This dark and wayward book is affectionately dedicated to my enemies- to the curious ones who take fanatic pride in disliking me; to the baffling ones who remain enthusiastically ignorant of my existence; to the moral ones upon whom Beauty exercises a lascivious and corrupting influence; to the moral ones who have relentlessly chased God out of their bedrooms; to the moral ones who cringe before Nature, who flatten themselves upon prayer rugs, who shut their eyes, stuff their ears, bind, gag and truss themselves and offer their mutilations to the idiot God they have invented (the Devil take them, I grow bored with laughing at them); to the anointed ones who identify their paranoic symptoms as virtues, who build altars upon complexes; to the anointed ones who have slain themselves and who stagger proudly into graves (God deliver Himself from their caress!); to the religious ones who wage bloody and tireless wars upon all who do not share their fear of life (Ah, what is God but a despairing refutation of Man?); to the solemn and successful ones who gesture with courteous disdain from the depth of their ornamental coffins (we are all cadavers but let us refrain from congratulating each other too courteously on the fact); to the prim ones who find their secret obscenities mirrored in every careless phrase, who read self accusation into the word sex; to the prim ones who wince adroitly in the hope of being mistaken for imbeciles; to the prim ones who fornicate apologetically (the Devil can-cans in their souls); to the cowardly ones who borrow their courage from Ideals which they forthwith defend with their useless lives; to the cowardly ones who adorn themselves with castrations (let this not be misunderstood); to the reformers- the psychopathic ones who publicly and shamelessly belabor their own unfortunate impulses; to the reformers (once again)- the psychopathic ones trying forever to drown their own obscene desires in ear-splitting prayers for their fellowman's welfare; to the reformers- the Freudian dervishes who masturbate with Purity Leagues, who achieve involved orgasms denouncing the depravities of others; to the reformers (patience, patience) the psychopathic ones who seek to vindicate their own sexual impotencies by padlocking the national vagina, who find relief for constipation in forbidding their neighbors the water closet (God forgives them, but not I); to the ostracizing ones who hurl excommunications upon all that is not part of their stupidity; to the ostracizing one who fraternize only with the worms inside their coffins (their anger is the caress incomparable); to the pious ones who, lacking the strength to please themselves, boast interminably to God of their weakness in denying themselves; to the idealistic ones who, unable to confound their neighbors with their own superiority, join causes in the hope of confounding each other with the superiority of their betters (involved, but I am not done with them); to the idealistic ones whose cowardice converts the suffering others into a mirror wherein stares wretchedly back at them a possible image of themselves; to the idealistic, ones who, frightened by this possible image of themselves, join Movements for the triumph of Love and Justice and the overthrow of Tyranny in the frantic hope of breaking the mirror; to the social ones who regard belching as the sin against the Holy Ghost, who enamel themselves with banalities, who repudiate contemptuously the existence of their bowels (Ah, these theologians of etiquette, these unctuous circumlocutors, a pock upon them); to the pure ones who masquerade excitedly as eunuchs and as wives of eunuchs (they have their excuses, of course, and who knows but the masquerade is somewhat unnecessary); to the pedantic ones who barricade themselves heroically behind their own belchings; to the smug ones who walk with their noses ecstatically buried in their own rectums (I have nothing against them, I swear); to the righteous ones who masturbate blissfully under the blankets of their perfections; to the righteous ones who finger each other in the choir loft (God forgive me if I ever succumb to one of them); to the critical ones who whoremonger on Parnassus; to the critical ones who befoul themselves in the Temples and point embitteredly at the Gods as the sources of their own odors (I will someday devote an entire dedication to critics); to the proud ones who urinate against the wind (they have never wetted me and I have nothing against them); to the cheerful ones who tirade viciously against all who do not wear their protective smirk; to the cheerful ones who spend their evenings bewailing my existence (the Devil pity them, not I); to the noble ones who advertise their secrets, who crucify themselves on billboards in the quest for the Nietzschean solitude; to the noble ones who pride themselves on their stolen finery; to the flagellating ones who go to the opera in hair shirts, who excite themselves with denials and who fornicate only on Fast Days; to the just ones who find compensation for their nose rings and sackcloth by hamstringing all who refuse to put them on -all who have committed the alluring sins from which their own cowardice fled; to the conservative ones who gnaw elatedly upon old bones and wither with malnutrition; to the conservative ones who snarl, yelp, whimper and grunt, who are the parasites of death; who choke themselves with their beards; to the timorous ones who vomit invective upon all that confuses them, who vituperate against all their non-existent intelligence cannot grasp; to the martyr ones who disembowel themselves on the battlefield, who crucify themselves upon their stupidities; to the serious ones who mistake the sleep of their senses and the snores of their intellect for enviable perfections; to the serious ones who suffocate gently in the boredom they create (God alone has time to Iaugh at them) to the virgin ones who tenaciously advertise their predicament; to the virgin ones who mourn themselves, who kneel before keyholes; to the holy ones who recommend themselves tirelessly and triumphantly to God (I haere never envied God His friends, nor He, mine perflaps); to the never clean ones who bathe publicly in the hysterias of the mob; to the never clean ones who pander for stupidity; to the intellectual ones who play solitaire with platitudes, who drag their classrooms around with them; to these and to many other abominations whom I apologize to for omitting, this inhospitable book, celebrating the dark mirth of Fantazius Mallare, is dedicated in the hope that their righteous eyes may never kindle with secret lusts nor their pious lips water erotically from its reading- in short in the hope that they may never encounter the ornamental phrases I have written and the ritualstic lines Wallace Smith has drawn in the pages that follow.
