Er bestaat een verhaal van Gertrude Stein waarin een zoon zijn vader aan diens haren door het stof sleept. Tenminste, dat herinnerde ik me. Maar waar stond het? Gertrude Stein bleek onvindbaar, in de kast vond ik wel – verscholen achter andere boeken – een werk van de Amerikaanse journaliste Janet Malcolm over haar. Lang geleden heb ik bijna alle boeken van Gertrude Stein gelezen, omdat ik zo onder de indruk was van haar stijl. En toen kwam ‘The making of Americans’ toch tevoorschijn. Ik las het begin en voelde me als mijn neef die na lange tijd de beer van zijn jeugd terugvond en uitriep: ‘Jongen, waar heb jij al die tijd gezeten!’
‘It happens very often that a man has it in him, that a man does something, that he does it very often that he does many things, when he is a young man when he is an old man, when he is an older man. One of such of these kind of them had a little boy and this one, the little son wanted to make a collection of butterflies and beetles and it was all exciting to him and it was all arranged then and then the father said to the son you are certain this is not a cruel thing that you are wanting to be doing, killing things to make collections of them, and the son was very disturbed then and they talked about it together the two of them and more and more they talked about it then and then at last the boy was convinced it was a cruel thing and he said he would not do it and his father said the little boy was a noble boy to give up pleasure when it was a cruel one.
The boy went to bed then and then the father when he got up in the early morning saw a wonderfully beautiful moth in the room and he caught him and he killed him and he pinned him and he woke up his son then and showed it to him and he said to him see what a good father I am to have caught and killed this one, the boy was all mixed up inside him and then he said he would go on with his collecting and that was all there was then of discussing and this is a little description of something that happened once and it is very interesting.’