Well, his thoughts had strayed far from the subject of that naturalism so reviled by Des Hermies. He returned to Gruenewald and said to himself that the great Crucifixion was the masterpiece of an art driven out of bounds. One need not go far in search of the extra-terrestrial as to fall into perfervid Catholicism. Perhaps spiritualism would give one all one required to formulate a supernaturalistic method.
He rose and went into his tiny workroom. His pile of manuscript notes about the Marshal de Rais, surnamed Bluebeard, looked at him derisively from the table where they were piled.
“All the same,” he said, “it’s good to be here, in out of the world and above the limits of time. To live in another age, never read a newspaper, not even know that the theatres exist—ah, what a dream! To dwell with Bluebeard and forget the grocer on the corner and all the other petty little criminals of an age perfectly typified by the cafe waiter who ravishes the boss’s daughter—the goose who lays the golden egg, as he calls her—so that she will have to marry him!”
Bed was a good place, he added, smiling, for he saw his cat, a creature with a perfect time sense, regarding him uneasily as if to remind him of their common convenience and to reproach him for not having prepared the couch. Durtal arranged the pillows and pulled back the coverlet, and the cat jumped to the foot of the bed but remained humped up, tail coiled beneath him, waiting till his master was stretched out at length before burrowing a little hollow to curl up in.
Nearly two years ago Durtal had ceased to associate with men of letters. They were represented in books and in the book-chat columns of magazines as forming an aristocracy which had a monopoly on intelligence. Their conversation, if one believed what one read, sparkled with effervescent and stimulating wit. Durtal had difficulty accounting to himself for the persistence of this illusion. His sad experience led him to believe that every literary man belonged to one of two classes, the thoroughly commercial or the utterly impossible.
The first consisted of writers spoiled by the public, and drained dry in consequence, but “successful.” Ravenous for notice they aped the ways of the world of big business, delighted in gala dinners, gave formal evening parties, spoke of copyrights, sales, and long run plays, and made great display of wealth.
The second consisted of cafe loafers, “bohemians.” Rolling on the benches, gorged with beer they feigned an exaggerated modesty and at the same time cried their wares, aired their genius, and abused their betters.
There was now no place where one could meet a few artists and privately, intimately, discuss ideas at ease. One was at the mercy of the cafe crowd or the drawing-room company. One’s interlocutor was listening avidly to steal one’s ideas, and behind one’s back one was being vituperated. And the women were always intruding.