European Diary

The Prism's Prison

Sometimes it seems that I have become the master of a single plaintive note, sung by the disembodied voice of the patron saint of grasshoppers, Marie Antoinette, from somewhere beyond the tomb.  And it is true that often, when I reread whatever I have written, I am reminded of Russian dictionaries of fenya, or for that matter of English dictionaries of cant, where just about every word in the criminal argot that is a verb means “to steal,” and nearly every noun is translated as “passive homosexual.”  Yet that’s what these people do and are, when out of prison and in prison respectively.  Blame it on their extraordinary lifestyle, if you like, that conventional language is blind to the kaleidoscopic subtleties of the Proudhonian notion of property, or of the Wildean idea of a good time.

Accordingly, conventional exegesis of love, which strikes many as monotonous, has always struck me as lacking in nuance; I suppose it’s never monotonous enough for my money, dealing as it does in everything under the sun except the earth I want, or anyway the earth I long to hear described.  “People love for amusement, for fashion’s sake, for revenge, for riches; in order to forget, or to excite envy; sometimes to find happiness; but hardly ever to find love,” wrote Etienne Rey, an unjustly forgotten French aphorist of a century ago.  The writers have tended to follow the distracted...

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