Sunday, February 19, 2012


I didn't exactly lie when I said wasn't going to write anything for a while. I am still not going to (except for this brief introduction), but sometimes life just makes sense. Sometimes when you least expect it, life puzzle pieces fall into place. And sometimes you chance upon a word, a song, or (in this case) a letter written by someone else, someone you don't even know that makes it all clear as crystal. What follows is that moment for me.

It is part of a letter written by the Austrian writer Joseph Roth to his friend Bernard von Brentano. This is how my life is summed up at the moment. I lack the talent to put it into words, but lucky for me I had the good fortune to read Joseph Roth, you should too sometime.

My dear friend, I'm becoming more and more solitary. More manifest in the details of life, in matters of taste, food, clothing, restaurants, and pleasures than in question of principle or philosophy. . . .  Even my wife is withdrawing from me, for all her love.  She is normal, and I am what you'd have to all insane. . . . Anything and everything is capable of provoking me. The conversation at another table, a look, a dress, a walk. It's really not "normal." I'm afraid I'm going to have to foreswear society, and break off all ties. I no believe anything I am told. I see through a magnifying glass. I peel the skins off people and things to see their hidden secrets---after that, you really can't believe anything.  I know, before the object of my scrutiny knows, how it will adapt, how it will evolve, what it will do next.  It might change utterly. But my knowledge of it is such that it will do exactly what I think it will do. . . I am becoming dangerous to ordinary decent people because of my knowledge of them.

It makes for an atrocious life.  It precludes all of love and most of friendship.  My mistrust kills all warmth, as bleach kills most germs.  I no longer understand the forms of human intercourse.  A harmless conversation chokes me.  I am incapable of speaking an innocent word.  I don't understand how people utter banalities.  How they manage to sing.  How the manage to play charades. . . . I am starting to hate decency, where---as is so often the case---- it's paired with limited intelligence.  The merely decent are beginning to hate me back. It can't go on. It can't go on.

Joseph Roth

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