"I walk through the skeleton of the cathedral, studying the restoration work currently being carried out: this time the architects guarantee that they have found the perfect solution. Everywhere there are metal supports, scaffolding, grand theories about what to do next, and some criticism about what was done in the past.

"And suddenly, in the middle of the central nave, I realize something very important: the cathedral is me, it is all of us. We that need to be corrected, we don't always choose the best solution, but we carry on regardless, trying to remain upright and decent, in order to do honor not to the walls or the doors or the windows, but to the empty space inside, the place where we worship and venerate what is dearest and most important to us.

"Yes, we are all cathedrals, there is no doubt about it; but what lies in the empty space of my inner cathedral?

"Esther, the Zahir.

"She fills everything. She is the only reason I am alive. I look around, I prepare myself for the talk I am to give, and I understand why I braved the snow, the traffic jams, and the ice on the roads: in order to be reminded that every day I need to rebuild myself and to accept — for the first time in my entire existence — that I love another human being more than I love myself.

"On the way back to Paris — in far more favorable weather conditions — I am in a kind of trance: I do not think, I merely concentrate on the traffic. When I get home, I ask the maid not to let anyone in, and ask her if she can sleep over for the next few nights and make me breakfast, lunch, and supper. I stamp on the small apparatus that connects me to the Internet, destroying it completely. I unplug the telephone. I put my cell phone in a box and send it to my publisher, saying that he should only give it back to me when I come around personally to pick it up.

"For a week, I walk by the Seine each morning, and when I get back, I lock myself in my study. As if I were listening to the voice of an angel, I write a book, or, rather, a letter, a long letter to the woman of my dreams, to the woman I love and will always love. This book might one day reach her hands and even if it doesn't, I am now a man at peace with his spirit. I no longer wrestle with my wounded pride, I no longer look for Esther on every corner, in every bar and cinema, at every supper. I no longer look for her in Marie or in the newspapers.

"On the contrary, I am pleased that she exists; she has shown me that I am capable of a love of which I myself knew nothing, and this leaves me in a state of grace.

"I accept the Zahir, and will let it lead me into a state of either holiness or madness."