What it’s like to jump off a mountain

This is unbelievable.

I thought it was bold to jump out of an airplane but this makes skydiving look like hopscotch.

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13 thoughts on “What it’s like to jump off a mountain

  1. Dear Derek, I was on a hour+ run the day before last and it was like Citizen Kane, where instead of the phrase ‘rosebud’ it was ‘Reassembler’. So I had to stop by to see what you were doing.

    Well, I have a word for you–Promethean. This is how I see you. It is wonderful to see you still persevering, never dull, always rich…

    I dream of one day blogging notably again, but we have to look at our motives, and scrub that down, and get under the doing of what we are doing. I still am transformation, transform, dk-transform in various chess places, but on twitter and chess.com I am ‘heuristical’. Heuristics it seems to be is such a rich concept….

    That said, if we realize we don’t need the attention, or want it, nor to give it, and we have met the people we are supposed to meet, as it were the 80% we aught to know in 20% of the time, it is diminishing returns…. So then you get to not building a brand or a name or attention getting, to helping others, to leadership. And that has its limits.

    What is the saying? ‘The most complex systems have the greatest energy throughput’. So even when you wish to support your learning community, or community of knowledge, THAT takes tremendous energy.

    Before goodbyes, for now, I have when not otherwise absorbed in what was my stint running a Cloud computing company this spring, on a consulting basis, more like a start up or turn around situation, now fitfully done or ever with (two executives cannot run one company–the owner who hires the driver saying, ‘I cannot run it’, you can, and you do, and once you get control, you are a threat!), I have been helping my very old mother through hospice (she is in remission, refuses to die, tough old little gal, where I came from, go figure), when not otherwise therein, and now in job markets, wholly taken by job markets, internet chess as prep to OTB chess (‘real chess’ as distinct from ‘hope chess’), I am running the West Orange Chess Club blog (won top honors at Parsippany’s World Team Amateur, Orange Krush, you saw them on the cover of Chess Life, we also my team won <1700 (average 1698, strongly contributed to by my 1462 provisional rating from 1973!)…

    Will you be at USATE in February again? We need to meet for a glass of wine, at night, hope to get a room one night next year, the driving on top of six games is a killer, even from just 35/40 minutes away)…

    How are your kids, how is your job, how is your book? Is George sick, his blog had an ominous note, scared me.

    It was so very, very nice to see you last year, it was grace. You looked just the way you were supposed to: apparent equanimity.

    Best, dk david_korn at verizon dot net. Please even just a note, promise not to make you an Amway prospect list in a CRM.

    PS usual patent no edit, no reread, one gulp of air………. :-).

  2. Love the contrast between these two comments!

    And thank you both.

    I am crazy busy and yes, nearly ready to change the name of the blog to Disassembled. But I hope to be more regular in January.

    No wait. That’s not what I meant. :)

  3. Ludwig Wittgenstein had gender confusion, but thing was, he could ride a bicycle. Riding in the Tour de France was never an option, but by reducing his intake of food, regulating his in and out breath, cleaning his emotional channel of socio-economic detritus, he could emulate the great sages of old from the Sung and Tang Dynasty. Nevertheless, his revolving credit started to press him. The interest rates were so high. But his saving grace was his full adoption of the simple declarative sentence. It was good. How did he learn it? He learned it from Derek Slater. He used to write like Hegel, which David Korn provided ample evidence of the confusion and prolixity of this enormous, icommensurable stellar juggernaut of boundless, inexplicable depth, and instead emulated the laconic concision of John Stewart Mill. Again, thankfully in the new millennium, he had Derek to look to, much as the ancient mariners navigated by the stars, but now it was navigating my cyber Monday. Mace was not needed. He was able to use his mighty pen. It was good.

    1. This is the most amazing paragraph I have ever seen. It’s almost like you put this paragraph into Babelfish, translated it into Chinese, took the Chinese translation, translated it back into English, then translated the new English translation into French, then took the French translation and translated it back into English again…AND IT STILL MADE SENSE. Sort of. I like it, however it came about.

