Notes and Quotes – Tropic of Cancer (1934), Henry Miller

– Notes and Quotes –


Henry Miller (1891-1980)

Tropic of Cancer (1934)


“The hero, then, is not Time, but Timelessness. (1)


“A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am.” (1)


“This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art . . .” (2)


“The kangaroo has a double penis. One for weekdays and one for holidays.” (3)


“He is cunt-struck, that’s all.” (4)

“Moldorf is word drunk.” (4)


“There is a bone in my prick six inches long. I will ream out every wrinkle in your cunt, Tania, big with seed.” (5)

“Yes, [Sylvester] knows how to build a fire, but I know how to inflame a cunt.” (5)

“I am fucking you, Tania, so that you’ll stay fucked.” (5)


Irène: Valise, small suitcase

Llona: Cunt


“Enormous, fat letters, avec des choses inouïes. A valise without straps. A hole without a key. She had a German mouth, French ears, Russian ass. Cunt international. A hole without a key.” (7)


“Moldorf is God – he has never been anything else. I am merely putting down words…I have had opinions about him which I have discarded; I have had other opinions which I am revising. I have pinned him down only to find that it was not a dung-beetle I had in my hands, but a dragonfly. He has offended me by his coarseness and then overwhelmed me with his delicacy.” (8-9)


“. . . Gentiles have a different way of suffering. [Jews] suffer without neuroses and, as

Sylvester, says a man who has never been afflicted with a neurosis does not know the

meaning of suffering.”

“I recall distinctly how I enjoyed my suffering. It was like taking a cub to bed with

you. Once in a while he clawed you – and then you really were frightened.” (9)


“There are people who cannot resist the desire to get into a cage with wild beasts and be mangled. They go in even without revolver or whip. Fear makes them fearless…” (10)


“Behind the word is chaos. Each word a stripe, a bar, but there are not and never will be enough bars to make the mesh.” (11)

“. . . the triumph of the individual over art.” (11)


“People are like lice – they get under your skin and bury themselves there.” (12)

Private tragedy: “It’s in the blood now – misfortune, ennui, grief, suicide. The atmosphere is saturated with disaster, frustration, futility.” (12)

“I am crying for more and more disasters, for bigger calamities, for grander failures. I want the whole world to be out of whack, I want everyone to scratch himself to death.” (12)


“If there’s anything worse than being a fairy it’s being a miser.” (13)



spavined horse


“. . . walking through the Jardin des Tuileries and getting an erection looking at the dumb statues.” (16)


“The Place St. Sulpice, so quiet and deserted, where toward midnight there came every night the woman with the busted umbrella and the crazy veil; every night she slept there on a bench under her torn umbrella, the ribs hanging down, her dress turning green, her bony fingers and the odor of decay oozing from her body; and in the morning I’d be sitting there myself, taking a quiet snooze in the sunshine, cursing the goddamned pigeons gathering up the crumbs everywhere.” (16)


“But we’re leaving in the morning! That’s what I tell every cunt I grab hold of – leaving in the morning!” (18)

“In the lavatory I stand before the bowl with a tremendous erection . . .” (18)

“. . . as we’re dancing there in the shithouse I come all over her beautiful gown and she’s sore as hell about it.” (18)

“. . . we get back to the hotel I vomit all over the place . . .” (18)


“I sit down beside her and she talks – a flood of talk. Wild consumptive notes of hysteria, perversion, leprosy. I hear not a word because she is beautiful and I love her and now I am happy and willing to die.” (19)




Elsa, musician (Schumann): “. . . nobody gives a fuck about her except to use her.” (24)

“Somehow I feel sorry as hell for her and yet I don’t give a damn.” (24)

“I’m thinking of Tania and how she claws away at her adagio.” (24)


“Toward evening we’re sitting around a big table with the curtains drawn and some fool two-headed wench is rapping for Jesus Christ. We’re holding hands under the table and the dame next to me has two fingers in my fly.” (25)




“. . . a whack over the ass with the end of a rope.

“Ah, the Germans! They take you all over like an omnibus. They give you indigestion.” (25)


“. . . the book has begun to grow inside me.” (26)


“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…” (27)


“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.” (28)


“Everyone has lived here some time or other. Nobody dies here…” (29)

“They are putting up pictures now. That, too, is to impress me.” (29)

“Go on, carry out this farce a little longer. I am here to get the dinner you promised me; I enjoy this comedy tremendously.” (29-30)


“[Cronstadt] 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.” (30)


“I see a whole flock of pink hams lying cold on the marble, wonderful hams cushioned in white fat.” (30-31)


“Amazing how these rich dames come to Paris and find all the swell studios. A little talent and a big purse.” (31)

“The beautiful American woman is inquiring about the toilet. The toilet! Let me show you, you velvet-snooted gazelle! The toilet, you say? Par ici, Madame. N’oubliez pas que les places numérotées sont réservées aux mutilés de la guerre.” (Here, ma’am. Remember that the numbered spaces are reserved for war cripples.) (31)


“Boris hasn’t even introduced me this time. The son of a bitch! Whenever it’s a rich cunt he forgets to introduce me. In a few minutes I’ll be able to sit down again and type. Somehow I don’t feel like it any more today. My spirit is dribbling away. She may come back in an hour or so and take the chair from under my ass.” (32)




voilà quelque chose de beau!” (Here something beautiful!) (34)




“In the same window: A Man Cut in Slices! Chapter one: the man in the eyes of his family. Chapter two: the same in the eyes of his mistress. Chapter three: – No chapter three. Have to come back tomorrow for chapters three and four. Every day the window trimmer turns a fresh page. A man cut in slices… You can’t imagine how furious I am not to have thought of a title like that! Where is this bloke who writes “the same in the eyes of his mistress … the same in the eyes of… the same …?” Where is this guy? Who is he? I want to hug him. I wish to Christ I had had brains enough to think of a title like that – instead of Crazy Cock and the other fool things I invented. Well, fuck a duck! I congratulate him just the same.” (39)


“The sun is setting fast. The colors die. They shift from purple to dried blood, from nacre to bister, from cool dead grays to pigeon shit.” (40)


“Europe – medieval, grotesque, monstrous: a symphony in B-mol.” (41)


“Night after night I had been coming back to this quarter, attracted by certain leprous streets which only revealed their sinister splendor when the light of day had oozed away and the whores commenced to take up their posts.” (42)


The whores of Rue du Pasteur-Wagner and Rue Amelot: “Led you into a little room off the street, a room without a window usually, and, sitting on the edge of the bed with skirts tucked up gave you a quick inspection, spat on your cock, and placed it for you. While you washed yourself another one stood at the door and, holding her victim by the hand, watched nonchalantly as you gave the finishing touches to your toilet.” (42)


Germaine: “As I say, it was a spring day and the few francs my wife had scraped up to cable me were jingling in my pocket. I had a sort of vague premonition that I would not reach the Bastille without being taken in tow by one of these buzzards. Sauntering along the boulevard I had noticed her verging toward me with that curious trot-about air of a whore and the run-down heels and cheap jewelry and the pasty look of their kind which the rouge only accentuates.” (42)




“As she stood up to dry herself, still talking to me pleasantly, suddenly she dropped the towel and, advancing toward me leisurely, she commenced rubbing her pussy affectionately . . .” (43)

“. . . she thrust that rosebush under my nose . . .” (43)


“Her words imbued [her pussy] with a peculiar fragrance; it was no longer just her private organ, but a treasure, a magic, potent treasure, a God-given thing – and none the less so because she traded it day in and day out for a few pieces of silver.” (43)


“As we stepped out of the hotel I looked her over again in the harsh light of day and I saw clearly what a whore she was – the gold teeth, the geranium in her hat, the run-down heels, etc . . .” (43-44)




“Germaine, on the other hand, was a whore from the cradle; she was thoroughly satisfied with her role, enjoyed it in fact, except when her stomach pinched or her shoes gave out, little surface things of no account, nothing that ate into her soul, nothing that created torment. Ennui! That was the worst she ever felt. (45)


“Germaine was a whore all the way through, even down to her good heart, her whore’s heart which is not really a good heart but a lazy one, an indifferent, flaccid heart that can be touched for a moment, a heart without reference to any fixed point within, a big flaccid whore’s heart that can detach itself for a moment from its true center.” (45-46)


“Germaine was a hustler. She didn’t wait for you to come to her – she went out and grabbed you.” (46)


“A hustler! Perhaps it wasn’t so pleasant to smell that boozy breath of hers, that breath compounded of weak coffee, cognac, apéritifs, Pernods and all the other stuff she guzzled between times, what to warm herself and what to summon up strength and courage, but the fire of it penetrated her, it glowed down there between her legs where women ought to glow, and there was established that circuit which makes one feel the earth under his legs again.” (47)


“Whereas Claude – well, with Claude there was always a certain delicacy, even when she got under the sheets with you. And her delicacy offended. Who wants a delicate whore! Claude would even ask you to turn your face away when she squatted over the bidet.” (47)


“And while it’s all very nice to know that a woman has a mind, literature coming from the cold corpse of a whore is the last thing to be served in bed. Germaine had the right idea: she was ignorant and lusty, she put her heart and soul into her work. She was a whore all the way through – and that was her virtue!” (47)


“Along the Champs-Elysées, ideas pouring from me like sweat. I ought to be rich enough to have a secretary to whom I could dictate as I walk, because my best thoughts always come when I am away from the machine.” (48)


“I’m a bit retarded, like most Americans.” (49)




On Carl thinking of moving to Arizona: “‘Do it!’ I say. ‘Do one thing or the other, you bastard, but don’t try to cloud my healthy eye with your melancholy breath!”” (49)

Carl: “I can be a writer without writing, can’t I?” (49)


Le bel aujourd’hui!” (Beautiful today!) (50)


“[Carl] steers me to the Dôme, the last place in the world I would seek on my day off. But one not only gets acquiescent [in Paris] – one gets supine.” (50)


