Der Ring des Nibelungen

     

San Francisco Opera offered a new production of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen this summer. I went to the full cycle constituting four operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried,  and Götterdämmerung. As my first cycle, the whole experience was very intense and overwhelming. Compared with clips from other productions I saw in my pre-theatre research, this production is very modern, completely beyond what I had imagined. It is a combination of visual feast with music indulgence. It is truly the ultimate form of art. By the end of the cycle, It feels like that I have aged a few centuries. Wise or not, a lot to contemplate.

The director of the opera Francesca Zambello wrote a poignant Director’s Note. Talking about the end of the story: “The gods are gone, but the mortals, especially the women, who are left represent the beginning of a new order. Is it a feminist approach? No, but it suggests the power of female leaders to heal the scars of destruction.” She points out that the inspiration behind this production is partly #MeToo and partly environmental. This message is conveyed throughout the cycle. My favorite characters is Brünnhilde. San Francisco Opera introduces her as:  

Compassionate, selfless yet incredibly fierce, Brünnhilde is the protagonist of the story and is considered Wagner’s most noble character. Brünnhilde is the daughter of Wotan and Erda, the earth goddess. She, along with her sisters, are Valkyries—warrior maidens who speed through the sky to bring bodies of fallen heroes from the battlefield to Valhalla. There these heroes are revived and protect the gods against their enemies.

Brünnhilde is Wotan’s favorite daughter and their bond of affection is very close. Yet unlike her father, she believes love is the most important value to uphold and it is this belief that ultimately severs their relationship. When Wotan, bound by his duties, orders Brünnhilde not to protect his son Siegmund in his battle with Hunding, Brünnhilde goes against her father’s wishes and tries to save Siegmund, whom she knows Wotan loves dearly. Despite having incurred Wotan’s anger, Brünnhilde continues to defend love, protecting Siegmund’s cherished wife Sieglinde from his wrath.

Brünnhilde’s courage and self-sacrifice restore the universe to its natural order. Choosing to join her beloved husband Siegfried in death, Brünnhilde immolates herself to free the world from the ring’s curse, banishing wealth and greed and proving that the real power in life is the redeeming force of love.

Peter Bassett wrote a great article What Price Love. In his words, The Ring is “an extended love story…love is the thread that binds the whole story together—not love confined to a single pair of individuals but love as the alternative to hatred and revenge, power and property, greed and envy. The story begins with love’s renunciation and ends with its triumph as the one irreplaceable, transforming ingredient in a new world order.” It is: “the power of love versus the love of power”.

I cannot do Der Ring des Nibelungen justice by describing it in my own words yet. Short of seeing it again in theater, reading synopsis and listening to the recording is of some comfort. I am also curious how artists in future productions might transform Der Ring des Nibelungen and integrate their own interpretations to its performance. My hope is to return to future productions.

Here are the descriptions from SF Opera for your reference.

DAS RHEINGOLD

In the cycle’s prelude, greed and vengeance trigger a chain of events fraught with corruption and struggle.

SCENE 1

The three Rhinemaidens, guardians of the river’s golden treasure, laugh and play, scarcely noticing the Nibelung Alberich, who tries with no avail to catch the sexy girls as they taunt him. They explain that this gold is all-powerful: if fashioned into a ring, its wearer would rule the world. But they are content that the gold is safe, since whoever would steal the treasure must renounce love. Hearing this secret, Alberich renounces love and escapes with the Rhinegold.

SCENE 2

Fricka reproaches her husband Wotan for having promised her sister Freia to the giants Fafner and Fasolt as payment for constructing Valhalla; Wotan replies that he never meant to keep his word. When Fafner and Fasolt arrive to claim Freia, Wotan informs them that they must settle for another form of payment. Fafner, aware that the gods would lose their eternal youth and power without Freia’s golden apples, decides to take her hostage. The fire god Loge suggests that the giants might find Alberich’s gold an acceptable substitute for Freia and proposes that Wotan steal the gold, a portion of which Alberich has forged into a ring. The giants take Freia home until evening, when they will return to claim the Nibelung’s gold as ransom. Wotan asks Loge to accompany him to seek Alberich’s treasure.

