According to a bunch of historians and biographers, Dostoyevski and Balzac never once met in their lives. Nobody seems to know about their one and only meeting one summer afternoon at an outdoor café next to the train station in Geneva. They were sitting across from each other for many hours until night found them. Not even once, though, did I hear them speak about literature, they were constantly talking about the sadness of life, about the melancholy of the seasons passing, about the colors changing in the sky, about poverty and their choking debts. I hear Dostoyevski trying in tears to explain in his broken French to his interlocutor how he returned half-dead from Siberia. I understand you, dear friend, Balzac would reply with a bitter smile. This is exactly how Colonel Saber once returned to Paris, a shadow, a ghost, a dead man among the living. Nothing is here anymore, only a vast pit where they brusquely shove us, covering us with dirt. The whole of life une fosse des morts.
(From the poetry collection Notre Dame)
Translated by Edward Smallfield and Vassilis Manoussakis