November by Gustave Flaubert

I savoured at length my wasted life; I told myself joyfully that my youth was over and done with – for it is a real joy to sense the chill creep into your heart, and to be able to say, prodding it like a still smoking hearth, ‘it’s stopped burning.’ I slowly went over everything in my life: ideas, passions, days of anger, days of grief, heartbeats of hope, heart-rending anguish. I saw it all again, like a man visiting the catacombs and gazing his fill at the lines f the dead laid out on either side of him, row upon row. And yet, if you merely count the years, I was born not all that long ago: but I have my own countless memories, and I am as weighed down by them as old men are weighed down by all the days that they have lived; it seems to me at times that I have been around for centuries and that my self contains the debris of a thousand former existences. Why should this be? Have I loved? Have I hated? Have I sought anything in particular? I am still full of doubt; I have lived far from all movement and all activity, and have never bestirred myself either for glory or for pleasure, for knowledge or for riches.

From my schooldays on, I was sad and bored, simmering with desires and filled with burning aspirations for a mindless and tumultuous existence; I dreamt up passions and longed to experience them all.

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