Paris, 22 July 1964
Our states of mind are so fragile. How little it takes (the sky going cloudy, seeing a pretty woman go by, or simply lighting a cigarette or letting a memory come to the surface) to go from discouragement to optimism or vice versa. The whole color of life changes. All morning and most of the afternoon I was gloomy, pensive, leafing through my novel, finding only flaws not just there but also in my life, telling myself: “Decrepitude has begun.” I even wrote to my brother to let him know some of my thoughts on the matter. At dusk I looked out the window facing rue de Bagnolet and I thought something, something imprecise I couldn’t recall now, but when I went back to my desk I was happy, surer of myself, telling myself, “I’m not just anything, I am worth something, I do things well, but slowly.” Now, as I write this, my enthusiasm—a very grandiloquent word, something less than enthusiasm—continues and I confront this evening, and as a result, all those to come, with confidence. But who can assure me that this will last? The fact of having looked at my ashtray and counted more than thirty butts there, the remains of a single, unfinished day, frightens me a bit, begins perhaps to harm my serenity. Alida out buying dinner. Maybe when she comes back she will find me disheartened again.
--Julio Ramón Ribeyro, La tentación del fracaso (The temptation of failure)