Sunday, 15 May 2011

Heroic Journeys


Nothing happens while you live. The settings changes, people come in and go out, that’s all. There are no beginnings. Days are tacked onto days without rhyme or reason, it is an endless, monotonous addition. Now and then you do a partial sum: you say: I’ve been traveling for three years, I’ve been at Bouville for three years. There isn’t any end either: you never leave a woman, a friend, a town in one go. . . . That’s living. But  when you tell about life; everything changes; only it’s a change no one notices: the proof is that people talk about true stories. As if there could possibly be such things as true stories; events take place one way and we recount them the opposite way. You appear to begin at the beginning: “It was a fine autumn evening in 1922. I was a solicitor’s clerk at Maromme”. And in fact you have begun at the end. It is there, invisible and present, and it is the end that gives to words the pomp and value of a beginning. “I was out walking. I had left the village without noticing, I was thinking about money troubles.” This sentence, taken simply for what it is, means that the fellow was absorbed, morose, miles away from an adventure, in exactly the sort of mood in which you let events go by without seeing them. But the end is there, transforming everything. For us, the man is already the hero of the story. His morose mood, his money troubles are much more precious than ours, they are all gilded by the light of future passions, and the story goes on in the reverse . . . And we have the impression that the hero has lived all the details of this night like annunciations, promises, or even that he lived only those that were promises, blind and deaf to all that did not herald adventure. We forget that the future was not yet there; the fellow was walking in a darkness devoid of portents, a night which offered him its monotonous riches pell-mell, and he had made no choice.

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