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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Monday, 18 November 2013


Wednesday, November 18th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Last night, when I went into the Duval for dinner, a middle-aged woman, inordinately stout and with pendant cheeks, had taken the seat opposite to my prescriptive seat. I hesitated as there were plenty of empty spaces, but my waitress requested me to take my usual chair. I did so and immediately thought: "With that thing opposite to me my dinner will be spoilt!" But the woman was evidently also cross at my filling up her table, and she went away, picking up all her belongings to another part of the restaurant, breathing hard. Then she abandoned her second choice for a third one. My waitress was scornful and angry at this desertion, but laughing also. 
Les serveuses - Bouillon Duval
Soon all the waitresses were privately laughing at the goings-on of the fat woman, who was being served by the most beautiful waitress I have ever seen in any Duval. The fat woman was clearly a crotchet, a 'maniaque', a woman who lived much alone. her cloak (she displayed on taking it off a simply awful light puce flannel dress) and her parcels were continually the object of her attention, and she was always arguing with her waitress. And the whole restaurant secretly made a butt of her. She was repulsive; no one could like her or sympathise with her. But I thought - she has been young and slim once. And I immediately thought of a long 10 or 15 thousand word short story, "The History of Two Old Women". I gave this woman a sister, fat as herself. And the first chapter would be in the restaurant (both sisters) something like tonight - and written rather cruelly. Then I would go back to the infancy of these two and sketch it all. One should have lived ordinarily, married prosaically, and become a widow. The other should have become a whore and all that; 'guilty splendour'. Both are overtaken by fat. And they live together again in old age, not too rich, a nuisance to themselves and to others. Neither has any imagination. For 'tone' I thought of "Ivan Ilytch" and for technical arrangement I thought of that and also of "Histoire d'une Fille de Ferme". The two lives would have to intertwine. I saw the whole work quite clearly, and hope to do it. But I expect I shall have to do my humorous novel "A Great Man" first, not to mention other things.

Additionally for November 18th., see 'Leaving Chicago' -

Set out for Indianapolis this morning at 9.47.
Sort of accommodation train.
Niceish restaurant car. Niggers thereon. Nigger understrapper who shined boots, and knew all about the prospects of the C.H. and D. Rly. (Monan route.)
Chiefly flattish country (with welcome breaks), yellow stubble land. Occasionally a dark muddy river. Single track (after once clear out of Industrial Chicago, which seemed to be one vast shunting yard).
Arrived Indianapolis 3 (12 minutes late about). Maple streets in all streets. Monuments to sailors and soldiers. Dome of state house.

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