A very special case. A few years more, and that pretty creature who you love too much, I think, will, without ever loving them, have known as many men as there are beads on her aunt's rosary. No happy medium! Either a nun or a monster! God's bosom or sensual passions! It would, perhaps, be better to put her in a convent, since we put hysterical women in the Saltpetriere! She does not know vice, she invents it!That was ten years ago before the day our story begins and... Raoule was not a nun.
In the course of my life I have had pre-pubescent ballerinas; emaciated duchesses, dolorous and forever tired, melomaniac and morphine-sodden; bankers' wives with eyes hollower than those of suburban streetwalkers; music-hall chorus girls who tip creosote into their Roederer when getting drunk...I have even had the awkward androgynes, the unsexed dishes of the day of the *tables d'hote* of Montmartre. Like any vulgar follower of fashion, like any member of the herd, I have made love to bony and improbably slender little girls, frightened and macabre, spiced with carbolic and peppered with chlorotic make-up.Like an imbecile, I have believed in the mouths of prey and sacrificial victims. Like a simpleton, I have believed in the large lewd eyes of a ragged heap of sickly little creatures: alcoholic and cynical shop girls and whores. The profundity of their eyes and the mystery of their mouths... the jewellers of some and the manicurists of others furnish them with *eaux de toilette*, with soaps and rouges. And Fanny the etheromaniac, rising every morning for a measured dose of cola and coca, does not put ether only on her handkerchief.It is all fakery and self-advertisement - *truquage and battage*, as their vile argot has it. Their phosphorescent rottenness, their emaciated fervour, their Lesbian blight, their shop-sign vices set up to arouse their clients, to excite the perversity of young and old men alike in the sickness of perverse tastes! All of it can sparkle and catch fire only at the hour when the gas is lit in the corridors of the music-halls and the crude nickel-plated decor of the bars. Beneath the cerise three-ply collars of the night-prowlers, as beneath the bulging silks of the cyclist, the whole seductive display of passionate pallor, of knowing depravity, of exhausted and sensual anaemia - all the charm of spicy flowers celebrated in the writings of Paul Bourget and Maurice Barres - is nothing but a role carefully learned and rehearsed a hundred times over. It is a chapter of the MANCHON DE FRANCINE read over and over again, swotted up and acted out by ingenious barnstormers, fully conscious of the squalid salacity of the male of the species, and knowledgeable in the means of starting up the broken-down engines of their customers.To think that I also have loved these maleficent and sick little beasts, these fake Primaveras, these discounted Jocondes, the whole hundred-franc stock-in-trade of Leonardos and Botticellis from the workshops of painters and the drinking-dens of aesthetes, these flowers mounted on a brass thread in Montparnasse and Levallois-Perret!And the odious and tiresome travesty - the corsetted torso slapped on top of heron's legs, painful to behold, the ugly features primed by boulevard boxes, the fake Dresden of Nina Grandiere retouched from a medicine bottle, complaining and spectral at the same time - of Mademoiselle Guilbert and her long black gloves!...Have I now had enough of the horror of this nightmare! How have I been able to tolerate it for so long?The fact is that I was then ignorant even of the nature of my sickness. It was latent in me, like a fire smouldering beneath the ashes. I have cherished it since... perhaps since early childhood, for it must always have been in me, although I did not know it!
The beauty of the twentieth century is the charm of the hospital, the grace of the cemetery, of consumption and emaciation. I admit that I have submitted to it all; worse, I have loved with all my heart.
