breathe, I cannot live, I cannot to do anything without you; to be with you and to be loved by you gives it [his life]sense, direction, feeling, height and the deep relationship with life." Remarque continuously laments his separations from his lover. Whle in California he writes on 23 September 1943 upon stationery from the Beverly Wilshire Hotel: "The town is incredibly beautiful, oleander in bloom . . .hybiscus like fire, and the big lemon melting magnolias, air like wine, great green lawns, the sea blue to the horizons . . . but all I want is to go back. This, darling, is a love letter." Just a few days later, in a letter postmarked 28 September 1943 the great writer explains why he cannot articulate his feelings "I think so much about you. So much, that I cannot write it down. Things like that one cannot write in a letter. They would be in books. One can maybe talk a bit about it. Even that not much. When the leaves of a tree are changing--one can easily see it and talk about. Not the roots."
Overtime, Remarque becomes increasingly articulate in conveying his love to Princess Paley. In a letter postmarked 11 September 1948, he writes: "I was up very early in the morning and the sunrise was a Van Gogh picture with all the yellows and the transparence of crystal. I looked at it and it was you and it went through me and I was you for a short while, and there was a balance of such extreme happiness that it seemed nearly unbearable . . . " Remarque's letters become increasingly powerful with repeated declarations of his love and demands for more time with his lover. In an undated letter he explains: "darling, I talk --aloud even--so often with you, that my cats already are coming, hoping always that I have a piece of raw meat for them, --and disappear as disappointed or more than you when there is only my idiotic face, smiling miserably into the direction of New York. I adore you and feel you in all my bones, and I am impatient and can't stand it much anymore here. To quiet myself I have started packing already . . . " In another undated letter he laments,"I am useless like a sundial in the rain without you. And it rains all the time now in Europe." Despite Remarque's increasing ardor, it becomes apparent in the present letters that Paley is not feeling the same way. He writes in yet another undated letter: "I am going slowly insane with love and of course got furious after nearly two weeks such a lousy, cool letter from you." Paley terminates the relationship and Remarque finally confesses: "Forgive me.I wanted to be blind. I did not want to listen. I should have known." In a subsequent letter, he succinctly captures his sentiments about his realtionship with his princess: "But, love of my life for so many years! Let me say to you in this emotional night again and once more: it was wonderful beyond all measures to be in love with you, it was a golden spiral of seven rising and mounting years, the seven mythical years of the old mystics, seven years of renewal, it was the glory and the great monstrance of being alive."
So the relationship ended but Remarque's love for Paley never died. He married the actress Paulette Goddard in 1958 and they remained together until his death in 1970. After receiving a telegram from Paley warmly acknowledging his seventieth birthday, Remarque finally writes back to her on 6 August 1968 more poignantly than ever: "I am not very well at the moment and can't write much,--but you must always know that you are in my life and that you have never left it. And I wish with all my heart it were true of you too. I am often worried about you, --sometimes I hear you cry,--and often you are in my dreams. Do never forget that you are [are] not alone as long as I can breathe."
Exquisite prose and poerty constituting valuable primary source material to Remarque's life after he left Germany providing valuable insights into his life and work in the 1940s.
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