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Tropic of Cancer[北回归线][En/Cn]






It is my last dinner at the dramatist's Home. They have just rented a new piano, a concert grand. I meet Sylvester coming out of the florist's with a rubber plant in his arms. He asks me if I would carry it for him while he goes for the cigars. One by one I've fucked myself out of all these free meals which I had planned so carefully. One by one the husbands turn against me, or the wives. As I walk along with the rubber plant in my arms I think of that night a few months back when the idea first occurred to me.



I was sitting on a bench near the Coupole, fingering the wedding ring which I had tried to pawn off on a garçon at the Dôme. He had offered me six francs for it and I was in a rage about it. But the belly was getting the upper hand. Ever since I left Mona I had worn the ring on my pinkie. It was so much a part of me that it had never occurred to me to sell it. It was one of those orange-blossom affairs in white gold. Worth a dollar and a half once, maybe more. For three years we went along without a wedding ring and then one day when I was going to the pier to meet Mona I happened to pass a jewelry window on Maiden Lane and the whole window was stuffed with wedding rings. When I got to the pier Mona was not to be seen. I waited for the last passenger to descend the gangplank, but no Mona. Finally I asked to be shown the passenger list. Her name was not on it. I slipped the wedding ring on my pinkie and there it stayed. Once I left it in a public bath, but then I got it back again. One of the orange blossoms had fallen off. Anyway, I was sitting there on the bench with my head down, twiddling the ring, when suddenly someone clapped me on the back. To make it brief, I got a meal and a few francs besides. And then it occurred to me, like a flash, that no one would refuse a man a meal if only he had the courage to demand it. I went immediately to a café and wrote a dozen letters. "Would you let me have dinner with you once a week? Tell me what day is most convenient for you."



It worked like a charm. I was not only fed … I was feasted. Every night I went home drunk. They couldn't do enough for me, these generous once-a-week souls. What happened to me between times was none of their affair. Now and then the thoughtful ones presented me with cigarettes, or a little pin money. They were all obviously relieved when they realized that they would see me only once a week. And they were still more relieved when I said – "it won't be necessary any more." They never asked why. They congratulated me, and that was all. Often the reason was I had found a better host; I could afford to scratch off the ones who were a pain in the ass. But that thought never occurred to them. Finally I had a steady, solid program – a fixed schedule. On Tuesdays I knew it would be this kind of a meal and on Fridays that kind. Cronstadt, I knew, would have champagne for me and Homemade apple pie. And Carl would invite me out, take me to a different restaurant each time, order rare wines, invite me to the theater afterward or take me to the Cirque Médrano. They were curious about one another, my hosts. Would ask me which place I liked best, who was the best cook, etc. I think I liked Cronstadt's joint best of all, perhaps because he chalked the meal up on the wall each time. Not that it eased my conscience to see what I owed him, because I had no intention of paying him back nor had he any illusions about being requited. No, it was the odd numbers which intrigued me. He used to figure it out to the last centime. If I was to pay in full I would have had to break a sou. His wife was a marvelous cook and she didn't give a fuck about those centimes Cronstadt added up. She took it out of me in carbon copies. A fact! If I hadn't any fresh carbons for her when I showed up, she was crestfallen. And for that I would have to take the little girl to the Luxembourg next day, play with her for two or three hours, a task which drove me wild because she spoke nothing but Hungarian and French. They were a queer lot on the whole, my hosts…



At Tania's I look down on the spread from the balcony. Moldorf is there, sitting beside his idol. He is warming his feet at the hearth, a monstrous look of gratitude in his watery eyes. Tania is running over the adagio. The adagio says very distinctly: no more words of love! I am at the fountain again, watching the turtles pissing green milk. Sylvester has just come back from Broadway with a heart full of love. All night I was lying on a bench outside the mall while the globe was sprayed with warm turtle piss and the horses stiffened with priapic fury galloped like mad without ever touching the ground. All night long I smell the lilacs in the little dark room where she is taking down her hair, the lilacs that I bought for for her as she went to meet Sylvester. He came back with a heart full of love, she said, and the lilacs are in her hair, her mouth, they are choking her armpits. The room is swimming with love and turtle piss and warm lilacs and the horses are galloping like mad. In the morning dirty teeth and scum on the windowpanes; the little gate that leads to the mall is locked. People are going to work and the shutters are rattling like coats of mail. In the bookstore opposite the fountain is the story of Lake Chad, the silent lizards, the gorgeous gamboge tints.


  我写给她的所有的信都是酒醉后写的,结尾十分突兀,都是用木炭涂的疯话。我在一条条长椅上一点点慢慢写就,周围到处是爆竹、小垫子、百果冰淇淋。他们现在准一起在看这些信呢,西尔维斯特某一天会恭维我几句。他会弹弹烟灰说,”老实讲,你写得很好。看来你是一位超现实主义者,对吗?”他的声音干巴巴的、尖而细,牙齿上沾满了头皮屑一样的东西。他把”solar plexus”读成”Solo”、把”gaga”读作”g”我站在阳台上,身边摆着橡皮树,楼上回荡着那支慢板。琴键是黑的、白的,然后又一个黑的、又一个白的,然后又是一个白的、一个黑的。你想知道能否为我弹一曲什么。好的,就用你粗大的拇指弹点儿什么。就弹那首慢板吧,那是你唯一会弹的鬼曲子。弹吧,弹完就剁掉你的粗拇指好了。

All the letters I wrote her, drunken ones with a blunt stub, crazy ones with bits of charcoal, little pieces from bench to bench, firecrackers, doilies, tutti frutti; they will be going over them now, together, and he will compliment me one day. He will say, as he flicks his cigar ash: "Really, you write quite well. Let's see, you're a surrealist, aren't you?" Dry, brittle voice, teeth full of dandruff, solo for solar plexus, g for gaga.Upon the balcony with the rubber plant and the adagio going on down below. The keys are black and white, then black, then white, then white and black. And you want to know if you can play something for me. Yes, play something with those big thumbs of yours. Play the adagio since that's the only goddamned thing you know. Play it, and then cut off your big thumbs.



That adagio! I don't know why she insists on playing it all the time. The old piano wasn't good enough for her; she had to rent a concert grand – for the adagio! When I see her big thumbs pressing the keyboard and that silly rubber plant beside me I feel like that madman of the North who threw his clothes away and, sitting naked in the wintry boughs, threw nuts down into the herring frozen sea. There is something exasperating about this movement, something abortively melancholy about it, as if it had been written in lava, as if it had the color of lead and milk mixed. And Sylvester, with his head cocked to one side like an auctioneer, Sylvester says: "Play that other one you were practising today."



It's beautiful to have a smoking jacket, a good cigar and a wife who plays the piano. So relaxing. So lenitive. Between the acts you go out for a smoke and a breath of fresh air. Yes, her fingers are very supple, extraordinary supple.



She does batik work too. Would you like to try a Bulgarian cigarette? I say, pigeon breast, what's that other movement I like so well? The scherzo! Ah, yes, the scherzo! Excellent. the scherzo! Count Waldemar von Schwisseneinzug speaking. Cool, dandruff eyes. Halitosis. Gaudy socks. And croutons in the pea soup, if you please. We always have pea soup Friday nights. Won't you try a little red wine? The red wine goes with the meat, you know. A dry, crisp voice. Have a cigar, won't you? Yes, I like my work, but I don't attach any importance to it. My next play will involve a pluralistic conception of the universe. Revolving drums with calcium lights. O'Neill is dead.

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