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Part 5 Chapter 3

I have been ejected from the world like a cartridge. A deep fog has settled down, the earth is smeared with frozen grease. I can feel the city palpitating, as if it were a heart just removed from a warm body. The windows of my hotel are festering and there is a thick, acrid stench as of chemicals burning. Looking into the Seine I see mud and desolation, street lamps drowning, men and women choking to death, the bridges covered with houses, slaughterhouses of love. A man is standing against a wall with an accordion strapped to his belly; his hands are cut off at the wrists, but the accordion writhes between his stumps like a sack of snakes. The universe has dwindled; it is only a block long and there are no stars, no trees, no rivers. The people who live here are dead; they make chairs which other people sit on in their dreams. In the middle of the street is a wheel and in the hub of the wheel a gallows is fixed. People already dead are trying frantically to mount the gallows, but the wheel is turning too fast…

Something was needed to put me right with myself. Last night I discovered it: Papini. It doesn't matter to me whether he's a chauvinist, a little Christer, or a nearsighted pedant. As a failure he's marvelous…

The books he read – at eighteen! Not only Homer, Dante, Goethe, not only Aristotle, Plato, Epictetus, not only Rabelais, Cervantes, Swift, not only Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Baudelaire, Villon, Carducci, Manzoni, Lope de Vega, not only Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Spencer, Huxley – not only these but all the small fry in between. This on page 18. Alors, on page 232 he breaks down and confesses. I know nothing, he admits. I know the titles, I have compiled bibliographies, I have written critical essays, I have maligned and defamed… I can talk for five minutes or for five days, but then I give out, I am squeezed dry.

Follows this: "Everybody wants to see me. Everybody insists on talking to me. People pester me and they pester others with inquiries about what I am doing. How am I? Am I quite well again? Do I still go for my walks in the country? Am I working? Have I finished my book? Will I begin another soon?

"A skinny monkey of a German wants me to translate his works. A wild eyed Russian girl wants me to write an account of my life for her. An American lady wants the very latest news about me. An American gentleman will send his carriage to take me to dinner – just an intimate, confidential talk, you know. An old schoolmate and chum of mine, of ten years ago, wants me to read him all that I write as fast as I write it. A painter friend I know expects me to pose for him by the hour. A newspaperman wants my present address. An acquaintance, a mystic, inquires about the state of my soul; another, more practical, about the state of my pocketbook. The president of my club wonders if I will make a speech for the boys! A lady, spiritually inclined, hopes I will come to her house for tea as often as possible. She wants to have my opinion of Jesus Christ, and – what do I think of that new medium? …

"Great God! what have I turned into? What right have you people to clutter up my life, steal my time, probe my soul, suckle my thoughts, have me for your companion, confidant, and information bureau? What do you take me for? Am I an entertainer on salary, required every morning to play an intellectual farce under your stupid noses? Am I a slave, bought and paid for, to crawl on my belly in front of you idlers and lay at your feet all that I do and all that I know? Am I a wench in a brothel who is called upon to lift her skirts or take off her chemise at the bidding of the first snan in a tailored suit who comes along?

"I am a man who would live an heroic life and make the world more endurable in his own sight. If, in some moment of weakness, of relaxation, of need, I blow off steam – a bit of red hot rage cooled off in words – a passionate dream, wrapped and tied in imagery – well, take it or leave it … but don't bother me!

"I am a free man – and I need my freedom. I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company. What do you want of me? When I have something to say, I put it in print. When I have something to give, I give it.

Your prying curiosity turns my stomach! Your compliments humiliate me! Your tea poisons me! I owe nothing to any one. I would be responsible to God alone – if He existed!"

It seems to me that Papini misses something by a ha............

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