I have no idea how long Quisser was gone from the table. My attention became fully absorbed by the other faces in the club and the deep anxiety they betrayed to me, an anxiety that was not of the natural, existential sort but one that was caused by peculiar concerns of an uncanny nature. What a season is upon us, these faces seemed to say. And no doubt their voices would have spoken directly of certain peculiar concerns had they not been intimidated into weird equivocations and double entendres by the fear of falling victim to the same kind of unnatural affliction that had made so much trouble in the mind of the art critic Stuart Quisser. Who would be next? What could a person say these days, or even think, without feeling the dread of repercussion from powerfully connected groups and individuals? I could almost hear their voices asking, Why here, why now? But of course they could have just as easily been asking, Why not here, why not now? It would not occur to this crowd that there were no special rules involved; it would not occur to them, even though they were a crowd of imaginative artists, that the whole thing was simply a matter of random, purposeless terror that converged upon a particular place at a particular time for no particular reason. On the other hand, it would also not have occurred to them that they might have wished it all upon themselves, that they might have had a hand in bringing certain powerful forces and connections into our district simply by wishing them to come. They might have wished and wished for an unnatural evil to fall upon them but, for a while at least, nothing happened. Then the wishing stopped, the old wishes were forgotten yet at the same time gathered in strength, distilling themselves into a potent formula (who can say!), until one day the terrible season began. Because had they really told the truth, this artistic crowd might also have expressed what a sense of meaning (although of a negative sort), not to mention the vigorous thrill (although of an excruciating type), this season of unnatural evil had brought to their lives.(Gas Station Carnivals)
Look, de Mazel, you've known him for years - hasn't he been known to sleep for forty hours in two days?' 'Forty hours?' 'Certainly. He awoke at meal times, just to take nourishment, and afterwards fell again into his torpor. And Freneuse had a strange horror of sleep; there was some abnormal phenomenon associated with it, some lesion of the brain or neurotic depression.''The troublesome cerebral anaemia which results from excessive debauchery. Another myth! I've never believed, myself, in the supposed debauchery of that poor gentleman. Such a frail chap, with such a delicate complexion! Quite frankly, there was no scope in him for debauchery.'Pooh! About as much as Lorenzaccio!''You associate him with the Medicis! Lorenzaccio was a Florentine impassioned by rancour, a man of energy slowly brooding over his vengeance, caressing it as he might caress the blade of a dagger! There is not the slightest comparison to be drawn between Lorenzaccio and that gall-green, liverish creature Freneuse.
Then Chameroy spoke. 'You always put the blame on opium, but as I see it the case of Freneuse is much more complicated. Him, an invalid? No - a character from the tales of Hoffmann! Have you never taken the trouble to look at him carefully? That pallor of decay; the twitching of his bony hands, more Japanese than chrysanthemums; the arabesque profile; that vampiric emaciation - has all of that never given you cause to reflect? In spite of his supple body and his callow face Freneuse is a hundred thousand years old. That man has lived before, in ancient times under the reigns of Heliogabalus, Alexander IV and the last of the Valois. What am I saying? That man is Henri III himself. I have in my library an edition of Ronsard - a rare edition, bound in pigskin with metal trimmings - which contains a portrait of Henri engraved on vellum. One of these nights I will bring the volume here to show you, and you may judge for yourselves. Apart from the ruff, the doublet and the earrings, you would believe that you were looking at the Due de Freneuse. As far as I'm concerned, his presence here inevitably makes me ill - and so long as he is present, there is such an oppression, such a heaviness...
Everyone in a decadent society, Lorrain urges, is guilty. Everyone loves masking murder and everyone takes masochistic pleasure in the risk of discovery and punishment.
