Interpreting the World

Excerpt from Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler (the title of which was, quite unfortunately, the inspiration for a Sting Xmas album):

“And every Wednesday the perfumed young lady slips me a hundred-crown note to leave her alone with the convict. And by Thursday the hundred crowns are already gone in so much beer.  And when the visiting hour is over, the young lady comes out with the stink of jail in her elegant clothes; and the prisoner goes back to his cell with the lady’s perfume in his jailbird’s suit. And I’m left with the smell of beer. Life is nothing but trading smells.”

“Life and also death, you might say,” interjected another drunk, whose profession, as I learned at once,was gravedigger. “With the smell of beer I try to get the smell of death off me. And only the smell of death will get the smell of beer you, like all the drinkers whose graves I have to dig.”

I took this dialogue as a warning to be on guard: the world is falling apart and tries to lure me into its disintegration.

(btw, “trading smells” = gross)


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