Book//mark – A Splendid Conspiracy | Albert Cossery, 1975

A Splendid Conspiracy (Un Complot de Saltimbanques), 1975                                                                                                                   Albert Cossery

”Seated at the café terrace, Teymour felt as unlucky as a flea on a bald man’s head.”*

”A world where everything is false” ”This vast universal dupery” “While essentially pointless is extremely interesting.”

”Nevertheless, somewhat belatedly — perhaps his daily reading of the paper had made him concerned about the transformations taking place in the world — the ludicrous idea had come into his head of seeing his son get a degree; and — the height of ambition! — a degree in chemical engineering, merely because of some stock he owned in the sugar refinery that was the city’s sole industry.  This request, so late in coming, would probably have been rejected by the party in question had Teymour not seen his father’s vanity a means of spending a few years abroad where, he knew from reliable sources, fascinating pleasures and lasciviousness reigned supreme.”

”From the very outset of his stay abroad, he had to admit that he never could have imagined such magnificent debauchery. Amazed at the variety of sensual pleasures, the multitude of temptations, he devoted himself furiously to them all, continually putting off his tiresome studies. Even had he wanted to, he couldn’t have found enough spare time for any serious activity. Little by little he managed to persuade himself that it would be a waste of his time and his youth to study all those absurd subjects destined to turn him into a functionary. Consequently, he had not enrolled in any university, had not bought a single chemistry book; instead he had purchased a stylish and costly wardrobe that was indispensable to his taste for show. During endless nights he had made love to sublime women and experienced emotions and adventures of all kinds. A few months of this glorious existence had sufficed to make him forget that he was there to earn a degree, except for those rare occasions when he receive a letter from his father worrying about the state and progress of his learning. This call to order mortified Teymour for a few hours; then he got caught up once again in the pulse of his new life and thought no more about it.”

“Yes, I knew you were working for the police. But it doesn’t matter! I also know what a man is reduced to in order to earn his daily bread. Your profession is no different from any other. By whatever means you participate in this despicable world, even by the tiniest job, you inevitably betray someone. We live in a society based on betrayal. That’s why your job as an informant never seemed dishonorable to me. I’ve always liked you.”

”In the last few months, four people, most of them prominent citizens, have vanished from one day to the next without a trace.”

”Medhat refused to forgive the absurdity and madness of people who learned all kinds of foreign tongues simply to grasp the meaning of the same idiotic remarks they could hear at home for free.”

”They cannot remain idle without finding out that this world is abject and revolting.”

”The tiniest bomb that explodes somewhere should delight us, for behind the noise it makes when it explodes, even if barely audible, lies the laughter of a distant friend.”

“Humiliated by this tragic mishap, he was forced to withdraw from the public eye: he no longer felt up to appearing on stage opposite actors who were becoming more and more invisible to him. One more gaffe like that, and he would be stoned to death. He would be cornered into revealing a secret no one knew, not even his closest friends…
His myopia, growing worse each year, was the bane of his acting career because Imtaz, not wanting to disappoint all those women who admired his tremendous good looks, refused to wear glasses. Wearing glasses on stage seemed unbefitting given the virile, womanizing roles that ordinarily fell to him. He did not even wear them in town, and so people took him to be haughty and distant, an attitude completely foreign to his nature. And indeed, his shortsightedness gave his gaze the impenetrable and secretive air that lay at the very heart of his legend. All his power over crowds– and especially over women– he owed to the perpetual dim surroundings in which he moved: human beings, with their indistinct outlines, seemed to have absolutely no influence over his fate. His indifference to the atttentions of his enthusiastic public, to feminine smiles and glances– for the simple reason that he could not see them— made him appear to be a charismatic, disdainful idol convinced of his own flawlessness. Imtaz knew that his fame depended entirely on this imposture and he could not bring himself to destroy the myth he embodied by revealing his infirmity to the world…”

A Splendid Conspiracy (Un Complot de Saltimbanques), Albert Cossery, 1975
tr. Alyson Waters
*the opening line

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