Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets by Georges Simenon (Penguin Books 1931)

“By working ourselves up into a frenzy, we ended up as packs of nerves. Especially those of us who didn’t eat enough. Do you see what I mean? Little Émile Klein included. A kid who didn’t eat, but kept himself going with loads of drink.

“Naturally, we re-discovered the world. We had our own ideas about all the great problems! We scoffed at the middle-class, society, and all established truths…“

As soon as we’d gulped down a few drinks and the air was thick with smoke, we’d bandy the craziest ideas about! A mixture of Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Moses, Confucius, and Jesus Christ.“

For instance, let’s see… I can’t remember who it was who discovered that pain didn’t exist and that it was only a figment of the imagination. I was so taken with the idea that, one night, in the middle of a breathless group, I stuck the end of a penknife into the fleshy part of my arm and tried to smile…“

Then there were other things. We were an Élite, a little group of Geniuses brought together by chance. We soared above the conventional world of law and prejudice.“

A handful of gods, do you see? Gods who were sometimes starving to death, but who walked the streets proudly, dismissing the passers-by with contempt.“

We used to plan the future: Lecocq d’Arneville was to be a Tolstoy. Van Damme, who was doing a boring course at the School of Economics, was to revolutionize political economy and reverse all accepted ideas on the organization of the human race

“Each of us had his place. There were poets, painters, and future heads of state.“

All on drink! And how! In the end, we were so used to getting carried away, that we’d hardly have got here, in the light of the lamp, with the skull from which we all drank, before each of us would manage to achieve the little frenzy he wanted, on his own…“

Even the more modest of us could already see a marble plaque one day on the wall of the house: Here met the famous Companions of the Apocalypse.…“

It was a challenge to see who could bring the latest book, or come up with the most far-fetched ideas.“

It’s pure chance that we didn’t become anarchists. We used to discuss the question, solemnly. There had been an attempted assassination in Seville. We’d read the newspaper article out loud.“

I can’t remember which of us cried out: ‘True genius is destructive!’…

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