Tried to read Rilke but a translation won’t be sufficient and I’ll never learn German (but I have to learn German) and just think — then you could read Kafka in German too. Just think, how long you’ve had your familiarity, we’ll call it, with French, that has resulted in no, shall we call it, understanding of French, and how has that improved your idea of, say, Baudelaire? (But it may have improved my idea of the French? — no.)

Do you remember when you were reading Balzac (or Flaubert or Zola) in French and had to look every blessed word up? Every word up in French, every word up in Greek, every word up in Latin, every word up in Spanish, a lot in English even, (how many times have you looked up, for instance, stanchion?) two times, three times, wiktionary, word reference, Websters, google translate, Lidell & Scott, Cunliffe, you learn nothing, you retain nothing, you look up stanchion again and again, you must like just the drudgery of it, look here and hold open two books at once why don’t you, this one opened over your knee this one opened over your chest, write it down, write it down on a card, fold and carry the card in a wallet, then you will know the true meaning of stanchion (which is a vertical pole, or framework of them, such as those you will find outside an exclusive restaurant or club, suspending a velvet rope.)

Though sometimes you will appear to have learned something, of which I would give as an instance the French word cachalot, which is sperm whale in French, you appear to have learned and retained that; the phrase, un nuit blanche, you do appear to have learned and retained, a sleepless night in French. A cynic might say you are not trying to learn anything but are attempting to appear serious while you avoid doing things that are actually serious, is it true? — how do you respond? (I respond with great emphasis it is certainly not so, but a base lie, a depraved calumny. Yet, as a concession, I’ll not undertake to learn German at this time.)

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