SCENE 3

In the underground caverns of Nibelheim, Alberich tries on the tarnhelm—a magical chain mail helmet his brother Mime has forged that transforms the wearer into any size or shape—and torments Mime. Wotan and Loge arrive and Alberich suspiciously questions them, warning of his plan to overthrow the gods and rule the world. Loge tricks Alberich into using the Tarnhelm to transform into a toad, and Wotan and Loge seize him and drag him to the surface of the earth.

SCENE 4

Back on the mountaintop, Loge and Wotan tell Alberich that they will free him only if he yields all his gold, the tarnhelm and the ring. After the ring is torn from his finger, the Nibelung leaves and places a curse upon it: until it returns to him, trouble, envy, and death will befall all who possess it. The giants return with their hostage Freia and demand the Nibelung gold, the tarnhelm and the ring in exchange for her. Erda, the earth goddess, appears and warns Wotan to yield the ring, spelling doom for the gods. Wotan then surrenders the ring, and Fafner kills Fasolt to claim the ring, the tarnhelm and the hoard for himself. Fricka urges Wotan to turn his thoughts to Valhalla, and Froh summons a rainbow bridge to take them there.

DIE WALKÜRE

A father’s blinding ambition and a daughter’s profound defiance drive the story forward in the cycle’s dramatic second installment.

ACT I

An exhausted fugitive seeks refuge in a dismal home built around a mighty tree. Sieglinde tends to her unexpected visitor. When her husband Hunding arrives home, the stranger relates his sad tale: attempting to protect a young woman from an unwanted arranged marriage, he killed her brothers and was forced to escape her avenging kinsmen. Hunding reveals that he was part of the hunting party searching for the stranger. He offers Siegmund shelter for the night, but advises him to prepare for a fight the next day. Sieglinde drugs Hunding’s drink so that the stranger can flee to safety. She, too, had been an unwilling bride and remembers that at her wedding, an unknown old man had thrust a sword deep into a tree trunk, but no man has had the strength to pull it out. The stranger realizes that this must be the sword his father had promised him and rejoices in reborn hope and newfound love for Sieglinde. Sieglinde recognizes him now as her long-lost twin brother, Siegmund. In great excitement, Siegmund triumphantly pulls the sword from the tree, and the lovers run off into the night.

ACT II

Wotan exhorts his daughter Brünnhilde, a Valkyrie, to protect his mortal son Siegmund in his coming duel with Hunding. But Fricka, Wotan’s wife and the protector of marriage, is outraged at the adulterous and incestuous love of Siegmund and Sieglinde and forces Wotan to let Hunding triumph. Wotan tells Brünnhilde that she must let Siegmund die in combat. In vain, Wotan had been grooming Siegmund to be a “free hero”: a free-willed mortal unaided by the gods, unbound by Wotan’s treaties, and consequently the only one capable of regaining the cursed ring that Wotan was earlier forced to yield. Siegmund and Sieglinde rest during their flight. While Sieglinde sleeps, Brünnhilde appears to Siegmund, instructing him to follow her to Valhalla after his death. But deeply moved by Siegmund’s devotion to Sieglinde, Brünnhilde decides to disobey Wotan’s orders and save Siegmund’s life. After Hunding arrives and begins his battle with Siegmund, the furious Wotan appears and shatters Siegmund’s sword. Allowing Hunding to easily kill Siegmund, Wotan then strikes Hunding down as well. Having defied her father, Brünnhilde gathers up the broken sword pieces and leads Sieglinde to safety.

ACT III

Brünnhilde’s eight sisters, the Valkyries, are on their way to Valhalla to report on the fallen heroes they have gathered. When Brünnhilde arrives with Sieglinde, the Valkyries refuse to harbor them for fear of Wotan’s wrath. Brünnhilde gives Sieglinde the broken sword pieces and sends her to seek refuge in the forest where the dragon Fafner hides, for Wotan will not follow her there. Sieglinde takes some comfort in the knowledge that she will bear Siegmund’s son, whom Brünnhilde predicts will be the greatest of all heroes. When Wotan arrives, he condemns Brünnhilde for her betrayal and sentences her to be stripped of her divinity and left asleep on the mountaintop, to be claimed by the first mortal man to awaken her. Brünnhilde begs Wotan to surround her with a ring of magic fire so that only the bravest of men would attempt to awaken her. Wotan agrees, regretfully leaving his daughter to her long sleep, surrounded by terrifying flames.

