Saturday, December 30, 2023

Quote of the Day (Thomas Wolfe, on Paris at Year’s End, Nearly A Century Ago)

“The whole earth seemed to come to life at once. Now that [Francis] Starwick was here, this unfamiliar world, in whose alien life he had struggled like a drowning swimmer, became in a moment wonderful and good. The feeling of numb, nameless terror, rootless desolation, the intolerable sick anguish of homelessness, insecurity, and homesickness, against which he had fought since coming to Paris, and which he had been ashamed and afraid to admit, was now instantly banished. Even the strange dark faces of the French as they streamed past no longer seemed strange, but friendly and familiar, and the moist and languorous air, the soft thick grayness of the skies which had seemed to press down on his naked sides, to permeate his houseless soul like a palpable and viscous substance of numb terror and despair, were now impregnated with all the vital energies of living, with the intoxication of an unspeakable, nameless, infinitely strange and various joy. As they walked across the vast court of the Louvre towards the great arched gateway and all the brilliant traffic of the streets, the enormous dynamic murmur of the mysterious city came to him and stirred his entrails with the sensual premonitions of unknown, glamorous and seductive pleasure. Even the little taxis, boring past with wasp-like speed across the great space of the Louvre and through the sounding arches, now contributed to this sense of excitement, luxury and joy. The shrill and irritating horns sounded constantly through the humid air, and filled his heart with thoughts of New Year: already the whole city seemed astir, alive now with the great carnival of New Year's Eve.”— American novelist Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), Of Time and the River: A Legend of Man’s Hunger in His Youth (1935)

This description of Paris at New Year’s Eve reflected Wolfe’s own time in the city in December 1924.

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