The Marquis de V... - whose falsetto voice and little watery eyes I have always detested - was saying to me with a wicked smile: 'Then again, the master gymnast might break his neck at any moment. What he is doing now is very dangerous, my dear, and the pleasure you take in his performance is the little frisson that danger affords you. Wouldn't it be thrilling, if his sweaty hand failed to grip the bar? The velocity acquired by his rotation about the bar would break his spine quite cleanly, and perhaps a little of the cervical matter might spurt out as far as this! It would be most sensational, and you would have a rare emotion to add to the field of your experience - for you collect emotions, don't you? What a pretty stew of terrors that man in tights stirs up in us!'Admit that you almost wish that he will fall! Me too. Many others in the auditorium are in the same state of attention and anguish. That is the horrible instinct of a crowd confronted with a spectacle which awakens in it the ideas of lust and death. Those two agreeable companions always travel together! Take it from me that at the very same moment - see, the man is now holding on to the bar by his fingertips alone - at the very same moment, a good number of the women in these boxes are ardently lusting after that man, not so much for his beauty as for the danger he courts.'The voice subtly changed its tone, suddenly becoming more interested. 'You have singularly pale eyes this evening, my dear Freneuse. You ought to give up bromides and take valerian instead. You have a charming and curious soul, but you must take command of its changes. You are too ardently and too obviously covetous, this evening, of the death - or at least the fall - of that man.'I did not reply. The Marquis de V... was quite right. The madness of murder had taken hold of me again; the spectacle had me in its hallucinatory grip. Straitened by a penetrating and delirious anguish, I yearned for that man to fall.There are appalling depths of cruelty within me.
The madness of the eyes is the lure of the abyss. Sirens lurk in the dark depths of the pupils as they lurk at the bottom of the sea, that I know for sure - but I have never encountered them, and I am searching still for the profound and plaintive gazes in whose depths I might be able, like Hamlet redeemed, to drown the Ophelia of my desire.
Astarte has come again, more powerful than before. She possesses me. She lies in wait for me.December 97My cruelty has also returned: the cruelty which frightens me. It lies dormant for months, for years, and then all at once awakens, bursts forth and - once the crisis is over - leaves me in mortal terror of myself.Just now in the avenue of the Bois, I whipped my dog till he bled, and for nothing - for not coming immediately when I called! The poor animal was there before me, his spine arched, cowering close to the ground, with his great, almost human, eyes fixed on me... and his lamentable howling! It was as though he were waiting for the butcher! But it was as if a kind of drunkenness had possessed me. The more I struck out the more I wanted to strike; every shudder of that quivering flesh filled me with some incomprehensible ardour. A circle of onlookers formed around me, and I only stopped myself for the sake of my self-respect.Afterwards, I was ashamed.I am always ashamed of myself nowadays. The pulse of life has always filled me with a peculiar rage to destroy. When I think of two beings in love, I experience an agonising sensation; by virtue of some bizarre backlash, there is something which smothers and oppresses me, and I suffocate, to the point of anguish.Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night to the muted hubbub of bumps and voices which suddenly become perceptible in the dormant city - all the cries of sexual excitement and sensuality which are the nocturnal respiration of cities - I feel weak. They rise up around me, submerging me in a sluggish flux of embraces and a tide of spasms. A crushing weight presses down on my chest; a cold sweat breaks out on my brow and my heart is heavy - so heavy that I have to get up, run bare-foot and breathless, to my window, and open both shutters, trying desperately to breathe. What an atrocious sensation it is! It is as if two arms of steel bear down upon my shoulders and a kind of hunger hollows out my stomach, tearing apart my whole being! A hunger to exterminate love.Oh, those nights! The long hours I have spent at my window, bent over the immobile trees of the square and the paving-stones of the deserted street, on watch in the silence of the city, starting at the least noise! The nights I have passed, my heart hammering in anguish, wretchedly and impatiently waiting for my torment to consent to leave me, and for my desire to fold up the heavy wings which beat inside the walls of my being like the wings of some great fluttering bird!Oh, my cruel and interminable nights of impotent rebellion against the rutting of Paris abed: those nights when I would have liked to embrace all the bodies, to suck in all the breaths and sup all the mouths... those nights which would find me, in the morning, prostrate on the carpet, scratching it still with inert and ineffectual fingers... fingers which never know anything but emptiness, whose nails are still taut with the passion of murder twenty-four hours after the crises... nails which I will one day end up plunging into the satined flesh of a neck, and...It is quite clear, you see, that I am possessed by a demon... a demon which doctors would treat with some bromide or with all-healing sal ammoniac! As if medicines could ever be imagined to be effective against such evil!