My turn now. The story of one of my insanities.
For a long time I boasted that I was master of all possible landscapes and I thought the great figures of modern painting and poetry were laughable.
What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright-colored prints; old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children's books, old operas, silly old songs, the nave rhythms of country rimes.
I dreamed of Crusades, voyages of discovery that nobody had heard of, republics without histories, religious wars stamped out, revolutions in morals, movements of races and continents: I used to believe in every kind of magic.
I invented colors for the vowels! - A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green. - I made rules for the form and movement of every consonant, and I boasted of inventing, with rhythms from within me, a kind of poetry that all the senses, sooner or later, would recognize. And I alone would be its translator.
I began it as an investigation. I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.
The worn-out ideas of old-fashioned poetry played an important part in my alchemy of the word.
I got used to elementary hallucination: I could very precisely see a mosque instead of a factory, a drum corps of angels, horse carts on the highways of the sky, a drawing room at the bottom of a lake; monsters and mysteries; a vaudeville's title filled me with awe.
And so I explained my magical sophistries by turning words into visions!
At last, I began to consider my mind's disorder a sacred thing. I lay about idle, consumed by an oppressive fever: I envied the bliss of animals - caterpillars, who portray the innocence of a second childhood, moles, the slumber of virginity!
My mind turned sour. I said farewell to the world in poems something like ballads:
I loved the desert, burnt orchards, tired old shops, warm drinks. I dragged myself through stinking alleys, and with my eyes closed I offered myself to the sun, the god of fire.
"General, if on your ruined ramparts one cannon still remains, shell us with clods of dried-up earth. Shatter the mirrors of expensive shops! And the drawing rooms! Make the city swallow its dust. Turn gargoyles to rust. Stuff boudoirs with rubies' fiery powder..."
Oh! the little fly drunk at the urinal of a country inn, in love with rotting weeds, a ray of light dissolves him!
Finally, O reason, O happiness, I cleared from the sky the blue which is darkness, and I lived as a golden spark of this light Nature. In my delight, I made my face look as comic and as wild as I could:
I became a fabulous opera: I saw that everyone in the world was doomed to happiness. Action isn't life: it's merely a way of ruining a kind of strength, a means of destroying nerves. Morality is water on the brain.
It seemed to me that everyone should have had several other lives as well. This gentleman doesn't know what he's doing: he's an angel. That family is a litter of puppy dogs. With some men, I often talked out loud with a moment from one of their other lives. - That's how I happened to love a pig.
Not a single one of the brilliant arguments of madness, - the madness that gets locked up, - did I forget: I could go through them all again, I've got the system down by heart.
It affected my health. Terror loomed ahead. I would fall again and again into a heavy sleep, which lasted several days at a time, and when I woke up, my sorrowful dreams continued. I was ripe for fatal harvest, and my weakness led me down dangerous roads to the edge of the world, to the Cimmerian shore, the haven of whirlwinds and darkness.
I had to travel, to dissipate the enchantments that crowded my brain. On the sea, which I loved as if it were to wash away my impurity, I watched the compassionate cross arise. I had been damned by the rainbow. Felicity was my doom, my gnawing remorse, my worm: my life would forever be too large to devote to strength and to beauty.
Felicity! The deadly sweetness of its sting would wake me at cockcrow, - ad matutinum, at the Christus venit, - in the somberest of cities:
All that is over. Today, I know how to celebrate beauty.
- As translated by Paul Schmidt, and published in 1976 by Harper Colophon Books, Harper & Row.