Marlowe: “Of Old French he is a master; of the surrealists he has made excellent translations; but to say a simple thing like “get the hell out of here, you old prick!” – that is beyond him. Nobody understands Marlowe’s French, not even the whores. For that matter, it’s difficult enough to understand his English when he’s under the weather.” (51)


“We spill a couple of Fernet-Brancas down his throat . . .” (52)

Carl: “Listen, Joe,’ he says, beckoning me to move closer, ‘we’ll take him up on it. We’ll take his lousy review over and we’ll fuck him good and proper.’” (52)


Wedding ring: “Ever since I left Mona I had worn the ring on my pinkie.” (54)


“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.” (55)


“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.” (55)


“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.” (55)


“The room is swimming with love and turtle piss and warm lilacs and the horses are galloping like mad.” (56)

“Play the adagio since that’s the only goddamned thing you know. Play it, and then cut off your big thumbs.” (57)

“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.” (57)


“Yes, I like my work, but I don’t attach any importance to it.” (58)


strangulated adenoids


“To think that a poor, withered bastard with those cheap Broadway plays up his sleeve should be pissing on the woman I love.” (58)


“You telling me with those strangulated adenoids of yours – “well now, I’ll tell you … there’s two ways of looking at that…” Fuck your two ways of looking at things! Fuck your pluralistic universe and your Asiatic acoustics! Don’t hand me your red wine or your Anjou … hand her over … she belongs to me! You go sit by the fountain, and let me smell the lilacs! Pick the dandruff out of your eyes …” (59) (Track 10, Time: 00:02:00)


“Or I might take her for a while and hand her back, improved. But putting up a fence around her, that won’t work.” (59)


Charmant poème d’amour, angoisse, tristesse (Lovely love poem, anxiety, sadness) (62)



Artificial Eyeball Vision/Dream: “Slowly the room begins to revolve and one by one the continents slide into the sea; only the woman is left, but her body is a mass of geography. I lean out the window and the Eiffel Tower is fizzing champagne; it is built entirely of numbers and shrouded in black lace.” (63)


Papini. . . . As a failure he’s marvelous… “Follows this: “Everybody wants to see me. Everybody insists on talking to me.” (64-66)


“It seems to me that Papini misses something by a hair’s breadth when he talks of the need to be alone. It is not difficult to be alone if you are poor and a failure. An artist is always alone – if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness.

The artist, I call myself. So be it. A beautiful nap this afternoon that put velvet between my vertebrae.” (66)


Paris vs New York: “And Forty-second Street! The top of the world, they call it. Where’s the bottom then?” (67-68)




Serge: “When he learns that I am an American and that I’m broke he almost weeps with joy. He has been looking high and low for an English teacher, it seems.” (69-70)


Tapeworms, “. . . in every crevice there are cockroaches and lice and bedbugs . . .” (71)

“But I can’t sleep. It’s like going to sleep in a morgue. The mattress is saturated with embalming fluid. It’s a morgue for lice, bedbugs, cockroaches, tapeworms.” (71)


“By the time we get to the Debussy number the atmosphere is completely poisoned.” (76)


“I’m lying there on the iron bed thinking what a zero I have become, what a cipher, what a nullity, when bango! out pops the word: NONENTITY! That’s what we called him in New York – Nonentity. Mister Nonentity.” (77)

Nanantatee: Endree (Henry) (79)




Nanantatee: “‘Yesterday,’ he says, ‘you made three mistakes, Endree.’” (84-85)

Kepi: “He has the address of every whorehouse in Paris, and the rates.” (85)


“At any rate, says Nanantatee cheerily: “You will please tell me what it says, Endree. I can’t read the book – it hurts my arm.” Then, by way of encouraging me – “it is a fine book about the fucking, Endree. Kepi has brought it for you. He thinks about nothing but the girls. So many girls he fucks – just like Krishna.” (87)


India: “Looking at the seething hive of figures which swarm the façades of the temples one is overwhelmed by the potency of those dark, handsome peoples who mingled their mysterious streams in a sexual embrace that has lasted thirty centuries or more.” (88)




Nanantatee on his sister who died in childbirth:. “There she is on the wall, a frail, timid thing of twelve or thirteen clinging to the arm of a dotard. At ten years of age she was given in wedlock to this old roué who had already buried five wives. She had seven children, only one of whom survived her.” (89)




“…But what with the murky light, the botchy print, the tattered cover, the jigjagged page, the fumbling fingers, the fox-trotting fleas, the lie-a-bed lice, the scum on his tongue, the drop in his eye, the lump in his throat, the drink in his pottle, the itch in his palm, the wail of his wind, the grief from his breath, the fog of his brainfag, the tic of his conscience, the height of his rage, the gush of his fundament, the fire in his gorge, the tickle of his tail, the rats in his garret, the hullabaloo and the dust in his ears, since it took him a month to steal a march, he was hard-set to memorize more than a word a week.” (89-90)


sang-froid (composure)


Hindu boy shits in the bidet: “The five of us are standing there looking at the bidet. There are two enormous turds floating in the water.” (92)


The Hindus of Paris: “It is amazing to see how these spineless devils order one another about;

amazing also to see how ineffectual they are in all that concerns practical affairs.” (93)


“[The Hindu boy] has been to America and he has been contaminated by the cheap idealism of the Americans,” (93)




“. . . the monstrous thing is not that men have created roses out of this dung heap, but that, for some reason or other, they should want roses. For some reason or other man looks for the miracle, and to accomplish it he will wade through blood.” (96)


“And so I think what a miracle it would be if this miracle which man attends eternally should turn out to be nothing more than these two enormous turds which the faithful disciple dropped in the bidet. What if at the last moment, when the banquet table is set and the cymbals clash, there should appear suddenly, and wholly without warning, a silver platter on which even the blind could see that there is nothing more, and nothing less, than two enormous lumps of shit. That, I believe would be more miraculous than anything which man has looked forward to.” (97)


“Even if war were declared, and it were my lot to go, I would grab the bayonet and plunge it, plunge it up to the hilt. And if rape were the order of the day then rape I would, and with a vengeance.” (98)


“As far as history goes I am dead. . . . I have found God, but he is insufficient. I am only spiritually dead. Physically I am alive. Morally I am free.” (99)



Van Norden:

“He takes a squint at the weather and heaves a deep sigh. If it’s rainy he says: “God

damn this fucking climate, it makes one morbid.” And if the sun is shining brightly he

says: “God damn that fucking sun, it makes you blind!” As he starts to shave he

suddenly remembers that there is no clean towel. “God damn this fucking hotel, they’re

too stingy to give you a clean towel every day!” No matter what he does or where he

goes things are out of joint. Either it’s the fucking country or the fucking job, or else it’s

some fucking cunt who’s put him on the blink.

“My teeth are all rotten,” he says, gargling his throat. “It’s the fucking bread they give you to eat here.” (100-101)


Van Norden on married cunts: “And do you know what that bitch wanted to do? She wanted to move in here. Imagine that! Asking me if I loved her. I didn’t even know her name. I never know their names…” (102)


“Joe”: “I call him Joe be cause he calls me Joe. When Carl is with us he is Joe too. Everybody is Joe because it’s easier that way. It’s also a pleasant reminder not to take yourself too seriously.” (102)


“Before I know what I’m doing I’ve got her up to the room. I don’t even remember what I say to them. I bring them up to the room, give them a pat on the ass, and before I know what it’s all about it’s over. It’s like a dream… Do you know what I mean?”

He hasn’t much use for the French girls. Can’t stand them. “Either they want money or they want you to marry them. At bottom they’re all whores. I’d rather wrestle with a virgin,” he says. “They give you a little illusion. They put up a fight at least.” (103)


“She lay on the edge of the bed and pulled her dress up. Ever try it that way? Not bad. She didn’t hurry me either. She just lay back and played with her hat while I slugged away at her. And when I come she says sort of bored like – ‘Are you through?’ Like it didn’t make any difference at all. Of course, it doesn’t make any difference, I know that goddamn well… but the cold-blooded way she had… I sort of liked it… it was fascinating, you know?” . . . . “Didn’t even say Au revoir! Walks off swinging her hat and humming to herself like. That’s a whore for you!” (105)


Van Norden on Paris: “You sort of rot here. Would you believe it, I’ve never been to the Louvre – nor the Comédie-Française. Is it worth going to those joints? Still, it sort of takes your mind off things, I suppose. What do you do with yourself all day? Don’t you get bored? What do you do for a lay?” . . . . “I’ve got to get out of this fucking country. There’s nothing for me here. I know it’s lousy now, in America, but just the same…” (106)

“And Carl, the little prick, he’s so goddamned selfish. I’m an egotist, but I’m not selfish. There’s a difference. I’m a neurotic, I guess. I can’t stop thinking about myself.” (107)

“Shit, I’m grinding my balls off on that job, and it doesn’t even give me a clean shirt. They’ve got us over here like a bunch of niggers. Ah, well, shit!” (107)




“I suppose she wants me to fuck her Tuesday. Fucking in the daytime – you don’t do it with a cunt like that. Especially in a hotel like that.” (113)


Van Norden seven year old suit: “And that cunt would buy me suits too, all I wanted most likely. But that’s what I don’t like, having a woman shell out for me.” (114)

“A young cunt is an investment; an old cunt is a dead loss. All they can do for you is buy you things. But that doesn’t put meat on their arms or juice between the legs.” (114)


“Listen, she’s rich, you say? I’ll like her! I don’t care how old she is, so long as she’s not a hag…” (115)


“All right, if that’s how it is, I’ll fuck her – if you don’t want to. Tell her that. Be subtle

about it, though. With a woman like that you’ve got to do things slowly. You bring me around and let things work out for themselves. Praise the shit out of me. Act jealous like… Shit, maybe we’ll fuck her together…” (115)


