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x” in an indeterminate equation. I am one of life’s ghosts, who has lost all the ends and the beginnings, and even at last forgotten what to call myself. You are laughing . . . No, you are not laughing, you are angry again. You are eternally angry, you would like there to be nothing but intelligence, but I will tell you again that I would renounce all this empyrean existence, all these honours and ranks just in order to be able to take fleshy form in the person of a seven-pood merchant’s wife and set up candles to God in church. ‘So, you don’t believe in God either?’ Ivan said, smiling with hatred. ‘Well, how can I explain it to you, if you are serious, that is . . . ‘ ‘Does God exist or not?’ Ivan barked, again with ferocious insistence. ‘Ah, so you are serious? My dear little dove, I swear to God I do not know, pour vous dire le grand mot.

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