Tuesday, 4 September 2012

His home did not offer many diversions, and as he almost never went out, he early became accustomed to occupy himself alone and with his own thoughts. His father was a very severe man, apparently dry and prosaic, but under this rough coat he concealed a glowing imagination which even old age could not quench. When Johannes occasionally asked permission to go out, he generally refused to give it, though once in a while he proposed instead that Johannes should take his hand and walk back and forth in the room. At first glance this might seem a poor substitute, and yet, as in the case of the rough coat, there was something totally different concealed under it. The proposition was accepted, and it was left entirely to Johannes to determine where they should go. So they went out of doors to a nearby castle in Spain, or out to the seashore, or about the streets, wherever Johannes wished to go, for the father was equal to anything. While they walked back and forth in the room the father described everything they saw; they greeted passers-by, carriages rattles past them and droned the father's voice; the cake-woman's goodies were more enticing than ever. The father described so accurately, so vividly, so explicitly even to the least details that was known to Johannes, and described so fully and perspicuously what was unknown to him, that after half an hour of such a walk with his father he was as much overwhelmed and fatigued as if he had been a whole day out of doors. Johannes soon learnt from his father how to exercise this magic power. What first had been an epic now became a drama; they conversed in turn. If they were walking along well known paths they watched one another sharply to make sure that nothing was overlooked; if the way was strange to Johannes, he invented something, whereas the father's almighty imagination was capable of shaping everything, of using every childish whim as an ingredient of the drama which was being enacted. To Johannes it seemed as if the world were coming into existence during the conversation.

That day, the signs which lessened my discouragement and restored my faith in writing seemed to multiply around me. If memory, thanks to the act of forgetting offers to bridge from itself to the present, it allows us to breathe a new air. New, because we've breathed it before. Poets tried vainly to situate this air in paradise, but true paradises are those we have lost. This meant that my fear of my own death stopped as soon as I recalled the taste of the madeleine.

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