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Tropic of Cancer[北回归线][En/Cn]




For a hundred years or more the world, our world, has been dying. And not one man, in these last hundred years or so, has been crazy enough to put a bomb up the asshole of creation and set it off. The world is rotting away, dying piecemeal. But it needs the coup de grâce, it needs to be blown to smithereens. Not one of us is intact, and yet we have in us all the continents and the seas between the continents and the birds of the air. We are going to put it down – the evolution of this world which has died but which has not been buried.



We are swimming on the face of time and all else has drowned, is drowning, or will drown. It will be enormous, the Book. There will be oceans of space in which to move about, to perambulate, to sing, to dance, to climb, to bathe, to leap somersaults, to whine, to rape, to murder. A cathedral, a veritable cathedral, in the building of which everybody will assist who has lost his identity. There will be masses for the dead, prayers, confessions, hymns, a moaning and a chattering, a sort of murderous insouciance; there will be rose windows and gargoyles and acolytes and pallbearers. You can bring your horses in and gallop through the aisles. You can butt your head against the walls – they won't give. You can pray in any language you choose, or you can curl up outside and go to sleep. It will last a thousand years, at least, this cathedral, and there will be no replica, for the builders will be dead and the formula too. We will have postcards made and organize tours. We will build a town around it and set up a free commune. We have no need for genius – genius is dead. We have need for strong hands, for spirits who are willing to give up the ghost and put on flesh…



The day is moving along at a fine tempo. I am up on the balcony at Tania's place. The drama is going on down below in the drawing room. The dramatist is sick and from above his scalp looks more scabrous than ever. His hair is made of straw. His ideas are straw. His wife too is straw, though still a little damp. The whole house is made of straw. Here I am up on the balcony, waiting for Boris to arrive. My last problem – breakfast – is gone. I have simplified everything. If there are any new problems I can carry them in my rucksack, along with my dirty wash. I am throwing away all my sous. What need have I for money? I am a writing machine. The last screw has been added. The thing flows. Between me and the machine there is no estrangement. I am the machine… .



They have not told me yet what the new drama is about, but I can sense it. They are trying to get rid of me. Yet here I am for my dinner, even a little earlier than they expected. I have informed them where to sit, what to do. I ask them politely if I shall be disturbing them, but what I really mean, and they know it well, is – will you be disturbing me? No, you blissful cockroaches, you are not disturbing me. You are nourishing me. I see you sitting there close together and I know there is a chasm between you. Your nearness is the nearness of planets. I am the void between you. If I withdraw there will be no void for you to swim in.



Tania is in a hostile mood – I can feel it. She resents my being filled with anything but herself. She knows by the very caliber of my excitement that her value is reduced to zero. She knows that I did not come this evening to fertilize her. She knows there is something germinating inside me which will destroy her. She is slow to realize, but she is realizing it…Sylvester looks more content. He will embrace her this evening at the dinner table. Even now he is reading my manuscript, preparing to inflame my ego, to set my ego against hers.




It will be a strange gathering this evening. The stage is being set. I hear the tinkle of the glasses. The wine is being brought out. There will be bumpers downed and Sylvester who is ill will come out of his illness.



It was only last night, at Cronstadt's, that we projected this setting. It was ordained that the women must suffer, that offstage there should be more terror and violence, more disasters, more suffering, more woe and misery.




It is no accident that propels people like us to Paris. Paris is simply an artificial stage, a revolving stage that permits the spectator to glimpse all phases of the conflict. Of itself Paris initiates no dramas. They are begun elsewhere. Paris is simply an obstetrical instrument that tears the living embryo from the womb and puts it in the incubator. Paris is the cradle of artificial births. Rocking here in the cradle each one slips back into his soil: one dreams back to Berlin, New York, Chicago, Vienna, Minsk. Vienna is never more Vienna than in Paris. Everything is raised to apotheosis. The cradle gives up its babes and new ones take their places. You can read here on the walls where Zola lived and Balzac and Dante and Strindberg and everybody who ever was anything. Everyone has lived here some time or other. Nobody dies here…



They are talking downstairs. Their language is symbolic. The world "struggle" enters into it. Sylvester, the sick dramatist, is saying: "I am just reading the Manifesto." And Tania says  "Whose?" Yes, Tania, I heard you. I am up here writing about you and you divine it well. Speak more, that I may record you. For when we go to table I shall not be able to make any notes… Suddenly Tania remarks: "There is no prominent hall in this place." Now what does that mean, if anything?



They are putting up pictures now. That, too, is to impress me. See, they wish to say, we are at Home here, living the conjugal life. Making the Home attractive. We will even argue a little about the pictures, for your benefit. And Tania remarks again: "How the eye deceives one!" Ah, Tania, what things you say! Go on, carry out this farce a little longer. I am here to get the dinner you promised me; I enjoy this comedy tremendously. And now Sylvester takes the lead. He is trying to explain one of Borowski's gouaches. "Come here, do you see? One of them is playing the guitar; the other is holding a girl in his lap." True, Sylvester. Very true. Borowski and his guitars! The girls in his lap! Only one never quite knows what it is he holds in his lap, or whether it is really a man playing the guitar…Soon Moldorf will be trotting in on all fours and Boris with that helpless little laugh of his. There will be a golden pheasant for dinner and Anjou and short fat cigars. And Cronstadt, when he gets the latest news, will live a little harder, a little brighter, for five minutes; and then he will subside again into the humus of his ideology and perhaps a poem will be born, a big golden bell of a poem without a tongue.



Had to knock off for an hour or so. Another customer to look at the apartment. Upstairs the bloody Englishman is practising his Bach. It is imperative now, when someone comes to look at the apartment, to run upstairs and ask the pianist to lay off for a while.



Elsa is telephoning the greengrocer. The plumber is putting a new seat on the toilet bowl. Whenever the doorbell rings Boris loses his equilibrium. In the excitement he has dropped his glasses; he is on his hands and knees, his frock coat is dragging the floor. It is a little like the Grand Guignol – the starving poet come to give the butcher's daughter lessons. Every time the phone rings the poet's mouth waters. Mallarmé sounds like a sirloin steak, Victor Hugo like foie de veau. Elsa is ordering a delicate little lunch for Boris – "a nice juicy little pork chop," she says. I see a whole flock of pink hams lying cold on the marble, wonderful hams cushioned in white fat. I have a terrific hunger though we've only had breakfast a few minutes ago – it's the lunch that I'll have to skip. It's only Wednesdays that I eat lunch, thanks to Borowski. Elsa is still telephoning – she forgot to order a piece of bacon. "Yes, a nice little piece of bacon, not too fatty," she says … Zut alors! Throw in some sweetbreads, throw in some mountain oysters and some psst clams! Throw in some fried liverwurst while you're at it; I could gobble up the fifteen hundred plays of Lope de Vega in one sitting.

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