translated by Romain P.A. Delpeuch


Madam Mother is dead, I had forgotten her for some while, her demise brings her back to my remembrance, if only for a few hours, let us meditate on this, before she falls back into oblivion. I am wondering if I love her and I have to answer: No, I blame her for castrating me, really this is not much, but still…she bequeathed her temper to me, which is more serious, for she suffered from alkalosis and allergies, from those I suffer even more than she did and my infirmities cannot be numbered and… and she brought me to the world and I make profession of hating the world.


I do not ponder on my life much, this makes me fairly insensitive and I uprooted my complaisance years ago, I am similar to the rock that waves thrash, the sea is grey and the sky black, the clouds fade away and the works stay. I take root in the rejection of pain as well as joy, my love only goes to holy indifference and henceforth I am one with it, my entire life is a school of death, besides I do not have much merit and since childhood I have never felt quite right, a prey to permanent uneasiness and subsisting thanks to remedies.


Am I an unhappy man, then? Apparently as a Jew I was meant to be and most Jews are unhappy, that is why they proclaim a delirious optimism, their love for life reminds me of a hanged man’s erection and I am not far from thinking it comes from the same source. Refusing tragedy is typical of slaves and for too many centuries Jews were nothing but that, this mentality allowed them to survive by making them perfectly ignoble, they consented to abjection to keep the deposit and the deposit they kept, despite abjection and those who imposed it on them.


My hatred for this world is what in myself I find the most worthy of esteem, I hate the world as an ill man and as a Jew, here are two most excellent titles, I love death and rightly so, most ill people do not love it enough and their fury to live makes them despicable, as for the Jews they do not love it at all and their attachment to existence is why they inspire disgust. Those two races of men lack perspective, reserve and modesty, neither ill people nor Jews will have style, they are poor in the worst sense of the word, who arm themselves with their misery if needs be.


Madam Mother loved life, not beyond measure, but a little more than what was reasonable, she censured suicide and the idea of death she pushed away, she even dared say one should live exactly as if one should never die, therefore she seemed rather disarmed and lacked nobleness, she believed her physicians who lied to her without scruples and the foreshadows of nothingness did not warn her. My esteem for her diminished by half, she was but a poor woman, her fair qualities betrayed her and I suffer from this, her will to live and her hope to heal made her miss her demise.


Madam Mother had been ill for years, she did not quite know what was wrong with her, she complained about her throat, apparently she suffered from laryngitis and her voice was often a bit hoarse, such signs are reputed ominous, but she did not consider herself threatened. Only one physician gave her alarms on the matter, but he rebuked her so harshly that she got repelled by this fellow, he would not have saved her, lung cancer is incurable. Thus the poor woman carried her death within herself as a child to be born by killing her.


Madam Mother aged like fine wine, for a large part thanks to me, I believe, her taste was accurate, but she sometimes lacked discernment, her acquired not equating her natural, nevertheless her mistakes were the rarest, she did not even make any in the end. Not very often did I see her in as good a look as in summer sixty, the term “grand air” was not misplaced, the illness already was brewing, this somewhat new shadow of melancholy granted her charm and gave her a style, I enjoyed walking alongside someone who would draw attention without the admixture of desires.


In summer sixty, we happened to be in Vichy where Madam Mother’s throat was treated, the profound physicians she had consulted talked about laryngitis, no one suspected the kind of death that was hovering above this noble woman. One month later in Biarritz, she experienced something like a first alteration and imperceptibly her face grew hollow, in the winter she croaked and coughed more than usual. The following year she had one last moment of beauty in this beautiful Aix Cathedral, one would have thought the color of the place or the reflection of its ornaments. I had just witnessed her sunset, it was the green flash.


It seems this is a rather oddly loving language from a man who makes bold not to love his mother, those contradictions are natural, I am meandrous, in a word I write, which says it all, I get lost following myself. Love or unlove? Let us say both at the same time, or one after another, I cannot tell. Whereas Mister Father sheds some tears, my eyes do not depart from their usual dryness, it is very true that I never weep, I should not be accused of indifference, my ideas forbid pathos to me, my style prohibits me from even approaching it.


The world of the woman is not the world of the Spirit, but most men stay away from it and to attribute Spirit to them, for the sole reason they are not women, seems a baseless presumption to me, generally speaking men are just as low as women, when they are not below them. I feel estranged from men and women, their union looks ridiculous to me and I favor loneliness over marriage, and nothingness over fatherhood, women hang from us more than they relieve us, despite the contrary illusion, yet to break their spell one has to resort to continence.


