Did I really want to triumph in Paris? I write out my memories in an attempt to understand whether I was there to write, as I had told everyone, or whether I was there to avoid life for a year and, upon my return to Australia, to bask in the glory of having a romantic experience. My notes aren’t clear. When I think back to myself at that age I remember being true to the cause of literature, but my diary, and the actual memories I am able to call forth oblivion, concern matters other than waiting.
But Paris is a city that swallows up ambition, particularly of the young men and women who make their way there each year, their minds filled with Proust and Sartre, and their hearts ringing with Baudelaire and Rimbaud. For me, I went because of the roads, the trees, the pigeons, the bread. Paris, unlike other major cities, will not chew up and spit out the young, but will instead drain them of their ability to act, cause them to become dissolute and ineffective, and within months they will become a Parisian in hand and mind and reject a large cause outside of that.
And none of this is bad. My friend, Negronte, believed that an artist’s responsibility was social justice and that to be true, you needed to die in a revolution, but I never believed that.
I left Paris when I was twenty-three. I returned home with thirty pages of a draft manuscript that never went anywhere, four books in French (two Gide, one Maupassant, and a le Clezio), and some stories that I later realised were too immature and ill conceived to do anything with other than file away in a metal cabinet I had bought with the intention of filling it with my writing, but which remains, to this day, not even a quarter filled.
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The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website. I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.