J'étais donc assis dans cette même posture lorsque je l'appelai et lui exposai rapidement ce que j'attendais de lui, savoir, l'examen de concert d'un petit document. Imaginez ma surprise, non mon indignation, lorsque, sans se départir de son quant à soi, Bartleby, d'une voix singulièrement douce et ferme, me répondit, "je préfèrerais ne pas".


Extrait de "Bartleby, le scribe", de Herman Melville, traduit par Jean-Yves Lacroix.

For J.J. : above you have an extract of Bartleby (in french, sorry), it is difficult for me to translate in english because the original is in english and i am not Herman Melville!! so i have extracted for you some words of wikipedia about this genial work. I hope you like it enough to read the novel if you have not already done:


The narrator of the story is a lawyer with offices on Wall Street. He does "a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds," and describes himself as a prudent, methodical "man of assumptions". He has three employees: "First, Turkey; second, Nippers; third, Ginger Nut," each of whom is described at some length. Turkey and Nippers are copyists or scriveners while Ginger Nut, a boy of twelve, does odd jobs. Turkey, an old Englishman, is a model of efficiency in the morning, but becomes insolent and sloppy after his lunchtime beer; on the other hand, Nippers, an ambitious young man, is restless and irritable in the morning, but works well in the afternoon. The narrator notes these eccentricities, but excuses them. When his business increases, he decides to hire a third scrivener, and Bartleby responds to his advertisement and arrives at the office, "pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn!"

At first Bartleby copies diligently, but declines to perform other duties, telling his perplexed boss "I would prefer not to" when asked, for example, to help the other scriveners proofread a document. Later, he stops working altogether, repeating only "I would prefer not to" when pressed for an explanation. (Although many people err in the wording here, it should be noted that Bartleby never actually refuses; he just states he would prefer not to. At one point, when his boss declares angrily "You will not?" he gently replies "I prefer not.")