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Day 7

Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo

p. 117—p. 139 (“all the flotsam accumulated in my nerves would have been swept away by it.”)

September 19, 2022 by Claire Messud

No reader can forget Zeno’s mistaken courtship in the darkness of the séance: fantasy (that the fabrics against which he brushes, and the little foot, belong to Ada) must encounter reality: only after his confession of love does he realize his arm is around Augusta’s waist.

Zeno, while endlessly trying to please people, also perversely acts against his own interests. Endeavoring to please Ada, whom he knows fancies Guido, he sucks up to his rival: “I meant to conciliate Ada through my pleas to Guido” even encouraging him to play his violin.

Guido’s amazing musical gift creates, in Zeno, a torment: “assailed by that music,” on the one hand; but trying to “elude” it, too. When, afterward, Zeno questions Guido’s technique, he feels from the assembled company “nothing… but contempt and derision.” Who hasn’t, in some awkward moment, made a criticism out of envy, and regretted it?

How not to be heartbroken by Zeno’s callous proposal to Augusta? And yet she, “with a dignified gesture I will never forget” stands up straight and claims him. He, like a child, is happy to have made the Malfenti family happy.

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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