Day 10Zeno’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.”
p. 20—p. 37 (“But I would have been amazed to see him really happy, alone and old as he was.”)
p. 80—p. 98 (“On the crowded Via Cavana, therefore, I had thought more purposefully than in my solitary study.”)
p. 162—p. 185 (“I had found something more than a mere pretext for doing what it was my desire to do.”)
p. 272–p. 296 (“I would not torment myself any more for having wanted to play that false role of Mentor.”)
p. 296—p. 318 (“the Ada who had scornfully repulsed me no longer existed, unless my medical books were mistaken.”)