Shopping Cart



Day 17

Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo

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

September 29, 2022 by Claire Messud

Zeno doesn’t really believe Guido has attempted suicide, because he has failed. Again, his virility is in question: “It’s an action unworthy of a man!” And any “seamstress…in her humble room” can successfully commit suicide if she chooses. Even when he visits Guido and Ada, Zeno tries to read the scene as one of Guido’s falsehoods: “Did he remember he was to simulate the great effect of the morphine?”

Similarly, Zeno tries yet again to impose his fantasy upon reality, only for his hopes to be dashed. Because he has found her newly attractive, he assumes, when Ada asks to speak to him in private, that she has “shown me into this dark room to ask of me the love I had offered her [years before].”

When Guido finally understands the parlous state of their business affairs, he still wants to persist with his doomed attempt to alleviate the situation: in this desire to deny reality, he reminds Zeno of himself: “I understood! He wanted to go on dreaming at a stage where there is no more room for dreams!” This, of course, is all too often our human condition…

"What do you think is the better teacher, the University or the Bourse?” Nilini asks Zeno: the question is a reprise of Zeno’s admiration for Giovanni, early in the book, and indeed a recurring question for Dostoevsky (man of thought vs man of action) and others.

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