In 1912, you were in New York.
In 1912, at Easter, I was starving in New York, and had been for a number of months. From time to time I took a job, by force of necessity, but I didn’t keep it a week and if I could manage to get my pay sooner than that I quit sooner, impatient to get on with my sessions of reading at the central public library. My poverty was extreme and every day I looked worse: unshaven, trousers in corkscrews, shoes worn out, hair long, coat stained and faded and without buttons, no hat or tie, having sold them one day for a penny in order to buy a plug of the world’s worst chewing tobacco. Time passed. Came Easter. Easter Sunday the library was closed. In the evening I entered a Presbyterian church which was giving an oratorio, Haydn’s Creation, so said a lighted sign hung to the spire. In the church there was a scattered audience and, on a stage, fashionable young girls who played ancient instruments and sang divinely well. But a wretched bishop interrupted the oratorio every five minutes to preach I-know-not-what pious sanctimony and make an appeal to the good hearts of the faithful and, when the oratorio continued, another croaker of a preacher as tiresome as the first entered the stall where I had taken a place, and tried to convert me by surreptitious exhortation, all the time thumping my money pocket in an effort to draw out a dollar or two for expenses, shaking his leather money plate under my nose. Poor me! I left before the end and walked home to West Sixty-seventh Street where I was living, absolutely disgusted and dead beat. It could have been two or three o’clock in the morning. I gnawed a hunk of dry bread and drank a big glass of water. I went to bed. I went immediately to sleep. I woke up with a start. I began to write, to write. I went back to sleep. I woke up the second time with a start. I wrote until dawn and I went back to bed and back to sleep for good. I woke up at five o’clock that evening. I reread the thing. I had written Les Pâques à New-York.
The whole thing?
As it was published. There were three erasures.
From the Art of Fiction No. 38 with Blaise Cendrars.