European Diary

A Position of Poverty

It is all very well, strolling arm in arm through the hothouse of gloriously midsummer fiction, snatching a vermouth and bitters in the shadow by Fouquet’s, hailing a taxi some gilded moments later; it is all very well when you have the money to get yourself to Paris, to pay for the perfumed drinks, to hire the purring  motor.  Ever tender, then, is the night of yours, with not a care in the world save how to pluck the petals off the daisy, odd, even, odd, until you just know she is crazy for the love of you.

But surely poverty isn’t the only thing.  What of renal insufficiency, of facial eczema, of chronic indigestion?  What of bad luck, which starts as the barely audible drip of isolated episodes of misfortune and then redounds on itself time and again, swelling like some gelid, bone-chilling phantasm until it becomes the flooding river of insuperable and irreversible error?  What of old age, which is itself a streak of bad luck, though with the added disadvantage of its being calculable, like the force of gravity operating on objects positioned upon a sharply inclined plane?

And yet the affliction of stagnant destitution, when it is borne by one who has known rolling plenitude, is unique: more physical than acute disfigurement, more irresistible than advancing decrepitude, more paralyzing than most misfortune.  Because, when all’s said and done, every single one of the...

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