“Shit, it’s better to die of a good disease like that than to piss your life away on a newspaper with grapes up your ass and buttons falling off your pants. I’d like to be rich, even if it were only for a week, and then go to a hospital with a good disease, a fatal one, and have flowers in the room and nurses dancing around and telegrams coming.” (116)


“If you could only be sure, when you go to war, that you’d have only your legs blown off… if you could be sure of that I’d say let’s have a war tomorrow. I wouldn’t give a fuck about the medals – they could keep the medals. All I’d want is a good wheelchair and three meals a day. Then I’d give them something to read, those pricks.” (117)


“I don’t understand how a guy can write such letters… I don’t get the mentality behind it… it’s a form of masturbation…” (119)


“. . . did he tell you that she looked like a Matisse?… Wait a minute… I’d like to remember exactly what he said. He had some cute little phrase there about an odalisque… what the hell’s an odalisque anyway? He said it in French, that’s why it’s hard to remember the fucking thing… but it sounded good.” (120)


“He gets down on his knees – get this! – and with his two fingers… just the tips of them, mind you… he opens the little petals… squish-squish… just like that. A sticky little sound… almost inaudible. Squish-squish! Jesus, I’ve been hearing it all night long! And then he says – as if that weren’t enough for me – then he tells me he buried his head in her muff. And when he did that, so help me Christ, if she didn’t swing her legs around his neck and lock him there.” . . . . “He may not have fucked her at all, but she may have let him diddle her… you never know with these rich cunts what they might expect you to do…” (121)


“Hey, you! Yes, you! Like this…!” and he takes the photograph, his own photograph, and wipes his ass with it. “Comme ça! Savvy?” (Like this!) (122)


“Listen… piss on the floor, if you like. I wish I could take a crap in the bureau drawer.” (123)

“. . . after he’s gargled it good and proper he spits it out on the mirror. “There, you cheap bastards! Wipe that off when I go!” . . . . “The paintings enrage him too. He picks one up – a portrait of himself done by some Lesbian he knew and he puts his foot through it. “That bitch!” (123)


“It is room 56, and between 56 and 57 is the toilet where the old hag is emptying her slops.” (125)


“And a look in his eyes as though to say – “you can kill me afterwards, but just let me get it in… I’ve got to get it in!” And there he is, bent over her, their heads knocking against the wall, he has such a tremendous erection that it’s simply impossible to get it in her.” (126)


“In a sense Van Norden is mad, of that I’m convinced. His one fear is to be left alone, and this fear is so deep and so persistent that even when he is on top of a woman, even when he has welded himself to her, he cannot escape the prison which he has created for himself. “I try all sorts of things,” he explains to me. “I even count sometimes, or I begin to think of a problem in philosophy, but it doesn’t work. It’s like I’m two people, and one of them is watching me all the time. I get so goddamned mad at myself that I could kill myself… and in a way, that’s what I do every time I have an orgasm. For one second like I obliterate myself. There’s not even one me then… there’s nothing… not even the cunt. It’s like receiving communion. Honest, I mean that. For a few seconds afterwards I have a fine spiritual glow… and maybe it would continue that way indefinitely – how can you tell? – if it weren’t for the fact that there’s a woman beside you and then the douche bag and the water running… all those little details that make you desperately selfconscious, desperately lonely. And for that one moment of freedom you have to listen to all that love crap… it drives me nuts sometimes… I want to kick them out immediately… I do now and then. But that doesn’t keep them away. They like it, in fact. The less you notice them the more they chase after you. There’s something perverse about women… they’re all masochists at heart.” (130)


What kind of woman do you want?: “I want to be able to surrender myself to a woman,” he blurts out. “I want her to take me out of myself. But to do that, she’s got to be better than I am; she’s got to have a mind, not just a cunt. She’s got to make me believe that I need her, that I can’t live without her. Find me a cunt like that, will you?” (131)


“But what eats me up is that I can’t express myself. People think I’m a cunt-chaser. That’s how shallow they are, these high brows who sit on the terrasse all day chewing the psychologic cud… That’s not so bad, eh – psychologic cud? Write it down for me. I’ll use it in my column next week…” (131)


“Listen, I don’t mind what you say about me, but don’t make me out to be a cunt-chaser – it’s too simple. Some day I’ll write a book about myself, about my thoughts. I don’t mean just a piece of introspective analysis… I mean that I’ll lay myself down on the operating table and I’ll expose my whole guts… every goddamned thing. Has anybody ever done that before? – What the hell are you smiling at? Does it sound naïf?” (132)


“I’m smiling because whenever we touch on the subject of this book which he is going to write some day things assume an incongruous aspect. He has only to say “my book” and immediately the world shrinks to the private dimensions of Van Norden and Co. The book must be absolutely original, absolutely perfect. That is why, among other things, it is impossible for him to get started on it. As soon as he gets an idea he begins to question it. He remembers that Dostoevski used it, or Hamsun, or somebody else. “I’m not saying that I want to be better than them, but I want to be different,” he explains. And so, instead of tackling his book, he reads one author after another in order to make absolutely certain that he is not going to tread on their private property. And the more he reads the more disdainful he becomes. None of them are satisfying; none of them arrive at that degree of perfection which he has imposed on himself. And forgetting completely that he has not written as much as a chapter he talks about them condescendingly, quite as though there existed a shelf of books bearing his name, books which everyone is familiar with and the titles of which it is therefore superfluous to mention. Though he has never overtly lied about this fact, nevertheless it is obvious that the people whom he buttonholes in order to air his private philosophy, his criticism, and his grievances, take it for granted that behind his loose remarks there stands a solid body of work.” (132-133)


Van Norden and Bessie: “What’s wrong with my technique?” he would say. And Bessie would answer: “You’re too crude. If you ever expect to make me you’ve got to become more subtle.” (134)


“The whole point about Bessie was that she couldn’t, or just wouldn’t, regard herself as a lay.” (135)


“I have adjusted myself so well to [Van Norden’s] monologues that without interrupting my own reveries I make whatever comment is required automatically, the moment I hear his voice die out. It is a duet, and like most duets moreover in that one listens attentively only for the signal which announces the advent of one’s own voice.” (135-136)


“One of the proofreaders fell down the elevator shaft. Not expected to live.

“At first Van Norden is shocked, deeply shocked. But when he learns that it was Peckover, the Englishman, he looks relieved.” (136)


“And Joe and I, who knew Peckover well and who knew also that he wasn’t worth a good goddamn, even a few tears, we felt annoyed with this drunken sentimentality. We wanted to tell him so too, but with a guy like that you can’t afford to be honest; you have to buy a wreath and go to the funeral and pretend that you’re miserable.” (137)

“They made his life miserable with their fucking little semicolons and the fractions which he always got wrong.” . . . . “He was just a nobody, as far as they were concerned, but, now that he was dead, they would all chip in lustily and buy him a huge wreath and they’d put his name in big type in the obituary column.” (138)


“There’s only one good aspect to it,” says Joe. “You may get his job. And if you have any luck, maybe you’ll fall down the elevator shaft and break your neck too. We’ll buy you a nice wreath, I promise you that.” (139)


“. . . Joe’s mind has slipped back to the eternal preoccupation: cunt.” (139)


“What gripes him most about her is that she doesn’t put on any flesh. “It’s like taking a skeleton to bed with you,” he says. “The other night I took her on – out of pity – and what do you think the crazy bitch had done to herself? She had shaved it clean… not a speck of hair on it. Did you ever have a woman who shaved her twat? It’s repulsive, ain’t it?” (139)


“I made her hold it open and I trained the flashlight on it. You should have seen me… it was comical. I got so worked up about it that I forgot all about her. I never in my life looked at a cunt so seriously. You’d imagine I’d never seen one before. And the more I looked at it the less interesting it became. It only goes to show you there’s nothing to it after all, especially when it’s shaved. It’s the hair that makes it mysterious. That’s why a statue leaves you cold. Only once I saw a real cunt on a statue – that was by Rodin.” (139-140)


“The thing is this – [cunts] all look alike. When you look at them with their clothes on you imagine all sorts of things: you give them an individuality like, which they haven’t got, of course.” (140)


“All that mystery about sex and then you discover that it’s nothing – just a blank. Wouldn’t it be funny if you found a harmonica inside… or a calendar?” (140)


“Listen, do you know what I did afterwards? I gave her a quick lay and then I turned my back on her. Yeah, I picked up a book and I read. You can get something out of a book, even a bad book… but a cunt, it’s just sheer loss of time…” (140)


“It just so happened that as he was concluding his speech a whore gave us the eye.” . . . . “Finish your beer. She’s hungry . . . . she’ll take the both of us for fifteen francs.” (141)


Il est méchant, celui-là,” (It is wicked one.) “Non, il n’est pas méchant, il est très gentil.” (No, it’s not bad, it is very nice.) “Je le connais bien, ce type.” (I know him well, this type.) (141)


“How the hell can you get up any passion when you’ve got a starving cunt on your hands?” (141)


Fifteen francs war metaphor: “. . . one surrenders to the situation . . .” (142)


“The machine is better to watch. And these two are like a machine which has slipped its cogs. It needs the touch of a human hand to set it right. It needs a mechanic.

