‘XXII’ by Nathalie Sarraute

XXII by Nathalie Sarraute, 1962

The magic trick:

Focusing on one very specific idea about life

This is a beautiful little (it’s probably less than 500 words) encapsulation of how adults work exhaustively to tamp down the personality quirks and manias of our childhoods. We can’t be as we are. We have to always constrict and restrict.

The story addresses only the what of this man – no why. It is only about the topic it is about, and nothing more.

And that’s quite a trick on Sarraute’s part.

The selection:

In short, the very ones among his friends and relations who were keen about psychiatry had nothing to reproach him with, unless, perhaps, in view of his lack of inoffensive, relaxing whims, in view of his too obedient conformity, it were a slight tendency toward asthenia.

But they tolerated that; all things considered, it was less dangerous, less indecorous.

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