E. Armand, “Plan for an Epitaph” (1923)

Projet d’Épitaphe

Si l’on me demandait quelle inscription j’aimerais voir figurer sur ma pierre tombale, — si jamais le luxe de reposer dans un tombeau m’était donné — je répondrais d’abord que je désire dormir mon dernier sommeil dans la première fosse venue. Si mes amis insistaient, voilà l’épitaphe qu’il me plairait qu’ils plaçassent sur la dalle rappelant mon souvenir :

Il vécut. Il se donna. Il mourut inassouvi.

Il vécut, c’est-à-dire, il connut tout ce que la vie peut apporter de joies et de souffrances dans une existence telle que fut la sienne. N’étant ni un insensible, ni un indifférent, limité par ses conditions de fortune, il ressentit plus profondément certaines joies et certaines souffrances, la joie de pouvoir exprimer sa pensée notamment, et la souffrance de ne pouvoir l’exprimer avec toute l’ampleur qu’il aurait voulue. Il vécut, il connut la pauvreté, il commit des erreurs, il fut en butte à la critique — méritée parfois — à la calomnie, à l’envie, à la haine des dirigeants, à l’incompréhension des dirigés. Il vécut, il aima et parcourut, selon que le permirent ses circonstances et ses fréquentations, la gamme qui monte de l’amour-expérience purement sensuel, à l’amour affection dans le sens le plus profond du terme. Il aima, fut déçu et causa sans nul doute mainte déception. Il se crut désillusionné, rompit avec l’amour, y revint et souvent ne le considéra que comme un dessert, une sorte de récréation. Il vécut, c’est-à-dire, évolua selon que l’y incitaient son tempérament, ces opinions modifiées par les influences auxquelles il était en proie — malgré qu’il ne se laissât guère entamer — ses réflexions, ses méditations enfin.

Il se donna. Tel qu’il était. Avec ses aptitudes et ses ressourcée. S’ingéniant sans cesse à tirer de lui le maximum de rendement. Il épousa avec enthousiasme, avec passion, avec frénésie, les opinions, les aspirations, les revendications qu’il répandait, qu’il affichait comme le résultat de son aboutissant cérébral du moment. Il varia dans ses exposés de la conception de la vie, dans ses opinions, mais en gardant l’assurance intérieure que l’intérêt ni la recherche de la considération humaine eussent la moindre part dans ses variations. Il se crut sincèrement sincère. Il se donna sans compter, estimant autant l’effort que les résultats, sans hésiter, et ne se reprit que pour s’affirmer dans une activité nouvelle. Il ne se permit jamais de traiter à la légère les sujets relevant de l’intellect ou de la sensibilité, les questions d’idées et les questions de sentiment, ne fut-ce que passagèrement ou incidemment. Il se prit lui-même très au sérieux. Il se donna tant qu’il put, sérieusement, se trompant parfois, revint sur ses pas, ne se laissa pas détourner par le sort contraire, par les persécutions, même par la prison, recommença ses expériences, ne tint pas compte de celles du passé, persévéra, s’acharna, ne céda pas, insoucieux du jugement d’autrui et ne voulant jamais qu’être comptable à lui-même de ses faits et gestes.

Il mourut inassouvi, rêva — devenu vieux — de vivre ses aspirations de jeunesse, se forgea des chimères, et, ne pouvant atteindre ou n’atteindre qu’en partie les desseins qu’il s’était proposés, partit mécontent et en protestant contre les circonstances adverses. Jusqu’à la dernière heure, il chercha, projeta, imagina, créa, essaya et s’efforça tant qu’il lui fut possible de tenter un effort, jusqu’à la dernière minute, anxieux, inquiet, tourmenté et cependant conscient d’avoir accompli tout ce qui lui avait été possible de tenter.

Il vécut tout ce qu’il lui fut possible de vivre ; il se donna sans réserve, tirant de soi tout ce qu’il lui fut possible d’en tirer ; il mourut inassouvi, se lamentant jusqu’à l’heure dernière, parce qu’il avait à peine vécu.

E. Armand.

Plan for an Epitaph

If someone asked me what inscription I should like to see appear on my grave marker—if ever the luxury of resting in a tomb was given to me—I would first respond that I desire to sleep my last sleep in the nearest hole in the ground. If my friends insisted, this is the epitaph that I would be pleased to have them place on the slab recalling my memory:

He lived. He gave of himself. He died unsatisfied.

He lived, that is to say, he knew all that life can bring of joys and sufferings in an existence such as his own. Being neither insensible nor indifferent, limited by his conditions of fortune, he felt more deeply certain joys and sufferings, the joy of being able to express his thought in particular, and the suffering of not being able to express it with all the scope that he would have wanted. He lived, he knew poverty, he made mistakes, he was exposed to criticism—deserved sometimes—to slander, to envy, to the hatred of the governors and the incomprehension of the governed. He lived, loved and traveled, as permitted by his circumstances and his associates, the gamut the mounts from purely sensual love-experience to love-affection in the most profound sense of the term. He loved, was disappointed and no doubt caused disappointment. He thought himself disillusioned, broke with love, returned to it, and often considered it only as a dessert, a kind of recreation. He lived, that is to say, he evolved as he was spurred by his temperament, these opinions modified by the influences to which he was prey—although he hardly let himself make a start—and finally his reflections, his meditations.

He gave himself. Just as he was. With his aptitudes and resources. Constantly struggling to draw the greatest yield from himself. He espoused with enthusiasm, with passion, even with frenzy, the opinions, the aspirations and the demands that he spread, that he displayed as the result of his cerebral realization of the moment. He varied in his accounts of the conception of life, in his opinions, but while maintaining the interior assurance that neither interest nor the search for human esteem would have the least part in his variations. He believed himself sincerely sincere. He gave himself without counting, valuing the effort as much as the results, without hesitation, and only reined himself in order to assert himself in a new activity. He never allowed himself to treat lightly subjects of the intellect or sensibility, questions of ideas and questions of sentiment, even if only in passing or incidentally. He took himself very seriously. He gave himself as much as he could, seriously; sometimes losing his way, he retraced his steps and did not allow himself to be turned away by the contrary fate, by the persecutions, even by the prison; he repeated his experiments, disregarding those of the past; he persisted, persevered, did not yield, indifferent to the judgment of others, and never wishing to be accountable to anyone but himself for his deeds and actions.

He died unsatisfied, dreamed—now old—of living out his youthful aspirations, build up pipe-dreams, and, unable to attain or only able to attain in part the designs that he had proposed to himself, departed unhappy, protesting against the adverse circumstances. Until the last hour, he searched, planned, imagined, created, tried and strove as much as it was possible for him to make an effort, until the last minute, anxious, worried, tormented and yet aware of having accomplished all that it had been possible for him to do.

He lived all that it was possible to live; he gave himself without reserve, drawing from within himself all that it was possible to draw; he died unsatisfied, lamenting until last hour, because he had barely lived.

E. Armand.

La Revue Anarchiste 2 no. 18 (July, 1923): 11.

Working Translation by Shawn P. Wilbur

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.