Let’s follow the roads here once again, burdened with my vice − the vice that sunk its roots of suffering into me as soon as I reached the age of reason − which ascends to the sky, batters me, throws me back again and drags me after it. The last innocence and the last shyness. Or so it is said. I’ll not carry my betrayals and disgusts into the world.
Let’s go! The march, the burden, the desert, boredom and anger.
To whom can I sell myself? What beast must I worship? What holy image are we attacking? Whose heart will I break? What lie must I tell? − In whose blood will I march?
Rather, save me from justice. The hard life, simple brutishness: − to lift the coffin’s lid up with a withered fist, lie down and suffocate. No senility or danger for us.
O my abnegation, O my marvelous charity! But here below!
De profundis, Domine, what an idiot I am! ———
While still a child I admired the unrepentant criminal on whom the prison door always closes. I visited the inns and furnished rooms he had sanctified with his presence. I saw with his eyes the blue sky and the labor of flowering fields. I followed the scent of his fate through cities. He was stronger than a saint, had more good sense than a traveler, and he − he alone! − was the witness to his glory and right.
On the road, through winter nights, without shelter, naked and hungry, a voice clenched my frozen heart: “Weakness or strength: there you are, it’s strength. You don’t know where you are going or why, so enter anywhere, answer everything. You cannot be killed, anymore than if you were a corpse.” In the morning, my stare was so vacant, my expression so dead, that those I encountered perhaps did not see me.
In cities the mud suddenly seemed to be red and black, like a mirror when the lamp moves about in the next room, like a treasure in the forest! Good luck! I cried, and saw a sea of flames and smoke in the sky; and on the left and on the right, every kind of richness flaming like a million thunderbolts.
I saw myself in front of a baying mob, facing the firing-squad, weeping over the unhappiness they wouldn’t have been capable of understanding, and forgiving them! − like Joan of Arc! − priests, professors, masters, you are wrong to turn me over to Justice. I have never belonged to this people.
I am of the race that sang under torture. I do not understand your laws. I have no moral sense, I am a brute.