FANTAZIUS MALLARE considered himself mad because he was unable to behold in the meaningless gesturings of time, space and evolution a dramatic little pantomime adroitly centered about the routine of his existence. He was a silent looking man with black hair and an aquiline nose. His eyes were lifeless because they paid no homage to the world outside him.
When he was thirty-five years old he lived alone high above a busy part of the town. He was a recluse. His black hair that fell in a slant across his forehead and the rigidity of his eyes gave him the appearance of a somnambulist. He found life unnecessary and submitted to it without curiosity.
His ideas were profoundly simple. The excitement of his neighborhood, his city, his country and his world left him unmoved. He found no diversion in interpreting them. A friend had once asked him what he thought of democracy. This was during a great war being waged in its behalf. Mallare replied: "Democracy is the honeymoon of stupidity."
There lived with him as a servant a little monster whom he called Goliath and who was a dwarfed and paralytic negro. Goliath's age was unknown. His deformities gave him the air of an old man and his hunched back made him seem too massive for a boy. But in studying him Mallare had concluded that he was a boy.
Goliath had been one of the first symptoms of Mallare's madness. He had brought the little monster home from an amusement park one summer night. Goliath had been standing doubled up, his pipe stem arms hanging like a baboon's, his enlarged black head lifted and his furious eyes staring at a Wheel of Fortune.
When they left the confetti-electrics of the park behind, Mallare spoke to the dwarf whose wrinkled hand he was holding.
"If you come home with me I will make you a servant and give you a fine red suit to wear. Also, I will call you Goliath for no reason at all, since I am at war with reason."
Goliath said nothing but sat staring happily out of the window of an automobile as they rode home.
The home of Fantazius Mallare was filled with evidences of his past. There were clay and bronze figures and canvases covered with paintings. These had been the work of his hands. It was to be seen that he had once given himself with violence to the creation of images. And for this reason he was still known among a few people as an artist.
In the days when he had worked to create images Mallare had been alive with derisions. He desired to give them outline. But the desire went from him. The brilliant fancies of his thought began slowly to bore him. The astounding images that still bowed themselves into his mind became like a procession of mendicants seeking alms of him. He folded his hands and with an interested smile watched his genius die.
At the time of this curious tragedy Mallare was thirty. He kept a Journal in which he wrote infrequently. There was in this Journal little of interest. Apparently he had amused himself during his youth jotting down items of preposterous unimportance.
"I saw a man with a red face," he would write one week. The next he would add a line, "There are seven hundred and eighty-five normal strides between the lamp-post and my front door." Turning a page a month later he would meticulously set down the date, the hour of the day, the direction of the wind and under it write out, "I have a stomach ache from eating peaches."
The Journal bristled with innocuous informations. An acquaintance of the period, interested in Mallare's work as an artist, smiled and commented,"These are, no doubt, symbols. A psychological code into which you have translated great inner moments."
Mallare answered, "On the contrary. They are the only thoughts I have had in which I could detect no reason. It has amused me to put down with great care the few banalities which have normalized my days. They are very precious to me, although they have no value in themselves.
"It is the ability to think such absurdities as you have read that has kept me from suicide. The will to live is no more than the hypnotism of banalities. We keep alive only by maintaining, despite our intelligence, an enthusiasm for things which are of no consequence or interest to us.
