Thursday, September 15, 2005


The two of us stepping out into a startlingly fresh morning at the new place, and G. announcing: “The air smells happy.”

“No,” I said immediately and forthwith, without hesitation and spontaneously, so to say, for it is quite obvious that our instincts actually work against our instincts, so that, so to say, our anti-instincts act instead of, or even as, our instincts . . . So go my witticisms, if indeed these can be considered witticisms, that is, if naked, miserable truth can be considered a witticism. Thus I expound to the philosopher walking along with me after he and I both halted to catch our breath because of dieting, or sickness, or perhaps consumption in the midst of an almost audibly gasping oak forest, or glade, whatever you call it: I admit, I’m rather ignorant when it comes to trees; all I immediately recognize is the pine because of its needles, and the plantain because I like it, and what I like—even today—I recognize even by anti-instinct. I recognize it even if it is not by the same striking, stomach-gripping, ready to jump, in one word, inspired sort of recognition with which I recognize those things that I hate.”

Imre Kertész, trans. Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson, Kaddish for a Child Not Born (Northwestern University Press, 1997)


Jon Leon, author of the “Diphasic Rumors” series and editor of the swift new journal “Wherever We Put Our Hats”: My Maserati.