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Chapter 3

  • With people who know how to revenge themselves and to stand up for themselve_n general, how is it done? Why, when they are possessed, let us suppose, b_he feeling of revenge, then for the time there is nothing else but tha_eeling left in their whole being. Such a gentleman simply dashes straight fo_is object like an infuriated bull with its horns down, and nothing but a wal_ill stop him. (By the way: facing the wall, such gentlemen—that is, the
  • "direct" persons and men of action—are genuinely nonplussed. For them a wal_s not an evasion, as for us people who think and consequently do nothing; i_s not an excuse for turning aside, an excuse for which we are always ver_lad, though we scarcely believe in it ourselves, as a rule. No, they ar_onplussed in all sincerity. The wall has for them something tranquillising,
  • morally soothing, final— maybe even something mysterious … but of the wal_ater.)
  • Well, such a direct person I regard as the real normal man, as his tende_other nature wished to see him when she graciously brought him into being o_he earth. I envy such a man till I am green in the face. He is stupid. I a_ot disputing that, but perhaps the normal man should be stupid, how do yo_now? Perhaps it is very beautiful, in fact. And I am the more persuaded o_hat suspicion, if one can call it so, by the fact that if you take, fo_nstance, the antithesis of the normal man, that is, the man of acut_onsciousness, who has come, of course, not out of the lap of nature but ou_f a retort (this is almost mysticism, gentlemen, but I suspect this, too),
  • this retort-made man is sometimes so nonplussed in the presence of hi_ntithesis that with all his exaggerated consciousness he genuinely thinks o_imself as a mouse and not a man. It may be an acutely conscious mouse, yet i_s a mouse, while the other is a man, and therefore, et caetera, et caetera.
  • And the worst of it is, he himself, his very own self, looks on himself as _ouse; no one asks him to do so; and that is an important point. Now let u_ook at this mouse in action. Let us suppose, for instance, that it feel_nsulted, too (and it almost always does feel insulted), and wants to reveng_tself, too. There may even be a greater accumulation of spite in it than i_'HOMME DE LA NATURE ET DE LA VERITE. The base and nasty desire to vent tha_pite on its assailant rankles perhaps even more nastily in it than in L'HOMM_E LA NATURE ET DE LA VERITE. For through his innate stupidity the latte_ooks upon his revenge as justice pure and simple; while in consequence of hi_cute consciousness the mouse does not believe in the justice of it. To com_t last to the deed itself, to the very act of revenge. Apart from the on_undamental nastiness the luckless mouse succeeds in creating around it s_any other nastinesses in the form of doubts and questions, adds to the on_uestion so many unsettled questions that there inevitably works up around i_ sort of fatal brew, a stinking mess, made up of its doubts, emotions, and o_he contempt spat upon it by the direct men of action who stand solemnly abou_t as judges and arbitrators, laughing at it till their healthy sides ache. O_ourse the only thing left for it is to dismiss all that with a wave of it_aw, and, with a smile of assumed contempt in which it does not even itsel_elieve, creep ignominiously into its mouse-hole. There in its nasty,
  • stinking, underground home our insulted, crushed and ridiculed mouse promptl_ecomes absorbed in cold, malignant and, above all, everlasting spite. Fo_orty years together it will remember its injury down to the smallest, mos_gnominious details, and every time will add, of itself, details still mor_gnominious, spitefully teasing and tormenting itself with its ow_magination. It will itself be ashamed of its imaginings, but yet it wil_ecall it all, it will go over and over every detail, it will invent unhear_f things against itself, pretending that those things might happen, and wil_orgive nothing. Maybe it will begin to revenge itself, too, but, as it were,
  • piecemeal, in trivial ways, from behind the stove, incognito, withou_elieving either in its own right to vengeance, or in the success of it_evenge, knowing that from all its efforts at revenge it will suffer a hundre_imes more than he on whom it revenges itself, while he, I daresay, will no_ven scratch himself. On its deathbed it will recall it all over again, wit_nterest accumulated over all the years and …
  • But it is just in that cold, abominable half despair, half belief, in tha_onscious burying oneself alive for grief in the underworld for forty years,
  • in that acutely recognised and yet partly doubtful hopelessness of one'_osition, in that hell of unsatisfied desires turned inward, in that fever o_scillations, of resolutions determined for ever and repented of again _inute later—that the savour of that strange enjoyment of which I have spoke_ies. It is so subtle, so difficult of analysis, that persons who are a littl_imited, or even simply persons of strong nerves, will not understand a singl_tom of it. "Possibly," you will add on your own account with a grin, "peopl_ill not understand it either who have never received a slap in the face," an_n that way you will politely hint to me that I, too, perhaps, have had th_xperience of a slap in the face in my life, and so I speak as one who knows.
  • I bet that you are thinking that. But set your minds at rest, gentlemen, _ave not received a slap in the face, though it is absolutely a matter o_ndifference to me what you may think about it. Possibly, I even regret,
  • myself, that I have given so few slaps in the face during my life. But enough
  • … not another word on that subject of such extreme interest to you.
  • I will continue calmly concerning persons with strong nerves who do no_nderstand a certain refinement of enjoyment. Though in certain circumstance_hese gentlemen bellow their loudest like bulls, though this, let us suppose,
  • does them the greatest credit, yet, as I have said already, confronted wit_he impossible they subside at once. The impossible means the stone wall! Wha_tone wall? Why, of course, the laws of nature, the deductions of natura_cience, mathematics. As soon as they prove to you, for instance, that you ar_escended from a monkey, then it is no use scowling, accept it for a fact.
  • When they prove to you that in reality one drop of your own fat must be deare_o you than a hundred thousand of your fellow-creatures, and that thi_onclusion is the final solution of all so-called virtues and duties and al_uch prejudices and fancies, then you have just to accept it, there is no hel_or it, for twice two is a law of mathematics. Just try refuting it.
  • "Upon my word, they will shout at you, it is no use protesting: it is a cas_f twice two makes four! Nature does not ask your permission, she has nothin_o do with your wishes, and whether you like her laws or dislike them, you ar_ound to accept her as she is, and consequently all her conclusions. A wall,
  • you see, is a wall … and so on, and so on."
  • Merciful Heavens! but what do I care for the laws of nature and arithmetic,
  • when, for some reason I dislike those laws and the fact that twice two make_our? Of course I cannot break through the wall by battering my head agains_t if I really have not the strength to knock it down, but I am not going t_e reconciled to it simply because it is a stone wall and I have not th_trength.
  • As though such a stone wall really were a consolation, and really did contai_ome word of conciliation, simply because it is as true as twice two make_our. Oh, absurdity of absurdities! How much better it is to understand i_ll, to recognise it all, all the impossibilities and the stone wall; not t_e reconciled to one of those impossibilities and stone walls if it disgust_ou to be reconciled to it; by the way of the most inevitable, logica_ombinations to reach the most revolting conclusions on the everlasting theme,
  • that even for the stone wall you are yourself somehow to blame, though agai_t is as clear as day you are not to blame in the least, and therefor_rinding your teeth in silent impotence to sink into luxurious inertia,
  • brooding on the fact that there is no one even for you to feel vindictiv_gainst, that you have not, and perhaps never will have, an object for you_pite, that it is a sleight of hand, a bit of juggling, a card- sharper'_rick, that it is simply a mess, no knowing what and no knowing who, but i_pite of all these uncertainties and jugglings, still there is an ache in you,
  • and the more you do not know, the worse the ache.