Syphilis is a civilized disease, and I intend to declare my allegiance to its aesthetic. I acquired it in the most charming of ways. Suffice to say, she who bestowed this gift upon me did so with the same ease and elegance as the doves of Aphrodite must alight upon the breasts of sleeping women…
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If I wrote a book about Don Juan’s syphilis, I’d worry about acquiring that habit or weakness of writers who plot out all their actions as though for a book, writers whose days have become the monotonous pages of a novel. A book is a secret vice. If we could collect all our dandruff as easily as we collect the so-called contents of our heads, it would be just as publishable. Like the eighteenth-century woman who liked lace so much she cut it up and ate it in a tortilla, there are people who worship the fetish object that is a book and want nothing more than to see themselves reflected in it—like Narcissus.
I’d also like to avoid the mania of writing books to serve as funeral wreaths. I remember some grief-stricken parents who published a book about a daughter of theirs who’d died at the age of eighteen. Now, what could that poor anonymous girl have accomplished at such a young age to warrant such a tribute? Two photographs included in the text gave us the measure of this extinct creature. In one of them the girl is playing croquet. She’d played just once, in a hotel I used to frequent. Hardly a devotee!
The other photograph showed her on a horse. A few minutes after the picture was taken, the horse bucked the girl off and she broke her leg.
The seeming pedigree of such images made her parents forget the facts. Writers are the same.
They publish books for the pleasure of seeing them printed and bound, without remembering that the saddest aspects of their lives will end up contained in those pages.
But wouldn’t my book be the result of my desire to commit a crime, and thus be a part of it? Wouldn’t every page be a sliver of glass in the daily soup of my fellow citizens?
A book is the vegetal pulp left behind by man. And now, after countless centuries of digging up and studying palimpsests and engraved tablets, they’re saying that we should just allow all those dead, abandoned cities to become buried again beneath the windblown sediment…
A book is a slow, unavoidable catastrophe.
Translated by Idra Novey.