Wednesday, February 4, 2015

On a Flaming Roof, While the Crowd Screams

“Assured of living in the best of all possible worlds, I made it my business to purge it of its monsters.
“As cop and lyncher, I sacrificed a gang of bandits every evening. I killed without pleasure or anger, in order to save young ladies from death. Those frail creatures were indispensable to me; they called out for me. Obviously they could not have counted on my help since they did not know me. But I thrust them into such great perils that nobody could have rescued them unless he were I.
“When the janissaries brandished their curved scimitars, a moan went through the desert and the rocks said in the sand: ‘Someone’s missing here. It’s Sartre.’ At that very moment I pushed aside the screen. I struck out with my sabre and sent heads flying. I was being born in a river of blood. Oh, blessed steel. I was where I belonged…
“I would hurry to bed, reel off my prayers and slip between the sheets. I was eager to get back to my mad recklessness. I grew older in the darkness, I became a lonely adult, without father or mother, without home or hearth, almost without a name.
“I would walk on a flaming roof, carrying in my arms an unconscious woman. The crowd was screaming below me.  At that moment, I would utter the fateful words: ‘Continued in the next installment.’
“‘What did you say?’ my mother would ask. I would answer cautiously: ‘I’m leaving myself in suspense.’ And the fact is that I would fall asleep, amidst those perils, in a state of thrilling insecurity.” Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, recalling his childhood fantasies in his memoir The Words.

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