1. Love is the desire to prostitute oneself. There is, indeed, no
exalted pleasure which cannot be related to prostitution.
2. Love may spring from a generous sentiment, the desire for
prostitution; but it is soon corrupted by the desire for ownership.
3. Religious intoxication of the great cities.
4. It was once asked, in my hearing, what was the greatest pleasure
in Love? Someone, of course, answered: To receive, and someone
else: To give oneself—The former said: The pleasure of pride, and
the latter: The voluptuousness of humility. All these swine talked
like The Imitation of Jesus Christ. Finally, there was a shameless
Utopian who affirmed that the greatest pleasure in Love was to
beget citizens for the State. For my part, I say: the sole and
supreme pleasure in Love lies in the absolute knowledge of doing
evil. And man and woman know, from birth, that in Evil is to be
found all voluptuousness.
5. To relate pompously things which are comic. . . .
6. Two fundamental literary qualities, supernaturalism and irony.
The individual ocular impression, the aspect in which things
present themselves to the writer—then the turn of satanic wit.
The supernatural comprises the general colour and accent—
that is to say, the intensity, sonority, limpidity, vibrancy, depth and
reverberation in Space and Time.
7. A great smile on the beautiful face of a giant.
8. The charming airs, those in which beauty consists, are:
The feline—a blend of childishness, nonchalance and malice.
9. In certain semi-supernatural conditions of the spirit, the whole
depths of life are revealed within the scene—no matter how
commonplace—which one has before one’s eyes. This becomes its
10. As I was crossing the boulevard, hurrying a little to avoid the
carriages, my halo was dislodged and fell into the filth of the
macadam. Fortunately, I had time to recover it, but a moment
later the unhappy thought slipped into my brain that this was an
ill omen; and from that instant the idea would not let me alone; it
has given me no peace all day.
11. When I have inspired universal horror and disgust, I shall have
12. This book is not for our wives, our daughters and our sisters. I
have little to do with such things.
13. Those who have loved me were despised people, I might even
say worthy of being despised, if I were determined to flatter the
14. Squibs.Despise the sensibility of nobody. Each man’s sensibility is
15. My ancestors, idiots or maniacs, in their solemn houses, all
victims of terrible passions.
16. What is exhilarating in bad taste is the aristocratic pleasure of
17. What can be more absurd than Progress, since man, as the event
of each day proves, is for ever the double and equal of man—is
for ever, that is to say, in the state of primitive nature! What perils
have the forest and the prairie to compare with the daily shocks
and conflicts of civilization? Whether man ensnares his dupe
upon the boulevard or pierces his victim within the trackless
forests, is he not everlasting man, the most perfect of the beasts of
18. People tell me that I am thirty, but if I have lived three minutes in
one . . . am I not ninety years old?
19. Is not work the salt which preserves mummified souls?
20. Man—all mankind, that is to say—is so naturally depraved that he
suffers less from universal degradation than from the
establishment of a reasonable hierarchy.
21. The world is about to end. Its sole reason for continuance is that it
exists. And how feeble is this reason, compared with those which
announce the contrary, particularly the following: What, under
Heaven, has this world henceforth to do? Even supposing that it
continued materially to exist, would this existence be worthy of
the name or the Historical Dictionary? I do not say that the world
will be reduced to the clownish shifts and disorders of a South
American republic, or even that we shall perhaps return to a state
of nature and roam the grassy ruins of our civilization, gun in
hand, seeking our food. No; for these adventures would require a
certain remnant of vital energy, echo of earlier ages. As a new
example, as fresh victims of the inexorable moral laws, we shall
perish by that which we have believed to be our means of
existence. So far will machinery have Americanized us, so far will
Progress have atrophied in us all that is spiritual, that no dream
of the Utopians, however bloody, sacrilegious or unnatural, will
be comparable to the result. I appeal to every thinking man to
show me what remains of Life. As for religion, I believe it useless
to speak of it or to search for its relics, since to give oneself the
trouble of denying God is the sole disgrace in these matters.
Ownership virtually disappeared with the suppression of the
rights of the eldest son; but the time will come when humanity,
like an avenging ogre, will tear their last morsel from those who
believe themselves to be the legitimate heirs of revolution. And
even that will not be the worst.
22. Human imagination can conceive, without undue difficulty, of
republics or other communal states worthy of a certain glory, if
they are directed by holy men, by certain aristocrats. It is not,
however, specifically in political institutions that the universal
ruin, or the universal progress—for the name matters little
—will be manifested. That will appear in the degradation of the human
heart. Need I describe how the last vestiges of statesmanship will
struggle painfully in the clutches of universal bestiality, how
the governors will be forced—in maintaining themselves and
erecting a phantom of order—to resort to measures which would
make our men of today shudder, hardened as they are? Then the
son will run away from the family not at eighteen but at twelve,
emancipated by his gluttonous precocity; he will fly not to seek
heroic adventures, not to deliver a beautiful prisoner from a
tower, not to immortalize a garret with sublime thoughts, but to
found a business, to enrich himself and to compete with his
infamous papa, to be founder and shareholder of a journal which
will spread enlightenment and cause Le Siècle of that time to be
considered as an instrument of superstition. Then the erring, the déclassées,
those women who have had several lovers and who
are sometimes called Angels, by virtue of and in gratitude for the
empty-headed frivolity which illumines, with its fortuitous light,
their existences logical as evil—then these women, I say, will be nothing but a pitiless wisdom, a wisdom which condemns everything except money, everything, even the crimes of the senses. Then, any shadow of virtue, everything indeed which is not worship of Plutus, will be brought into utter ridicule. Justice, if, at that fortunate epoch, Justice can still exist, will deprive of their civil rights those citizens who are unable to make a fortune. Thy
spouse, O bourgeois! Thy chaste better half, whose legitimacy
seems to thee poetic—making legality to be henceforth a baseness
beneath reproach—vigilant and loving guardian of thy strong-
box, will be no more than the absolute type of the kept woman.
Thy daughter, with an infantile wantonness, will dream in her
cradle that she sells herself for a million—and thou, thyself, O
bourgeois—less of a poet even than thou art today—thou wilt
find no fault in that, thou wilt regret nothing. For there are some
qualities in a man which grow strong and prosper only as others
diminish and grow less; thanks to the progress of that age, of thy
bowels of compassion nothing will remain but the guts!—Thatage
is perhaps very near; who knows if it is not already come and if
the coarseness of our perceptions is not the sole obstacle which
prevents us from appreciating the nature of the atmosphere
in which we breathe?
23. For myself, who feel within me sometimes the absurdity of a
prophet, I know that I shall never achieve the charity of a
physician. Lost in this vile world, elbowed by the crowd, I am like
a worn-out man, whose eyes see, in the depths of the years
behind him, only disillusionment and bitterness, ahead only a
tumult in which there is nothing new, whether of enlightenment
or of suffering. In the evening when this man has filched from his
destiny a few hours of pleasure, when he is lulled by the process
of digestion, forgetful—as far as possible—of the past, content
with the present and resigned to the future, exhilarated by his
own nonchalance and dandyism, proud that he is less base than
the passers-by, he says to himself, as he contemplates the smoke
of his cigar: What does it matter to me what becomes of these
24. I believe I have wandered into what those of the trade call a hors-
d’œuvre. Nevertheless, I will let these pages stand—since I wish
to record my days of anger.