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  • Writer's pictureCorbin Allardice

October 29, 1911

Another two weeks gone. Why don’t I break [out of] the enchanted circle? Am I destined to spend my life muttering about my fate? There is no destined. There is no luck. The living write their own destinies and fates. For dead matter, there is fate.


Life--self-consciousness--obeys too an absent mind. No, first it must obey that absent mind, only then can that absence, and its future, be organized and controlled.* Dead matter obeys only the absence, it does not even know there is an absence. The truth, and the pose, of the modern man is that he has achieved the level of dead matter! Dead matter does nothing, knows not of difficulty, and is never guilty. If someone does something with it, then they are guilty. Dead matter is inert.


I do nothing, avoid every difficulty--and am never guilty. I am inert. I don’t want to be--and am not permitted to be--inert. Do I scream? No, I mustn’t. I have to act. May this diary be for me a remembrance and a warning!


By Moyshe Varshe

Translated by Corbin Allardice


*- The term for “absent mind” here is dos obvezende (it would be opvezn in standard Yiddish), which older Yiddish dictionaries gloss as “absent,” in German abwesend additionally means “(mentally abstract, (mentally) vacant, and absent minded.” While translating dos obvezende as “that absence,” might be slightly tendentious, it seems to better capture the abstraction and obfuscation of Varshe’s own rather odd construction. The Yiddish reads “Lebn, bavustzayn folgt oykh dem obvezenden. Neyn, koydem-kol folgt es dem obvezenden, den nor dos obvezende, dos kinftike, kenst du organizirn un bahershen.”


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