THE BLACK BOOK

Everything is plausible here, because nothing is real.  Forgive me.  The barriers of the explored world, the divisions, the corridors, the memories – they sweep down on us in a catharsis of misery, riving us.  I am like a child left alone in these corridors, these avenues of sleeping doors among the statuary, with no friends but an audience of yawning boots.  I am being honest with you for once, I, Death Gregory, the monkey on the stick.  If I were to prick out my history for you, as Lobo his plans on the mature parchment, would you be able to comprehend for an instant the significance of the act?  I doubt it.  In the field of history we all share the irrelevance of painted things.  I have only this portion of time in which to suffer.

The realms of history, then! The fact magical, the fancy wonderful, the fact treasonable.  All filtered, through the wretched instruments of the self.  The seventy million I’s whose focus embraces these phenomena and records them on the plate of the mind.  The singularity of the world would be inspiriting if one did not feel there was a catch in it.  When I was nine the haggard female guardian in whose care I had been left exclaimed: “Horses sweat, Herbert.  Gentlemen perspire.  Don’t say that nasty word any more.”  I shall never forget the phrase; it will remain with me until I die – along with that other useless and ineradicable lumber – the proverbs, practices, and precepts of a dead life in a dead land.  it is, after all, the one permanent thing, the one unchanging milestone on the climb.  it is I who change; constant, like a landmark of the locality, the lumber remains.  Like a lake seen from different altitudes during a journey, its position never varying: only its aspect altering in relation to my own place on the landscape.  I think that what we are to be is decided for us in the first few years of life; what we gain afterwards in the way of reason, adjustment etc., is superficial: a veneer, which only aggravates our disorders.  Perish the wise, the seekers after reason.  I am that I am.  The treasonable self remains.  I am not more astonished now by the knowledge that gentlemen can, if they want, have wings, than I was by that pithy social formula; or, for example, that red blood runs in fishes.  I shall never be more amazed.

Lawrence Durrell, The Black Book.

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