SIEGFRIED

A fearless young hero battles otherworldly challenges on a journey to discover his destiny.

ACT I

Mime has set up a metal forge in a deserted area near the spot where a transformed Fafner guards the treasure. Siegfried demands a sword from Mime, but every weapon the Nibelung forges is easily shattered by Siegfried. Commanding Mime to reforge the fragments of a sword purportedly left to Siegfried by his deceased mother, the young man learns more from Mime about his heritage. Wotan, who now wanders the world incognito, approaches Mime and challenges him to a battle of wits, proposing that they each pose three questions to the other. When Mime is unable to answer the final question, Wotan reveals that only a fearless person can reforge Siegfried’s sword, and that person will kill Mime. After Wotan departs, the terrified Mime resolves to teach Siegfried fear in order to save himself. But Mime faces a dilemma: if Siegfried learns fear, who will forge the sword that can kill Fafner and regain the golden hoard? When Siegfried returns to claim his sword, Mime is eager to teach the young man to fear. Siegfried, still immune to fear, successfully reforges Siegmund’s sword and goes off with Mime to reclaim the golden hoard from Fafner. Mime has brewed a poisoned drink to give Siegfried after he triumphs over Fafner.

ACT II

Alberich, eager to regain the golden hoard, keeps watch near the place where Fafner guards it. Meanwhile Fafner has used the tarnhelm to transform himself into an invincible form. Wotan arrives and warns Alberich of Mime’s designs on the ring and then rouses Fafner so that Alberich may demand the ring from him in exchange for warning him of Siegfried’s approach. Fafner refuses, and Wotan leaves. Siegfried arrives with Mime, who tries to make him fear Fafner. But Siegfried instead resolves to approach Fafner and sends Mime away. Siegfried listens to the birds and fashions a makeshift pipe to imitate them. When the pipe fails to communicate with the birds, Siegfried tries his horn. Fafner emerges and Siegfried kills him. The dying Fafner warns Siegfried against Mime’s treachery, and his lifeblood renders Siegfried instantly able to understand the birds. When Siegfried enters Fafner’s abode, Mime approaches Alberich and the two brothers fight over the golden hoard. Siegfried emerges with the tarnhelm and the ring, and Mime and Alberich hide. A Woodbird warns Siegfried to beware of Mime, who emerges and offers Siegfried the poisoned drink. Now able to understand the true meaning of Mime’s words, Siegfried refuses it and kills Mime. The Woodbird counsels Siegfried to penetrate the wall of fire surrounding Brünnhilde, his destined bride, and offers to lead him to her.

ACT III

Wotan visits Erda in a last-ditch effort to avert a disastrous future. When she advises him to seek guidance from Brünnhilde, he tells her of their daughter’s disobedience and punishment, and the dismayed Erda becomes unwilling to reveal more. Wotan releases Erda, informing her that he will bequeath the world to Siegfried. Siegfried arrives and Wotan questions him about his sword. Siegfried becomes irritated and tells the old man to leave. Wotan bars Siegfried’s way with his spear, which Siegfried shatters, accusing Wotan of having killed his father. Wotan collects the fragments of the spear as we see him for the last time. Siegfried plunges through the fire and awakens the sleeping Brünnhilde. Though Brünnhilde realizes that she is now a mortal woman and must obey Siegfried, she welcomes him and submits to her fate.

GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

The cycle reaches its transcendent climax with a suspenseful tale of bravery and sacrifice, treachery and betrayal, destruction and renewal.

PROLOGUE

The three Norns, daughters of the earth goddess Erda, are busy weaving the rope of fate. Predicting Valhalla’s imminent fall, they notice that the rope of destiny is starting to fray and unravel. As the sisters try to make it taut, it snaps and they descend in terror to Erda. At dawn, Siegfried and Brünnhilde awaken from their night together. Though fearful that she may lose him, Brünnhilde encourages Siegfried to travel in search of heroic challenges. He gives her the ring as a pledge of his love.

