A model prisoner

At that time I was living on rue Froidevaux, across from the Montparnasse cemetery, on the sixth floor of a building in danger of falling down. From where I was I had unrestricted view of the graves. For more than fifteen years, rue Froidevaux had been my prison. I was a model prisoner. If I often bemoaned my station, I never rebelled. I didn’t try to escape. To tell the truth, I didn’t want much. My rule of conduct was simple: live as little as possible so as to suffer as little as possible. Maybe not very exhilarating as far as precepts go, but very effective. Try it, you’ll see. What I liked most was to go unnoticed. I’d have gladly given everything I had to be an invisible man or a ghost.

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Froidevaux! Oh, how cold your streets are, messieurs, and how slowly one dies there, over a low flame, a little at a time, from boredom and grief! How heavy one’s heart grows in your deserts! You could spend a lifetime wandering there in exile. Strange winter journey.

— Martinet, ‘The High Life’ (tr. Vale)

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