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from letters to P. Cohn

"…I understand, and sympathize with, your wish ofa traceless life. Mine is, I hope, duly untraceable; whoever wants toknow about me, let him read The Meaning of Death orPhilosophy Today; he will get the wrong idea, but who cares? Afew delicate souls have a glimpse of other possible worlds: it is tobe expected that they (the delicate souls, that is) are notprofessional biographers." [note, July 24, 1960]

"I was born October 30. I wonder why you ask. Do youthink it important in any way? I assumed you knew the year of birth,which is too remote for my taste, and occasionally bothers me. Thisbother is, of course, of an objective nature, for subjectively Iwonder. Perhaps I was told the wrong year-let me have thisconsolation. I have always thought that chronological age and vitalage (if I may use this expression) do not necessarilycoincide. Examples of such lack of coincidence (for better or forworse) abound, indeed over-abound. Sometimes (but not too often) I askmyself: How is that possible? But do not believe that I am burdenedwith such thoughts very frequently; perhaps once a year (or twice). Ingeneral, I just live, as if I were born yesterday (this is a metaphor,or rather a pseudo-metaphor). I feel, and perhaps I also look, muchyounger than anyone born in 1912. But enough of this." [note,1960]

"More often than not, I cannot even understandmyself. Only my ontology-which, as you surmised, may not be unrelatedto my temperament-helps. Shunning the absolutes, striving for them,looking for the new, vividly remembering the old, sleeplessness andconsciousness of consciousness…I wonder what one can do with themexcept one thing: accept it." [note, Feb. 24, 1961]

"When it comes to intellectual qualms, or problems, or whatever one may call it, I think I can take them quite seriously‹seriously enough to appear to poke fun at them; otherwise, this would not be "serious" but plainly "pedantic"(some people seem to confuse the two). [Paris, April, 1964]

"Do you think life has any meaning? Sometimes I doubt it has; sometimes I am sure it has not; often I don't know what does it mean to have any meaning. All this vast march of mankind towards something which is nothing, is it "the shape of things to come"? [Barcelona, 1968]

"For the first time I am standing (or rather, sitting) after an extremely unwelcome (to put it mildly) "fin de vacances." I assume that when, and if, you receive this letter, you will already be acquainted with some of the circumstances of the case, as I imagine that juridical-minded people say... I will put it as succinctly as I can and will keep for another more propitious occasion the narration (if deemed of any interest) of the details. July 31, 1968 I was reborn: the Dodge Dart in which we traveled with the Praderas (Ana and Victor Pradera) collided with a huge truck at an incredible speed. This happened July 31, at about 6:45 p.m., Belgium time (1:45 p.m. Eastern American time) when returning from Brussels to Luxemburg. We had gone to Brussels for lunch, and possibly, the movies. It was late for the latter, so we decided to return. It was raining, but I will spare you the details: suddenly, a huge mass of steel, a kind of fortress, was seen barring the road, and a fantastic crash took place. I had thought I did not lose consciousness, but possibly I did since I cannot account for what happened between the instant of the impact and the moment I saw myself inside of a tangled mass of wires. Victor, sitting on the back left seat, was drowned in blood, dead; Ana, also with blood all over, was agonizing on the steering wheel: she died ten minutes afterwards....I was the most fortunate: a wound on the left knee, which has been healing rapidly, bruises, of course, and something in the jaw (it proved to be a broken bone with dislocation of muscles) which prevented me from opening my mouth and shouting, "Help." Soon, however, people were around, an ambulance came, drove everyone except Victor, who was dead and could not be extricated from the car immediately, to the hospital (or "Clinique"), two miles distant from the scene of the crash. Ana was dead, or nearly so, when entering the "Clinique"; she and Victor were buried here the day after, when her parents hurriedly came from Madrid, as well as his brother (who is working in "Alianza Editorial," the paper-back series of which I spoke to you, and who I had met relatively recently in Madrid). I was carefully examined; doctors had foreseen an operation, but later decided that the whole thing would settle itself by itself. It is settling, my face is still swollen, and I still feel a great deal of pain (not as much, though, as during the first two days), but I am doing fine. Of course, I can only eat things in liquid or finely mashed state, but I assume that I will be all right two weeks from now. ...Today I am feeling better, but I have been obsessed by the sight of the dead, and I am feeling lonely, very much so, and often depressed....Chance is the master of all things. If I had been sitting in Victor's seat, as I had been other times, I would be dead. I would also be dead if the car had collided in a different manner (as a matter of fact, people cannot believe that I have escaped), or even if I had not clutched the seat, for I might have bumped my head against the dashboard and had a brain hemorrhage....Is it all a matter of destiny or fate, or what is it?" [Belgium, August 5, 1968]

"Yes, indeed, I was reborn the day of the crash, Anything could have happened, including a reversal of roles. Unfortunately, conditionals are of little help. It happened just a week ago; at this very hour Ana and Victor Pradera were very alive, very neurotic, very interesting to talk to, filled with projects and counterprojects, and five hours later, they were dead. Memory is not eternal, but I doubt that I will ever forget the moment right after the crash, the fury of the rain over the dead and agonizing bodies, the dim light, the blood...I suppose that people who see accidents often become hardened, but I am not sure whether such a hardening is a good thing; perhaps what people really need is to realize how a dead human body looks to become less enthusiastic, or less irresponsible, about such things as violence and wars. But am I moralizing? What else can be done in such a secluded place?

This hospital (or "Clinique") is obviously intended for transcendental meditation, or for people in a state of coma (which may be the same thing). It is located at least two or three miles from the nearest little village; it is under the aegis of Catholic nuns; there is not a single newspaper or magazine in sight, not to speak of a radio set or of a "discothèque." The perfect place to finish my book if I had paper and, above all, ideas; unfortunately, I still feel a bit shaky, particularly in the mornings, when all the bones feel like a collection of hamburgers. Then, by midmorning I begin to recover, and by mid afternoon I feel like an asparagus (I prefer 'an asparagus' to 'a rose' for literary reasons). Or perhaps I am too lazy, and I am giving myself excuses. The young, energetic man who is replacing victor Pradera at the Spanish Embassy in Luxemburg has sent me a few recent newspapers, plus "Time," "Newsweek," etc., so I am now informed about the Czech crisis, the Republican convention, the failure to "enlist Teddy" and all such similar cosmic events. This has helped me to kill time‹perhaps current events are intended for that very purpose. There are no miniskirted girls around; only a little blonde in the radio room is worth looking at, unless it is because the radio room is so dark and one doesn't pay much attention to details. Yet, even if there were miniskirted girls I doubt that at present I would have the energy to catch a glimpse on, or of them (well; yes, indeed; well; don't believe a word; I swear; well....etc.). The landscape around here is of a monotonous green; it is constantly cloudy or rainy, or both, and is filled with cows. Cows seem to spend some ten or eleven hours a day just to get the necessary amount of grass in their bodies. It is a very curious way of producing creatures: force them to spend half of their lifetime eating. I've been reading about the Pope and the pill, and the theological controversies around both; the present Pope seems to be particularly interested in vaginal affairs, so to speak. Puzzling, to say the least. [Belgium, August 12, 1968]

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