Prelude #Cityscape

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Exploring a city is like discovering a lover: the unknown sounds, the long avenues, the blind windows so much like eyes shut, the undecipherable scents… Then there are the enticing corridors, the forbidden cellars, the lovely peaceful cafés hidden behind trees, as islands of lust. The city does not yield easily: one has to be patient, one has to enjoy the foreplay, wait for the moment, the right time, observe and love.

The city is full of strangers, as many alive and as many ghosts, like the thoughts and dreams in the mind of the one we seek, as puzzling and provocative. She has its angry, even furious, side: thunder and lightning, when the pavements become hostile, the noise unbearable. She can reject the presumptuous, ignore the fool, she’s sovereign on her territory, she does not forgive.

Although many claim to possess her, she has no master. She has seen murder and rape, she knows much about war, about invaders… In our eyes she’s more alive than ever, risen from the flat sands, slowly stretching her wonderful limbs…

Image: via lightsindarkuniverselightsindarkuniverse.tumblr.com

South #TheDailyPost

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Not sure how to participate?

 

Down South is your secret garden, and I hold the key,

Thus, I live in fear, of the jealous gods, of the cruel demons,

For they cannot approach the magic gate:

You can imagine their fury, they cannot suffer

To see this simple mortal, enjoy the

Forbidden fruits, all the way, 

Down South.

 

Image via mennyfox55

#VisDare130 Possibility

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You came, in this infinite solitude, on the edge of the lake. Last night I fetched you from the small town: you were dead tired, I had to carry you to your room.

And this morning, early, I saw you, standing in the silence, the calm, icy water half way to  your knees, the black shawl over your shoulder. For long minutes we were immobile, taking in the immaculate beauty of these shores.

No words are needed. It has been so long: I know now that you will stay. All these years I hoped, alone. Perhaps you did, too.

You are here. The world is reborn, the trees are alive, and black is the water at your feet.

Soon, Spring will come, and we’ll walk through forests so old we will have to relearn their tongue – but maybe, you, will remember.

I look into your eyes, deeper than the lake.

 

 

The Guilt that Haunts Me #DailyPrompt

Share a time when you were overcome with guilt. What were the circumstances? How did you overcome you guilt?

Hamish Blakely I opened the door, the light came in, there was nowhere to hide. Was it fair to show you the way? Was it right to seize that instant, the beauty of that second in our lives?

Then, I wrote the story… As if I could find a reason, perhaps even redemption?

You said it was right: you said it took the two of us.

But I know who opened the door, on that day. Now, there can be no end to the dream.

Image: Hamish Blakely, via benbrahemb

Two writers and a dark princess

This post continues my translation of Régine Deforges‘ interview of Pauline Réage, “O m’a dit”, started there

The interview took place in 1975. Régine died on April 3, 2014.

Portrait of a MarriageRD – You said: I long had hope to rebuild my life, in a certain way. In what way?

PR – Well, to have a life like everyone else does, with a husband and children. I long dreamed of living in the country, in a big house with plenty of kids, like women always lived. Apparently, this was not for me.

RD – Why is it part of the dream of women like you, educated women, who have the luck of exercising a profession they love? I happen to dream of jam making. Anything that preserves is so important in this feminine universe.

PR – I suppose that it is ancient nostalgia, the happiness of the home, the happiness of closed dwellings. We have seen so many images. A minute apartment, in darkness, in the evening, curtains drawn, a pregnant woman, sowing in the light of a lamp, a yellow light like that of oil lamps of childhood, silence, a table set for two, the closed world of happiness. But does it last?

RD – Of course it does not last. But it is still true that those feelings of plenitude, for a woman, reach you in those quite moments, when one is busy with small tasks, sowing a button, iron a shirt, sort lentils.

PR – The safety of home, the safety in waiting, a temporary loneliness, a wait without anxiety, it’s a common dream for all women, I believe. It’s just that some women miss their destiny.