      1. [Actually I couldn’t make the English-Chinese leg work for some reason so I substituted Japanese, not that they are linguistically similar, but they both use a different character set. Viola:]

        Confusion was Ludwig Wittgenstein, things that he can ride a bike was. Climb the Tower of France was the choice but to adjust by decreasing the breathable channels and its emotional its socio-economic remains of his intake of food to clean his own Sung dynasty and flavour can compete for large sauges of old. Permanent credit he began pushing it nonetheless. Interest rates are very high. However, the full adoption of the simple declarative sentence he helped him. It was good. He learned how it? He learned Derek slate plant. It provides the prolixity and confusion of absolute power in these huge stars and icommensurable David Korn, infinitely mysterious depth is sufficient elements of evidence to the competition instead of simple simplicity of Hegel ジョンステュワート plant ‘. s writing was always used. Thanks to the ancient sailors led by the star, had now run my cyber Monday still in the new millennium, were he to see Derek that much. The Mace was not required. He could use his powerful pen. It was good.

  4. {is it possible, that no one will believe that I wrote, rewrote, wrote and rewrote these opening paragraphs, for years? David Korn made me do it:

    Chapter One
    We were in class when the head-master came in, followed by a “new fellow,” not wearing the school uniform, and a school servant carrying a large desk. Those who had been asleep woke up, and every one rose as if just surprised at his work.

    The head-master made a sign to us to sit down. Then, turning to the class-master, he said to him in a low voice ­

    “Monsieur Roger, here is a pupil whom I recommend to your care; he’ll be in the second. If his work and conduct are satisfactory, he will go into one of the upper classes, as becomes his age.”

    The “new fellow,” standing in the corner behind the door so that he could hardly be seen, was a country lad of about fifteen, and taller than any of us. His hair was cut square on his forehead like a village chorister’s; he looked reliable, but very ill at ease. Although he was not broad-shouldered, his short school jacket of green cloth with black buttons must have been tight about the arm-holes, and showed at the opening of the cuffs red wrists accustomed to being bare. His legs, in blue stockings, looked out from beneath yellow trousers, drawn tight by braces, He wore stout, ill-cleaned, hob-nailed boots.

    We began repeating the lesson. He listened with all his ears, as attentive as if at a sermon, not daring even to cross his legs or lean on his elbow; and when at two o’clock the bell rang, the master was obliged to tell him to fall into line with the rest of us.

    When we came back to work, we were in the habit of throwing our caps on the ground so as to have our hands more free; we used from the door to toss them under the form, so that they hit against the wall and made a lot of dust: it was “the thing.”

    But, whether he had not noticed the trick, or did not dare to attempt it, the “new fellow,” was still holding his cap on his knees even after prayers were over. It was one of those head-gears of composite order, in which we can find traces of the bearskin, shako, billycock hat, sealskin cap, and cotton night-cap; one of those poor things, in fine, whose dumb ugliness has depths of expression, like an imbécile’s face. Oval, stiffened with whalebone, it began with three round knobs; then came in succession lozenges of velvet and rabbit-skin separated by a red band; after that a sort of bag that ended in a cardboard polygon covered with complicated braiding, from which hung, at the end of a long thin cord, small twisted gold threads in the manner of a tassel. The cap was new; its peak shone.

    “Rise,” said the master.

    He stood up; his cap fell. The whole class began to laugh. He stooped to pick it up. A neighbor knocked it down again with his elbow; he picked it up once more.

    “Get rid of your helmet,” said the master, who was a bit of a wag.

    There was a burst of laughter from the boys, which so thoroughly put the poor lad out of countenance that he did not know whether to keep his cap in his hand, leave it on the ground, or put it on his head. He sat down again and placed it on his knee.

    “Rise,” repeated the master, “and tell me your name.”

    The new boy articulated in a stammering voice an unintelligible name.

    “Again!”

    The same sputtering of syllables was heard, drowned by the tittering of the class.

    “Louder!” cried the master; “louder!”

    The “new fellow” then took a supreme resolution, opened an inordinately large mouth, and shouted at the top of his voice as if calling someone in the word “Charbovari.”

