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Day 2

Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo

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

September 14, 2022 by Claire Messud

When Zeno’s wife leaves him in Dr. Muli’s clinic, to be imprisoned by a nurse named Giovanna until he quits smoking, she smiles and wishes him strength. Paradoxically that smile, “which I so loved”, wakens in him a feeling that “an enterprise undertaken with such seriousness was doomed perforce to fail at once” he’s lost before he’s begun!

Having got Giovanna drunk and heard her confession of marital infidelity, Zeno is “seized by a fury” at the idea that Dr. Muli (which means ‘mules’ in Italian) and his wife are together—even though rationally he knows this is unlikely.He is the one with a propensity for infidelity, and projects his own behaviors onto her…

Zeno’s father’s death, when Zeno is thirty, comes (unlike his mother’s) after his loss of religious faith: thus, the father and the Father are both dead, and he grieves also the loss of Zeno’s own future (or his excuses for procrastinating): “There was no longer a tomorrow to which I could address my determination,” is how he wonderfully puts it.

Comparing himself to his father, Zeno describes himself as strong, because “I…have always possessed—perhaps my supreme misfortune—an impetuous drive toward the future.” A gift and/or a curse; also the state of man in the 20th century—as the novel’s ending will suggest.

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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