RD – But you were not misled since you chose another, different, destiny.

PR – How does one know? Do we really chose?

RD – Can one love two men at the same time?

PR – Of course.

RD – Please explain why, how?

PR – And why not? I think you can be very attached to one man and have a lover you are much in love with as well.Why not? I have known a number of men who loved profoundly both their wives and their mistresses, madly both of them.

RD – Madly, yes, but is it the same quality of love?

PR – It may not be the same kind of love, maybe, but the same quality, yes. Quality may not be the right word, rather importance. Both matter, no question of leaving one or the other. You should read a book that has just been published , “l’Histoire d’un Marriage” (Portrait of a Marriage), I believe. It’s the story of Harold Nicholson and Victoria Sackville-West. It’s one of the most beautiful marriage stories I know of. A marriage where both partners loved deeply and loved other people at the same time. They were very happy.

RD – You said that you are not jealous, you don’t know what jealousy is. But if one is jealous, can one still love several people?

PR – I think one can. I may be a pervert, it’s possible, I don’t care.

RD – I’d like to love two people. It never happened to me, and it looks rather incompatible. We look to living under someone’s eyes, the one who can all permit, since he can punish, and since he can absolve. There can’t be two pairs of eyes, two gods, two men. Once there is one, one rejects the others.

PR – Definitely not. The threesome appears to me to be worthy, liveable and viable, to the contrary.

RD – I can say you are talking like a man, men say that.

PR – But it’s true, they are right.

RD – Of course, from their point of view, they are right!

PR – I am talking about a threesome, two women and a man as much as two men and one woman.

RD – I know of some; I don’t believe in them. I mean I don’t believe there is love there. The love I understand. There might have been, there isn’t any more, or very little. There are commodities. Or else, there is love for two out of the three, and the third one is duped, and suffers. You believe in this because of your generosity.

PR – I don’t see where there is any generosity. I imagine there is something for everyone. I would have accepted either case [two men or two women]. I happened to accept one, but the other was not found: I have known only jealous men, so…

RD – How did their jealousy manifest itself?

PR – By forbidding: “You have looked at that guy again. What on earth do you find in him?”

RD – When you said earlier that you had only met jealous men, you also added “as if I meant to.” Precisely, didn’t you mean to?

PR – To be locked up, like O? While shouting I wanted to be free. It may well be, but I did not know then.

 RD – How important is beauty for a woman?

PR – Oh! It is a great strength. Beautiful women are very lucky. Often they don’t always know how much. I once knew a girl who took my place in the heart of a boy I loved, and who was, at the time, an extraordinary beauty, a beauty that left me speechless, amazed: there is an echo of this in Histoire d’O. It’s impossible to resist that, and he was right. She was beautiful, she knew how to dress. I wasn’t, I had just a little charm, nothing more, I was poor as Job, I dressed as I could afford, without chic, I knew, I could see it, I could do nothing about it: I had no money to do otherwise, and of course I suffered from that. And I worried her!

RD – Did this please you?

PR – Oh! yes. I thought, it serves you well for being so beautiful. I saw the same thing with a boy who was one of my friends’ lover while rather preferring boys. He was one of the most handsome men I ever met. A kind of giant, with broad shoulders and narrow hips, a beautiful regular face, big grey eyes, black slightly wavy hair, a splendour, a marvel! He was humiliated, constantly, because people found him beautiful. “And then, I have some talent.” He had talent indeed, but was all the time humiliated by his beauty. And that girl had all she wanted, but was not interested. She was so used to it. It’s the story of Marilyn Monroe, who never felt safe despite her extraordinary beauty.

RD – I did not find Marilyn extraordinarily beautiful, but rather extraordinarily moving.

PR – It’s even better.

RD – It’s even better, but it is someone one always feels like protecting or hitting. You said of O that she was facile, facile with a loyal heart. But why does a facile body look to you as one of the charms of a woman?