"That I saw a man with a red face aroused in me a gentle curiosity lacking in words or emotion. The desire to live is compounded of an infinity of such gentle curiosities which remain entirely outside of reason. This never satisfied and almost non-existent curiosity we have toward things, masquerades under the intimidating guise of the law of self-preservation. Man is at the mercy of life since his intelligence perceiving its monotony and absurdity, he still clings to it, fascinated by the accumulated rhythm of faces, impressions, and events which he despises.
"It is a form of hypnosis, and these words I have written in my Journal are the absurdities by which life seduced me from abandoning it. I am grateful to them and have therefore preserved them carefully."
The history of Mallare's madness, however, is to be found in this Journal. There are two empty pages that stare significantly. The empty pages are a lapse. It was during this lapse that Mallare smiled with interest at the spectacle of his disintegration. There follows, then, a sudden excited outburst undated. In it the beginnings of his madness pirouette like tentative dancers.
"Perhaps the greatest miracle is that which enables man to tolerate life," the passage starts, "which enables him to embrace its illusions and translate its monstrous incoherence into delightful, edifying patterns. It is the miracle of sanity. To stand unquestioning before mysteries, to remain an undisturbed part of chaos, ah! what an adjustment! Content and even elate amid the terrible circle of Unknowns, behold in this the heroic stupidity of the sane. . . a stupidity which has already outlived the Gods.
"Man, alas, is the only animal who hasn't known enough to die. His undeveloped senses have permitted him to survive in the manner of the oyster. The mysteries, dangers, and delights of the sea do not exist for the oyster. Its senses are not stirred by typhoons, impressed by earthquakes or annoyed by its own insignificance. Similarly, man!
"The complacent egomania of man, his tyrannical indifferences, his little list of questions and answers which suffices for his wisdom, these are the chief phenomena or symptoms of his sanity. He alone has survived the ages by means of a series of ludicrous adjustments, until today he walks on two legs- the crowning absurdity of an otherwise logical Nature. He has triumphed by specializing in his weaknesses and insuring their survival; by disputing the simple laws of biology with interminable banalities labelled from age to age as religions, philosophies and laws.
"Unable, despite his shiftiness, to lie the the fact of his mortality and decomposition out of existence, he has satisfied his mania for survival by the invention of souls. And so behold him- spectacle of spectacles- a chatty little tradesman in an immemorial hat drifting good-naturedly through a nightmare.
"It is for this ability to exist unnaturally that he has invented the adjective sane. But here and there in the streets of cities walk the damned- creatures denied the miracle of sanity and who move bewilderedly through their scene, staring at the flying days as at the fragments of another world. They are conscious of themselves only as vacuums within which life is continually expiring.
"Alas, the damned! From the depths of their non-existence they contemplate their fellowman and perceive him a dwarf prostrate forever before solacing arrangements of words ; an homunculus riding vaingloriously on the tiny river of ink that flows between monstrous yresterdays and monstrous tomorrows; a baboon strutting through a mirage."
The history of Mallare's madness begins thus. And the pages continue. The writing on them seems at a glance part of a decoration in black and white. The letters are beautifully formed and shaded. They resemble laboring serpents, dainty pagodas, vines bearing strange fruits and capricious bits of sculpture.
To the end Mallare fancied himself aware of the drift and nuance of his madness. Its convolutions seemed neither incomprehensible nor mysterious to him.
An intolerable loathing for life, an illuminated contempt for men and women, had long ago taken possession of him. This philosophic attitude was the product of his egoism. He felt himself the center of life and it became his nature to revolt against all evidences of life that existed outside himself. In this manner he grew to hate, or rather to feel an impotent disgust for, whatever was contemporary.
When his normality abandoned him, he avoided a greater tragedy. In a manner it was not Mallare who became insane. It was his point of view that went mad. Although there are passages in the Journal that escape coherence, the greater part of the entries are simple almost to naiveté. They reveal an intellect able to adjust itself without complex uprootings to the phenomena engaging its energies. The first concrete evidence of the loathing for life that was to result in its own annihilation appears in a passage beginning abruptiy-
"Most of all I like the trees when they are empty of leaves. Their wooden grimaces must aggravate the precisely featured houses of the town. People who see my work for the first time grow indignant and call me sick and artificial. (Bilious critics!) But so are these trees.
"People think of art in terms of symmetry. With a most amazing conceit they have decided upon the contours of their bodies as the standards of beauty. Therefore I am pleased to look at trees or at anything that grows, unhandicapped by the mediocritizing force of reason, and note how contorted such things are."
