I mean, all right, let's say, if I get a fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant. Of course, even I have a tendency, I mean, you know, I mean, of course, I would hardly throw it out. I mean, I read it. I read it, and I just instinctively sort of ...You know, if it says something like, "A conversation with a dark-haired man will be very important for you.” Well, I just instinctively think, you know, "Who do I know who has dark hair? Did we have a conversation? What did we talk about?"
In other words, uh, there's something in me that makes me read it and I instinctively interpret it as if it were an omen of the future. But in my conscious opinion - which is so fundamental to my whole view of life - I would just have to change totally to not have this opinion. In my conscious opinion, this is simply something that was written in the cookie factory several years ago and in no way refers to me. The fact that I got it. I mean, the man who wrote it did not know anything about me. I mean, he could not have known anything about me. There's no way that this cookie could actually have to do with me. And the fact that I've gotten it is just basically a joke.
And I mean, if I were gonna go on a trip on an airplane and I got a fortune cookie that said "Don't go"... I mean, of course, I admit I might feel a bit nervous for about one second. But in fact, I would go because that trip is gonna be successful or unsuccessful based on the state of the airplane and the state of the pilot. And the cookie is in no position to know about that.
And you know, it's the same with any kind of prophecy, or a sign, or an omen. Because if you believe in omens, then that means that the universe … I mean, I don't even know how to begin to describe this. That means that the future is somehow sending messages backwards to the present. Which means that the future must exist in some sense already in order to be able to send these messages. And it also means that things in the universe are there for a purpose. To give us messages.
Whereas I think that things in the universe are just there. I mean, they don't mean anything. I mean, you know, if the turtle's egg falls out of the tree and splashes on the paving stones it's just because that turtle was clumsy, by accident. And to decide whether to send my ships off to war on the basis of that seems a big mistake to me. Well, what information would you send your ships to war on? Because if it's all meaningless what's the difference whether you accept the fortune cookie or the statistics of the Ford Foundation? It doesn't seem to matter.
Well, the meaningless fact of the fortune cookie or the turtle's egg can't possibly have any relevance to the subject you're analyzing. Whereas a group of meaningless facts that are collected and interpreted in a scientific way may quite possibly be relevant. Because the wonderful thing about scientific theories about things is that they're based on experiments that can be repeated.
The atmosphere of the restaurant has changed since the arrival of the young couple. The two red-faced men are silent; they are nonchalantly detailing the young lady’s charms. The distinguished-looking gentleman has put down his paper and is watching the couple with kindness, almost complicity. He thinks that old age is wise and youth is beautiful, he nods his head with a certain coquetry: he knows quite well that he is still handsome, well preserved, that with his dark complexion and his slender figure he is still attractive. He plays at feeling paternal. The waitress’ feelings appear simpler: she is standing in front of the young people staring at them open-mouthed.
I ruminate heavily near the gas stove; I know in advance the day is lost. I shall do nothing good, except, perhaps, after nightfall. It is because of the sun; it ephemerally touches the dirty white wisps of fog, which float in the air above the construction-yards, it flows into my room, all gold, all pale, it spreads four dull, false reflections on my table.
My pipe is daubed with a golden varnish which first catches the eye by its bright appearance; you look at it and the varnish melts, nothing is left but a great dull streak on a piece of wood. Everything is like that, everything, even my hands. When the sun begins shining like that the best thing to do is go to bed. Only I slept like a log last night, and I am not sleepy.
Thursday morning in the library:
A little while ago, going down the hotel stairs, I heard Lucie, who, for the hundredth time, was complaining to the landlady, while polishing the steps. The proprietress spoke with difficulty, using short sentences, because she had not put in her false teeth; she was almost naked, in a pink dressing-gown and Turkish slippers. Lucie was dirty, as usual; from time to time she stopped rubbing and straightened up on her knees to look at the proprietress. She spoke without pausing, reasonably:
“I’d like it a hundred times better if he went with other women,” she said, “it wouldn’t make the slightest difference to me, so long as it didn’t do him any harm.”
She was talking about her husband: at forty this swarthy little woman had offered herself and her savings to a handsome young man, a fitter in the Usines Lecointe. She has an unhappy home life. Her husband does not beat her, is not unfaithful to her, but he drinks, he comes home drunk every evening. He’s burning his candle at both ends; in three months I have seen him turn yellow and melt away. Lucie thinks it is drink. I believe he is tubercular.
“You have to take the upper hand,” Lucie said.
It gnaws at her, I’m sure of it, but slowly, patiently: she takes the upper hand, she is able neither to console herself nor abandon herself to her suffering. She thinks about it a little bit, a very little bit, now and again she passes it on. Especially when she is with people, because they console her and also because it comforts her a little to talk about it with poise, with an air of giving advice. When she is alone in the rooms I hear her humming to keep herself from thinking. But she is morose all day, suddenly weary and sullen.
“It’s there,” she says, touching her throat, “it won’t go down.”
She suffers as a miser. She must be miserly with her pleasures, as well. I wonder if sometimes she doesn’t wish she were free of this monotonous sorrow, of these mutterings which start as soon as she stops singing, if she doesn’t wish to suffer once and for all, to drown herself in despair. In any case, it would be impossible for her: she is bound.