To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 9 or Tuesday, 10 July 1888.
My dear Theo,
Is life visible to us in its entirety, or before we die do we know of only one hemisphere?
Painters — to speak only of them — being dead and buried, speak to a following generation or to several following generations through their works. Is that all, or is there more, even? In the life of the painter, death may perhaps not be the most difficult thing.
For myself, I declare I don’t know anything about it. But the sight of the stars always makes me dream in as simple a way as the black spots on the map, representing towns and villages, make me dream.
Why I say to myself, should the spots of light in the firmament be less accessible to us than the black spots on the map of France?
Just as we take the train to go to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to go to a star.20 What’s certainly true in this argument is that while alive, we cannot go to a star, any more than once dead we’d be able to take the train. So it seems to me not impossible that cholera, the stone, consumption, cancer are celestial means of locomotion, just as steamboats, omnibuses and the railway are terrestrial ones.
To die peacefully of old age would be to go there on foot.
For the moment I’m going to go to bed because it’s late, and I wish you good-night and good luck.