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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Love and Hunger
By Anatole France (1844–1924)
 
From ‘The Garden of Epicurus’: Translation of Alfred Richard Allinson

THERE is a little German book entitled, ‘Notes to Illustrate the Book of Life,’—the author’s name Gerhard d’Amyntor,—containing much that is true, and consequently much that is sad. In it we see depicted the ordinary conditions of women’s life. “It is in these daily cares that the mother of a family loses her buoyancy and strength, and is worn to the very marrow of her bones. The everlasting question, ‘What must we have for dinner to-day?’ the constantly recurring necessity of sweeping floors, beating and brushing clothes, dusting furniture, all that is the never-ceasing drip-drip of the water-drop that slowly but surely breaks down mind as well as body in the long run. It is in front of the kitchen range that, by a cruel, commonplace magic, the pretty pink-and-white fairy, with her crystal laugh, is transformed into a smoke-dried and dismal-looking black mummy. On the sooty altar where the pot-au-feu simmers are sacrificed youth, freedom, beauty, joy!” Such, as near as may be, are Gerhard Amyntor’s words.  1
  This is indeed the lot of the vast majority of women. Life is hard for them, as it is for men. If we ask why existence in these days is so painful and laborious, the answer is,—it cannot well be otherwise on a planet where the indispensable necessities of living are so scarce, and involve such toils and difficulties to produce and procure. Causes so deep-seated, and which depend on the very conflagration of the earth, on its constitution, its flora and fauna, are, alas! permanent and necessary. Work, with whatever fairness it may be repartitioned, will always weigh heavy on the major part of men and women; few of either sex can have leisure to develop their beauty and intellect under æsthetic conditions. Only Nature is to blame.  2
  Meantime, what becomes of love? It fares as it may. Hunger is its great enemy. And it is an incontrovertible fact that women are hungry. It seems likely that in the twentieth, as in the nineteenth century, they will do the cooking,—unless, indeed, Socialism brings back the period when the hunters devoured their quarry while the flesh was still warm, and Venus coupled forest lovers in the wilds. Then woman was free. I am going to make a confession: If I had created man and woman, I should have framed them on a type widely different from that which has actually prevailed,—that of the higher mammifers. I should have made men and women, not to resemble the great apes as they do, but on the model of the insects which, after a lifetime as caterpillars, change into butterflies and for the brief final term of their existence have no other thought but to love and be lovely. I should have set youth at the end of the human span. Some insects, in their last metamorphosis, have wings and no stomach. They are reborn in this purified form only to love an hour and die.  3
  If I were a god, or rather a demiurge,—for the Alexandrine philosophers teach that these minor works of creation are rather the business of the demiurge, or simply of some journeyman demon,—well, if I were demiurge or demon, it is these insects I should have chosen as models whereon to fashion mankind. I should have preferred man to accomplish, like them, in the preliminary larva stage the disgusting functions necessary to nutrition. In this phase, the sexes would not have been distinguished, and hunger would not have degraded love. Then I should have so arranged that, in a final metamorphosis, man and woman, unfurling glittering wings, lived awhile on dew and desire and died in a rapturous kiss. Thus I should have added love as a crown and recompense of their mortal existence. Yes, it would have been better so. However, I did not make the world, and the demiurge who undertook the task did not take advice from me, if he ever consulted the philosophers and men of parts at all.  4
 
 
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