I get down on my knees behind Van Norden and I examine the machine more attentively. The girl throws her head on one side and gives me a despairing look. “It’s no use,” . . . . “[Van Norden’s] such an obstinate cuss that he’ll break his horns rather than give up. And he’s getting sore now because I’m tickling him in the rump.” (144)


“Wherever he sits himself the chair collapses; whatever door he enters the room is empty: whatever he puts in his mouth leaves a bad taste.” (145)


“. . . you can’t die if your own proper body has been stolen.” (145)


“. . . nothing will create that spark of passion if there isn’t the intervention of a human hand. Somebody has to put his hand into the machine and let it be wrenched off if the cogs are to mesh again.” . . . . “And somebody has to throw a feed into a starving cunt without fear of pushing it out again.” (145-146)


Replacing Peckover: “I must say, right at the start, that I haven’t a thing to complain about. It’s like being in a lunatic asylum, with permission to masturbate for the rest of your life.” (146)


“It is the reality of a swamp and they are the frogs who have nothing better to do than to croak.” (146)


bacilli (bacteria)


“The world can blow up – I’ll be here just the same to put in a comma or a semicolon.” (147)


Comme ça tout est réglé…” (This way everything is set …) (147)


“The greatest calamity for a proofreader is the threat of losing his job. When we get together in the break the question that sends a shiver down our spines is: what’ll you do if you lose your job? For the man in the paddock, whose duty it is to sweep up manure, the supreme terror is the possibility of a world without horses. To tell him that it is disgusting to spend one’s life shoveling up hot turds is a piece of imbecility. A man can get to love shit if his livelihood depends on it, if his happiness is involved.” (148)


“In this chthonian world the only thing of importance is orthography and punctuation.” (148)


“In the same edition I notice a headline announcing that “the universe is expanding so fast it may burst” and underneath it is the photograph of a splitting headache.” (149)


“I had to travel precisely all around the world to find just such a comfortable, agreeable niche as this. It seems incredible almost. How could I have foreseen, in America, with all those firecrackers they put up your ass to give you pep and courage, that the ideal position for a man of my temperament was to look for orthographic mistakes? Over there you think of nothing but becoming President of the United States some day. Potentially every man is Presidential timber. Here it’s different. Here every man is potentially a zero. If you become something or somebody it is an accident, a miracle The chances are a thousand to one that you will never leave your native village. The chances are a thousand to one that you’ll have your legs shot off or your eyes blown out. Unless the miracle happens and you find yourself a general or a rear admiral.” (150)


“It is better, if possible, to have a proofreader’s job. Comme ça, tout s’arrange. That means, that if you happen to be strolling home at three in the morning and you are intercepted by the bicycle cops, you can snap your fingers at them.. In the morning, when the market is in swing, you can buy Belgian eggs, at fifty centimes apiece. A proofreader doesn’t get up usually until noon, or a little after. It’s well to choose a hotel near a cinema, because if you have a tendency to oversleep the bells will wake you up in time for the matinee. Of if you can’t find a hotel near a cinema, choose one near a cemetery, it comes to the same thing. Above all, never despair. Il ne faut jamais désespérer.” (This way, everything is arranged.) (Never say die.) (151)


Mona: “She’ll probably tell me right away that it’s unsanitary. That’s the first thing that strikes an American woman about Europe – that it’s unsanitary. Impossible for them to conceive of a paradise without modern plumbing. If they find a bedbug they want to write a letter immediately to the chamber of commerce. How am I ever going to explain to her that I’m contented here? She’ll say I’ve become a degenerate. I know her line from beginning to end. She’ll want to look for a studio with a garden attached – and a bathtub to be sure. She wants to be poor in a romantic way. I know her. But I’m prepared for her this time.” (152)




“If I try to recall my life in New York I get a few splintered fragments, nightmarish and covered with verdigris. It seems as if my own proper existence had come to an end somewhere, just where exactly I can’t make out. I’m not an American any more, nor a New Yorker, and even less a European, or a Parisian. I haven’t any allegiance, any responsibilities, any hatreds, any worries, any prejudices, any passion. I’m neither for nor against. I’m a neutral.” (152)


“What I note with satisfaction is that the Parisians, of both sexes, seem to have a normal cranial capacity. The transverse occipital suture is evidently not so persistent with them. They know how to enjoy an apéritif and they don’t worry if the houses are unpainted. There’s nothing extraordinary about their skulls, so far as cranial indices go. There must be some other explanation for the art of living which they have brought to such a degree of perfection.” (154)


“Lucienne, as he calls her, is a heavy platinum blonde with a cruel, saturnine air. She has a full underlip which she chews venomously when her temper runs away with her. And a cold, beady eye, a sort of faded china blue, which makes him sweat when she fixes him with it.” (154)


Lucienne: “I am a liar too, but I am not an imbecile.” (157)


“To walk from the Rue Lafayette to the boulevard is like running the gauntlet; they attach themselves to you like barnacles, they eat into you like ants, they coax, wheedle, cajole, implore, beseech, they try it out in German, English, Spanish, they show you their torn hearts and their busted shoes, and long after you’ve chopped the tentacles away, long after the fizz and sizzle has died out, the fragrance of the lavabo clings to your nostrils – it is the odor of the Parfum de Danse whose effectiveness is guaranteed only for a distance of twenty centimeters. One could piss away a whole lifetime in that little stretch between the boulevard and the Rue Lafayette. Every bar is alive, throbbing, the dice loaded; the cashiers are perched like vultures on their high stools and the money they handle has a human stink to it. There is no equivalent in the Banque de France for the blood money that passes currency here, the money that glistens with human sweat, that passes like a forest fire from hand to hand and leaves behind it a smoke and stench. A man who can walk through the Faubourg Montmartre at night without panting or sweating, without a prayer or a curse on his lips, a man like that has no balls, and if he has, then he ought to be castrated.” (158)


“Bet you, when she squeezes him tight, when she begs for that little package of love which only he knows how to deliver, bet you he fights like a thousand devils to pump it up, to wipe out that regiment that has marched between her legs.” (159)


“When I listen to the reproaches that are leveled against a girl like Lucienne, when I hear her being denigrated or despised because she is cold and mercenary, because she is too mechanical, or because she’s in too great a hurry, or because this or because that, I say to myself, hold on there bozo, not so fast! Remember that you’re far back in the procession; remember that a whole army corps has laid siege to her, that she’s been laid waste, plundered and pillaged. I say to myself, listen, bozo, don’t begrudge the fifty francs you hand her because you know her pimp is pissing it away in the Faubourg Montmartre. It’s her money and her pimp. It’s blood money. It’s money that’ll never be taken out of circulation because there’s nothing in the Banque de France to redeem it with.” (159-160)


“At the Café de l’Avenue, where I stop for a bite, a woman with a swollen stomach tries to interest me in her condition. She would like me to go to a room with her and while away an hour or two. It is the first time I have ever been propositioned by a pregnant woman: I am almost tempted to try it. As soon as the baby is born and handed over to the authorities she will go back to her trade, she says. She makes hats. Observing that my interest is waning she takes my hand and puts it on her abdomen. I feel something stirring inside. It takes my appetite away.


I have never seen a place like Paris for varieties of sexual provender. As soon as a woman loses a front tooth or an eye or a leg she goes on the loose. In America she’d starve to death if she had nothing to recommend her but a mutilation. Here it is different. A missing tooth or a nose eaten away or a fallen womb, any misfortune that aggravates the natural homeliness of the female, seems to be regarded as an added spice, a stimulant for the jaded appetites of the male” (161-162)


caroming (pool: rebound following a collision)


“Vividly now I recall how the glint and sparkle of light caroming from the massive chandeliers splintered and ran blood, flecking the tips of the waves that beat monotonously on the dull gold outside the windows.” (165)


“No searching for formulae, no crucifixion of ideas, no compulsion other than to create.” (166)

entr’acte” (break, intermission)


“Even as the world falls apart the Paris that belongs to Matisse shudders with bright, gasping

orgasms . . .” . . . . “The wheel is falling apart, but the revolution is intact…” (166)


Cronstadt: “The reason I wanted you to commit suicide…” he begins again. At that I burst out laughing.” (168)

“. . . menagerie of a brainpan. Sometimes he would lie on his couch full length, exhausted by the surge of ideas that swept through his noodle.” (168)


“She said I didn’t need to worry about what I would do – they would find a job for me as long as I was earnest and sincere. I tried to look earnest, but I only succeeded in looking pathetic. They don’t want to see sad faces in Russia; they want you to be cheerful, enthusiastic, lighthearted, optimistic. It sounded very much like America to me. I wasn’t born with this kind of enthusiasm.” (170-171)


“To me it was like a dream too: I had my hand in Tania’s bosom and I was squeezing her titties with all my might and I noticed the water under the bridges and the barges and Notre-Dame down below, just like the post cards show it, and I was thinking drunkenly to myself that’s how one gets fucked, but I was sly about it too and I knew I wouldn’t ever trade all this whirling about my head for Russia or heaven or anything on earth. It was a fine afternoon, I was thinking to myself, and soon we’d be pushing a feed down our bellies and what could we order as a special treat, some good heavy wine that would drown out all this Russia business. With a woman like Tania, full of sap and everything, they don’t give a damn what happens to you once they get an idea in their heads. Let them go far enough and they’ll pull the pants off you, right in the taxi.” (172)


“. . . behind every shapely ass a trail of perfume a yard wide that would take the stink out of life, even downstairs in the lavabo.”(washbasin) (173)


Swell dames on the Champs-Elysées: “The walls were crowded with sketches and epithets, all of them jocosely obscene, easy to understand, and on the whole rather jolly and sympathetic. It must have required a ladder to reach certain spots, but I suppose it was worth while doing it even looking at it from just the psychological viewpoint. Sometimes, as I stood there taking a leak, I wondered . . .” . . . . In their world, no doubt, everything was gauze and velvet – or they made you think so with the fine scents they gave out, swishing past you.” . . . . “because in that world, just as in every world, the greater part of what happens is just muck and filth, sordid as any garbage can, only they are lucky enough to be able to put covers over the can.” (174-175)


“It requires more concentration to detect a missing comma than to epitomize Nietzsche’s philosophy. You can be brilliant sometimes, when you’re drunk, but brilliance is out of place in the proofreading department.” (175)


“I even got a letter one day from the big mogul upstairs, a guy I never even met, so high up he was, and between a few sarcastic phrases about my more than ordinary intelligence, he hinted pretty plainly that I’d better learn my place and toe the mark or there’d be what’s what to pay. Frankly, that scared the shit out of me. After that I never used a polysyllabic word in conversation; in fact, I hardly ever opened my trap all night. I played the high-grade moron, which is what they wanted of us. Now and then, to sort of flatter the boss, I’d go up to him and ask politely what such and such a word might mean. He liked that.” (176)





