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Sofia Kovalevskaya was a brilliant and determined young Russian woman of the 19th century who wanted to become a mathematician and who succeeded, in often difficult circumstances, in becoming arguably the first woman to have a professional university career in the way we understand it today. This memoir, written by a mathematician who specialises in symplectic geometry and integrable systems, is a personal exploration of the life, the writings and the mathematical achievements of a remarkable woman. Her ideas are explained in a way that is accessible to a general audience, with diagrams, marginal notes and commentary to help explain the mathematical concepts and provide context.
Skip to main content Skip to table of contents. Advertisement Hide. In the end, it suited her. She would start with the second floor and move up all the way to the fifth—since she herself had refused to live any higher and did not want to hurt her neck. Within that span, her gaze would move about at the right height.
So, on a sunny Sunday, after sleeping late and eating a frugal breakfast, her coffee cup still in her hand, she took up her position at the window and began her new activity. He lives in Barcelona. One fateful night a traveler weighed down with secrets takes the train to Rome, revisits his past and examines history, in one long tracking shot that mixes killers with victims, heroes with criminals of the Mediterranean wars: an Iliad for our time. Is the reader ever even aware of the trick being played on him? Who now can claim that the French novel is short of breath? Who is Father Christmas?
In an instant, he won the trust of three brothers and their funny little sister, Marie. A guardian angel? An adoptive father? One day Pierre disappears, apparently without a trace except for the gap he has left in each of their lives. Despite everything, a vibrating yellow painting and lyric-loco texts prolong the charm for Hector and Marie. After earning her doctorate and working for a few years at the French Ministry of Culture, she spent seven years in Prague.
And if Father Christmas returns? But the countdown to disenchantment was approaching zero. The priest, who had blessed more than one marriage in his time in the parish where he served, had never seen such a display of virginal joy on a wedding day, and he had been moved by it. He had concluded that the love that bound these two must have been strong and steadfast and would bear lovely fruit.
She had recrossed the nave with faltering steps, head and shoulders convulsing, a fist pressed to her mouth, under the perplexed gaze of the assembled. He was not wicked, only a frustrated man, by nature indecisive to the point of weakness, which sometimes produces the same effects as wickedness. He had done it suddenly moved by a concern for frankness, a belated concern, but no less sincere and imperative. This confession relieved his conscience for a time. Moreover, he was not in love with any other woman. Passion was foreign to him; women had never attracted him.
He appreciated their company, the spirit and strength they alone possessed; he could admire their beauty, elegance, and imagination when in evidence, but they aroused no desire in him. Their friendship was enough. Only men attracted him. From adolescence, his first passionate feelings were excited by boys his age, which had immediately thrown him into great confusion.
In the end nevertheless, his parents had begun to suspect his scandalous tendencies, without ever speaking openly of them to one another, perhaps without even admitting it to themselves, and they had worked with increasing fervor over the years to pressure their son into marriage. She now suffered from the curse of laughing fits to the point of pain and exhaustion.
She would have an attack, more or less serious, each time she encountered some sorrow or affront. She was so mortified by the awkwardness and repugnance that he demonstrated on this occasion that she laughed to the point that her body ached and her breath was short for hours. She welcomed this pregnancy as a kind of amnesty authorizing her to take her. But just as soon as her son was born, she had a relapse. Where had he come up with such a name? Where, if not from one of his male lovers?
She felt betrayed, cuckolded once again, reduced to being his instrument, and she broke into long monotone laughter. The child at her breast began to cry, the milk in his mouth lost its taste, and the face of his mother leaning at an angle over him grimaced frightfully.
The nursing infant had to be taken from her. She only calmed down many hours later, exhausted.
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From that day on, she was incapable of breastfeeding the little one who was entrusted to a wet nurse. She was hard on him; she thought of him as a bastard who surreptitiously slipped into her womb, stealing his life at her expense. How could she be sure that impossible loves did not avenge themselves through dark magical twists? She treated him harshly, often made fun of him to his face, but sometimes she took pity on him; the child was gentle and loved her unconditionally, without reserve.
He lived only for those moments when his mother relented, forgot her unhappiness and anger, and held him close, cuddling him at last; the intensity of such moments was equal only to their rarity. Patience and affection he found with his father who did not look for, or suspect, any particular resemblance. The only response he received was a slap across the face.