PR – Because it’s congenial. The facility everyone mocks, I find congenial. Remember what was said of Madame, the celebrated Madame of Bossuet’s oraison: “Madame demanded the heart.” Facile girls, one treats with such contempt of “good girls”, care for others, often.

RD – And what better way to prove it than give oneself. But one can give oneself for many other reasons. To get rid of an annoying man, for example, to whom one has no longer anything to say.

PR – I would not have thought of that reason, as it seems to me rather encouraging.

RD – It depends. There is a way of saying, or to let understand: “Listen, if you really insist, let’s do it, show me what you can do, and then let’s forget it,” which is most discouraging and even insulting for a man, it seems. Often, they don’t do it, precisely, and one doesn’t see them again. Or they try to do it, fail pitifully, and disappear even faster.

PR – Ah! I wouldn’t have thought of that.

 RD – Does impossibility strengthen feeling? Is it true for you that not being able to join someone, to touch him, for reasons of etiquette, or others, strengthens your feelings?

PR – Not for me, no. I’ve had small affairs, falling in love with a boy who appeared to be in love with me, but refused to do anything because “it wasn’t done”. That “it wasn’t done”  seemed to me… He may have been right, but after all, if he hadn’t put up this obstacle himself, I wouldn’t have made things complicated. So, after fifteen days, once I understood it was hopeless, I gave up, and that was it. In that case impossibility did not strengthen feeling.

RD – If it’s impossible you give up.

PR – One does not force someone. A fist axiom is not to force anyone, and a second is not to besiege anyone.

RD – But there were passions when a man besieged a woman who eventually surrendered.

PR – He was well disappointed.

RD – He was well disappointed, he is angry with her, like Baudelaire when he wrote to the Présidente: “How come you surrendered, I don’t want to see you anymore.” Does that happen often?

PR – It happens. If you want another quote: “To be fulfilled is bitterer than being disappointed.”

RD – But why?

PR – I don’t know. Men are strange. I had a strange adventure. I was very young, was always in a difficult situation, and I was trying to earn some money  by giving French lessons to foreigners. I met an American, who happened to be a very rich American, a young man, but older than me. He presented well, intelligent. In total innocence I was giving him lessons, and then, one day he wanted to invite me to dinner. I accepted. Another time he wanted me to go out with him one evening. I declined, saying I could not. He asked me again, and again I accepted. I was vaguely aware that it was some way of courting me, and then, to conform with my own moral code, not to let people start, I explained that I was not free, that I loved someone! We had dinner, then I left. I was due to give him another lesson the day after, I went to the hotel where we met, rue des Saints Pères. I found a letter. He’d packed and gone, and had written a letter, a true declaration letter, saying: “Never do that again, never tell anyone what you told me.” I fell off my pedestal.

RD – What advice would you give girls to conduct themselves well in life?

PR – Oh! I don’t know. There is no morality in this domain. One can find maxims, that one may try and practise. I like this phrase of Luther: “Pecca fortiter”, sin with courage. It’s courage that matter, not sinning. Or that English saying: “Never explain never complain”. In Histoire d’O nobody ever complains. “All is fair in love and war” says another adage – which I find disputable, is everything permissible in war and love? And what are we to think of this  axiom of French law: “In marriage cheat who can”? It’s the manoeuvres that are painful, for both men and women. Morality has nothing to do with it.

RD – You refused to play that game?

PR – I would have liked not to play it, I played badly. I also had to manoeuvre, I am not proud of it.

RD – Did you lack coquetry toward men?

PR – Oh not at all!

RD – Yet it is coquetry to…

PR – Yes, but one shouldn’t lead people up the garden path, this is it. I used coquetry when I had intentions.

RD – So you are, as one used to say, an honest man.

PR – Maybe, but I was wrong.

RD – One expects duplicity from women.

PR – Yes, I know.

RD – If they don’t conform to the idea one has of them, men are lost, they no longer know who they have to deal with. And you liked seeing them lost? Or rather, you kept being yourself, which was more satisfying?

