Alphonse Daudet’s house of pain

Every evening, a hideously painful spasm in the ribs. I read, for a long time, sitting up in bed – the only position I can endure. I’m a poor old wounded Don Quixote, sitting on his arse in his armour at the foot of a tree.

Armour is exactly what it feels like, a hoop of steel cruelly crushing my lower back. Hot coals, stabs of pain as sharp as needles. Then chloral, the tin-tin of my spoon in the glass, and peace at last.

This breastplate has had me in its grip for months. I can’t undo the straps; I can’t breathe…

Since learning that I’ve got it for ever – and my God, what a short “for ever” that is going to be – I’ve readjusted myself and started taking these notes. I’m making them by dipping the point of a nail in my own blood and scratching on the walls of my carcere duro [punitive imprisonment].

All I ask is not to have to change cell, not to have to descend into an in pace, down there where everything’s black, and thought no longer exists…

The clever way death cuts us down, but makes it look like just a thinning-out. Generations never fall with one blow – that would be too sad and too obvious. Death prefers to do it piecemeal. The meadow is attacked from several sides at the same time. One of us goes one day; another some time afterwards; you have to stand back and look around you to take in what’s missing, to grasp the vast slaughter of your generation…

From time to time, a memory of the active life, of happier times. For instance, those Neapolitan coral-fishermen among the rocks, in the evening. The epitome of physical well-being…

Return to childhood. To reach that distant chair, to cross that waxed corridor, requires as much effort and ingenuity as Stanley deploys in the African jungle…

I only know one thing, and that is to shout to my children, “Long live Life!’ But it’s so hard to do, while I am ripped apart by pain.

This was first published in 1930, although Daudet died in 1897. Here is a related article, and here is the one in which I am finding my Daudet quotations. Here is more.

Axé.

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2 Comments

Filed under Bibliography, Poetry

2 responses to “Alphonse Daudet’s house of pain

  1. The deaths are like big holes where something used to be.

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