I will never know if you remember, wherever you are now. It was already autumn, and the chill in the air reminded us that soon the cold winds would sweep through the plains and our city.
We stopped the car, I wanted to take a picture of you: I wanted to stop the clock, capture this second of eternity, your smile, the nice clothes you decided to wear on our special day…
In truth I should not be here to tell the tale, but this is what happened:
We kissed, a long, passionate kiss, I remember losing myself in that kiss, and I could hear my heart – or was it yours? Wherever you are now, you surely remember that feeling.
For soon I felt the pain, my skin being cut, so lightly, those sharp incisive, your beautiful white incisive…
Thus I became who I am now, and you are gone.
On this far-away horizon we fly, age-old balloonists, at peace. I long thought, in the moonless nights, reading, dreaming, of those eons ahead of us – the universe ‘s infinity, the long journeys, our transformation, progressive, imperceptible, on the shores of time.
Old-fashioned I am – we are – in the eyes of the past centuries, albeit not our own: fashionable we might become, on those alien planets we visit in the midst of our everlasting sleep.
Explorers, yes, young still, without the edge of possible awake, for we will never return, to the old world, to the mother ship: lost we are, willing prisoners of an endless tale, one many times recounted – till now.
Now, we live the dream, sliding by foreign stars, through the intricacies of space, as we were convinced we would, one day, not by magic, but driven, prepared, accepting the fate of those who deny their own mortality…
Is this rock my last prison on earth, is this solitude my punishment, this rain my future?
The rain won’t stop, as the poet once said: it rains in my heart as it rains on the city, the city where we once lived…
This deluge is not only for me: it is for all those lost souls, those dying of a dying love, the ghosts of paradise, paradise lost…
Where are you? In what part of this glorious world are you now? And which one of us now looks after you? Is the sun bright and warm where you are now? Do you still listen to the chorus, each dawn, as you once did, nestled in my arms, eyes closed?
Pointless questions, I know this grief cannot reach you, my wings are clipped, those poor clothes are drenched, I can no longer pretend
To be anything but a fallen angel.
The next evening, he watched her performance, came to her dressing room, and saw many of the same faces. He made sure to pay proper attention to Mme Guérard: having been in foreign courts before, he knew to recognise the power behind the throne. Soon – much sooner than the fiercest optimism could have imagined – she came across, took Barnaby’s arm, and bade her coterie goodnight. As the three of them left, the scrimmage of Parisian dandies took care of not to appear put out. Well, perhaps they weren’t.
From Julian Barnes, “Levels of Life, On the Level” (© Julian Barnes 2013)
Image: Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Félix Nadar 1865
I read that Gustave Flaubert thought the “Communeux” – the revolutionaries who fought the losing battle of the Paris Commune in 1871, and got massacred – had wanted to “return to the Middle Ages”. Yet he was a discerning writer and observer of the French society…
This prompted some musing on the role of writers in our troubled times. But then, when was a time of real peace? The page stays blank, for if there is a lot to say, it would be pointless to write. This is what Flaubert avoided: he scored on impersonality, a detachment from associating himself with his characters, let alone exercising judgement on their actions or circumstances. He wrote that he was bored when writing Madame Bovary, so remote was he from his “ordinary” subject. His carthagenese rump – Salammbo – a story of a slave revolt against the ruler of Carthage (the super-power of the time), was high in colour, rich in gore, and outraged the bourgeois commentators of the mainstream press. Later his “Education Sentimentale” stripped the hypocrisy of the 2nd Empire’s society bare, all a few years before the catastrophe of 1870.
Maybe it takes a national defeat to reveal the true nature of contemporary literature: Remarque, Proust (who thought Germany’d have won the war), the French existentialists, the great Japanese novelists of the 50’s…
Image: Albert Camus laughing, from “Philosophers’ quotes & photos“
The ancient woods are vibrant with bees and morning birds, the early sun rays playing across the foliage of the oaks, ashes and beeches.
We follow the path, almost a straight-line to the little hill where the mausoleum stands, white on virgin green and blue sky.
There is a stile, then a sharp bend, and from that corner we admire the Downs, a vista of peace and tranquillity: the world is still asleep.
This is late summer, soon the rains will come, and a different landscape will unfold: grey clouds, heavy with storms, strong winds, and the escape of the migrating birds toward warmer climes.
We are much younger than the trees, and as we open our frugal meal, the steaming thermos of coffee, we wonder: are they protecting us, or us them?
Image: Darnley Mausoleum, in Cobham Woods, Kent © 2015 Honoré Dupuis