Mallare's point of view toward his world- the attitude that went mad- was nothing more involved than his egoism. His infatuation with self was destined to arrive at a peak on whose height he became overcome with a dizziness. He wrote in his Journal:
"It is unfortunate that I am a sculptor, a mere artist. Art has become for me a tedious decoration of my impotence. It is clear I should have been a God. Then I could have had my way with people. To shriek at them obliquely, to curse at them through the medium of clay figures, is a preposterous waste of time. A wounded man groans. I, impaled by life, emit statues.
"As a God, however, I would have found a diversion worthy my contempt. I would have made the bodies of people like their thoughts- crooked, twisted, bulbous. I would have given them faces resembling their emotions and converted the diseases of their souls into outline.
"What fatuous, little cylindrical creatures we humans are! With our exact and placid surfaces that we call beauty. And these grave and noble houses we erect" "Yes, I ought to have been a God. I should have had my way with people then. I could have created a world whose horrors would have remained a consoling flattery to my cynicism."
There are entries that follow whose significance is lost in a serpentine rhetoric. They hint at nights of critical terrors. During the writing of them Mallare was engaged in a desperate pursuit of himself. He was escaping. He perceived his thoughts racing from his grasp like Maenads down a tangled slope. The dread of finding himself abandoned brought his will into life. If he were to go mad he would leap upon his mania and ride it- quietly into darkness. He would be a gay rider astride his own phantoms. Rather that than let the first insane capering of his intellect unhorse him and leave him gibbering after a vanished mount.
The incoherence of the Journal suddenly glides into an adagio. The panic has ended. And the lifeless eyed man again smiles triumphant out of the pages.
"My room is red. It is hung with red curtains. I have bought only red things to put in it. The sun coming through my red curtains reddens the air of the room.
"I prefer to live in this painted gloom because it is possible I hate the sunlight. I hate even my rivals the trees. Today I walked and found trees that resembled too closely people passing under them. One is impotent before such betrayal.
"But here in my rooms I find an almost complete annihilation of life. I am bored with inventing causes for my hatred. There is a diversion on earth called humanity- creatures full of enamelled lusts and arrogant decays who go about smiling and slyly obeying laws which protect them from each other. But they no longer divert me.
"They tell me of health and sanity. And I say sanity is the determined blindness which keeps us from seeing one another. More than that, of course: which keeps us from seeing ourselves. And health is the lame artifice of our bodies which keeps us from loathing one another. I see and I loathe. Yet I must beware of falling to sleep in explanations."
A month or a year may have passed between this and the continuation. `Whatever the period, a clarity arrived. Mallare's mind grappling with the nightmare shadows engulfing it, distorted his reason to give them outline and was saved. The writing, however, becomes more labored in appearance as if the letters of words were now decorations in themselves.
"I have listened for years to the prattle of men who call themselves egoists. It is a title by wkich they have sought to identify me. To laber a mystery suffices for its dismissal and thus they seek to dismiss me. There is in egoism, however, a depth to which all but myself are blind. I have found this depth in myself and out of it rises a definition which I must consider cautiously. There is but one egoist and that is He who, intolerant of all but Himself, sets out to destroy all but Himself. Egoism is the despairing effort of man to return to his original Godhood; to return to the undisputed and triumphant loneliness which was His when as a Creator He mouIded the world to His whims and before He divided Himself into the fragments of race and nature. This is the explanation out of the depth.
"I must be cautious and keep my eyes open. Secrets fly from the blind. Mount, I say, and ride this secret and observe its direction. To return thus to Godhood means to destroy All. And I were madder than I am to play with this prospect, unless, perhaps, there lie concealed in the elements, chemistries still unknown which might be utilized for such destruction.
"As it is, I can with my thought deny and re-create and impose upon the world of reality a world of phantoms more pleasing to my nature. In my red room I sit and give birth to persuasive horrors. People shaped like dead trees. People freed from the monotonous hypocrisy with which a despondent Nature endows their outlines. I have become aware that lobsters, beetles, crabs, and all the crustacean monsters that abound are not the abnormal accidents of creation, any more than were the animate gargoyles of prehistoric eras. They are the things which an Ego intent upon the diversion of truth fashioned in the beginning. Each thing to seem as each thing was. But the courage of this Ego deserted Him and He grew frightened when He came to give body to His most useless creation- Thought. And He compromised. Yes, I could live among people fashioned truthfully in their own images as are the crustaceans."
With this entry Mallare found it necessary to destroy the work his hands had created. He attacked the canvases and figures in his red room. Goliath who, preoccupied with his own deformities, had remained indifferent to his master, serving him faithfully however, listened to Mallare one night.
