I lie down on many a station platform; I stand before many a soup kitchen; I squat on many a bench;--then at last the landscape becomes disturbing, mysterious, and familiar. It glides past the western windows with its villages, their thatched roofs like caps, pulled over the white-washed, half-timbered houses, its corn-fields, gleaming like mother-of-pearl in the slanting light, its orchards, its barns and old lime trees. The names of the stations begin to take on meaning and my heart trembles. The train stamps and stamps onward. I stand at the window and hold on to the frame. These names mark the boundaries of my youth.
Tell me, Blaise, are we very far from Montmartre?'WorriesForget your worriesAll the stations full of cracks tilted along the wayThe telegraph wires they hang fromThe grimacing poles that gesticulate and strangle themThe world stretches lengthens and folds in like an accordion tormented by a sadistic handIn the cracks of the sky the locomotives in angerFleeAnd in the holes,The whirling wheels the mouths the voicesAnd the dogs of misfortune that bark at our heelsThe demons are unleashedIron railsEverything is off-keyThe broun-roun-roun of the wheelsShocksBouncesWe are a storm under a deaf man's skull...'Tell me, Blaise, are we very far from Montmartre?'Hell yes, you're getting on my nerves you know very well we're far awayOverheated madness bellows in the locomotivePlague, cholera rise up like burning embers on our wayWe disappear in the war sucked into a tunnelHunger, the whore, clings to the stampeding cloudsAnd drops battle dung in piles of stinking corpsesDo like her, do your job'Tell me, Blaise, are we very far from Montmartre?
Early youth is a baffling time. The present moment is nice but it does not last. Living in it is like waiting in a junction town for the morning limited; the junction may be interesting but some day you will have to leave it and you do not know where the limited will take you. Sooner or later you must move down an unknown road that leads beyond the range of the imagination, and the only certainty is that the trip has to be made. In this respect early youth is exactly like old age; it is a time of waiting before a big trip to an unknown destination. The chief difference is that youth waits for the morning limited and age waits for the night train.