He did not dare to bring up the subject again, with his father or his mother. He adjusted to this oddity, one among many on the part of the adults. He wanted to please each of his parents and struggled to become their hyphen, the mark of their union. But the two names remained separate, as painfully as the two who pronounced each of them alone. For no one. His secret incantations were lost in the rustling of the leaves, the insects, in the interweavings of bird song, wood creaking, whistling wind. Silence fell abruptly over the conflictual part of his name when his father went away.
War had come and established itself as imperious guest in the vanquished country; the guest had needed servants and slaves and gathered them in great number. He would invoke the war, absence, his fear. Far from rejoicing over his absence, which promised to last indefinitely, on the contrary, she felt concern. She knew his health to be fragile, his nature unusual and solitary.
How would he survive this captivity that went by another name, this imposed expatriation, the trials of punishing work and no privacy, the separation from his son? Since there was misfortune, they could at least suffer it together, there under the same roof, united and apart, united and torn apart, united in the disaster. Another surprising thing happened to her, a very pleasant one. She met a man with whom she rediscovered the delights of passion and finally experienced the taste of shared pleasure.
Quite simply, she discovered physical love, as if, despite the birth of a child, she had, until then, remained a virgin. So what? Thing balanced out. One loathed closeness, touch; the other proved smitten and attentive. One was taciturn, the other pleasant and warm. She was disarmed by this cheerfulness for which she had forgotten the meaning, the taste. In her eyes, Johann was not an occupier, not a soldier, just a man full of life, humor, and sensuality. While remaining discreet, she did not try to hide her relationship with him, and when she found herself with child, she bore her pregnancy with a serenity that she had not felt during the previous one.
This baby was not an obscure organism transplanted into her body, reduced to a tool, but really and truly an offspring of her own flesh, spawned and growing in her entrails. She laughed often, but now it was a normal laugh that rang clear and brief. Alternating between anxiety and rapture, Pierre heard this new laugh that his mother emitted at any moment in the house, yard, or garden. She seemed more beautiful than ever to him, so much nicer than in the past, even if thoughts on the subject, sometimes vulgar and very harsh, filtered into his ears in the schoolyard and from the local shopkeepers.
This choice earned her the permanent rejection of her family. The newborn, marked by a double shame— illegitimacy and patriotic dishonor—was not worthy of inheriting the name of a grandmother whom everyone had respected and loved. She no longer wanted it for him, this man forbidden to love according to his inclinations, this man forced into a role that he neither desired nor could maintain; right now she pitied him. She had never imagined how resilient hatred can be among those who, having risked nothing in times of war, being content to wade in lukewarm shallows going unnoticed and thus more or less ensuring their survival, covet precisely their tepidness, their cowardice, and, when all danger is past, heap revenge for this humiliation on the backs of those with the impudence to dismiss war, fear, appearances: the very wide backs of the scapegoats.
Circus animals are paraded about adorned in absurd, garish finery: pompoms, plumes, bells and necklaces, brocaded jackets or brightly colored capes, lace, wide-brimmed hats, pointed bonnets. Conversely, fallen women are displayed stripped of all adornment, beginning with what is most natural to them, their hair, especially if it is long and beautiful.
And sometimes it goes as far as stripping them entirely naked. An entirely naked woman walks awkwardly, without the least elegance, head shaven, thrown into the streets of a town or village in broad daylight, streets packed with the well-dressed, their hair properly arranged under their hats, their dignity especially in evidence. She refused to undress herself; a few of the enforcers did it for her, ripping off her clothes. What did she know about modesty, a slut like her who would drop her drawers for a Boche, getting laid by him while her husband slaved away in Germany?
Go on, no one was fooled any longer, they could look right through that lying skin, it was just wrapped around vulgar flesh, the cheap meat of a soldier—foul fucking enemy paunch. Besides, she had had a little brat with her Verdigris, well, let them parade together then, the slut and her little Kraut of a kid. She had sunk lower than the state of submission, she had sunk to a state of servility, of a bestialized puppet.
He did not strike violently, did not intend to injure her, he was just beating the rhythm. It was a solemn moment, justice was rendered, an affront was avenged, the harlot was punished, that unfaithful, traitorous wife, the producer of a bastard. Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons! Marchons, marchons! And suddenly she laughed. As on the day of her marriage, as at the birth of her son, but even better, more powerfully, more sustained. She uttered a sort of whinny, high-pitched and syncopated, that made her collapse inward even more; she advanced bent into the form of a Z, like an exhausted flash of lightening, spine and shoulders shaking with mad laughter.
