8 January 2013

A Happy New Year?

Giacomo Leopardi, "Dialogue Between an Almanac Seller and a Passer-By," Essays and Dialogues, tr. Charles Edwardes (London: Trübner & Co., 1882), pp. 179-181:
Almanac Seller. Almanacs! New Almanacs! New Calendars! Who wants new Almanacs?
Passer-by. Almanacs for the New Year?
Alm. Seller. Yes, Sir.
Passer. Do you think this New Year will be a happy one?
Alm. Seller. Yes, to be sure, Sir.
Passer. As happy as last year?
Alm. Seller. Much more so.
Passer. As the year before?
Alm. Seller. Still more, Sir.
Passer. Why? Should you not like the New Year to resemble one of the past years?
Alm. Seller. No, Sir, I should not.
Passer. How many years have gone by since you began to sell almanacs?
Alm. Seller. About twenty years, Sir.
Passer. Which of the twenty should you wish the New Year to be like?
Alm. Seller. I do not know.
Passer. Do you not remember any particular year which you thought a happy one?
Alm. Seller. Indeed I do not, Sir.
Passer. And yet life is a fine thing, is it not?
Alm. Seller. So they say.
Passer. Would you not like to live these twenty years, and even all your past life from your birth, over again?
Alm. Seller. Ah, dear Sir, would to God I could!
Passer. But if you had to live over again the life you have already lived, with all its pleasures and sufferings?
Alm. Seller. I should not like that.
Passer. Then what other life would you like to live? Mine, or that of the Prince, or whose? Do you not think that I, or the Prince, or any one else, would reply exactly as you have done; and that no one would wish to repeat the same life over again?
Alm. Seller. I do believe that.
Passer. Then would you recommence it on this condition, if none other were offered you?
Alm. Seller. No, Sir, indeed I would not.
Passer. Then what life would you like?
Alm. Seller. Such an one as God would give me without any conditions.
Passer. A life at hap-hazard, and of which you would know nothing beforehand, as you know nothing about the New Year?
Alm. Seller. Exactly.
Passer. It is what I should wish, had I to live my life over again, and so would every one. But this proves that Fate has treated us all badly. And it is clear that each person is of opinion that the evil he has experienced exceeds the good, if no one would wish to be re-born on condition of living his own life over again from the beginning, with just its same proportion of good and evil. This life, which is such a fine thing, is not the life we are acquainted with, but that of which we know nothing; it is not the past life, but the future. With the New Year Fate will commence treating you, and me, and every one well, and the happy life will begin. Am I not right?
Alm. Seller. Let us hope so.
Passer. Show me the best almanac you have.
Alm. Seller. Here it is, Sir. This is worth thirty soldi.
Passer. Here are thirty soldi.
Alm. Seller. Thank you, Sir. Good day, Sir. -- Almanacs! New Almanacs! New Calendars!