Boredom, or, La Noia by Alberto Moravia

But it is important to understand what I mean by this word. For many people boredom is the opposite of amusement; and amusement means distraction, forgetfulness. For me, boredom is not the opposite of amusement; I might even go so far as to say that in certain aspects it actually resembles amusement inasmuch as it gives rise to distraction and forgetfulness, even if of a very special type. Boredom to me consists in a kind of insufficiency, or inadequacy, or lack of reality. Reality, when I am bored, has always had the same disconcerting effect upon me as (to use a metaphor) a too-short blanket has upon a sleeping man on a cold winter night: he pulls it up on to his chest and his feet get cold, and so he never succeeds in falling properly asleep. Or again (to make use of a different comparison) my boredom resembles a repeated and mysterious interruption of the electric current inside a house: at one moment everything is clear and obvious – her are armchairs, over there are sofas, beyond are cupboards, side tables, pictures, curtains, carpets, windows, doors; a moment later there is nothing but darkness and empty void. Yet again (a third comparison) my boredom might be described as a malady affecting external objects and consisting of a withering process; an almost instantaneous loss of vitality – just as though on saw a flower change in a few seconds from a bud to decay and dust.

The feeling of boredom originates for me in a sense of the absurdity of a reality which is insufficient, or anyhow unable to convince me of its own effective existence. For example, I may be looking with some degree of attentiveness at a tumbler. As long as I can say to myself that this tumbler is a glass or metal vessel made for the purpose of putting liquid into it and carrying it to one’s lips without upsetting it – as long as I am able to represent the tumbler to myself in a convincing manner – so long I shall feel that I have some sort of a relationship with it, a relationship close enough to make me believe in its existence and also, on a subordinate level, in my own. But once the tumbler withers away and loses its vitality in the manner I have described, or, in other words reveals itself to me as something foreign, something with which I have no relationship with; once it appears to me as an absurd object – then from that very absurdity springs boredom, which when all is said and done is simply a kind of incommunicability and the incapacity to disengage oneself from it. But this boredom, in turn, would not cause me to suffer so much if I did not know that, although I myself have no relationship with the tumbler, such a relationship might perhaps be possible, that is, because the tumbler exists in some unknown paradise in which objects do not for one moment cease to be objects. For me, therefore, boredom is not only the inability to escape from myself but is also the consciousness that theoretically I might be able to disengage myself from, thanks to a miracle of some sort.

Worse than anything, I suffered from a paralysis of all my faculties, which made me mute and apathetic and dull, so that I felt I were buried alive inside myself, in a hermetically sealed and stifling prison.

[…]  I realised that although I did not like living, I yet did not want to die. Thus the inseparable alternatives which filed through my mind like a sinister ballet did not halt even in the fact of extreme choice between life and death. The truth of the matter, I sometimes thought, was not so much that I wanted to die as that I wanted not to go on living in my present manner.

The very conformation of the two organs, the female difficult of access, the male incapable of directing itself on its own accord towards its goal, like an arm or leg, but requiring to be aided by the whole body, appeared to me indicative of the absurdity of the sexual act.

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