“And the funny thing is again that I could travel all around the globe but America would never enter my mind; it was even further lost than a lost continent, because with the lost continents I felt some mysterious attachment, whereas with America I felt nothing at all.” (177)


Avenue de Breteuil: (. . . which at ten o’clock in the evening is so silent, so dead, that it makes one think of murder or suicide, anything that might create a vestige of human drama.” (178)


arrondissements (boroughs)


“One can live in Paris – I discovered that! – on just grief and anguish. A bitter nourishment –

perhaps the best there is for certain people.” (180)


“Since then, of course, I have learned what every madman in Paris discovers sooner or later; that there are no ready-made infernos for the tormented.” (180)


charnel house (tomb or tomblike building)


“I can stand here and smile vacantly, and no matter how fervid my prayers, no matter how desperate my longing, there is an ocean between us; there she will stay and starve, and here I shall walk from one street to the next, the hot tears scalding my face.” (184-185)


Unemployed: “. . . there was scarcely anything left out of my final pay.” (186)


“And I cultivated a whole new set of acquaintances – bores whom I had sedulously avoided heretofore, drunks whom I loathed, artists who had a little money, Guggenheim-prize men, etc. It’s not hard to make friends when you squat on a terrasse twelve hours a day. You get to know every sot in Montparnasse. They cling to you like lice, even if you have nothing to offer them but your ears.” (187)


“What if your wife should arrive now?” (187)

“. . . the world never permits a good-looking woman to starve.” (187)


“I did a lot of pseudonymous writing during this period. When the big new whorehouse opened up on the Boulevard Edgar-Quinet, I got a little rake-off, for writing the pamphlets. That is to say, a bottle of champagne and a free fuck in one of the Egyptian rooms. If I succeeded in bringing a client I was to get my commission . . .” . . . . “One night I brought Van Norden; he was going to let me earn a little money by enjoying himself upstairs. But when the madame learned that he was a newspaperman she wouldn’t hear of taking money from him; it was a bottle of champagne again and a free fuck.” . . . . “I was getting fucked good and proper.” (188)



physiog, physiognomy (interpretable facial features)


“. . . even in New York. There were nights when I was so damned desperate, back there, that I had to go out right in my own neighbourhood and panhandle.” (189)


“Kruger was one of those saints who have gone wrong, a masochist, an anal type whose law is scrupulousness, rectitude and conscientiousness, who on an off day would knock a man’s teeth down his throat without a qualm. He seemed to think I was ripe to move on to another plane, “a higher plane,” as he put it. I was ready to move on to any plane he designated, provided that one didn’t eat less or drink less. He chewed my head off about the “threadsoul”, the “causal body,” “ablation,” the Upanishads, Plotinus, Krishnamurti, “the Karmic vestiture of the soul,” “the nirvanic consciousness,” all that flapdoodle which blows out of the East like a breath from the plague.” (190)


Mark Swift: “If he was not a genius he was certainly an eccentric, this caustic Irishman. He had for a model a Jewess whom he had been living with for years; he was now tired of her and was searching for a pretext to get rid of her.” (191-192)

“It was because [Mark Swift] really has genius, she said, that he was such a rotten individual.” (192)


“By way of showing us what a nude ought to be like he hauls out a huge canvas which he had recently completed. It was a picture of her, a splendid piece of vengeance inspired by a guilty conscience. The work of a madman – vicious, petty, malign, brilliant. You had the feeling that he had spied on her through the keyhole, that he had caught her in an off moment, when she was picking her nose absent-mindedly, or scratching her ass. She sat there on the horsehair sofa, in a room without ventilation, an enormous room without a window; it might as well have been the anterior lobe of the pineal gland. Back of her ran the zigzag stairs leading to the balcony; they were covered with a bilious-green carpet, such a green as could only emanate from a universe that had been pooped out. The most prominent thing was her buttocks, which were lopsided and

full of scabs; she seemed to have slightly raised her ass from the sofa, as if to let a loud fart. Her face he had idealized: it looked sweet and virginal, pure as a cough drop. But her bosom was distended, swollen with sewer gas; she seemed to be swimming in a menstrual sea, an enlarged fetus with the dull, syrupy look of an angel.” (192-193)


Collins, a sailor whom Fillmore: “All during Collins’s stay in Paris I lived like a duke; nothing but fowl and good vintages and desserts that I hadn’t even heard of before.” . . . . “I was getting to be a nuisance because I never showed up before three a.m. and it was difficult to rout me out of bed before noon. Overtly Kruger never uttered a word of reproach but his manner indicated plainly enough that I was becoming a bum.” (194)


Sick at Kroger’s: “I realized that I was making a mess of it for him. People can’t look at pictures and statues with enthusiasm when a man is dying before their eyes. Kruger honestly thought I was dying.” (195)


“Don’t let him think you’re croaking.” (197)


“I could no longer follow his story; my mind had slipped back to a Fourth of July when I bought my first package of firecrackers and with it the long pieces of punk which break so easily, the punk that you blow on to get a good red glow, the punk whose smell stick to your fingers for days and makes you dream of strange things.” (198)


“One never thinks of China, but it is there all the time on the tips of your fingers and it makes your nose itchy . . .” . . . . “in everything Chinese there is wisdom and mystery and you can never grasp it with two hands or with your mind but you must let it rub off, let it stick to your fingers, let it slowly infiltrate your veins.” (199)


Vénétienne: “The sailors’ remedy for clap.” (200)


Collins, Baron de Charlus: “His tastes were simple – food, drink, women and books. And a private bath! That he insisted on.” (200)


“I hadn’t a sou in my pocket, which didn’t matter, of course, since I was the guest of honour. Nevertheless I felt somewhat embarrassed with two stunning-looking whores hanging on my arms waiting for me to order something. I decided to take the bull by the horns. You couldn’t tell any more which drinks were on the house and which were to be paid for. I had to be a gentleman, even if I didn’t have a sou in my pocket.” (201)


“It began with the popping of champagne corks and was quickly followed by drunken speeches, during the course of which Marcelle and I played with each other under the table. When it came my turn to stand up and deliver a few words I had to hold the napkin in front of me. It was painful and exhilarating at the same time. I had to cut my speech very short because Marcelle was tickling me in the crotch all the while.” (202)


“Then you’ve got it!” said Collins triumphantly, and with that he flourished the bottle of “Vénétienne.” “Don’t go to a doctor,” he added venomously. “They’ll bleed you to death, the greedy bastards. And don’t stop drinking either. That’s all hooey. Take this twice a day… shake it well before using. And nothing’s worse than worry, do you understand? Come on now. I’ll give you a syringe and some permanganate when we get back.” (203)


“Sex everywhere . . .” (204)


Collins: “We were sitting in a whorehouse at the time, waiting for a girl to appear; he had promised to slip her some cocaine.” . . . . “On top of it all he was desperately in love with this boy whom he had told us about the first day.” (205)


“It was sultry as the devil, not a breath of air stirring.” (205)


“. . . that familiar, nauseating thud that the human body makes when it crashes to the floor.” (205)


Fight with the Swede, Yvette, Jimmy: “On the way to the station we pieced the story together.” (207)


“Like that, you imagine it’s always there waiting for you, unchanged, unspoiled, a big patriotic open space with cows and sheep and tenderhearted men ready to bugger everything in sight, man, woman or beast. It doesn’t exist, America. It’s a name you give to an abstract idea…” (208)


“Paris is like a whore. From a distance she seems ravishing, you can’t wait until you have her in your arms. And five minutes later you feel empty, disgusted with yourself. You feel tricked.” (209)


“I could have had a room for a hundred francs a month, a room without any conveniences to be sure . . . . [but] to reach this room I would have been obliged to first pass through the room of a blind man. The thought of passing his bed every night had a most depressing effect on me. I decided to look elsewhere.” (209)


“. . . I knew you were English right away.” And with this she smiles at me, a strange, half-demented smile.” (210)


“. . . I began to laugh again. I couldn’t help it – the phrases she used, the strange accent, the crazy hat she had on, that demented smile…” (211)


Hotel?: “I’m sure you don’t mean that! I’m not that kind of a girl.” (211)


“. . . I got up to dance with the blonde . . .” “We had another dance together, a sort of private exhibition, and then we fell into conversation. She had begun to weep.” . . . . “I pretended not to be concerned. And meanwhile I was looking around to see if there was any other timber available. But the place was thoroughly deserted.” (212)


Ecoute, chéri… sois raisonnable!” (Listen, darling … be reasonable! “) (214)

“I have yet to meet a whore who doesn’t know of Henry Bordeaux!” (214)

quand il n’y aura plus de temps.” (When there will be more time.) (215)


“At the door I embraced her again. I was in my underclothes and I had a tremendous erection. Somehow all this anguish and excitement, all the grief and histrionics, only whetted my appetite.” (216)


“Shit, I didn’t have the heart to haggle about a few francs at the moment.” . . . . “She embraced me passionately, and she groaned as all French cunts do when they get you in bed. She was getting me frightfully roused with her carrying on; that business of turning out the lights was a new one to me… it seemed like the real thing.” (216)


Vite chéri! Vite chéri! Oh, c’est bon! Oh, oh! Vite, vite, chéri!” (Soon darling! Soon darling! Oh, this is good! Oh, oh! Quick, quick, dear!) (217)


“I heard the stars chiming and there was my hundred francs gone and the fifty that I had forgotten all about . . .” (217)


Mais faites comme chez vous, chéri. Je reviens tout de suite.” (But make yourself at home, honey. I’ll be right back.) (217)


“In the excitement of the moment she had thrust the purse in the wardrobe, on the upper shelf. I remembered the gesture she made – standing on her tiptoes and reaching for the shelf. It didn’t take me a minute to open the wardrobe and feel around for the purse. It was still there. I opened it hurriedly and saw my hundred franc note lying snugly between the silk coverlets.” . . . . “I put the hundred franc bill carefully away in my fob pocket and counted the change.” (118)



