Shopping Cart



Day 10

Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo

p. 185—p. 209 (“I continued acting the sick man.”)

September 22, 2022 by Claire Messud

For Zeno, adultery and smoking—compulsive behaviors both—seem much the same. In both cases, he deludes himself that he can control himself, when in truth he is controlled by his appetites.

When Zeno discovers the extent of Copler’s involvement in the Gerco household, he is incredulous: “Has Copler ever asked you for a kiss?” he asks Carla, uneasy because “the desire that had drawn me into this house made me so unlike him.”

Carla becomes, for Zeno, both an object of desire and of fear: “As long as I had her close, I constantly feared her as a woman who would sooner or later take advantage of her power over me to ruin me and my family.” Surely that fear is also a part of his desire?

The relationship, for Zeno, of illness to selfhood is complex and intractable: guilty of incipient adultery, he thinks hopefully that he has a fever: “It was not death I desired but sickness, a sickness that would serve me as a pretext to do what I wanted, or that would prevent me from doing it.”

Daily Reading

Day 1

p. 3 (Preface)—p. 20 (“I was too busy missing other things.”)

Day 2

p. 20—p. 37 (“But I would have been amazed to see him really happy, alone and old as he was.”)

Day 3

p. 37—p. 60 (end of “My Father’s Death”)

Day 4

p. 61—p. 80 (“It’s surely easier to change oneself than to reshape others.”)

Day 5

p. 80—p. 98 (“On the crowded Via Cavana, therefore, I had thought more purposefully than in my solitary study.”)

Day 6

p. 98–p. 117 ("'Good for you, Zeno. You’ve earned your keep.’”)

Day 7

p. 117—p. 139 (“all the flotsam accumulated in my nerves would have been swept away by it.”)

Day 8

p. 140—p. 162 (“unless it was crushed beneath an entire speeding train.”)

Day 9

p. 162—p. 185 (“I had found something more than a mere pretext for doing what it was my desire to do.”)

Day 10

p. 185—p. 209 (“I continued acting the sick man.”)

Day 11

p. 209— p. 232 (“wine shouts it, overlooking whatever life has subsequently added.”)

Day 12

p. 232—p. 253 (“but on some crowded city street”)

Day 13

p. 253—p. 271 (end of chapter)

Day 14

p. 272–p. 296 (“I would not torment myself any more for having wanted to play that false role of Mentor.”)

Day 15

p. 296—p. 318 (“the Ada who had scornfully repulsed me no longer existed, unless my medical books were mistaken.”)

Day 16

p. 318—p. 336 (“But did that axiom apply also to Guido?”)

Day 17

p. 336—p. 357 (“…unless I was supported by all the members of the family.”)

Day 18

p. 358— p. 378 (“I would say this to Ada herself at the first opportunity.”)

Day 19

p. 378—p. 394 ("I would find, at tomorrow’s opening, the high level of that morning.”)

Day 20

p. 394—p. 418 (“…I must throw away these playthings.”)

Day 21

p. 418—End

Sign up for A Public Space's Newsletter