ACT I

In their home on the Rhine, Gunther, leader of the Gibichungs, and his sister Gutrune plot how to secure the Ring. Their half brother Hagen, son of Alberich, advises Gunther to marry Brünnhilde. By means of a magic potion, Siegfried could be induced to forget his vows and win her for Gunther in return for Gutrune’s hand. Siegfried’s horn call announces his approach. Gunther welcomes him, and Gutrune seals his fate by offering him the potion. He drinks and instantly forgets all about Brünnhilde and agrees to bring her to Gunther. On Brünnhilde’s rock, Waltraute visits her sister and tells her that she must yield the Ring to the Rhinemaidens or all is doomed. When she refuses, Waltraute departs in despair. Dusk falls as Siegfried appears, disguised as Gunther by means of the Tarnhelm. He wrests the ring from the terrified Brünnhilde and claims her as Gunther’s bride.

ACT II

Alberich appears to Hagen and urges his sleeping son to win back the Ring from Siegfried. As dawn breaks, Siegfried returns and announces he has won Brünnhilde for Gunther. Hagen calls everyone to witness the joining of the two couples: Brünnhilde and Gunther, Siegfried and Gutrune. As they enter, Brünnhilde notices her ring on Siegfried’s finger. She deplores the trickery through which she was won and proclaims Siegfried to be her true husband. The hero, still under the potion’s spell, vows that he has never wronged the woman, and Brünnhilde angrily swears that he is lying. Bent on revenge, she reveals to Hagen the hero’s one vulnerable spot: a blade in his back will kill him. Taunted by Brünnhilde and lured by Hagen’s description of the Ring’s power, Gunther joins in the murder plot.

ACT III

On the banks of the destroyed Rhine, the three Rhinemaidens bewail their lost treasure. Siegfried approaches and the maidens plead for the ring, but he ignores them. When Siegfried’s hunting party arrives, he describes his boyhood with Mime, the killing of Fafner, and finally—after Hagen gives him a potion to restore his memory—his wooing of Brünnhilde. Pretending indignation, Hagen plunges a spear into Siegfried’s back and the hero dies. At the Gibichung hall, Gutrune nervously awaits Siegfried’s return. Hagen tells her that Siegfried has been slain by a wild boar, but the woman accuses Gunther of murder and Hagen admits the crime. Quarreling over the ring, Hagen kills Gunther but recoils in fear from the prize when the dead hero raises his arm. Brünnhilde appears and orders a funeral pyre built for Siegfried. Musing on the gods’ responsibility for his death, she returns the ring to the Rhinemaidens and walks into the pyre’s flames. As the world is consumed by fire, the Rhine overflows its banks and the Rhinemaidens, dragging Hagen to a watery grave, regain their treasure. Brünnhilde’s death frees the ring of its curse.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

 

This book was written by Carlo Rovelli for people who know little of modern science, as noted by the author. But I found it to be a great read. Throughout this book, much of its content reminds us how little we know of physics and the universe in general, and in some sense even less of ourselves.

The first six lessons are about the revolutions in physics during the 20th and 21st centuries, both the discoveries and more so the unknowns, including: Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity (the most beautiful of theories), quantum mechanics, the architecture of the cosmos, elementary particles, quantum gravity, and the sixth lesson on probability, time and the heat of black holes.

In his youth Albert Einstein spent a year loafing aimlessly. You don’t get anywhere by not “wasting” time – something, unfortunately, that the parents of teenagers tend frequently to forget.

We are so terribly overloaded with interruptions in the form of emails, tweets, messages, meetings and so on. Without a great chunk of time wondering in the misty forest of our deep thoughts, it is impossible to be creative either in science, engineering, literature or art. I came to the realisation some years ago that to stop responding to trivialities is merely negligent of trivialities, but to not protect one’s solitude and high quality thinking time is irresponsible to oneself and the universe that brings us to our existence.

In contrasting general relativity and quantum mechanics, the author wrote beautifully:

Both theories teach us that the fine structure of nature is more subtle than it appears. But general relativity is a compact gem: conceived by a single mind, that of Albert Einstein, it’s a simple and coherent vision of gravity, space and time. Quantum mechanics, or “quantum theory”, on the other hand, has gained unequaled experimental success and led to applications that have transformed our everyday lives, but more than a century after its birth it remains shrouded in mystery and incomprehensibility.