Menstruation, pregnancy and delivery, and lactation, we cannot glorify ourselves of such servitudes, they are disgusting and many a man shivers at them, although he will not display the horror he feels, lest he be seen as a monster. Men in love pretend to forget those, the others keep quiet, the topic is shunned, Muslims affirm women will not be afflicted by them when they are in Paradise with us, which is losing hope of healing, Jews thank God every morning that he made them males.


Complaisances toward women are therefore natural, we do our best to console them on the misery attached to their sex, our laws are usually used to double down on it, our moral and religious laws in the first place, women seem to be their victims, all the more pitiful as we make them consenting. For centuries we have forced them into perpetual pregnancy and have taught them the most inhuman ideas: and what is more atrocious than our ideal of fertility? We lower women to the rank of impersonal tools and force them to produce those we immolate and necessarily so.


Blessed are the chaste! Blessed are the sterile! Jesus and the Buddha were of the same opinion and since their respective deaths, how many among the billions of humans who came to the world have seemed worthy of envy? A tiny number, without a doubt. What did he say, Plato? That the happiest man of his time, the Great King of Persia, numbered few days as beautiful as one dreamless night. When I consider those who swear that life is exquisite, I do not find them good-looking or well-born, reasonable or sensible, or subtle, or wise, or profound, but very much similar to what they venerate.


Noble beings seldom love life, over it they favor reasons to live, and those who content themselves with life are always ignoble. What is so desirable about life, when it is not sublime? As to the enjoyments of the body, it is not without surprise that we see the ugliest and the unhealthiest savor them with a surfeit of rage and run after them with a fury that abuses do not exhaust, vanquished nations swarm with villains of the insatiable kind, those beasts take revenge at night over the burdens day imposes on them. Lord! Spare us from resembling worms!


Madam Mother held a philosophy quite similar to the one I profess in these pages, she did not want another child, she seized this resolution while barely out of girlhood: the sight of so many large families, all miserable for being large, determined the reasons for her conduct. Her distrust regarding love, from which she kept me away, was not unrelated to such motives, from early on she preached a reasonable selfishness to me and armed me against all kinds of euphoria. The pupil taught his master back, then the master recognized herself beaten…


There is no point to the story of an illness and a quick death comes as a mercy. Madam Mother was in throes for over ten months, it started on the first of November 1962 and ended during the night from the eighth to the ninth of September. The prelude was frightening and we did not witness the apparently less dramatic conclusion. In the morning of the first of November, by the bed I saw a bucket filled with blood and Mister Father told me the thing, the day before she did not seem ill and about the middle of the night she started to vomit profusely, she looked like little short of a dying woman.


Physicians followed one another like a flock of crows, all helpless, all touchy, jealous of each other, fighting over pre-eminences, not forgetting to keep their distances in the presence of death. Those gentlemen have not much changed since the time of Molière, but they kill you at a higher expense, Madam Mother made this corporation rich, in addition to the drug makers, she got hundreds of different injections while ingesting an innumerable amount of pills, enough to kill an entire herd of oxen. At the moment of her death, the boxes of medicines formed a pyramid.


Let those depictions be forgiven me, I am only retracing the truth. I do not blame the physicians, they are poor men just like their patients, they render themselves insensitive because they must, but sometimes I would have wished their profession were open only to aspiring saints and that the sight of our suffering would not harden them to the point they increase it. The most curious thing was they were laughable at the moment we would have rather wept: at the bedside of the dying woman, they represented not life, but the world’s nothingness fallen prey to its grimace, they did not even know how to comfort the one they had been unable to cure.


I said, and I am not coming back to it, that I dislike Madam Mother’s family, and between us I believe she thought the same, more and more she kept its members at a distance and for twenty-five years we even have lost track of them. Young, she had very few points of resemblance with those people, at maturity none had remained, I was rather satisfied with this and I complimented her on a change that earned her a better figure, she acknowledged the compliment without any displeasure. I noticed the basely hideous aspect of such and such, and she agreed with good grace.


She had a way to make people happy, both those who lived with her and those who labored under her, double virtue of the best-born women, all those who approached her were glad to have come to know her, she never offended anyone, those whom she rebuked deserved it. In her the sense of order took the dimension proper to harmony, her qualities strengthened over time as her judgment sharpened, as to old age she never had to fear it, she was reaching it when she seemed far away from it and it was thanks to an ill, that does not forgive, that age came to fall upon her.


I feel that I am getting too personal and here I stop, my modesty reasserting itself. The world is full of very lovable and very remarkable women, several millions of families are convinced of this and not all is illusion in like views, complacency, for sure, works miracles, however objectivity starts when outsiders confirm us. I am obliged to believe in Madam Mother’s virtues, since some get an interest in her person and seem grieved by her absence, politeness does not go that far and lying would wear out. She will live in my writings and this is my own fashion of paying my debt.


