— Henri Barbusse French novelist 1873 - 1935
The Inferno (1917), Ch. XIV
Kontext: I wanted to know the secret of life. I had seen men, groups, deeds, faces. In the twilight I had seen the tremulous eyes of beings as deep as wells. I had seen the mouth that said in a burst of glory, "I am more sensitive than others." I had seen the struggle to love and make one's self understood, the refusal of two persons in conversation to give themselves to each other, the coming together of two lovers, the lovers with an infectious smile, who are lovers in name only, who bury themselves in kisses, who press wound to wound to cure themselves, between whom there is really no attachment, and who, in spite of their ecstasy deriving light from shadow, are strangers as much as the sun and the moon are strangers. I had heard those who could find no crumb of peace except in the confession of their shameful misery, and I had seen faces pale and red-eyed from crying. I wanted to grasp it all at the same time. All the truths taken together make only one truth. I had had to wait until that day to learn this simple thing. It was this truth of truths which I needed.
Not because of my love of mankind. It is not true that we love mankind. No one ever has loved, does love, or will love mankind. It was for myself, solely for myself, that I sought to attain the full truth, which is above emotion, above peace, even above life, like a sort of death. I wanted to derive guidance from it, a faith. I wanted to use it for my own good.