Fillmore: “He had a genius for attracting homeless bitches.” (219)


“An execrable place in the winter, Paris!” (219)


“Sometimes I would lie abed till noon. There was nothing pressing, except to finish the book, and that didn’t worry me much because I was already convinced that nobody would accept it anyway.” (219)


“[Fillmore] was fond of going to a nigger joint on the Rue d’Odessa where there was a good-looking mulatto who used to come home with us occasionally.” (220)


“[Kruger] believed in Nature’s laws, implicitly. Swift didn’t give a fuck about Nature; he wanted to paint what was inside his head.” (221)


“Then one evening, after I had been out for a walk, I open the door and a woman springs out of the bedroom. “So you’re the writer!” she exclaims at once, and she looks at my beard as if to corroborate her impression. “What a horrid beard!” she says.” (223)


Fillmore: “She’s a princess,” he says, smacking his lips as if he had just tasted some rare caviar.” (223)


“He was bubbling over with excitement, like a child that has just found a new toy.” (223)


“He’s a big child. He behaves disgracefully. I took him to a Russian restaurant and he danced like a nigger.” (223)


Fillmore: “The cloakroom attendant said that she had left long ago. He dashed outside. There was a nigger in livery standing there with a big grin on his face. Did the nigger know where she had breezed to? Nigger grins. Nigger says: “Ah heerd Coupole, dassall sir!” (228)


“There isn’t another woman like me in all Paris… “

“That’s what you think!” (229)


“You’re a bitch!” he said coldly. “I wouldn’t mind spending a few hundred francs on you, but you’re crazy. You haven’t even washed your face. Your breath stinks.” (229)


“Fillmore has bronchitis, the princess, as I was saying, has the clap, and I have the piles.” (230)


“. . . Leda and the swan: the flapping of the wings excited her terribly.” (232)


The Englishman: “Happened she was a Negress, a powerful wench from Martinique, and beautiful as a panther.” (232)


Fillmore: “pulled a hundred franc note out of his pocket and slapping it in front of me, he said: “Look here, you probably need a lay more than any of us.” (233)


“. . . the Negress was the queen of the harem. You had only to look at her to get an erection. Her eyes seemed to be swimming in sperm. She was drunk with all the demands made upon her. She couldn’t walk straight any more – at least it seemed that way to me. Going up the narrow winding stairs behind her I couldn’t resist the temptation to slide my hand up her crotch; we continued up the stairs that way, she looking back at me with a cheerful smile and wiggling her ass a bit when it tickled her too much.” (233)


Fillmore and the princess: “She lay back with her legs apart and she let him fool around and fool around and then, just as he was climbing over her, just as he was going to slip it in, she informs him nonchalantly that she has a dose of clap. He rolled off her like a log.” (234)


“. . . can you beat that? that son-of-a-bitch of a princess has the clap!” (234)


“The first dose he ever got was at college.” (234)

“They lie there now like brother and sister, with incestuous dreams.” (235)


chancre (sore or ulcer)


“That’s how one gets acquainted in Paris – genito-urinary friendships.” (235)


gouttes (drops, of menstrual blood)


“I was a foolish young virgin and so I permitted him to rape me one night. I wanted to be a great actress and I didn’t know he was full of poison. So he gave me the clap… and now I want that he should have it back again.” (236)


“Then she took me to her apartment and for two hundred francs I let her suck me off. She wanted me to live with her but I didn’t want to have her suck me off every night… it makes you too weak.” (238)


“We talked about [America] as if we never expected to go back there again. Fillmore had a map of New York City which he had tacked on the wall; we used to spend whole evenings discussing the relative virtues of Paris and New York. And inevitably there always crept into our discussions the figure of Whitman, that one lone figure which America has produced in the course of her brief life. In Whitman the whole American scene comes to life, her past and her future, her birth and her death. Whatever there is of value in America Whitman has expressed, and there is nothing more to be said. The future belongs to the machine, to the robots. He was the Poet of the Body and the Soul, Whitman. The first and the last poet. He is almost undecipherable today, a monument covered with rude hieroglyphs for which there is no key. It seems strange almost to mention his name over here. There is no equivalent in the languages of Europe for the spirit which he immortalized. Europe is saturated with art and her soil is full of dead bones and her museums are bursting with plundered treasures, but what Europe has never had is a free, healthy spirit, what you might call a MAN. Goethe was the nearest approach, but Goethe was a stuffed shirt, by comparison. Goethe was a respectable citizen, a pedant, a bore, a universal spirit, but stamped with the German trade-mark, with the double eagle. The serenity of Goethe, the calm, Olympian attitude, is nothing more than the drowsy stupor of a German burgeois deity. Goethe is an end of something, Whitman is a beginning.” (239-240)


“. . . the cold of a Paris winter is a cold unknown to America . . .” (240)


Sargasso Sea


“(Writing to Gauguin, Strindberg said: “J’ai vu des arbres que ne retrouverait aucun botaniste, des animaux que Cuvier n’a jamais soupçonnés et des hommes que vous seul avez pu créer.”)” (I saw trees that will end up no botanist, animals Cuvier never suspected and men that only you could create.) (243)





“No reverence. No piety. No longing. No regrets. No hysteria. Above all, as Philippe Datz says – “NO DISCOURAGEMENT!” (244)


“At least a hundred years ago there was a man who had vision enough to see that the world was pooped out.” (245)




“And now it is three o’clock in the morning and we have a couple of trollops here who are doing somersaults on the bare floor.” (246)


“But the ass! The ass is worn down, scraped, sandpapered, smooth, hard, bright as a billiard ball or the skull of a leper.” (246)


diapason (organ, musical range)


“I hear a wild, hysterical laugh, a room full of lockjaw, and the body that was black glows like phosphorus.” (247)




“When I look down into this fucked-out cunt of a whore I feel the whole world beneath me, a world tottering and crumbling, a world used up and polished like a leper’s skull.” (248)


“In the four hundred years since the last devouring soul appeared, the last man to know the meaning of ecstasy, there has been a constant and steady decline of man in art, in thought, in action. The world is pooped out: there isn’t a dry fart left.” (249)


“If anyone knew what it meant to read the riddle of that thing which today is called a “crack” or a “hole,” if any one had the least feeling of mystery about the phenomena which are labeled “obscene,” this world would crack asunder. It is the obscene horror, the dry, fucked-out aspect of things which makes this crazy civilization look like a crater.” (249)


“When a hungry, desperate spirit appears and makes the guinea pigs squeal it is because he knows where to put the live wire of sex, because he knows that beneath the hard carapace of indifference there is concealed the ugly gash, the wound that never heals. And he puts the live wire right between the legs; he hits below the belt, scorches the very gizzards.” (249)


“. . . a man who is intent on creation always dives beneath . . .” (249)


“The dry, fucked-out crater is obscene. More obscene than anything is inertia. More blasphemous than the bloodiest oath is paralysis.” (250)


paroxysmal fury


“Strange that the bells should toll so, but stranger still the body bursting, this woman turned to night and her maggot words gnawing through the mattress.” (251)


Fay ce que vouldras!… fay ce que vouldras!”; Do anything, but let it produce joy. Do anything, but let it yield ecstasy.” (Fay what thou wilt! … Fay what thou wilt!) (252)


“When I reflect that the task which the artist implicitly sets himself is to overthrow existing values, to make of the chaos about him an order which is his own, to sow strife and ferment so that by the emotional release those who are dead may be restored to life, then it is that I run with joy to the great and imperfect ones, their confusion nourishes me, their stuttering is like divine music to my ears. I see in the beautifully bloated pages that follow the interruptions the erasure of petty intrusions, of the dirty footprints, as it were, of cowards, liars, thieves, vandals, calumniators. I see in the swollen muscles of their lyric throats the staggering effort that must be made to turn the wheel over, to pick up the pace where one has left off.” (252)


“. . . stake and the gibbet.” (hanging post) “I see that behind the nobility of his gestures there lurks the specter of the ridiculousness of it all – that he is not only sublime, but absurd.” (253)


I am inhuman!” . . . “I belong to the earth! I say that lying on my pillow and I can feel the horns sprouting from my temples.” (254)


“Side by side with the human race there runs another race of beings, the inhuman ones, the race of artists who, goaded by unknown impulses, take the lifeless mass of humanity and by the fever and ferment with which they imbue it turn this soggy dough into bread and the bread into wine and the wine into song.” (254)


“I am pouring the juice of the grape down my gullet and I find wisdom in it, but my wisdom is not born of the grape, my intoxication owes nothing to wine…” (256)


“Let us have more oceans, more upheavals, more wars, more holocausts.” (257)


“‘I love everything that flows,’ said the great blind Milton of our times. I was thinking of him this morning when I awoke with a great bloody shout of joy: I was thinking of his rivers and trees and all that world of night which he is exploring. Yes, I said to myself, I too love everything that flows: rivers, sewers, lava, semen, blood, bile, words, sentences.” (257)


(un) fecund (productive, prolific, fruitful)


“. . . the Amazon and the Orinoco, where crazy men like Moravagine float on through dream and legend in an open boat and drown in the blind mouths of the river.” (257-258)


“I love scripts that flow, be they hieratic, esoteric, perverse, polymorph, or unilateral. I love everything that flows, everything that has time in it and becoming, that brings us back to the beginning where there is never end: the violence of the prophets, the obscenity that is ecstasy, the wisdom of the fanatic, the priest with his rubber litany, the foul words of the whore, the spittle that floats away in the gutter, the milk of the breast and the bitter honey that pours from the womb, all that is fluid, melting, dissolute and dissolvent, all the pus and dirt that in flowing is purified, that loses its sense of origin, that makes the great circuit toward death and dissolution. The great incestuous wish is to flow on, one with time, to merge the great image of the beyond with the here and now. A fatuous, suicidal wish that is constipated by words and paralyzed by thought.” (258)


Fillmore and the narrator: “It was close to dawn on Christmas Day when we came home from the Rue d’Odessa with a couple of Negresses from the telephone company. The fire was out and we were all so tired that we climbed into bed with our clothes on. The one I had, who had been like a bounding leopard all evening, fell sound asleep as I was climbing over her. For a while I worked over her as one works over a person who has been drowned or asphyxiated. Then I gave it up and fell sound asleep myself” (259)


Going to mass “For fun.”: “I felt somewhat uneasy about it; in the first place I had never attended a mass, and in the second place I looked seedy and felt seedy. Fillmore, too, looked rather battered, even more disreputable than myself; his big slouch hat was on assways . . .” (260)


“Surrounding [the priest] on the altar are little boys dressed like angels of the Lord who sing alto and soprano. Innocent lambs. All in skirts, sexless, like the priest himself who is usually flat-footed and nearsighted to boot. A fine epicene caterwauling. Sex in a jockstrap, to the tune of J-mol.”