Marchons, Marchons …! And the other child, the son, relegated to a neighbor on this occasion, heard the tumult. A disgrace! Another woman shouted that that was enough, and eventually many voices joined in to call off the dogs, end the pursuit. A man emerged from the jeering crowd following her. That produced a fine effect, very stimulating; the choir fell into the majestic step of the song, and the national anthem swelled, vibrant. Carried away by this fiery theme, the choir master.
The Camargue, winter, Mourgue saves his life in extremis, but then mysteriously disappears. Soon after, the body of a prostitute is discovered buried in the salt. Amid the tensions of the Occupation, the investigation, which has been assigned to Inspector Simian, stalls. What was he doing out there in country still haunted by the massacre of Italian immigrants a half-century earlier?
In a police department embittered by the. But from the salt marshes of Aigues-Mortes to the criminal underworld of Marseilles, revenge and treachery scramble the clues, multiplying the challenges of an investigation filled with new developments. He began his studies in sociology, and then transferred to the femis in Paris. He graduated as a sound engineer, and for the next fifteen years, he collaborated on various films for television and theater. Today, he devotes most of his time to his writing; The Salt of War is his first novel. Thousands of horses in embroidered trappings were plowing the distant grounds, scattering dust and foam on the only paved road through the marshes.
They jostled each other trying to see what no one could have seen: under the red and green banner whipping in the wind, rode the great king Saint-Louis, crowned in dust. The entire population must have rushed down, fast as an eclipse, caught between the quicksand and the tepid waters, stifling from its own smells mixed with the salty vapors marinating the whole region. The clamor must have carried all the way to the flimsy boats wallowing near the shore, ready to set out for the Genoese ships anchored the entire length of the Louis estuary.
The patriarchs, driven by vehement curiosity, must have scrutinized the waters of Aigues-Mortes. And they must have hurled abuse on the horse-dealers as they chased them out onto the empty sands, theys who expected nothing from their benefactor, from he who sought to replace the stagnant waters with proper walls, flocks of animals and fields. The noise must have gone on for days and days, for as long as it took the salt to crystallize in the Peccais salt-marshes, lasting well after the Montjoie set sail for the seventh crusade on the morning of August 28, Short of breath, the town councilor of Aigues-Mortes slipped his opus into his pocket and looked out at the audience, hoping that his tale, by marrying the hopes of a German conquest with the past bravery of a France today on her knees, would incite the respect of the enemy.
But the sharp cold of the month of February constrained the smiles. He held the pose a moment, arm in mid-air, for as long as it took his mind to cross the seas, then suddenly shift back to the mist strung along the crenellations. Off to the side, the town councilor re-tied the red cotton scarf that he wore in provocation. Here is where they imprisoned the Protestants. Like them, the old man visualized the setting sun from the ramparts, and the sparkling waters of the conquered plains.
In reality, the day fizzled out in a dirty grey. It was threatening snow. Though no one could have seen him, he was reluctant to leave the safety of the shadowy porch into which he had slipped while the group was still filing into the old prison. The narrow streets, as straight as the passageways of the prison that lay within its walls and towers, were neither more gay nor more grimy nor more flower-lined.
They were frozen in time. This suspension, far from giving him the sensation of a preserved happiness, made Mourgue increasingly uneasy. He pictured his mother and father, embracing them for the last time on a colorless day in September, then suddenly appearing at a street corner, sadly waving to wish him good luck.
The voice of the guide had stopped. What should he do? There was no more time to regret the hundreds of kilometers he had covered from the south of Italy, passing through lands that the war had devastated. There was no more time for anything, really, and besides … Anna was dead; why live?
Tormented by the image of his wife, Mourgue focused on what was happening in the street, taking advantage of the comfort of anonymity for a few. The Germans left for duty in the bunkers built into the coast on either side of the fort of Peccais, leaving behind them a deserted town. He heard its engine stop and went out into the street. After fifty years of absence, it was finally time to come out of the shadows. Two old women hunched against the cold turned around as he passed, searching their hazy memories for the name.
The name of the stranger betrayed by his eyes, desperately large and so purely green that they made his gaze magnetic. He heard them whispering behind him. It took him only a second to remember who they were, and, choking with hate, he turned around to confront them. Elbow to elbow, they rounded the corner, grey and silent as rats. The leaden day was followed by a thick night, streaked with the smoke rising up from the chimneys.
