Friday, April 24, 2009

Simple Passion

A Selection from Annie Ernaux's Simple Passion, a book I hope to read on various park benches this summer.
From September last year, I did nothing else but wait for a man: for him to call me and come round to my place. I would go to the supermarket, the cinema, take my clothes to the dry cleaner’s, read books, and mark essays. I behaved exactly the same was as before but without the long-standing familiarity of these actions I would have found it impossible to do so, except at the cost of a tremendous effort. It was when I spoke that I realized I was acting instinctively. Words, sentences, and even my laugh, formed on my lips without my actually thinking about it or wanting it. In fact I have only vague memories of the things I did, the films I saw, the people I met. I behaved in an artificial manner. The only actions involving willpower, desire, and what I take to be human intelligence )planning, weighing the pros and cons, assessing the consequences) were all related to this man:

reading newspaper articles about his country (he was a foreigner)
choosing clothes and make-up
writing letters to him
Changing the sheets on the bed and arranging flowers in the bedroom
Jotting down something that might interest him, to tell him next time we met
Buying whisky, fruit, and various delicacies for our evening together
Imagining in which room we would make love when he arrived.

In the course of conversation, the only subjects that escaped my indifference were those related to this man, his work, the country he came from, and the places he’d been to. The person speaking to me had no idea that my sudden interest in their conversation had nothing to do with their description or even the subject itself, but with the fact that one day, ten years before I met him, ‘A’ had been sent to Havana on an assignment and may have set foot in that very night club, the “Fiorendito,” which they were describing in minute detail, encouraged by my attentive listening. In the same way, when I was reading, the sentences that made me pause were those concerning a relationship between a man and woman. I felt that they could teach me something about ‘A’ and that they lent credibility to the things I wished to believe. For instance, reading in Vassili Grossman’s Life and Fate that “people in love kiss with their eyes closed” led me to believe that ‘A’ loved me since that was the way he kissed me. After that passage, the rest of the book returned to being what everything else had been to me for a whole year--a means of filing in time between two meetings.
with love,

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