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Day 6

Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo

p. 98–p. 117 ("'Good for you, Zeno. You’ve earned your keep.’”)

September 18, 2022 by Claire Messud

When his old friend Tullio tells him about his vast medicinal intake of lemons, Zeno considers it a great idea, although he dislikes lemons—because “Complete freedom consists of being able to do what you like, provided you also do something you like less.” An interesting definition of freedom!

Ah, the arrival of Guido Speier upon the scene, Zeno’s rival for Ada’s affection… the fact that Ada addresses him by his first name, whereas she calls Zeno “Signor Cosini,”’ is enough to cause him pain. How carefully, when in love, we read the slightest signs.

Zeno jealously compares his balding head to Guido’s luxuriant locks: “His dark, slightly waving hair, which covered all the space Mother Nature had destined it for, while a good deal of my head had been invaded by my brow.” For that alone, Zeno would have hated Guido.

In a memorable riff, Zeno explains that he can’t play the violin better because his body is out of equilibrium: “There is a slight paralysis in my organism, and on the violin it reveals its entire self.” That Guido is an excellent violinist, by this logic, would imply that he’s also a healthier fellow.

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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