Uit: Memoirs of Hadrian (Vertaald door Grace Frick, in samenwerking met de schrijfster)
“Almost everything that we know about anyone else is at second hand. If by chance a man does confess, he pleads his own cause and his apology is made in advance. If we are observing him, then he is not alone. They have reproached me for liking to read the police reports of Rome, but I learn from them, all the time, matter for amazement; whether friends or suspects, familiars or persons unknown, these people astound me; and their follies serve as excuse for mine. Nor do I tire of comparing the clothed and the unclothed man. But these reports, so artlessly detailed, add to my store of documents without aiding me in the least to render a final verdict. That this magistrate of austere appearance may have committed a crime in no way permits me to know him better. I am henceforth in the presence of two phenomena instead of one, the outer aspect of the magistrate and his crime.
As to self-observation, I make it a rule, if only to come to terms with that individual with whom I must live up to my last day, but an intimacy of nearly sixty years’ standing leaves still many chances for error. When I seek deep within me for knowledge of myself what I find is obscure, internal, unformulated, and as secret as any complicity. A more impersonal approach yields informations as cool and detached as the theories which I could develop on the science of numbers: I employ what intelligence I have to look from above and afar upon my life, which accordingly becomes the life of another. But these two procedures for gaining knowledge are difficult, and require, the one, a descent into oneself, the other, a departure from self. Out of inertia I tend, like everyone else, to substitute for such methods those of mere habit, thus conceiving of my life partly as the public sees it, with judgments readymade, that is to say poorly made, like a set pattern to which an unskillful tailor laboriously fits the cloth which we bring him. All this is equipment of unequal value; the tools are more or less dulled; but I have no others: it is with them that I must fashion for myself as well as may be some conception of my destiny as man.”
Marguerite Yourcenar (8 juni 1903 – 17 december 1987)
Hadrianus en Antinous, standbeeld in Florence