Playing a Ghostly Part

Nadja, translated by Richard Howard. Such a beginning augurs a pyrotechnic display of style. The sentence is direct yet constrained. I am drawn in by its rhythmic effect, enhanced by the numerous minor vacillations. I will memorise these lines and play with them for a few days. I might even read on.

Who am I? If this once I were to rely on a proverb, then perhaps everything would amount to knowing whom I “haunt.” I must admit that this last word is misleading, tending to establish between certain beings and myself relations that are stranger, more inescapable, more disturbing than I intended. Such a word means much more than it says, makes me, still alive, play a ghostly part, evidently referring to what I must have ceased to be in order to be who I am. Hardly distorted in this sense the word suggests that what I regard as the objective, more or less deliberate manifestations of my existence are merely the premises, within the limits of this existence, of an activity whose true extent is quite unknown to me.

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