I have not been able to write to you, partly because of the illness of my stenographer, but the news of Pompilio calls for particular attention. In fact I have spent a little time thinking about life in the Villa Olga: the young man of letters confronting the Negro, not to speak of Lucera, the embodiment of the male principle. Possibly the Negro and Pompilio are interchangeable. The truth is that I have been thinking a bit about the position of the ignorant man in what, for convenience, may be called society and thinking about it from this point of view: that we have made too much of everything in the world and that perhaps the only really happy man, or the only man with any wide range of possible happiness, is the ignorant man. The elaboration of the most commonplace ideas as, for example, the idea of God, has been terribly destructive of such ideas. But the ignorant man has no ideas. His trouble is that he still feels. Pompilio does not even feel. Pompilio is the blank realist who sees only what there is to see without feeling, without imagination, but with large eyes that require no spectacles.
Your group at the Villa Olga absorbs me. Of yourself you say that you read and write and cultivate your garden. You like to write to people far away about such unreal things as books. It is a common case. I have a man in Ceylon with whom I have been exchanging letters for some years. He is an Englishman, an Oxford man and a lawyer, I believe, but actually he makes his living and the living of his family by growing coconuts at a place called Lunawila in the province, or parish, or whatever it may be called, of Kirimetyana. In the depths of his distance from everything he extracts, because he needs to extract, from poetry and from his reading generally far more than you and I extract from the things that we have in such plenty, or that we could have because they exist in such plenty near at hand.
Somehow I do not care much about Lucera. I imagine her standing in the bushes at night watching your lamp a little way off and wondering what in the world you are doing. If it was she, she would be eating. No doubt she wonders whether you are eating words. But I take the greatest pride in now knowing Pompilio, who does not have to divest himself of anything to see things as they are. Do please give him a bunch of carrots with my regards. This is much more serious than you are likely to think from the first reading of this letter. We have here a bootblack, that is to say, a man who comes here several times a week. Very often he talks about himself and his early life. He was a shepherd in Italy when he was a boy. He uses figures of speech like this: I was tired and laid down under a tree like a dog. In this there is no exaggeration. It is hardly even a figure of speech. It is pretty much the same thing as you, yourself, seated under a tree at the Villa Olga and realizing that the world is as Pompilio sees it, except for you, or that the world is as the Negro sees it because he probably sees it exactly as Pompilio sees it. But Lucera sees it in a special way, with the gentleness and tenderness visible in her look.
This has left me very little space to speak of things that you have been reading. I think, therefore, that I shan't speak of them at all, but instead try to raise a question in your mind as to the value of reading. True, the desire to read is an insatiable desire and you must read. Nevertheless, you must also think. Intellectual isolation loses value in an existence of books. I think I sent you some time ago a quotation from Henry James about living in a world of creation. A world of creation is one of the areas, and only one, of the world of thought and there is no passion like the passion of thinking which grows stronger as one grows older, even though one never thinks anything of particular interest to anyone else. Spend an hour or two a day even if in the beginning you are staggered by the confusion and aimlessness of your thoughts.
Last night I took Mariano's second water color out of the case in which I keep such things and put it in a frame. This is the drawing of a woman seated in a fauteuil and yet in her bare feet. There is a curious, easily-recognizable Cuban coloring and manner in this. I have not hung it before, unlike the sketch of the pineapples which I hung at once, because I wanted to have a special frame made for it, yet I have been so infrequently in New York that I thought I might as well put it together myself, as I did. I shall try to see Mariano's exhibition.
There is a note on Scott Fitzgerald in this month's *Partisan* by Mr. [Andrews] Wanning. It is very well done. It is curious that Fitzgerald should have been interested in so many people merely because they had money and lived in luxury. The richest man I know seems not to be conscious of the fact that he has any money at all and luxury is repulsive to him. However, he went to Europe as a boy to study music and has lived in France ever since and in France, if anywhere, one's attitude towards money and luxury, while it exists, is ameliorated by so many other things that do not exactly crowd us here.
You won't forget to take a look at Pompilio from my point of view. Don't paint any pictures of the hereafter for him. Don't tell him about the wonderful weather in your Eastern provinces. Give him a bunch of carrots and swear at him in a decent way, just to show your interest in reality.
Last modified: Thursday, 05-Aug-2004 09:29:25 EDT