The books piled up on my desk could not agree with the author more on this. These books, to be revealed in upcoming articles, are all related to quantum physics and its pioneers.

In the third lesson about the cosmos, the author drew a few pictures to show how the cosmos has been conceptualised and how that has evolved, in other word, the journey between visions. I like this particular passage:

Before experiments, measurements, mathematics, and rigorous deductions, science is above all about visions. Science begins with a vision. Scientific thought is fed by the capacity to “see” things differently than they have previously been seen.

The fourth lesson on elementary particles, the components of everything that sways in the space around us (as the author puts it): electrons, quarks, photons, and gluons. To share some of the author’s poetic writing:

The nature of these particles, and the way they move, is described by quantum mechanics…They disappear and reappear according to the strange law of quantum mechanics, where everything that exists is never stable and is nothing but a jump from one interaction to another. Even if we observe a small, empty region of space in which there are no atoms, we still detect a minute swarming of these particles. There is no such thing as a real void, one that is completely empty. Just as the calmest sea looked at closely sways and trembles, however slightly, so the fields that form the world are subject to minute fluctuations, and it is possible to imagine its basic particles having brief and ephemeral existences, continually created and destroyed by these movements. This is the world described by quantum mechanics and particle theory. We have arrived very far from the mechanical world of Newton, where minute, cold stones eternally wandered on long, precise trajectories in geometrically immutable spaces. Quantum mechanics and experiments with particles have taught us that the world is a continuous, restless swarming of things, a continuous coming to light and disappearance of ephemeral entities. A set of vibrations, as in the switched-on hippie world of the 1960s. A world of happenings, not of things.

One note about the Standard Model is worth bearing in mind for future reference, and is probably widely applicable:

Perhaps on closer inspection it is not the model that lacks elegance. Perhaps it is we who have not yet learned to look at it from just the right point of view, one that would reveal its hidden simplicity.

In lesson on quantum gravity, the author concluded the chapter with:

Physics opens windows through which we see far into the distance. What we see does not cease to astonish us. We realise that we are full of prejudices and that our intuitive image of the world is partial, parochial, inadequate. Earth is not flat; it is not stationary. The world continues to change before our eyes as we gradually see it more extensively and more clearly. If we try to put together what we have learned in the twentieth century about the physical world, the clues point toward something profoundly different from our instinctive understanding of matter, space and time. Loop quantum gravity is an attempt to decipher these clues and to look a little farther into the distance.

The last lesson is about ourselves, how it is possible to think about our existence in the light of the strange world described by physics. This is my favorite chapter of the book, for its most thought provoking nature. It seems to me that the chapter on ourselves conveys more of the author’s own thinking and view than any other chapters. We perceive and interact with the world around us. We have emotions, thoughts, characteristics and physical actions. But what is our role in this world depicted by the physics?

If the world is a swarm of ephemeral quanta of space and matter, a great jigsaw puzzle of space and elementary particles, then what are we? Do we also consist only of quanta and particles? If so, then from where do we get that sense of individual existence and unique selfhood to which we can all testify? And what then are our values, our dreams, our emotions, our individual knowledges? What are we, in this boundless and glowing world?

I hardly knew how to breathe while reading this paragraph. I had to read it again and again to rebalance and restore my mental and physical agility. True that the author noted that he could not imagine attempting to answer these questions either in this book. Ask questions nevertheless!

We, human beings, are first and foremost the subjects who do the observing of this world, the collective makers of the photograph of reality that I have tried to compose. We are nodes in a network of exchanges through which we pass images, tools, information, and knowledge.

The images that we construct of the universe live within us, in the space of our thoughts. Between these images – between what we can reconstruct and understand with our limited means – and the reality of which we are part, there exist countless filters: our ignorance, the limitations of our senses and of our intelligence. The very same conditions that our nature as subjects, and particular subjects, imposes upon experience.

All things are continually interacting with one another, and in doing so each bears the traces of that with which it has interacted: and in this sense all things continuously exchange information about one another.

There is not an “I” and “the neurons in my brain”. They are the same thing. An individual is a process: complex, tightly integrated.