    A hubbub broke out, rose in crescendo with bursts of shrill voices (they yelled, barked, stamped, repeated “Charbovari! Charbovari”), then died away into single notes, growing quieter only with great difficulty, and now and again suddenly recommencing along the line of a form whence rose here and there, like a damp cracker going off, a stifled laugh.

    However, amid a rain of impositions, order was gradually re-established in the class; and the master having succeeded in catching the name of “Charles Bovary,” having had it dictated to him, spelt out, and re-read, at once ordered the poor devil to go and sit down on the punishment form at the foot of the master’s desk. He got up, but before going hesitated.

    “What are you looking for?” asked the master.

    “My c-a-p,” timidly said the “new fellow,” casting troubled looks round him.

    “Five hundred lines for all the class!” shouted in a furious voice stopped, like the Quos ego, a fresh outburst. “Silence!” continued the master indignantly, wiping his brow with his handkerchief, which he had just taken from his cap. “As to you, ‘new boy,’ you will conjugate ’ridiculus sum’ twenty times.”

    Then, in a gentler tone, “Come, you’ll find your cap again; it hasn’t been stolen.”

    A quotation from the Aeneid signifying a threat.

    I am ridiculous.

    Quiet was restored. Heads bent over desks, and the “new fellow” remained for two hours in an exemplary attitude, although from time to time some paper pellet flipped from the tip of a pen came bang in his face. But he wiped his face with one hand and continued motionless, his eyes lowered.

    In the evening, at preparation, he pulled out his pens from his desk, arranged his small belongings, and carefully ruled his paper. We saw him working conscientiously, looking up every word in the dictionary, and taking the greatest pains. Thanks, no doubt, to the willingness he showed, he had not to go down to the class below. But though he knew his rules passably, he had little finish in composition. It was the cure of his village who had taught him his first Latin; his parents, from motives of economy, having sent him to school as late as possible.

    His father, Monsieur Charles Denis Bartolome Bovary, retired assistant-surgeon-major, compromised about 1812 in certain conscription scandals, and forced at this time to leave the service, had taken advantage of his fine figure to get hold of a dowry of sixty thousand francs that offered in the person of a hosier’s daughter who had fallen in love with his good looks. A fine man, a great talker, making his spurs ring as he walked, wearing whiskers that ran into his moustache, his fingers always garnished with rings and dressed in loud colours, he had the dash of a military man with the easy go of a commercial traveller.

    Once married, he lived for three or four years on his wife’s fortune, dining well, rising late, smoking long porcelain pipes, not coming in at night till after the theatre, and haunting cafes. The father-in-law died, leaving little; he was indignant at this, “went in for the business,” lost some money in it, then retired to the country, where he thought he would make money.

    But, as he knew no more about farming than calico, as he rode his horses instead of sending them to plough, drank his cider in bottle instead of selling it in cask, ate the finest poultry in his farmyard, and greased his hunting-boots with the fat of his pigs, he was not long in finding out that he would do better to give up all speculation.

    For two hundred francs a year he managed to live on the border of the provinces of Caux and Picardy, in a kind of place half farm, half private house; and here, soured, eaten up with regrets, cursing his luck, jealous of everyone, he shut himself up at the age of forty-five, sick of men, he said, and determined to live at peace.

    His wife had adored him once on a time; she had bored him with a thousand servilities that had only estranged him the more. Lively once, expansive and affectionate, in growing older she had become (after the fashion of wine that, exposed to air, turns to vinegar) ill-tempered, grumbling, irritable. She had suffered so much without complaint at first, until she had seem him going after all the village drabs, and until a score of bad houses sent him back to her at night, weary, stinking drunk. Then her pride revolted. After that she was silent, burying her anger in a dumb stoicism that she maintained till her death. She was constantly going about looking after business matters. She called on the lawyers, the president, remembered when bills fell due, got them renewed, and at home ironed, sewed, washed, looked after the workmen, paid the accounts, while he, troubling himself about nothing, eternally besotted in sleepy sulkiness, whence he only roused himself to say disagreeable things to her, sat smoking by the fire and spitting into the cinders.