The damp clung to the skin, glowing in the halo of the lamps that marched along the straight line of the street. Mourgue slowed his steps, wary of a delivery man going back and forth, unloading wood. He recognized his family home some, what, yards up ahead … Rue Marceau. The name had not changed. Point rusty, numbers worn away. After fifteen years of negligence, the modest abode, now a modest ruin, was worthless. The whitewash was grey, the shutters wormeaten.
Insisting on crossing town to see his childhood home had been a mistake; the thought of renting a room in one of these Spartan side streets, not to mention hoping to find some sleep there, seemed ludicrous. Mourgue started off for the south of town, the shrill voice of the councilor celebrating the gathering of the crusaders ringing in his ear. As if Aigues-Mortes had no other history but that proved by its stones … Had he given the Germans all the details?
Had he spoken of the others? Of those who, centuries later, did not come back alive from Peccais? Of those whose sing-song accent echoed the threshing of salt. Of those who killed themselves working hundreds of miles from home. Of those that the crowd had decided to finish off. Those that it had vomited up and hounded down. Those it had flushed out day and night, stoned or drowned under the powerless gaze of the gendarmes?
Mourgue went out through the Arsenal gate and walked along the outside of the ramparts until he reached the ring where his horse was tied. The young Camargue pulled lazily at his tether. Traveling along the coast, Salin-de-Giraud was a good two hours to the southwest. The old man shivered, rocked by the dull sound of hooves galloping across sand.
Suddenly, he regretted not having put at least a few wildflowers on the graves, but in this season, where would he have taken them? The crosses had been broken and sharply tilted, giving the impression that the Mourgues, man and wife, were drifting toward the sea. Mourgue approached it on foot.
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The place was deserted, the doors and shutters locked. Not a single German helmet. And yet he decided to continue on his way across the lagoon, marveling at the sight of the snow twirling down onto the sea. It was already whitening the path, a glimmer of unexpected hope, infinitesimal bright spots reflecting the violet hints of the sky. He has published fifteen works, including a play and several novels.
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Gallimard, coll. When their daughters die, women become pregnant again until the ends of their lives. Their bellies are much heavier than they were the first time. Part recitation, part novel,. A strange and poignant dialogue with the hereafter, allowing us to focus on the moments of real life that are so rare in our existence. Dear Charlotte, You died impulsively, from a long illness. Suicide flowed through your brain like a black tide, and you hanged yourself.
Your parents came to pick you up at the Saint-Charles station. A tanned father in his fifties who refused to dye his hair, yet was devastated that he no longer aroused even the smallest interest in the eyes of the young women walking cruelly through the streets, their field of vision erasing male admirers, who like a flannel beret from another age, wore their gray hair like dirty old men. An old reliable with olives like strident notes dancing above the casserole, placidly bubbling like a bass continuo.
You complained about the heat. One of those torrid afternoons, when the sweat pools at the base of the neck and drips all the way down to the crevice of the buttocks to lose itself God knows where. A sun as overbearing as a boor, seeming to be shining even in the shade of the cellars of old buildings, burning like Bedouin tents. The car started up, and so did the heat. Those memories of nausea during those endless trips to that godforsaken spot in the forest in the Vosges where you and your sister went biking in the rain to avoid shooting yourselves in the mouth with a shotgun—out of boredom, under the veranda in a setting green as the branches of conifers surrounding the windows, even breaking them when the wind rose.
Even so, you missed your childhood and those moments of gentle melancholy, fleeting as the batting of an eyelash, with their aftertaste of bubble gum and Coke. Your mother raised her head and rummaged in her bag with her fingertips, with that detached expression one assumes in philosophy. His water bottle rolled out onto the pavement and was clatteringly crushed by the wheels of the car.
You called it Marsoufle, rolled it up in your sweater and put it in a wheelbarrow, the two of you pushing it to a clearing where you held its funeral, which finished with a splash in a pond where you tossed its remains, dedicating it to the pikes and the carp.
She took the risk of pulling you out of the void where you felt so good. After your father ejaculated, she might have even tightened the lips of her vulva to keep his penis inside her like a cork, keeping his sperm inside her and giving it a sporting chance to make it all the way to the overexcited ovum at the back of her womb, thrilled by the idea of marrying the first idiot to step up, hell or high water. You would have liked to sue her for giving birth.