Sitting in the center of the room, his black hair grown into a long slant across his pale forehead, Mallare talked to his servant as a man, still asleep, reciting a dream.
"Here in this room, Goliath," he said, "are interesting works of art which I am about to destroy. On the canvases are dithyrambic burlesques in color, vicious fantasies, despairing caricatures. My fingers fashioned them and I remember the pleasant sleep each brought me. But now I must beware of sleep. My egomania, like a swollen thing, has become impossible to articulate or to reduce to the impotent ironies of clay and paint. But I must beware of falling asleep under it.
"My friends have vanished as naturally as if by death. I have forbidden them to come. This disturbs them, but see to it, Goliath, that no one ever enters my room unless I bring them. Frighten them if they come.
"Tonight, while there remained a little sanity, I had made up my mind to kill myself. But I have changed it. I will destroy instead my work. This is because I find the compromise easier and the destruction, perhaps, more interesting. I feel disinclined to abandon the things I loathe. The world with its nauseous swarm of life, its monstrous multiplications which are the eternal insult to the Omniscience I feel, still holds me. I am caught in a tangle and I remain suspended and inanimate, in the depth of a nightmare. But with your aid, Goliath, I will continue tenaciously mimicking an outward sanity so that people, when they see me, will go away happy in the assurance that I am as stupid as they."
Rising from his chair Mallare attacked, one by one, the canvases and statues. Goliath watched him in silence as he moved from pedestal to pedestal from which, like a company of inert monsters, arose figures in clay and bronze. The first of them was a man four feet in height but massive-seeming beyond its dimensions. Mallare had entitled it "The Lover."
Its legs were planted obliquely on the pedestal top, their ligaments wrenched into bizarre muscular patterns. Its body rose in an anatomical spiral. From its flattened pelvis that seemed like some evil bat stretched in flight, protruded a huge phallus. The head of the phallus was enlivened with the face of a saint. The eyes of this face were raised in pensive adoration. At the lower end of the phallus, the testicles were fashioned in the form of a short-necked pendulum arrested at the height of its swing. The hands of the figure clutched talon-like at the face and the head was thrown bad; as if broken at the neck. Its features were obliterated by the hands except for the mouth which was flung open in a skull-like laugh.
The figure on the whole was the flayed caricature of a man done so cunningly that through the abortive hideousness of its outlines, its human character remained untouched.
Mallare swung the figure by its base against the pedestal until it splintered and fell to pieces. He stood whispering to himself-
"This was the lover. My statue of the lover. Dead, now."
A dozen similar caricatures in clay and bronze vanished under his attack. Standing against the wall and blinking at the rutilant glare of the room, Goliath the dwarf waited nervously. He had become aware that his master was acting strangely. A look of ferocity slowly came into the deep black of his face. His misshapen body trembled.
Mallare, the destruction ended, turned to him.
"And finally a last figure," he murmured. "Goliath, too. Do you agree, Goliath? You will find a congenial company in the souls of these friends I have butchered."
Goliath shook his head vigorously.
"Go'way," he answered. Mallare nodded.
"Thanks," he smiled. "You reminded me in time. It is easy to mistake you for one of my creations. Although I never created such eyes, improbable eyes alive with murders. Go to bed."
Alone amid the wreckage, Mallare turned to his Journal. A precise smile was on his lips and his eyes slanted toward the debris on the floor as if he were watching the fragments, fearfully. His hair made a black triangle against his forehead. He began to write:
"I am too clever to go mad
. To go mad is to succumb to the sanity of others. Since I avoid death, I must be wary of his misshapen brother. Yet, I can prove to my satisfaction tonight that I am mad. I have destroyed something. It was because the intricate presences of life awaken too many despairs in me.
"Now I am alone. I must be cautious of my thought. I feel words like rivals in my head. Alas, I must think in words. Words are the inevitable canonizations of life. But worse, they are property loaned me and not my own. I must have my own and live with it entirely. Yet there is some comfort in words. They are not entirely sullied by their promiscuity. Words are like nuts people pass each other without ever opening. The insides of words are often virginal. But many words- too many words- constitute intelligence and intelligence is the stupidity which enables man to imprison himself in lies.
"Years have passed and I still live. I do not look for death. Death is too simple a variant of destruction. My cleverness demands more of me than to destroy the world by hiding myself from it. And there is a song of windows in the high streets that sometimes relieves the black tension of my mind.
"It is important now that I retrace my way toward a makeshift of Omnipotence
. But for this I will have to find a woman."
onwards to Fantazius Mallare - Book II