Charles Baudelaire


An open window never reveals as much as one that is shut. Nothing is more profound, more mysterious, more stimulating, more sinister, or more brilliant than a window lighted by a lone candle. Reject the light of day. In the dark or luminous space behind an opaque windowpane, life goes on, goes on dreaming, goes on suffering.

Across the rooftops, I notice a woman of a certain age, worn out, poor, always bent over, never able to get away. From just her face, her clothes, her gestures, from next to nothing, I have fabricated this woman’s life story, or rather her myth, and sometimes when I tell it I burst into tears.

(If the individual I saw had been a poor old man, I would have made up his life story just as easily.)

And I lie down, proud to have lived and suffered in lives other than my own.

Maybe you’ll object: “Are you sure that the story you told is true?” What does it matter, what difference does it make, if it has helped me to live, to feel that I am and what I am?

—Translated from the French by David Lehman