“I was taking it in as best I could in the dim light. Fascinating and stupefying at the same time. All over the civilized world, I thought to myself. All over the world. Marvelous. Rain or shine, hail, sleet, snow, thunder, lightning, war, famine, pestilence – makes not the slightest difference. Always the same mean temperature, the same mumbo jumbo, the same high-laced shoes and the little angels of the Lord singing soprano and alto. (261)


“We must have made ourselves pretty conspicuous shuffling about that way with our coat collars turned up and never once crossing ourselves and never once moving our lips except to whisper some callous remark. Perhaps everything would have passed off without notice if Fillmore hadn’t

insisted on walking past the altar in the midst of the ceremony.” (262)


Asking the priest for the “exit” because they couldn’t remember the French word for “exit”: “Without a word of response he took us firmly by the arm and, opening the door, a side door it was, he gave us a push and out we tumbled into the blinding light of day.” (262)


“. . . the priest was still standing on the steps, pale as a ghost and scowling like the devil himself.” . . . . “he looked so ridiculous that I burst out laughing. I looked at Fillmore and he began to laugh too. For a full minute we stood there laughing right in the poor bugger’s face.” (The priest chases after them and they run.) (263)


Jacksonville, Florida: “It was during the celebrated boom when, like thousands of others, I

was caught with my pants down. Trying to extricate myself I got caught, along with a friend of mine, in the very neck of the bottle.” (263)


“The residents of Jacksonville had become so hardened that it seemed to me as if they were walking around in coats of mail. It was the old business of food again. Food and a place to flop.” (264)


Goes with “Joe”, not Jewish, to a Jewish synagogue, asks the rabbi for money, says he has more faith in Jews than Gentiles, rabbit gets upset and sends him to the Salvation Army. (264)


“The next morning, in order to get even with these hospitable sons of bitches, we presented ourselves bright and early at the door of a Catholic priest.” (265)


brogue (regional accent)


“. . . just to ask for a crust of bread is to make yourself less than a worm.” (266)


“I wear my hat as I please, indoors or out,” said Walt. That was a time when you could still get a hat to fit your head. But time passes. To get a hat that fits now you have to walk to the electric chair. They give you a skull cap. A tight fit, what? But no matter! It fits.” (266)


The body electric! The democratic soul! Flood tide! Holy Mother of God, what does this

crap mean?” (267)


gonococci (bacteria: gonorrhea)

streptococci (bacteria: scarlet fever, pneumonia)


“. . . he wasted no words of cheer on me.” ()

“He told me how much coal and wood I was allowed and after that he promptly informed me that I was at liberty to do as I pleased in my spare time. This last was the first good thing I had heard him say. It sounded so reassuring that I quickly said a prayer for France – for the army

and for the navy, the educational system, the bistros, the whole goddamned works.” (268)


folderol (trinket, nonesense)


“Whenever you pass a prof, or even M. l’Econome, you doff the hat. Might pass the same guy a dozen times a day. Makes no difference. You’ve got to give the salute, even though your hat is worn out. It’s the polite thing to do.” (l’Econome: bursar) (271)


The supervisors (les surveillants): “Then they formed a circle about me and, filling the glasses, they began to sing…


L’autre soir l’idée m’est venue

Cré nom de Zeus d’enculer un pendu;

Le vent se lève sur la potence,

Voilà mon pendu qui se balance,

J’ai dû l’enculer en sautant,

Cré nom de Zeus, on est jamais content.


Baiser dans un con trop petit,

Cré nom de Zeus, on s’écorche le vit;

Baiser dans un con trop large,

On ne sait pas où l’on décharge;

Se branler étant bien emmerdant,

Cré nom de Zeus, on est jamais content.


With this, Quasimodo announced the dinner.” (271-272)


(The other night it occurred to me

Created name Zeus to fuck a hung;

The wind picks up on the gallows,

Here’s my hanging swinging,

I had to fuck jumping,

Established name of Zeus, one is never satisfied.


Kiss in too small a con,

Established name of Zeus, we saw galls;

Kiss too broadly con,

We do not know where they discharge;

Wank it being boring,

Established name of Zeus, one is never satisfied.)



“Petit Paul, from the Midi, who thought of nothing but cunt all the time; he used to say every day – “à partir de jeudi je ne parlerai plus de femmes.” (On Thursday I will speak to more women.) (272)

“He was like an engraving by Albrecht Dürer – a composite of all the dour, sour, morose, bitter, unfortunate, unlucky and introspective devils who compose the pantheon of Germany’s medieval knights. A Jew, no doubt. At any rate, he was killed in an automobile accident shortly after my arrival . . .” (273)


“The indifferent ones whom Dante consigned to the vestibule of Hell. The upper-crusters.” (273)


Cafes of Dijon: “It was warm in the cafés, that is the best I can say of them. The seats were fairly comfortable, too. And there were always a few whores about who, for a glass of beer or a cup of coffee, would sit and chew the fat with you.” (273)


“I thought of Carl who can recite Faust backwards, who never writes a book without praising the shit out of his immortal, incorruptible Goethe. And yet he hadn’t sense enough to take on a rich cunt and get himself a change of underwear.” (274)


“I let them fire away. I taught them to ask still more ticklish questions. Ask anything! – that was my motto. I’m here as a plenipotentiary from the realm of free spirits. I’m here to create a fever and a ferment. “In some ways,” says an eminent astronomer, “the material universe appears to be passing away like a tale that is told, dissolving into nothingness like a vision.” That seems to be the general feeling underlying the empty breadbasket of learning. Myself, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe a fucking thing these bastards try to shove down our throats.” (275)


pions (pawns): “They were delightfully ignorant of all that was going on – especially in the world of art.” (275)


“Roaming around the quadrangle with an empty belly most of the time I got to feel slightly mad. Like Charles the Silly, poor devil – only I had no Odette Champdivers with whom to play stinkfinger. Half the time I had to grub cigarettes from the students, and during the lessons sometimes I munched a bit of dry bread with them. As the fire was always going out on me I soon used up my allotment of wood. It was the devil’s own time coaxing a little wood out of the ledger clerks. Finally I got so riled up about it that I would go out in the street and hunt for firewood, like an Arab. Astonishing how little firewood you could pick up in the streets of Dijon. However, these little foraging expeditions brought me into strange precincts. Got to know the little street named after a M. Philibert Papillon – a dead musician, I believe – where there was a cluster of whorehouses.” (276-277)


“The University celebrating the death of Goethe, or the birth, I don’t remember which. (Usually it’s the deaths that are celebrated.) Idiotic affair, anyway. Everybody yawning and stretching.” (277)


“On the blackboard the futile abracadabra which the future citizens of the republic would have to spend their lives forgetting.” (278)



“Some of them were just rubber plants easily dusted with a torn chemise. All of them jerking away for dear life in the dormitories as soon as night came on. The dormitories! where the red lights glowed, where the bell rang like a fire alarm, where the treads were hollowed out in the scramble to reach the education cells.” (278)



Handshakes, hat doffs, “But as for a heart-to-heart talk, as for walking to the corner and having a drink together, nothing doing. It was simply unimaginable. Most of them looked as though they had had the shit scared out of them. Anyway, I belonged to another hierarchy.” (278)


“. . . I used to curse them under my breath when I saw them coming. I used to stand there, leaning against a pillar, with a cigarette in the corner of my mouth and my hat down over my eyes, and when they got within hailing distance I would let squirt a good gob and up with the hat. I didn’t even bother to open my trap and bid them the time of the day. Under my breath I simply said: “Fuck you, Jack!” and let it go at that.” (279)


University at Dijon: “After a week it seemed as if I had been here all my life. It was like a bloody, fucking nightmare that you can’t throw off.” (279)


“The Lycée itself seemed to rise up out of a lake of thin snow, an inverted mountain that pointed down toward the center of the earth where God or the Devil works always in a straitjacket grinding grist for that paradise which is always a wet dream.” (279)


Eglise St. Michel: “When the lights went out and the characters faded away flat, dead as words, then it was quite magnificent, the façade; in every crevice of the old gnarled front there was the hollow chant of the nightwind and over the lacy rubble of cold stiff vestments there was a cloudy absinthe-like drool of fog and frost.” (280)


glaucous hog rind!


