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Day 18

Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo

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

September 30, 2022 by Claire Messud

Zeno has perhaps unusual ideas about what’s objective and what’s subjective—or perhaps not so unusual? He thinks that beauty, for example, which he deems “a woman’s health” (!), is for him (or another man) to decide. Hence he is amazed that “Ada believed she was still beautiful!”

When Guido, having gambled on the stock market and lost, laments, “Have you ever seen a man with worse luck than me?” Zeno is indignant, and offended. “Natural law does not entitle us to happiness,” Zeno believes, “but rather it prescribes wretchedness and sorrow.” Guido, in complaining, fails to behave “like a gentleman” again—social convention is, for Zeno, determinative and paramount.

The family dance around Guido’s debt is rather like a West End farce: Zeno offers to use his inheritance to bail out his brother-in-law; this upsets his wife Augusta, who thinks he’s done so out of love for her sister Ada; while it upsets Ada, who worries about bankrupting her favorite sister, Augusta… and so it goes, money and love ever entangled…

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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