    When she had a child, it had to be sent out to nurse. When he came home, the lad was spoilt as if he were a prince. His mother stuffed him with jam; his father let him run about barefoot, and, playing the philosopher, even said he might as well go about quite naked like the young of animals. As opposed to the maternal ideas, he had a certain virile idea of childhood on which he sought to mould his son, wishing him to be brought up hardily, like a Spartan, to give him a strong constitution. He sent him to bed without any fire, taught him to drink off large draughts of rum and to jeer at religious processions. But, peaceable by nature, the lad answered only poorly to his notions. His mother always kept him near her; she cut out cardboard for him, told him tales, entertained him with endless monologues full of melancholy gaiety and charming nonsense. In her life’s isolation she centered on the child’s head all her shattered, broken little vanities. She dreamed of high station; she already saw him, tall, handsome, clever, settled as an engineer or in the law. She taught him to read, and even, on an old piano, she had taught him two or three little songs. But to all this Monsieur Bovary, caring little for letters, said, “It was not worth while. Would they ever have the means to send him to a public school, to buy him a practice, or start him in business? Besides, with cheek a man always gets on in the world.” Madame Bovary bit her lips, and the child knocked about the village.

    He went after the labourers, drove away with clods of earth the ravens that were flying about. He ate blackberries along the hedges, minded the geese with a long switch, went haymaking during harvest, ran about in the woods, played hop-scotch under the church porch on rainy days, and at great fêtes begged the beadle to let him toll the bells, that he might hang all his weight on the long rope and feel himself borne upward by it in its swing. Meanwhile he grew like an oak; he was strong on hand, fresh of colour.

  5. Being completely full of it can assume the level of high art.

    But seriously, that I understand, Flaubert wrote, and rewrote endless, and it shows. I am not making a mockery of that, rather honestly distinguishing the lack of effort in our time, that is concerted, sustained, classical.

    Because every smartPhone or iPhone is a journalist or filmmaker (bit of truth in that), it means content and content distribution are accessible to everyone. But it also means that the communication channels are filled with trivial excess… Leonardo da Vinchi spent years on his Virgin and Saint Anne, and even this great painter could not finish it, that is how high his standards were. Did he lack technique, or was he after something beyond all else, that even he felt insufficient to?

    To tell a story, boy next door, maybe age sixteen. ‘Hello’ I say, our first meeting. My family has only lived in this house for 43 years. But he is staring down into his phone, THINKING he is checking his text messages or some gosh darn news flash, or email. But he is not. He is dissociated. Fast forward that to 300M people.

    What of water quality, education, health, infrastructure, sustainability? But we are not a serious culture. We adore fame. We love major controversies. Somehow Justin Berber (sp?), and Britney Spears photographed from knee level straight on assumes importance. Or if Janet Jackson’s boob shows. When every crotch can be viewed on line, how sacred does the magical numinosity of the divine love assume? Don’t get me wrong, I lust too. But this is major media, not two friends in a bar discussing current affairs. Ashton Kutcher? Paris Hilton. When news is Dancing with the Stars, or some NFL player jumping on another, or hours of commentary on Canes lies? Of course it matters. That is not the issue. But is much else not far more important?

    Well, wait till the electric grid in America is calamitiously shut off. Our power went off for 14 hours in the Hurricane, and people were already freaking out.

    Its true that the Roman, Persian, Mayan, British empire, all of them disintegretrated, and now we are next. Rome kept trying to gimmick strategic alliances, have other tribes do their work, build their roads. How far did that go? At some point, the leaders need to ACTUALLY, actually lead, actually work. But no, we have policy, discussion, votes, delays.

    The Kyoto accord of reducing carbon emissions, was it for, in 1996 kept discussing postponements, and justifications for lack of action. Now, in 2011 they are still talking.

    One singe high tech torpedo costs $3,000,000 but we have ‘no money for health care reform’. A very high tech Navy Destroyer is loaded with cruise missiles, filled with high torque engines thrusting 32 foot propellers, with a 268′ long drive train. Somehow when we want to get serious, we are able to.