Or at least somebody had. The fashion magazine where you worked as a graphic designer had let you go at the end of April before filing for bankruptcy in mid May. At fifty-five time becomes more precious, throwing it out the window amounts to throwing yourself out with it. Rather than spending it day to day like pocket money, you invest it in tried and true values with a high return in well-being and every kind of pleasure. Sports, even if they are tiring and trying, produce euphoric endorphins in your brain and let you better appreciate your trips to Italy, Quebec, and Guatemala, as well as sitting near the fireplace when the temperature is low enough to enjoy roasting in front of the fire, forgetting the central heating whose boiler is starting to belch, having grown so old before its time.
Your mother is exaggerating. He guffaws, hitting his head on the steering wheel while your mother gloomily rummages in the glove compartment, perhaps hoping to find a revolver so she can shoot you both. You lie down on the recliner. You sink your nails into the fabric to enlarge the tear that you managed to make last winter after trying so hard to wear it down you had to take aspirin to alleviate the cramps in your Achilles tendons. The glass swaying before your eyes in a veined hand covered with liver spots.
You extend your lips, and your father lowers it to them. You straighten when your mother begins yelling to cut short this foolishness. And there is still that same lonely nail sticking in the door. The flush chain must date back to the invention of the toilet, with its wooden handle worn down in the middle by all those hands, giving it a sort of penis shape. You come to the entrance of your room. The window is open. The dresser drawers are gaping, sticking their tongues out at you.
Her voice has aged since your last visit, you imagine her vocal chords grooved with fine wrinkles like the ones that look like a mustache over her lips. They always rush through funerals early in the morning so that the undertakers can spend the afternoon at the beach. Of course, her hugs will be a bit damp. And Branton, a balding guy with a beard who cons his way through the humanitarian causes. Your mother has been silent, suddenly she speaks.
As if she wanted to get something off her chest. He had been such a sweet child, yet so ugly. Kind, gentle, but with a look of desperation at the age of one. A wasted life, a closed future, a baby like a trashcan overflowing with failure, cowardice, servility, nights of sordid love like the guilt-ridden masturbation of the mystics—this was his existence, useless to others and harmful to himself. The story of his life was pacing back and forth like a sentry. Waiting for him. You could already read the scenario in his eyes, and if you stared too long at them, you would see every scene laid out like a storyboard.
When production was finished, Pindo, at the very most would have the privilege of falling like a pebble into a statistic about the mortality rate in the West for those born in February As if you were allergic to her sorrow. You have never run your hand through her hair. You were doing it for the first time. You tensed up, you resisted hearing her words. You thought that you were going to be able to avoid them, like you would bullets.
You shouted at her. You would have had to leave the room. But it was in a soft voice that she demanded your happiness. In reality, she may have stopped speaking several minutes ago. You would have tried in vain to explain that her commands had to travel before they reached you, like a radio message coming from far away. You go downstairs. It feels as if reality is collapsing in front of you. Life no longer seems like itself, maybe you are already hanged up there. Hair keeps growing after death. But what about the brain, you wonder, does it keep on imagining? But then maybe it does.
You find your father downstairs. You recognize him, but something about him has amped up. A father has to choose among his children, he can no more love them all than he can sleep with all the women in creation. She has crept downstairs, holding her shoes in her hand. She pours herself a glass and sniffs the layer of froth fizzing on the surface. She empties it, gargling with the warm champagne, then swallows, bringing a hand up to her throat. She gives the end table a kick. The peanuts jump around in their little dish and the neck of the bottle nods in agreement.
You go back to the recliner, having definitely decided to work on it with your heel and rip out all its stuffing. The garden is still sunny, but for you night has fallen. Or if you returned their loved ones to the families with their hair stinking of nicotine, or with a little ash on their liver? You went up to your room, and at the bottom of your bag you found a scarf.
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Later they said that it is what you used to hang yourself. Make a slip knot, slide it over your head, firmly attaching the other end to the handle of the window. The cervical vertebrae snapping cleanly. The scarf rips apart now, as if suddenly realizing that it should have done so before. Your body folding up, a large, dead, still warm fetus, which she will now begin to carry again.