Madam Mother’s dresses are of the best taste and when I contemplate them I feel a rather voluptuous melancholy, the world of women has its pleasant sides and the sublime, that overwhelms everything, does not replace it, there is a sort of eloquence in trinkets and trifles, their common denominator is felicity. I love the glory of the elect, but I admit it, a pretty woman’s boudoir—all proportions kept—is a counterpart to it, I ignore all the sweetnesses of existence, I esteem them nonetheless, it was not possible for me to cultivate them, my life is dark and militant… for there was a section of defensive wall I had to watch over.


I catch myself inhaling Madam Mother’s perfumes, they bring her back to me at once and it will be guessed by what enchantment, this is a profound delight that sums up a philosophy and revives a presence to me, I regained—as Marcel did before me—time, I tasted Sabbath and I refer the reader of my pages to the ones where I analyzed Proust’s work in the light of Jewish mysticism. Marcel was one of the builders of time, a true Assidean, many a French still has to understand him, for now they only enjoy him and in vain wonder how come does the spell work?


Madam Mother’s wardrobe if full of treasures, Mister Father, in truth, does not uncover them, he only sees occasions for tears in them, everything hurts him, the least memory does him harm, the last months hide the years from him, the mask of death obfuscates the lights of a life a hundredfold longer, between two unrealities he made the wrong choice and took affliction for the ultimate truth. Would I dare tell him that he is fooling himself? What do the dark weeks prove? They prove nothing but themselves and bear witness neither against antecedence nor against the sleep that will follow them forever.


It is around the year ’60 that Madam Mother became melancholic and it gave her the most beautiful countenance, this change whose cause I could not find out made her dearer to me, the shadows of death are the spices of love and eternal life would be the school of absolute coldness. We love a being that tomorrow threatens and all the more so as she is more threatened, God does not love and is not an object of love, divine love is nonsense, the best for sure is to love no one and for this we must start from ourselves. The one who makes profession of hating himself cuts off sensible attachments.


When we think our feelings out, our feelings vanish, the eye of Spirit only has to rest on them and they turn to ashes. Madam Mother is dead, either I hang myself or I forget her, I wanted to destroy myself, it appeared to me that I had a few books in my head, I resolved to live the required time and to forget the annihilated one, my Semainier* had no other purpose, it drew me out of the pit I was about to run into. We must bury our dead or we must follow them, to immolate ourselves on their graves or to turn around from them without shedding a tear…


My philosophy is the good one, in spite of the frightening harshness that it carries and I refuse to soften, I made myself an ascetic and the morose delectations and the suave abandons I call them up-in-the-air fornications. Women cultivate those? We will not imitate them on the matter. Madam Mother was not ignorant of the hardness of my system, she judged it receivable, at least when one does without love, in this she saw the necessary condition, which proves she had some sense. What she had thought about love, when she was young, the poor woman did not reveal it to me, besides I was not interested in this.


Madam Mother dreamt every night, throughout the night, according to what she gave to understand, but she did not tell me her dreams, her crepuscular life eluded me, maybe she pretended sometimes, women are born liars, her shadow side was unknown to me and this is the rule of the Mother-and-Son game. Women’s shadow side is more terrible than ours, in the West we do as if we did not know about its darkness, the Middle Ages—it is true—talked about Melusine and according to me Melusine is the most admirable portrait of women, on the matter the West never went further.


A man can do without a woman, a woman cannot, a woman dangles after a man and a man wrongly imagines he pursues her, whereas she calls upon him. Male convents are infinitely worthier than female convents, men do not need love, flesh does not torment them with the same strength, a man does not suffer from being a man, but from lacking money or power, a woman suffers from being a woman and then from not being loved. The pleasant exterior, the laughs, the games, the trifles and the graces—the foam of the deep sea and under the foam a black world where we do not belong to ourselves, but to the species.


Man made himself against woman and had he not resisted, the world would not have changed since the origins. Madam Mother agreed and on the whole she took less after Medea than Antigone, one could reason with Madam Mother, in her head Madam Mother carried a perfect gentleman of good counsel and enlightened views, full of measure and righteousness. It is a shame that her illness defeated her noblest qualities, we killed her in spirit, so that her flesh would not torture her time and again, she barely suffered and only for the hours preceding her death.


Le semainier de l’agonie, Lausanne: L’Âge D’Homme, 1985 [translator’s note].

About the Translator

Romain P. A. Delpeuch is the author of Hypnagogia (Terror House Press, 2023). He earned his MA in Philosophy (2015, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne) with a thesis on Albert Caraco, and he holds an MA in English Studies (2019, Université Bordeaux Montaigne). He lives in France.


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