Our appetite for life is voracious, our thirst for life insatiable. – Lucretius

It is part of our nature to love and to be honest. It is part of our nature to long to know more and to continue to learn. Our knowledge of the world continues to grow.

The book ends with this image:

Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world. And it’s breathtaking.

A Moveable Feast

 

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway was first published posthumously in 1964. It covers Hemingway’s time spent in Paris from 1921 to 1926 as a struggling journalist and his gradual transition from a journalist to a writer.

I first read this book on my way from Silicon Valley to Sandia National Laboratories some years ago. That business trip turned out to be one of the most memorable events during my years working on Exascale Computing. To a certain extent, that experience still has a penetrating impact on my career decision making. The story or maybe stories sprung from there have been to be told in a separate blog though. Thanks to this book, I travelled to Paris to trace the walks and places that Hemingway wrote in this book this past February. They were very cold and wet days with miles of walks every day, but my time spent there brought Hemingway and his writing much closer to me.

The most important takeaway for me from this book is: it is perfectly normal to struggle miserably to write. It seems to me that the mental and physical struggles help one write more sharply and closer to the truth. This might not be Hemmingway’s intended key message for the book. Chinese philosopher Mengzi wrote: “天降大任于斯人也,必先苦其心志,劳其筋骨,饿其体肤,空乏其身,行指乱其所为,所以动心忍性,曾益其所不能.” Sadly in translation, much of it is lost. We need to learn to read in its original language to appreciate it fully. Nevertheless, one translation I found is: “when Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies.” One would say that Hemingway’s time in Paris fit into Mengzi’s prescription well.

Some of my favorite passages from the book:

It was wonderful to walk down the long flights of stairs knowing that I’d had good luck working. I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that you knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written. Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline.

“You can either buy clothes or buy pictures,” she said. “It’s that simple. No one who is not very rich can do both. Pay no attention to your clothes and no attention at all to the mode, and buy your clothes for comfort and durability, and you will have the clothes and money to buy pictures.” – Gertrude Stein

She (Gertrude Stein) had such a personality that when she wished to win anyone over to her side she could not be resisted, and critics who met her and saw her pictures took writing of hers that they could not understand on trust because of their enthusiasm for her as a person, and their confidence in her judgement. She had also discovered many things about rhythms and the uses of words in repetition that were valid and valuable and she talked well about them.

I would have to work hard tomorrow. Work could cure almost anything, I believed then, and I believe it now.

I knew how severe I had been and how bad things had been. The one who is doing his work and getting satisfaction from it is not the one the poverty is hard on. I thought of bathtubs and showers and toilets that flushed as things that inferior people to us had or that you enjoyed when you made trips, which we often made….She had cried for the horse, I remembered; but not for the money. I had been stupid when she needed a grey lamb jacket and had loved it once she had bought it. I had been stupid about other things too. It was all part of the fight against poverty that you never win except by not spending. Especially if you buy pictures instead of clothes. But then we did not think ever of ourselves as poor. We did not accept it. We thought we were superior people and other people that we looked down on and rightly mistrusted were rich. It had never seemed strange to me later on to wear sweatshirts for underwear to keep warm. It only seemed odd to the rich. We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.  

Standing there I wondered how much of what we had felt on the bridge was just hunger. I asked my wife and she said, “I don’t know, Tatie. There are so many sorts of hunger. In the spring there are more. But that’s gone now. Memory is hunger.”

Then you could always go into the Luxembourg museum and all the paintings were heightened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry. I learned to understand Cezanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry. I used to wonder if he were hungry too when he painted; but I thought it was possibly only that he had forgotten to eat. It was one of those unsound but illuminating thoughts you have when you have been sleepless or hungry. Later I thought Cezanne was probably hungry in a different way.

They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.

If, in your time, you have ever heard four honest people disagree about what happened at a certain place at a certain time, or you have ever torn up and returned orders that you requested when a situation had reached such a point that it seemed necessary to have something in writing, or testified before an inspector general when allegations had been made, presenting new statements by others that replaced your written orders and your verbal orders, you remembering, certain things and how they were to you and who had fought and where, you prefer to write about any time as fiction.

There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were nor how it was changed nor with what difficulties nor what ease it could be reached. It was always worth it and we received a return for whatever we brought to it.