    We are lost. And our certainty that we, as a society are NOT lost, is the one thing insuring our total collapse.

  6. First off Derek, This is all very offensive to me. Your suggestion–since you after all are responsible for Flaubert posting at your incendiary and inflammatory post, not to mention goading your readers to stand with him–that he represents the very apogee of Belles Letre’s is gross overstatement.

    Many of us have worked at the anvil of French prose. Whether Rabelas, the gargantuan appetites of Balzac, or Victor Hugo, each of them helped define this tapestry. Lastly, Claude Levi-Straus set the greatest example, as described in his Tristes Tropiques, where at the Sorbone he had to learn to speak then defend any topic for an hour, even if he had to make it all up, just keep manufacturing self-aggrandizing complexification. Then Derida.

    Why bother being clear? Think of all the young college girls these professors and writers can obtain by language obfuscation. Now, to prove to you that I can write even better than Gustav, he is the draft of the starting point of what I think of as my very best work. This will show them all–all of them! The Fall will last the test of time. Here:

    ‘Some were dreadfully insulted, and quite seriously, to have held up as a model such an immoral character as A Hero of Our Time; others shrewdly noticed that the author had portrayed himself and his acquaintances.

    A Hero of Our Time, gentlemen, is in fact a portrait, but not of an individual; it is the aggregate of the vices of our whole generation in their fullest expression.

    LERMONTOV
    The Fall MAY I, monsieur, offer my services without running the risk of intruding? I fear you may not be able to make yourself understood by the worthy ape who presides over the fate of this establishment. In fact, he speaks nothing but Dutch. Unless you authorize me to plead your case, he will not guess that you want gin. There, I dare hope he understood me; that nod must mean that he yields to my arguments. He is taking steps; indeed, he is making haste with prudent deliberation. You are lucky; he didn’t grunt. When he refuses to serve someone, he merely grunts. No one insists. Being master of one’s moods is the privilege of the larger animals. Now I shall withdraw, monsieur, happy to have been of help to you. Thank you; I’d accept if I were sure of not being a nuisance. You are too kind. Then I shall bring my glass over beside yours. You are right. His silence is deafening. It’s the silence of the primeval forest, heavy with threats. At times I am amazed by his obstinacy in snubbing civilized languages. His business consists in entertaining sailors of all nationalities in this Amsterdam bar, which for that matter he named no one knows why Mexico City. With such duties wouldn’t you think there might be some fear that his ignorance would be awkward? Fancy the Cro-Magnon man lodged in the Tower of Babel! He would certainly feel out of his element. Yet this one is not aware of his exile; he goes his own sweet way and nothing touches him. One of the rare sentences I have ever heard from his mouth proclaimed that you could take it or leave it. What did one have to take or leave? Doubtless our friend himself. I confess I am drawn by such creatures who are all of a piece. Anyone who has considerably meditated on man, by profession or vocation, is led to feel nostalgia for the primates. They at least don t have any ulterior motives.