PR – One cannot do that to anyone! [being deceitful]

RD – Even if it is what is desired?

PR – I do not understand how one can desire being duped.

RD – But you know that it is what it is.

PR – Yes, I know very well. And God knows that most intelligent men are not exempt from that sort of weakness.

RD – It looks that way.

PR – To what extent they accept to be duped by these little women, when everyone sees how crude it is. But I think also they see it too, and maybe even are amused by it.

RD – Don’t you think there is something rather erotic in the “little woman”?

PR – Of course. Firstly because the man feels he dominates her more. Because, socially, he feels above her. Ancillary love has its price.

RD – I think there are also masochist men. Those who let themselves duped, trodden on, as they enjoy their humiliation. Its’ fairly frequent. I wonder also if some women, who have understood their power, stay deliberately “little women”.

PR – Then, those are very clever.

RD – Why would they not, they are absolutely right.

PR – Of course, but all that treachery is discouraging.

RD – I agree, but I did not always have scruples. Sometime, but not always. I have often been a dishonest man.

PR – But you are an honest woman.

[next]

Of Fred and Sarah, #quote from Julian Barnes “Levels of Life”

Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Félix Nadar 1865The 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

#FiveSentenceFiction: Flames

“Would he lie to me?”

Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) - La haine (1908)The insidious thought crossed her mind, lingered, before she recalled “he” had been gone for several months, in fact five months, and she was now free.

It might have been a great passion, the kind of encounter that leaves one bruised, ecstatic, changed, all at once, but she was glad now that it was over.

Still: was he lying, cheating, pretending?

Did it matter, as now her mind turned to this unquestionable fact: “he” was now but one of the old flames?

Image: Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) – La haine (1908)

A character’s right to reply #amwriting

I quote verbatim from a letter received from Julian (RIP).

Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch, Man in Pursuit of DeathNo, my once dear Honoré, you did not have to do it, and I don’t believe a word from you about “being sorry”. The truth, from my perspective anyway, is that you satisfied your petty jealousy, your ambition to have my beautiful wife – and, probably, others as well – play a role she would vehemently refuse in real life, and by that gratuitous murder of me, get rid of your most loyal and reliable friend. As you can see, I still have the strength to reply to your insolent article! You have no honour, Honoré, success and money have rotten your once noble spirit: you are merely after commercial success based on cheap lust.

Your stealing my Facebook page should have been a clear warning, to all of us, that you were leaving the realm of honesty and humanity, for the sake of satisfying your basest desires. Your readers will judge. I consider the lowest insult the way you have since used my wife’s friendship with an old childhood friend, to insinuate damn lies about a sexual relationship that never was. Sarah is far above such behaviour: she’s as faithful as a wife ever was, and will continue to support her husband against your assaults on history and truth. Your own miserable domestic failures cannot be an excuse for those lies.

The same applies to your treatment of my dear friend Melissa. She is, always was, an angel. I confided to you my childhood memories, and you turned them into a pathetic story of revenge and, again, cheap erotica! Shame on you. My Melissa had never anything to do with any plot, with spies, and that girl of dubious reputation you described as “Melissa of Köpenick”. The latter is, I admit, a bit of a flirt I indulged with, during my recovery in Berlin. Not only you got the facts wrong, but you invented on top of all some more pathetic  stories of your own.

But, would you say, you are a writer, and this is fiction… To hell it is not. You are playing with people’s lives, destroying their reputation, killing them without appeal. Despiccable! You wrote: “you became cumbersome, obstructive, calamitous.” This is in fact a good description of your own behaviour as an author, disrespectful to your characters, lacking any care for their feelings.

Sarah was not best pleased to hear that nonsense about me trafficking arms. I had much to explain. She’s now extremely angry with you, for good reasons. We are now talking about some form of action, as we, your characters, can use to express our profound disgust, and our refusal to cooperate. You have been warned.

Julian

Image: Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch, Man in Pursuit of Death

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