Putting up with shit when you can have cake
November 19, 2010 § 2 Comments
‘He asked me why I was always alone. I told him that I was a writer. And that most writers worked alone. He asked me if I was a famous writer. I said that I was fairly famous and had won the Prix Goncourt. He asked if it was a very important prize and if I had a big house and gardens. I told him that I rented what used to be a servant’s room in the roof of a hotel. And how I remember the way he screwed up his nose at this. And asked me why I lived like an impoverished hermit if I was in fact a rich man. I realised then that I had assumed all the clichés of austerity.
‘And I remember his reply. He said, “Why make do with the bare minimum? Why live on so little? If I were you I’d want everything. I wouldn’t be satisfied with so little.”
‘And I remember how strange this sounded, coming from the stillness of that bony, innocent face, the salt sticking to his short, wet curls. And I laughed and said, “You mean I should have a big house and car and a wife and children?”
‘His face clouded and aged with contempt. He took on the aspect of a dwarf and answered with devastating, terrible seriousness. “No, I didn’t mean that. Anybody can have all those. You should want – all of it. All this.” And he stretched out his arm, now reddening in the sun, high above his head, indicating the limitless, overarching blue above us, the forever retreating line of the sea, stretching away to Africa.
‘I stared and laughed. He shook his finger at me like a goblin. Then recited the day’s lesson with ecclesiastical solemnity. “It seems to me that you live in a mean and lonely way. You should live on a grander scale. You should never put up with shit if you can get cake.”
‘And that is the loneliness of seeing a different world from that of the people around you. Their lives remain remote from yours. You can see the gulf and they can’t. You live among them. They walk the earth. You walk on glass. They reassure themselves with conformity, with carefully constructed resemblances. You are masked, aware of your absolute difference.’
– Patricia Duncker from “Hallucinating Foucault”