    Our host, to tell the truth, has some, although he harbors them deep within him. As a result of not understanding what is said in his presence, he has adopted a distrustful disposition. Whence that look of touchy dignity as if he at least suspected that all is not perfect among men. That disposition makes it less easy to discuss anything with him that does not concern his business. Notice, for instance, on the back wall above his head that empty rectangle marking the place where a picture has been taken down. Indeed, there was a picture there, and a particularly interesting one, a real masterpiece. Well, I was present when the master of the house received it and when he gave it up. In both cases he did so with the same distrust, after weeks of rumination. In that regard you must admit that society has somewhat spoiled the frank simplicity of his nature. Mind you, I am not judging him. I consider his distrust justified and should be inclined to share it if, as you see, my communicative nature were not opposed to this. I am talkative, alas, and make friends easily. Although I know how to keep my distance, I seize any and every opportunity. When I used to live in France, were I to meet an intelligent man I immediately sought his company. If that be foolish … Ah, I see you smile at that use of the subjunctive. I confess my weakness for that mood and for fine speech in general. A weakness that I criticize in myself, believe me. I am well aware that an addiction to silk underwear does not necessarily imply that one’s feet are dirty. Nonetheless, style, like sheer silk, too often hides eczema. My consolation is to tell myself that, after all, those who murder the language are not pure either. Why yes, let’s have another gin. Are you staying long in Amsterdam? A beautiful city, isn’t it? Fascinating? There’s an adjective I haven t heard in some time. Not since leaving Paris, in fact, years ago. But the heart has its own memory and I have forgotten nothing of our beautiful capital, nor of its quays. Paris is a real trompelil, a magnificent stage-setting inhabited by four million silhouettes. Nearly five million at the last census? Why, they must have multiplied. And that wouldn’t surprise me. It always seemed to me that our fellow citizens had two passions: ideas and fornication. Without rhyme or reason, so to speak. Still, let us take care not to condemn them; they are not the only ones, for all Europe is in the same boat. I sometimes think of what future historians will say of us. A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted. Oh, not the Dutch; they are much less modern! They have time just look at them. What do they do? Well, these gentlemen over here live off the labors of those ladies over there. All of them, moreover, both male and female, are very middle-class creatures who have come here, as usual, out of mythomania or stupidity. Through too much or too little imagination, in short. From time to time, these gentlemen indulge in a little knife or revolver play, but don t get the idea that they’re keen on it. Their role calls for it, that s all, and they are dying of fright as they shoot it out. Nevertheless, I find them more moral than the others, those who kill in the bosom of the family by attrition. Haven’t you noticed that our society is organized for this kind of liquidation? You have heard, of course, of those tiny fish in the rivers of Brazil that attack the unwary swimmer by thousands and with swift little nibbles clean him up in a few minutes, leaving only an immaculate skeleton? Well, that is what their organization is. Do you want a good clean life? [8] Like everybody else? You say yes, of course. How can one say no? O.K. You’ll be cleaned up. Here’s a job, a family, and organized leisure activities. And the little teeth attack the flesh, right down to the bone. But I am unjust. I shouldn’t say their organization. It is ours, after all: it’s a question of which will clean up the other. Here is our gin at last. To your prosperity. Yes, the ape opened his mouth to call me doctor. In these countries everyone is a doctor, or a professor. They like showing respect, out of kindness and out of modesty. Among them, at least, spitefulness is not a national institution. Besides, I am not a doctor. If you want to know, I was a lawyer before coming here. Now, I am a judge-penitent. But allow me to introduce myself: Jean-Baptiste Clamence, at your service.

    Some were dreadfully insulted, and quite seriously, to have held up as a model such an immoral character as A Hero of Our Time; others shrewdly noticed that the author had portrayed himself and his acquaintances.

    A Hero of Our Time, gentlemen, is in fact a portrait, but not of an individual; it is the aggregate of the vices of our whole generation in their fullest expression.

    LERMONTOV
    The Fall MAY I, monsieur, offer my services without running the risk of intruding? I fear you may not be able to make yourself understood by the worthy ape who presides over the fate of this establishment. In fact, he speaks nothing but Dutch. Unless you authorize me to plead your case, he will not guess that you want gin. There, I dare hope he understood me; that nod must mean that he yields to my arguments. He is taking steps; indeed, he is making haste with prudent deliberation. You are lucky; he didn’t grunt. When he refuses to serve someone, he merely grunts. No one insists. Being master of one’s moods is the privilege of the larger animals. Now I shall withdraw, monsieur, happy to have been of help to you. Thank you; I’d accept if I were sure of not being a nuisance. You are too kind. Then I shall bring my glass over beside yours. You are right. His silence is deafening. It’s the silence of the primeval forest, heavy with threats. At times I am amazed by his obstinacy in snubbing civilized languages. His business consists in entertaining sailors of all nationalities in this Amsterdam bar, which for that matter he named no one knows why Mexico City. With such duties wouldn’t you think there might be some fear that his ignorance would be awkward? Fancy the Cro-Magnon man lodged in the Tower of Babel! He would certainly feel out of his element. Yet this one is not aware of his exile; he goes his own sweet way and nothing touches him. One of the rare sentences I have ever heard from his mouth proclaimed that you could take it or leave it. What did one have to take or leave? Doubtless our friend himself. I confess I am drawn by such creatures who are all of a piece. Anyone who has considerably meditated on man, by profession or vocation, is led to feel nostalgia for the primates. They at least don t have any ulterior motives.

