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To begin with I’d like to talk about my wife. To love means, in addition to many other things, to delight in gazing upon and observing the beloved.
--From Conjugal Love
When Silvio, a rich Italian dilettante, and his beautiful wife agree to move to the country and forgo sex so that he will have the energy to write a successful novel, something is bound to go wrong: Silvio’s literary ambitions are far too big for his second-rate talent, and his wife Leda is a passionate woman. This dangerously combustible situation is set off when Leda accuses Antonio, the local barber who comes every morning to shave Silvio, of trying to molest her. Silvio obstinately refuses to dismiss him, and the quarrel and its shattering consequences put the couple’s love to the test.
I did not go. I was so much absorbed in my work that I did not pay much attention to a small but curious incident that took place at that time. I have a very sensitive skin and shaving is always a difficulty to me - that is, it is always inclined to produce a rash or other irritations. For this reason I-have never been able to shave myself and have always made use, as I still do, of the services of a barber. Even at the villa, as everywhere else, I arranged to be shaved by a barber every
amorous connexion which he had formed during his military service, he had been induced to marry and settle down in this village, where he had subsequently opened a barber's shop. His wife worked on a farm, but she left it on Saturdays and went and helped her husband to shave the numerous clients who flocked to the shop on the day before the holiday. Antonio was very punctual. Every day at half-past twelve I could hear, through the open window, the crunching of the gravel beneath his bicycle
with you I am.' She went on eating and did not reply; but there was no sign of disdain, in fact a certain satisfaction was visible in the faint quiver of her nostrils and the droop of her lowered eyelids. It was her way of accepting compliments that were agreeable to her and I knew it. All at once there came over me an indescribable turmoil of love. I placed my hand on hers and murmured: 'Give me a kiss.' She raised her eyes, looked at me, and asked, with simplicity and perhaps without any
furious but short-lived impetus of the involuntary infraction of an acknowledged rule. All that had happened between her and Antonio had not affected in the slightest degree her relations with me. Her intrigue with the barber - which, in all probability, would not survive that night - and her ties with me, of a year's duration, were two different things, on two entirely different planes. I was sure that, if I said nothing, Leda would go on loving me as in the past, and perhaps more; and that she
herself would take steps to get rid of Antonio next day, even if she had not already done so. But this thought, far from comforting me as it should have done, depressed me even more. It was one more proof of my incapacity, of my feebleness, my impotence. To me, both creative art and my wife were granted only through pity, through affection, benevolence, reasoned goodwill; the fruits of this concession would never be either love or poetry, but merely a process of forced, decorous composition, a