© Michel Fingerhut 1996/7

Pierre Vidal-Naquet:
Assassins of Memory (8)
Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman in Assassins of Memory (NY: Columbia University Press 1992), English translation copyright 1992 Columbia University Press
No reproduction except for personal use only - Reproduction interdite sauf pour usage personnel

8. In the Guise of a Conclusion

As I was preparing this melancholic essay, my friend François Gèze acquainted me with a tango by the Argentine poet Enrique Santos Discépolo. It seemed to him --and to myself as well-- that it described rather well this world of ours, in which, all the same, there sprout every now and then a few flowers of truth that instill hope and whose gardener, along with many others, I do my best to be, without for all that knowing how to set things aright. Here it is, then:


That the world was and always will be a sty
I know quite well.
In fifteen hundred six
And in the year two thousand too.
That there have always been crooks,
Swindlers and dupes,
The contented and the embittered,
morality and lies.
But that the twentieth century is a torrent
of insolent nastiness
No one any longer denies.
We live in a flood of scum
and in the same mud,
All of us manipulated.

Today it's all the same
whether one's loyal or betrays,
Ignorant, erudite, robber,
generous or a con man.
Everything's the same!
Nothing's better than anything else!
A jackass the same as
A great professor!
There is neither punishment nor reward,
Immorality has levered us.
Whether your life's a fake
Or you pursue your ambition,
Who cares if you're a priest,
a mattress-maker, king of spades,
mule-headed or a son of a bitch?

What a lack of respect,
What an insult to reason!
Anyone can be a lord!
Anyone a thief!
Mixed up with Stavisky
you'll find Don Bosco and the whore,
Don Chicho and Napoleon,
Camera and San Martin . . .
As in the contemptuous storefronts
of the old junkshops,
Everything in life gets mixed together,
and wounded by an unsheathed sword,
you can watch the Bible weep against a water-heater.

Twentieth century, old junkshop
Feverish and problem-ridden.
Ask for nothing and you'll get nothing,
and if you don't steal you're a fool.
Go ahead then, don't worry.
We'll all meet up in hell's oven!
Don't think about it any more, stay in your corner,
No one cares if you were born honest.
It's all the same: the guy who slaves
Night and day like an ox,
The one who lives off of his girls,
The one who kills, the one who cures
Or the one who has become an outlaw.

Will truth have the last word? How one would like to be sure of it .

(Table of Contents )


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