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Notes from the Underground

VI
Oh, if I had done nothing simply from laziness! Heavens, how I should have
respected myself, then. I should have respected myself because I should at least
have been capable of being lazy; there would at least have been one quality, as
it were, positive in me, in which I could have believed myself. Question: What is
he? Answer: A sluggard; how very pleasant it would have been to hear that of
oneself! It would mean that I was positively defined, it would mean that there was
something to say about me. "Sluggard"--why, it is a calling and vocation, it is a
career. Do not jest, it is so. I should then be a member of the best club by right,
and should find my occupation in continually respecting myself. I knew a
gentleman who prided himself all his life on being a connoisseur of Lafitte. He
considered this as his positive virtue, and never doubted himself. He died, not
simply with a tranquil, but with a triumphant conscience, and he was quite right,
too. Then I should have chosen a career for myself, I should have been a
sluggard and a glutton, not a simple one, but, for instance, one with sympathies
for everything sublime and beautiful. How do you like that? I have long had
visions of it. That "sublime and beautiful" weighs heavily on my mind at forty But
that is at forty; then--oh, then it would have been different! I should have found
for myself a form of activity in keeping with it, to be precise, drinking to the health
of everything "sublime and beautiful." I should have snatched at every
opportunity to drop a tear into my glass and then to drain it to all that is "sublime
and beautiful." I should then have turned everything into the sublime and the
beautiful; in the nastiest, unquestionable trash, I should have sought out the
sublime and the beautiful. I should have exuded tears like a wet sponge. An
artist, for instance, paints a picture worthy of Gay. At once I drink to the health of
the artist who painted the picture worthy of Gay, because I love all that is
"sublime and beautiful." An author has written As you will: at once I drink to the
health of "anyone you will" because I love all that is "sublime and beautiful."
I should claim respect for doing so. I should persecute anyone who would not
show me respect. I should live at ease, I should die with dignity, why, it is
charming, perfectly charming! And what a good round belly I should have grown,
what a treble chin I should have established, what a ruby nose I should have
coloured for myself, so that everyone would have said, looking at me: "Here is an
asset! Here is something real and solid!" And, say what you like, it is very
agreeable to hear such remarks about oneself in this negative age.
 
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