He was not really tormented except by a cerebral erethism

From ch.13 of Huysmans’ Là-bas

“Oof! it’s done,” he thought, in a whirl of confused emotions. His vanity was satisfied, his selfesteem was no longer bleeding, he had attained his ends and possessed this woman. Moreover, her spell over him had lost its force. He was regaining his entire liberty of mind, but who could tell what trouble this liaison had yet in store for him? Then, in spite of everything, he softened.

After all, what could he reproach her with? She loved as well as she could.

And at last he quite justly accused himself. It was his own fault if everything was spoiled. He lacked appetite. He was not really tormented except by a cerebral erethism. He was used up in body, filed away in soul, inept at love, weary of tendernesses even before he received them and disgusted when he had. His heart was dead and could not be revived. And his mania for thinking, thinking! previsualizing an incident so vividly that actual enactment was an anticlimax – but probably would not be if his mind would leave him alone and not be always jeering at his efforts. For a man in his state of spiritual impoverishment all, save art, was but a recreation more or less boring, a diversion more or less vain.

…..

Yes, imagination is the only good thing which heaven vouchsafes to the skeptic and pessimist, alarmed by the eternal abjectness of life.”

Ouf ! c’est fait, pensa-t-il ; – et il éprouva des sensations emmêlées et confuses. Sa vanité était satisfaite ; son amour-propre ne saignait plus ; il était arrivé à ses fins, il avait possédé cette femme. D’autre part, sa hantise était terminée ; il reprenait son en-tière liberté d’esprit ; mais qui sait les tracas que lui réservait cette liaison ? Puis quand même, il s’attendrit.

Au fond, que lui reprochait-il ? Elle aimait comme elle pouvait

Et il s’accusa justement à la fin ; c’était de sa faute à lui, si tout ratait. Il manquait d’appétit, n’était réellement tourmenté que par l’éréthisme de sa cervelle. Il était usé de corps, élimé d’âme, inapte à aimer, las de tendresses avant même qu’il ne les reçût et si dégoûté après qu’il les avait subies ! Il avait le coeur en friche et rien ne poussait. Puis, quelle maladie que celle-là : se souiller d’avance par la réflexion tous les plaisirs, se salir tout idéal dès qu’on l’atteint ! Il ne pouvait plus toucher à rien, sans le gâter. Dans cette misère d’âme, tout, sauf l’art, n’était plus qu’une récréation plus ou moins fastidieuse, qu’une diversion plus ou moins vaine.
….
Mais aussi, faut-il que l’existence soit abominable pour que ce soit là [rêver chastement] le seul bonheur vraiment altier, vraiment pur que le ciel concède, ici-bas, aux âmes incrédules que l’éternelle abjection de la vie effare.

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