The Material Question

‘The weather was damp; I closed the windows of my car; and during the trip I was feeling so well that I even began to make plans in my mind for a pottery kiln which I intended to construct before long, at the Institute, in the ancient Persian style.

‘On approaching the Fontainebleau forest, I was thinking to myself that I would soon be coming to a place where in damp weather there was often fog late at night. I looked at my watch—it was a quarter past eleven. I put on the large headlights and accelerated the car in order to pass this damp place more quickly.

‘From that moment on I remembered nothing, neither how I drove, nor what happened.

‘When I came to myself I saw the following picture: I was sitting in the car, which stood right there on the roadway; around me was the forest; the sun was shining brightly; a big wagon loaded with hay had stopped in front of the car and the driver was standing at my window tapping on it with his whip, and it was this which had awakened me.

‘It seems that in the evening, after looking at my watch, I roust have gone on about a kilometre and then fallen asleep against my will, which had never happened to me in my life before. I had slept on until ten o’clock in the morning.

‘Luckily the car had stopped nearly where it should have been according to French traffic regulations, and all the morning traffic must have passed me without disturbing my sleep. But this wagon­load was too big to pass, and the driver had to wake me.

‘Although I had slept very well in these strange conditions, the chill I caught that night was so severe that even now I can feel its effects.

‘From then on it became very difficult for me, even with violence to myself, to demand from my body too strenuous an effort.

‘Willy-nilly, I had to stop all my business. The situation of the Institute therefore became critical in the extreme. Not only was it impossible to complete indispensable tasks, but everything already accomplished was threatened with ruin because bills were coming due and no one was equal to taking care of them in my place.

‘I would have to contrive something.

‘One day, when I was sitting on the terrace of the Grand Cafe, famous among foreigners, thinking about my current affairs and how they were affected by my state of health, I reflected as follows: