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Notes from the Underground

X
You believe in a palace of crystal that can never be destroyed--a palace at which
one will not be able to put out one's tongue or make a long nose on the sly. And
perhaps that is just why I am afraid of this edifice, that it is of crystal and can
never be destroyed and that one cannot put one's tongue out at it even on the
sly.
You see, if it were not a palace, but a hen-house, I might creep into it to avoid
getting wet, and yet I would not call the hen-house a palace out of gratitude to it
for keeping me dry. You laugh and say that in such circumstances a hen-house
is as good as a mansion. Yes, I answer, if one had to live simply to keep out of
the rain.
But what is to be done if I have taken it into my head that that is not the only
object in life, and that if one must live one had better live in a mansion? That is
my choice, my desire. You will only eradicate it when you have changed my
preference. Well, do change it, allure me with something else, give me another
ideal. But meanwhile I will not take a hen-house for a mansion. The palace of
crystal may be an idle dream, it may be that it is inconsistent with the laws of
nature and that I have invented it only through my own stupidity, through the old-
fashioned irrational habits of my generation. But what does it matter to me that it
is inconsistent? That makes no difference since it exists in my desires, or rather
exists as long as my desires exist. Perhaps you are laughing again? Laugh
away; I will put up with any mockery rather than pretend that I am satisfied when
I am hungry. I know, anyway, that I will not be put off with a compromise, with a
recurring zero, simply because it is consistent with the laws of nature and
actually exists. I will not accept as the crown of my desires a block of buildings
with tenements for the poor on a lease of a thousand years, and perhaps with a
sign-board of a dentist hanging out. Destroy my desires, eradicate my ideals,
show me something better, and I will follow you. You will say, perhaps, that it is
not worth your trouble; but in that case I can give you the same answer. We are
discussing things seriously; but if you won't deign to give me your attention, I will
drop your acquaintance. I can retreat into my underground hole.
But while I am alive and have desires I would rather my hand were withered off
than bring one brick to such a building! Don't remind me that I have just rejected
the palace of crystal for the sole reason that one cannot put out one's tongue at
it. I did not say because I am so fond of putting my tongue out. Perhaps the thing
I resented was, that of all your edifices there has not been one at which one
could not put out one's tongue. On the contrary, I would let my tongue be cut off
out of gratitude if things could be so arranged that I should lose all desire to put it
out. It is not my fault that things cannot be so arranged, and that one must be
satisfied with model flats. Then why am I made with such desires? Can I have
been constructed simply in order to come to the conclusion that all my
construction is a cheat? Can this be my whole purpose? I do not believe it.
 
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