“Yet I am up and about, a walking ghost, a white man terrorized by the cold sanity of this slaughterhouse geometry.” (280-281)


“All things come to me through the clear fog with the odor of repetition, with yellow hangovers and Gadzooks and whettikins.” (281)


“And just when everyone has become shit-tight the toilet pipes freeze. The shit piles up like ant hills; one has to move down from the little pedestals and leave it on the floor. It lies there stiff and frozen, waiting for the thaw.” (282)


“In the night, when I am taken short, I rush down to the private toilet of M. le Censeur, just off the driveway. My stool is always full of blood. His toilet doesn’t flush either but at least there is the pleasure of sitting down. I leave my little bundle for him as a token of esteem.” (283)


veilleur de nuit (night watchman)


“[The night watchman] mumbles a word or two and Quasimodo brings him the bottle. Then, with feet solidly planted, he throws back his head and down it goes, slowly in one long draught. To me it’s like he’s pouring rubies down his gullet. Something about this gesture which seizes me by the hair. It’s almost as if he were drinking down the dregs of human sympathy, as if all the love and compassion in the world could be tossed off like that, in one gulp – as if that were all that could be squeezed together day after day.” (283)


“Once inside the room I bolt the door. It’s a miracle which I perform each night, the miracle of getting inside without being strangled, without being struck down by an ax.” (286)


“Alone, with a tremendous empty longing and dread. The whole room for my thoughts. Nothing but myself and what I think, what I fear.” (286)


“The public at large, pedestrians and pederasts, goldfish and spun-glass palm trees, donkeys sobbing, all circulating freely through quincuncial alleys.” (quincunx: an arrangement of five objects in a square, with four at the corners and one in the center) (287)


“The beyond. Always the beyond. It must have all started with the navel. They cut the umbilical cord, give you a slap on the ass, and presto! you’re out in the world, adrift, a ship without a rudder.” (287)


“. . . as soon as the dough arrived I beat it to the station. Not a word to M. le Proviseur or anyone. French leave, as they say.” (288)


Carl’s room: “Like a squirrel cage and shithouse combined. There was hardly room on the table for the portable machine he used.” (288)


Carl: injection of argyrol (Anti-Infective: eye infections)


“I liked that letter you sent me about Goethe,” he said, wiping his prick with a dirty

pair of drawers.” (289)


“You have to be German to understand Goethe. Shit, I’m not going to explain it to you now. I’ve put it all in the book… By the way, I’ve got a new cunt now – not this one – this one’s a half-wit.” . . . . The parents came to take the girl away, “They said she was only fifteen.” . . . . “But

do you know what saved me? So I think, at least. It was Faust.” Carl had Faust and Shakespeare open on the table and the girl’s father was impressed. (289)


The girl’s mother: “I’m in love with her…” . . . . “If I had seen the mother first I’d never have looked at the daughter. How did I know she was only fifteen? You don’t ask a cunt how old she is before you lay her, do you?” (290)


“She was in love with me,” he said. “She was just like a child. I had to tell her when to brush her teeth and how to put her, hat on. Here – look at the lollypops! I used to buy her a few lollypops every day – she liked them.” (290)


“I had to promise never to see her again, never to write her either. That’s what I’m waiting to see now –whether she’ll stay away or not. She was a virgin when she came here. The thing is, how long will she be able to go without a lay? She couldn’t get enough of it when she was here. She almost wore me out.” (290)


Carl’s current girl, lives on the third floor: “I asked her first if she was too tired. Useless question. A whore is never too tired to open her legs. Some of them can fall asleep while you diddle them. Anyway, it was decided we would go down to her room. Like that I wouldn’t have to pay the patron for the night.” (291)


“. . . the Coupole serves porridge at all hours and porridge makes you shit.” (291)


“Van Norden still bellyaching about his cunts and about washing the dirt out of his belly. Only now he’s found a new diversion. He’s found that it’s less annoying to masturbate. I was amazed when he broke the news to me. I didn’t think it possible for a guy like that to find any pleasure in jerking himself off.” . . . . (invented apple fucking) (291)


Fillmore in the hospital: “He took on a French girl, you know, while you were away. They used to fight like hell. She’s a big, healthy bitch – wild like. I wouldn’t mind giving her a tumble, but I’m afraid she’d claw the eyes out of me. He was always going around with his face and hands scratched up. She looks bunged up too once in a while – or she used to. You know how these French cunts are – when they love they lose their minds.” (292)


Fillmore, Carl, Yvette, Ginette, Jo-Jo: “It was my duty now to comfort her, and so I just filled her up with a lot of baloney, told her everything would turn out all right and that I would stand godfather to the child, etc” (294)


Ginette of the blind child: “Mon Dieu, ne dites pas ça!” she groaned. “Ne dites pas ça!” (My God, do not say that! Do not say that!) (294)


“The château, they called it. A polite way of saying “the bughouse.” (296)


“When [Yvette] got good and tight one day, she informed us that Ginette had never been anything but a whore, that Ginette was a bloodsucker, that Ginette never had been pregnant and was not pregnant now.” (298)


inveigled (charm or persuade)


“I’d rather go back to the château than submit to such a scheme.” (300)


Avoiding Ginette: “He said he wasn’t going to be driven out of France by a lot of ignorant peasants.” . . . . “. . . you can’t hide away in France as you can in America.’ (300)


Fillmore: “You’re too quick-tempered,” he said, and he tried to pat her on the cheek. But she, thinking that he had raised his hand to slap her face, she gave him a sound crack in the jaw with that big peasant hand of hers.” (302)


“Yes, loafers; that’s it!” screamed Ginette. “Dirty foreigners! Thugs! Gangsters! Striking a pregnant woman!” ()


Ginette: “No foreigner can treat a decent Frenchwoman like that!” (302)


The patron: “. . . to show his gallantry toward a splendid representative of French motherhood such as Ginette, and so, without more ado, he spat at our feet and shoved us out of the door” (303)


“Meanwhile Ginette was standing across the street brandishing her fist and yelling at the top of her lungs. People were stopping to listen in, to take sides, as they do in street brawls.” (303)


“And Ginette still yelling: “Gangster! Brute! Tu verras, salaud!” and other complimentary things.” (You’ll see, you bastard! ) (303)


“You saw how he struck me,” she said. “Is that the way to behave toward a woman?” I was on the point of saying yes when Fillmore took her by the arm and started leading her off.” (304)


“And sure enough she kept her word. When I met him the next day his face and hands were all scratched up.” (304)


sage (wise)


“I was avoiding them as much as possible, sick of the affair and disgusted with the both of them.” (305)


“I’ve just gotten permission to go to the bank,” . . . . “She keeps tabs on me.” (305)


“He was fed up with the French. “I used to rave about them,” he said, “but that was all literature.

I know them now… I know what they’re really like. They’re cruel and mercenary. At first it seems wonderful, because you have a feeling of being free. After a while it palls on you. Underneath it’s all dead; there’s no feeling, no sympathy, no friendship. They’re selfish to the core. The most selfish people on earth! They think of nothing but money, money, money. And so goddamned respectable, so bourgeois! That’s what drives me nuts. When I see her mending my shirts I could club her.” (306)


“Faut faire des économies!” . . . . “Sois raisonnable, mon chéri! Sois raisonnable!” (Need to save money! . . . . Be reasonable, dear! Be reasonable!) (306)


“I don’t want to be reasonable and logical. I hate it! I want to bust loose, I want to enjoy myself. I want to do something. I don’t want to sit in a café and talk all day long. Jesus, we’ve got our faults – but we’ve got enthusiasm. It’s better to make mistakes than not do anything. I’d rather be a bum in America than to be sitting pretty here.” (306-307)


“We’re Americans and we’ve got to remain Americans. Sure, I hate those puritanical buggers back home – I hate ‘em with all my guts. But I’m one of them myself. I don’t belong here. I’m sick of it.” (307)


“. . . this same guy, had it been a year ago, would have been beating his chest like a gorilla and saying: “What a marvelous day! What a country! What a people!” And if an American had happened along and said one word against France Fillmore would have flattened his nose. He would have died for France – a year ago. I never saw a man who was so infatuated with a country, who was so happy under a foreign sky. It wasn’t natural. When he said France it meant wine, women, money in the pocket, easy come, easy go. It meant being a bad boy, being on holiday.” (307)


Americans: “We are crazy to them. We’re just a pack of children. Senile idiots. What we call life is a five-and-ten cent store romance. That enthusiasm underneath – what is it? That cheap optimism which turns the stomach of any ordinary European? It’s illusion. No, illusion’s too good a word for it. Illusion means something. No, it’s not that – it’s delusion.” (307-308)


“‘For Christ’s sake,’ I said, ‘forget about her for a while. I’m going to order something to drink and I want you to drink it. Don’t worry, I’m going to get you out of this fucking mess.’ I ordered two stiff whiskies.” (308)


Fillmore: “With that the tears gushed up and he blurted out: “I’d like to be home with my people. I’d like to hear English spoken.” (309)


Fillmore taking the next boat to London, leaving without saying goodbye to Ginette: “And here’s another thing – you’re not going back to get your things. You’re going to leave everything here. Let her keep them. With that French mind of hers she’ll never dream that you scooted off without bag or baggage. It’s incredible. A Frenchman would never dream of doing a thing like that… unless he was as cracked as you are.” (310)


“‘Tomorrow you’ll be on the open sea – and then, by Jesus, you’re a free man and you needn’t give a fuck what happens. By the time you get to New York this’ll be nothing more than a bad dream.’” (310)


“It was a treat to break a thousand franc note. I held it up to the light first to look at the beautiful watermark. Beautiful money! One of the few things the French make on a grand scale. Artistically done, too, as if they cherished a deep affection even for the symbol.” (311)


“I had roughly about 2,500 francs in my pocket. Roughly, I say. I wasn’t counting by francs any more. A hundred, or two hundred, more or less – it didn’t mean a goddamned thing to me.” (312)


Tant mieux (good/better)


“So I dragged him across the street to a bar and I said: “Now you’re going to have a Pernod – your last Pernod and I’m going to pay for it… with your dough.” (314)


The narrator steals the koney Fillmore meant to give Ginette: “There was exactly 2,875 francs and 35 centimes.” (326)


“I told the driver to wait. It was the first time in my life I had let a cab wait while I took a leak.” (316)


“It was just like velvet inside. Velvet cortex and velvet vertebrae. And velvet axle grease, what! It’s a wonderful thing, for half an hour, to have money in your pocket and piss it away like a drunken sailor.” (317)