The official acropolis beggars the most colossal conceptions of modern barbarity. Impossible to express the dull light produced by the perpetually gray sky, the imperial glint of the barracklike buildings, the eternal snow on the ground. With a singular taste for enormity, they have reproduced all the classical marvels of architecture. I attend art exhibitions in spaces twenty times vaster than Hampton Court. And what paintings! A Norwegian Nebuchadnezzar commissioned the staircases of the ministries; even the flunkies that I was able to glimpse are more haughty than Brahmas and I shuddered at the colossal aspect of the caretakers and construction officials. Thanks to the ordering of buildings into squares, courtyards and enclosed terraces, cabdrivers have been kept out. The parks represent primitive nature detailed with superb technical mastery. The upper zone has inexplicable parts: an arm of the sea, with no boats, unrolls its layer of blue sleet between quays weighted with giant candelabra. A short bridge leads to a vaulted passage directly beneath the dome of the Sainte-Chapelle. This dome is an armature of artistically wrought steel, approximately fifteen thousand feet in diameter.
At several points on the copper foot bridges, the platforms, the stairways that wind around covered markets and pillars, I thought I could judge the depth of the city! It’s the wonder of it that I was unable to seize: what are the relative levels of the other districts above or below the acropolis? For today’s tourist, orientation is impossible. The business district is a circus built in a uniform style, with arcaded galleries. No shops to be seen. But the snow on the pavement is trampled; a few nabobs as rare as Sunday morning strollers in London are making their way toward a diamond-studded stagecoach. A few red velvet divans: they serve arctic beverages whose price varies from eight hundred to eight thousand rupees. To the notion of seeking out a theater in this circus, I would reply that the shops must contain dramas that are sordid enough. I think there is a police force, but the laws must be so strange that I give up trying to imagine what the rogues here must be like.
The suburb as elegant as any fine street of Paris has the advantage of air that is like light. The democratic element is made up of some hundred souls. Here too the houses don’t follow one another; the suburb loses itself bizzarely in the countryside, the “county” that fills up the eternal west of forests and prodigious plantations where savage gentlefolk hunt down their gossip columns by artificial light.