    Our host, to tell the truth, has some, although he harbors them deep within him. As a result of not understanding what is said in his presence, he has adopted a distrustful disposition. Whence that look of touchy dignity as if he at least suspected that all is not perfect among men. That disposition makes it less easy to discuss anything with him that does not concern his business. Notice, for instance, on the back wall above his head that empty rectangle marking the place where a picture has been taken down. Indeed, there was a picture there, and a particularly interesting one, a real masterpiece. Well, I was present when the master of the house received it and when he gave it up. In both cases he did so with the same distrust, after weeks of rumination. In that regard you must admit that society has somewhat spoiled the frank simplicity of his nature. Mind you, I am not judging him. I consider his distrust justified and should be inclined to share it if, as you see, my communicative nature were not opposed to this. I am talkative, alas, and make friends easily. Although I know how to keep my distance, I seize any and every opportunity. When I used to live in France, were I to meet an intelligent man I immediately sought his company. If that be foolish … Ah, I see you smile at that use of the subjunctive. I confess my weakness for that mood and for fine speech in general. A weakness that I criticize in myself, believe me. I am well aware that an addiction to silk underwear does not necessarily imply that one’s feet are dirty. Nonetheless, style, like sheer silk, too often hides eczema. My consolation is to tell myself that, after all, those who murder the language are not pure either. Why yes, let’s have another gin. Are you staying long in Amsterdam? A beautiful city, isn’t it? Fascinating? There’s an adjective I haven t heard in some time. Not since leaving Paris, in fact, years ago. But the heart has its own memory and I have forgotten nothing of our beautiful capital, nor of its quays. Paris is a real trompelil, a magnificent stage-setting inhabited by four million silhouettes. Nearly five million at the last census? Why, they must have multiplied. And that wouldn’t surprise me. It always seemed to me that our fellow citizens had two passions: ideas and fornication. Without rhyme or reason, so to speak. Still, let us take care not to condemn them; they are not the only ones, for all Europe is in the same boat. I sometimes think of what future historians will say of us. A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted. Oh, not the Dutch; they are much less modern! They have time just look at them. What do they do? Well, these gentlemen over here live off the labors of those ladies over there. All of them, moreover, both male and female, are very middle-class creatures who have come here, as usual, out of mythomania or stupidity. Through too much or too little imagination, in short. From time to time, these gentlemen indulge in a little knife or revolver play, but don t get the idea that they’re keen on it. Their role calls for it, that s all, and they are dying of fright as they shoot it out. Nevertheless, I find them more moral than the others, those who kill in the bosom of the family by attrition. Haven’t you noticed that our society is organized for this kind of liquidation? You have heard, of course, of those tiny fish in the rivers of Brazil that attack the unwary swimmer by thousands and with swift little nibbles clean him up in a few minutes, leaving only an immaculate skeleton? Well, that is what their organization is. Do you want a good clean life? [8] Like everybody else? You say yes, of course. How can one say no? O.K. You’ll be cleaned up. Here’s a job, a family, and organized leisure activities. And the little teeth attack the flesh, right down to the bone. But I am unjust. I shouldn’t say their organization. It is ours, after all: it’s a question of which will clean up the other. Here is our gin at last. To your prosperity. Yes, the ape opened his mouth to call me doctor. In these countries everyone is a doctor, or a professor. They like showing respect, out of kindness and out of modesty. Among them, at least, spitefulness is not a national institution. Besides, I am not a doctor. If you want to know, I was a lawyer before coming here. Now, I am a judge-penitent. But allow me to introduce myself: Jean-Baptiste Clamence, at your service’.

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