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Victor Hugo – On the Wings of a Sparrow

September 18, 2014

“Why do we have all these calamities?” cried the man from Paris. “What’s the point of them? What purpose do they serve? It’s like the burning down of the Odéon, which made whole families penniless. Is that right? I don’t know what your religious beliefs may be, but I can tell you that I am not happy with the way the world is.”

“Nor am I,” said the man from Saint-Malo.

“Everything in this world of ours,” said the Parisian, “seems to me to be out of order. My idea is that God isn’t there anymore.”

The man from Saint-Malo scratched the top of his head, like someone trying to understand.

The Parisian went on.

“God is absent from our world. They ought to pass a decree compelling him to stay in residence. He’s in his country house and doesn’t care about us. And so everything is going askew. It is clear, my dear sir, that God is no longer in charge; he is on holiday, and the business is being run by some deputy, some angel trained in a seminary, some imbecile with the wings of a sparrow.” The word sparrow was pronounced in the manner of a Paris street urchin.

(from The Toilers of the Sea [1866], translated by James Hogarth)


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