#AMREADING ALBERT MEMMI, THE PILLAR OF SALT. THE STORY OF A JEW GROWING UP IN TUNIS.
A city of many nations. Everyone feels at home but no one at ease, each man is shut up in his own neighborhood, in fear, hate, and contempt of his neighbor. Like the filth and untidiness of this stinking city, we’ve known fear and scorn since the first awakening of our consciousness. To defend or avenge ourselves, we scorned and sneered among ourselves and hope we would be feared as much as we ourselves experienced fear. This was the atmosphere in which we lived.
The power of language. Never have I been able to rid myself of the magic spell of language. Whenever someone curses me, “May you perish,” I feel cold at the back of my neck and foresee the horrors of death. Whenever someone says “Drop dead!” I can already feel myself begin to fail. It is as if language, far from being a transparent tool, really shares some of the nature of the things it designates.
Suicidal thoughts. I was cornered, without any escape, and began to think of death for the first time in my life…The idea of suicide was born within me quite spontaneously and gently, like the world coming to life at dawn. At once, suicide seemed familiar to me, like a release, and I was surprised how convenient and tempting so serious an action could seem. The ultimate solution to my problem was in my power.
A way out. It was then that I discovered a terrible and marvelous secret which might perhaps make my loneliness bearable. To unburden myself of the weight of the world, I began to put everything on paper, and that is how I began to write and to experience the wonderful pleasure of mastering a whole life by recreating it.