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The Civilized, Chapter 24 - English Translation of Les Civilisés


Mr. Georges Torral to Mr. Jacques de Fierce

My young man, you left Saigon so unhappily - as far as I can tell, since I'm no longer an honored confident for you. But I still hope that I'm your friend, and I want to try to help you. Here's my cure for your state - a pill of pure truth, take it and don't be afraid, it isn't bitter, since it's about Mévil, not you. But hodie mihi, cras tibi eh? Mévil is in the middle of throwing away his life, which was so bright and promising before hand, like my own, ending his Civilized existence. He's throwing away good sense for instinct. Listen to his story, and learn from it if you can.

Mévil was a sensible man, who loved women - all women, without any foolish preference for this one here or that one there. He was entirely rational and knew exactly what he wanted, and he only cared about women for what they're made for, sex. Doubtless it was a reasonable want. Mévil was completely happy with this game for years and years. But last month, he was smitten with a woman, like he was with so many others, but this woman for once rejected him. You know who: the chaste friend, the wife of that tax farmer brute who is fermenting a revolution in the country. It doesn't matter too much who anyway. Mévil, a stubborn man, dug his heels in. Exaggerated a bit but everyone in the end exaggerates a bit: sometimes I get locked onto a pure geometry problem and I can't shake myself from it. There's no harm in that.

The problems started when Mévil, chasing after this mistress he couldn't have, had thrown out the mistresses that he did have. That was a good start to this madness: what does it matter what woman it is! Merchants don't care if their goods are identical. This obsession with a special someone can't be left to get in the way of the important thing. The detail of exactly who you're with doesn't matter for the bedchamber, and it was only going to get worse.

He started to obsess over a second woman, the Abel daughter, and this time it was complete madness. However bizarre he was with this hunt after Mrs. Malais, his love for had what's after all a pretty reasonable objective: he wanted her in his bed. It was a puffed up crude hunt to get in her skirts, but it was still a chase in the end. But little Abel, well with that he's gone over to Platonism. He loves her without knowing, this purposeless love which leads to mental alienation. Platonic love does exist certainly - I'm a tolerant man and it's possible for Platonic love to exist as a friendship between two people who might sleep together but prefer intellect to their physical wants. But the love that Mévil has for Marthe Abel? Haha! Don't make me laugh! They went to the ball, to tennis, there were the shouts play and ready and then he realized that she couldn't care less about it, and to think that somehow there's friendship, closeness, some sort of real exchange of ideas and minds, that's the the imagination of a man who's gone off the deep end.

Mévil's exactly that man.

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I see him every day, and I try to figure out how he ticks: he's an interesting pathological case. His two obsessions are eating him from the inside. In the morning, a night of chastity - from his own stupidity! - drives him to yearning for the Malais woman, and he hatches imbelic plans to get her: his suave charm from before has evaporated alongside his good sense, and now he's always dreaming about kidnapping or rap, and I'm not kidding, I really think the circuit court is keeping tabs on him. In the evening he has a different tune, and with the setting sun, black trees against a red sky, a languid breeze heavy with heady perfumes, Mévil becomes poetic, puts on a tie that's the color of rotting leaves and goes off to circle around in the Inspection in his silvered rickshaw, to gaze longingly at Marthe Abel with his puppy dog eyes. When night falls, he goes home, eats badly, and goes to sleep alone. It's a wretched life. There's nothing worse, for an alcoholic, than to be brutally cut off from liquor, and Mévil's an alcholic in his own way, just for women instead of spirits.

My dear friend, thus the story of a man who was once happy, because he was wise, and now is sad, very sad, because he's gone crazy. Life itself wasn't enough for him, and he's gone chasing off after illusions - awful illusions that are poisoning his existence. Mévil's in a dark place and I don't know when he'll get out of it, as much as I try to wrench him away from the brink. As for you... keep it in the back of your head and think about it.

French Text


  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8
  9. Chapter 9
  10. Chapter 10
  11. Chapter 11
  12. Chapter 12
  13. Chapter 13
  14. Chapter 14
  15. Chapter 15
  16. Chapter 16
  17. Chapter 17
  18. Chapter 18
  19. Chapter 19
  20. Chapter 20
  21. Chapter 21
  22. Chapter 22
  23. Chapter 23
  24. Chapter 24
  25. Chapter 25
  26. Chapter 26
  27. Chapter 27
  28. Chapter 28
  29. Chapter 29
  30. Chapter 30
  31. Chapter 31
  32. Chapter 32
  33. Chapter 33
  34. Chapter 34
  35. Chapter 35
  36. Chapter 36

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