deidrichenstein: (gansokuya)
Translated from the italian by Guido Waldman



Although his father had pictured for him a brilliant future in the army, Hervé Joncour had ended up earning his crust in an unusual career which, by a singular piece of irony, was no unconnected with an charming side that bestowed on it a vaguely feminine intonation.
Hervé Joncour bought and sold silkworms for a living.
The year was 1861. Flaubert was writing Salammbô, electric light remained hypothetical, and Abraham Lincoln, beyond the Ocean, was fighting a war of which he was not to see the finish.
Hervé Joncour was thrity-two.
Her bought and sold.


France, sea-voyages, the smell of mulberries at Lavilledieu, steam-trains, Hélène's voice. Hervé Joncour continued the narrative of his life as he had never done in his life before. The girl continued to gaze at him with such a fierce concentration that he felt obliged to charge each word with exceptional meaning. The room seemed to have sliped back into an immutable quiescence when in absolute silence she unexpectedly thrust a hand out from her dress and slid it onto the mat before her. Hervé Joncour noticed this pale blur impinging on the edge of his field of vision; he saw it slide over Hara Kei's tea cup only to continue bizarrely on it's path until it unhesitantly grasped the other cup, which could only be the one from which he had drunk; her hand picked it up lightly and bore it off. Hara Kei had not for a moment taken his expressionless eyes of Hervé Joncour's lips.
The girl gently raised her head.
For the first time she took her eyes off Hervé Joncour and transferred them to the cup.
Slowly she turned the cup until her lips were at the precise point where he had drunk.
She closed her eyes and took a sip of tea.
She moved the cup from her lips.
She slipped it back to the place from which she had taken it.
She withdrew her hand within her dress.
She rested her head once more in Hara Kei's lap.
Her eyes remained open, fixed on those of Hervé Joncour.

France, 1861. When an epidemic threatens to wipe out the silk trade in France, Hervé Joncour, a young silk breeder, has to travel overland to distant Japan, out of bounds to foreigners, to smuggle out healthy silkworms. In the course of his secret negotiations with the local baron, Joncour's attention is arrested by the man's concubine, a girl who does not have oriental eyes. Although they are unable to exchange so much as a single word, love blossoms between them, a love that is conveyed in a number of recondite messages. How their secret affair develops is told in this remarkable love story.
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THE DREAM UNFOLDS like this. I am facing a mass of hot, grey rocks, overhung by huge wedges of concrete, shaped like coffins. As I look to my left, I see the glittering, undulating sea, the light catching each crest. The sea is empty. It is high summer, but there is no one there. There are no boats, no windsurfers, no parachute gliders, no swimmers, no families, no dogs. The coloured pennants in the little beach café are all aloft, full in the wind. The spray touches the barrels which support the planks of the café floor, boards pale as driftwood, smooth beneath my feet. But there is no one there. The tables are deserted. The bar is empty. The glasses are packed away. There is no one there. I feel the sun on my back. My eyes narrow in the glare.
And then I see that I am not alone. There are two of them, a man and a boy. They are squatting over the rock pools at the edge of the sea. Here where the waves rise with the tide the pools are left, full of tiny transparent crabs, green maidenhair, shellfish, old cans, fresh sand. They do not move. They are peering with terrible concentration into the pool. The boy's hand is still in the warm shallows. He is trying to catch something. The man's cigarette is motionless in his hand, the ash poised. He is concentrating hard, willing the child to succeed. They do not see me. I do not move. I feel the sun on


my back. I smell the sea, the white light bursts in glory about them.
And then—and this is the only movement I ever see—the child has found what he sought, he is drawing it out of the pool. I cannot see what he has found. I see nothing, only his hand rising, the fall of his curls as he turns to the man, smiling, triumphant. And I see in the man's warm glance, the complicity of lovers, the friendship of many years, the enterprise of a life shared, work undertaken together, meetings in restaurants, in public places, an intimacy achieved, the promise of a thousand things we can give to each other when there is love, honestly and confidence between us. I do not know whose memory I have entered. This is not written in any of the books.
I begin screaming. I am shaking, hysterical, distraught. In the dream I reach out towards them, to clamp that moment back into time, to halt the corruption of change, to lock them forever in the acknowledged joy of companionship and affection, across the gulf in their lives and in mine. The glance between them gleams, frozen forever in the hot, drenched rocks. I am awake, sweating, crying, consumed by the horror of what I am unable to prevent.
Sometimes I loose my grasp of what happened in that summer of 1993. I have only these evil, recurring dreams.

I took my first degree at Cambridge. I studied French and German. In my last year I specialised in modern French, linguistics and literature. I also took a paper in modern French history. I ought to tell you that because it explains why I got so involved in the whole affair. It was already my chief interest, my intelectual passion if you like. It doesn't explain why it all became so personal. Or maybe it does. You see,


page one and two. this is one of the most beautiful, brilliant, surprising, heartbreaking books I've ever read. The blurb:

in this ravishing tale of sexual and textual obsession, the young unnamed narrator sets forth from cambridge on a quest. he is to rescue the subject of his doctoral research, paul michel, the brilliant but mad writer, from incarceration in a mental institution in france. what ensues is a drama of terrible intimacy and tenderness played out one hot and humid summer in paris and in the south of france. hallucinating foucault is a literary thriller that explores with consummate mastery the relationship between reader and writer, between the factual and the fictional, between sanity and madness. in blurring these boundaries, patricia dunker has written a novel of astonishing power and beauty.


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July 2012

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