Antal Szerb (1901-1945), "Solitude," The Third Tower: Journeys in Italy
, tr. Len Rix (London: Pushkin Press, 2014), pp. 69-70:
Among the truly lonely I class those who are alone very seldom, and then perhaps only in moments set aside for reading or writing. My profession, schoolteaching, by its very nature forces even the most highly strung person into contact with others; and then, in the evening, a certain anxiety verging on panic drives him back into company.
I have been alone here for several days now. Apart from seeking information and making arrangements, I have exchanged not a word with anyone. It is the first time in my life that I have been on my own for so long.
It quite astonishes me how little I miss human company. I would never have thought how well I would get by without conversation and companionship. For advice I go to Baedeker. He serves as my real friend. He thinks of everything, tells me where I should go. Anything I really want to say is committed to a notepad.
I can feel the good this solitude is doing me. My thoughts arrange themselves in longer sequences. My feelings are more intense, and I see their outlines more clearly. Chaotic thoughts are reduced to order, and almost everything welling up inside me spills out and ripens toward form and expression.
It is a comfort to know that I have discovered this panacea, even if it won't always be part of my life.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.