My best books are the ones I haven’t written. They are not yet even in the larval stage, but I know them to be profound and original in content and perfect in form. I am very proud of them, and the mere thought of them gives a spring to my step. They are a justification for my having lived. It is really a pity (for the world, that is) that I shall not live long enough to write them. As Nero put it, what an artist dies in me.
Many of us go to our graves thinking that if only we had had enough time we should have triumphed in some way or another. A few of my patients claimed that, had it not been for some trifling injury to them that was somebody else’s fault, their career would have taken off, as in fact it was just about to do before the injury was done them. This was absurd, for—objectively considered—there was no indication that they would ever have amounted to very much. On the whole, overweight 38-year-olds do not become world-famous athletes, nor do people become concert pianists who take up the piano at the age of 50. But my patients would claim compensation as if their new careers were established fact rather than mere fantasy.
Did they really believe what they were claiming? The human mind, as I am sure many people will by now have observed, is a complex instrument, and works at several levels at the same time. Hence one can be sincere and fraudulent at the same time. It isn’t necessary to be a psychoanalyst to believe in the reality and prevalence of self-deception; indeed, it is necessary to be a kind of Candide not to believe in them, and to be utterly impervious to self-examination into the bargain.
The camera, it is said, does not lie, but when it comes to me it not only lies but is a pathological liar,…