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Day 12

Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo

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

September 24, 2022 by Claire Messud

Zeno’s desire to please again precipitates callous behavior, when Carla insists he spend the night while Augusta is at her dying father’s bedside: he refers to this as a “sacrifice.” Is his a greater betrayal because of the circumstances? He tells himself it’s “childish” to think so.

Carla’s maestro, Vittorio Lali, falls in love with her and asks her to marry him; unwittingly, he enters Zeno’s complex emotional economy of jealousy, hatred, and dismissal: Zeno wants to keep Lali at bay, but in reserve: “Carla’s teacher was always at our disposal, but Carla wouldn’t give him any consideration and neither would I, yet.”

For Zeno, Carla’s growing desire to enjoy the pleasures of an open relationship are experienced as a form of perversity: “My mistress ended up resembling me too much. For no other reason, at any moment she would become angry with me, in sudden outbursts of wrath.” Rather than rejecting her on account of her anger, he submits to it: “They were enough to make me ever so good and meek.”

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

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