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Quotes

Quote #1

But do you know why we are always more just and more generous toward the dead? The reason is simple. With them there is no obligation. They leave us free and we can take our time, fit the testimonial in between a cocktail party and a nice little mistress, in our spare time, in short. If they forced us to anything, it would be to remembering, and we have a short memory. No, it is the recently dead we love among our friends, the painful dead, our emotion, ourselves after all! (2.17).

Jean-Baptiste's issues with commitment raise an interesting question about his relationship with you. By the end of the novel he will have delivered five monologues over six chapters - what gives? Is this a friendship the two of you have, or are you a mere acquaintance? And why does a man who eschews responsibility and obligation taken such a serious interest in you?

Quote #2

How beautiful the canals are this evening! I like the breath of stagnant waters, the smell of dead leaves soaking in the canal and the funereal scent rising from the barges loaded with flowers. No, no, there’s nothing morbid about such a taste, I assure you. On the contrary, it’s deliberate with me. The truth is that I force myself to admire these canals (3.4).

Looks like the setting is pretty important. Jean-Baptiste’s morbidity is part of the reason he chose to settle in what he thinks of as Dante’s hell. So it’s fitting that 1) the place reeks of death, and 2) Jean-Baptiste takes pleasure in this.

Quote #3

Be it said, moreover, that as soon as I had re-won that affection I became aware of its weight. In my moments of irritation I told myself that the ideal solution would have been the death of the person I was interested in. Her death would, on the one hand, have definitively fixed our relationship and, on the other, removed its compulsion. But one cannot long for the death of everyone or, in the extreme, depopulate the planet in order to enjoy a freedom that cannot be imagined otherwise (3.29).

Here we see some restraint on the part of Jean-Baptiste, who very wisely notes that he cannot kill off everyone in the world just to make himself happy. On the other hand, by isolating himself - but placing himself "above" all others and condemning them all to a life of guilt and slavery - he’s certainly killing off what we think of as essential human values.

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