A picture of an Amsterdam brothel.
"…the women, with brutal faces and
painted cheeks, who came out of their doors
and cried out to him, filled him with fear…"
This popular quote about youth and illusion is by W. Somerset Maugham:
It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have
lost it; but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the
truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they
come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded.
The quote’s found in the novel Of Human Bondage, concerning the thoughts and adventures of the life of Philip Carey:
…Philip in the daytime had been led by curiosity to pass through the little street near the old bridge, with its neat white houses and green shutters, in which according to Hayward the Fraulein Trude lived; but the women, with brutal faces and painted cheeks, who came out of their doors and cried out to him, filled him with fear; and he fled in horror from the rough hands that sought to detain him. He yearned above all things for experience and felt himself ridiculous because at his age he had not enjoyed that which all fiction taught him was the most important thing in life; but he had the unfortunate gift of seeing things as they were, and the reality which was offered him differed too terribly from the ideal of his dreams.
He did not know how wide a country, arid and precipitous, must be crossed before the traveller through life comes to an acceptance of reality. It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life. The strange thing is that each one who has gone through that bitter disillusionment adds to it in his turn, unconsciously, by the power within him which is stronger than himself. The companionship of Hayward was the worst possible thing for Philip. He was a man who saw nothing for himself, but only through a literary atmosphere, and he was dangerous because he had deceived himself into sincerity. He honestly mistook his sensuality for romantic emotion, his vacillation for the artistic temperament, and his idleness for philosophic calm. His mind, vulgar in its effort at refinement, saw everything a little larger than life size, with the outlines blurred, in a golden mist of sentimentality. He lied and never knew that he lied, and when it was pointed out to him said that lies were beautiful. He was an idealist.
From Chapter 29 of W. Somerset Maugham’s partially autobiographical 1915 novel Of Human Bondage, voted one of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century.
The photograph of the brothel is not real – it’s a section of a slightly surreal artwork, a recreation of Amsterdam’s red light district – Edward and Nancy Kienholz’ The Hoerengracht to be Shown in Amsterdam, ArtDaily>>
– Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, Project Gutenberg>>