As for Branton, he reminded you of a midget. A midget getting smaller and smaller while his humanitarian fury minimized him in his own eyes as he compared his minuscule existence to the millions of tons of earth dwellers who between now and would croak from starvation, pollution, or even hypothermia when the unregulated climate would pour down on them massive rainstorms mixed with hail, after three decades of a heat wave.
The more he shrank, the more your sister seemed to tower over him. Your father made it clear to the young couple that he intended to go to bed early that evening. It is summer in a coastal neighborhood of Marseille, and a group of teenagers with time on their hands defy the laws of gravity as they go diving along a stretch of the Kennedy Corniche.
A police captain whose beat covers this part of the coast watches them carefully through his binoculars. The kids are caught between a policy of zero tolerance and their taste for the forbidden, and the situation soon begins to go south … In her fourth novel, Kerangal makes delicate use of suspense as she weaves together two stories: the first a chronicle of the contemporary lives of teen-agers in a world of enormous economic. Despite its classical structure, The Kennedy Corniche frees itself from generic expectation, creating through its language an imaginary geography and physical laws of gravity consisting of extreme sensuality, restrained savagery, and dizzying passion.
A book both tender and cruel, its magic hangs by a single thread, that of a writing style with neither dead spots nor caricaturing realism, mixing into a single breath both metaphor and the spoken word. They usually meet up just past the bend, after Malmousque, where the coastal road reappears above the shoreline, an expressway between the earth and the sea, an asphalt ribbon. Long and narrow, the road seems as much to hug the coast as to contain the city, holding in its excesses.
Packed at rush hour, it flows smoothly at night—when it also glows, its fluorescent path meandering across the lenses of the satellites orbiting through the stratosphere. It acts like a magnetic threshold at the edge of the continent, a contact zone rather than a border, given that we know it is porous, crossed by passages and stairs leading up to the old parts of town or down to the rocks.
A billboard marks the spot for them. Afternoons, longer and longer, eat away at the evenings, leaping straight into the deep blackness of night. They come every day. The first ones arrive in those slack mid-afternoon hours, and then the rest of them after their classes are done. Most of them will have taken the bus, the 83 or the 19—the Metro for those. A few others, not too many, will show up on scooters or some other horrible motorized thing they will have cranked up with an oversized muffler.
As soon as they hit the dirt, they push aside the undergrowth blocking the path down, cursing loudly if they get scratched, the grey-green leaves are sharpedged. Once past the vegetation the slope is steep, and the sound of their sneakers resonates on the rocks, bam bam bam, slowly, then faster and faster until they hit their little platform, beneath the city so to speak, beneath the noise of the freeway forming a compact sonic background, a hollow rumbling, like the sound of a refrigerator whose door is opened in the middle of the night in an empty kitchen—and when suddenly the shriller sound of a Maserati, or the Flat Six of a Porsche stands out in the noise, they all sit up in recognition.
The lowlife of the Corniche. The gang. No one knows what else to call them. No one knows how this particular bleak, barren, and useless platform became their hangout, that magical point where they assemble and speak to their world. No one knows how they found it, chose it from among all the others, how they took it over. Here and there, puddles of stagnant water stink of salt and piss, and in places where the sea laps up against the rock, it is covered with a topaz-colored moss, oil slicked so you can slide right into the water on your behind.
The Plat is a stage where they perform, a playing field, a ground for various competitions. The prologue never changes: the girls set up near the ladder, on the edge of the Plat, while the boys gather together near the rocks, a way off—a sexual division of the space soon to explode. In order to stir up the boy or the girl on the other side of the divide, the most direct exaggerate their positions—girls act sluttier than they really are, boys are unscrupulous rakes—whereas the majority choose strategies of approach as old as time— ostentatious detours, avoiding the other, sending special messengers: theatre is an unavoidable part of life.
Reports, meetings, appointments, investigations, so the morning goes by.
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Around three in the afternoon the brakes of the first mopeds arriving at the Plat can be heard. Immobile, his hand at his brow, warding off the glare of the sea, he inspects the Plat. He takes in the whole gang with his gaze, the acrobats, the loungers, the shadow puppets holding their breath at the end of the diving board. He follows their collective agitation. He accompanies the movements of the group. He delights in their leaps, their stomping, their negotiations. Their commotion sustains him, as does the way they use their bodies.
He plants his eyes in the rubber guides, and busies himself with dissecting the group. One by one, he distinguishes each member, the way a child would pull apart a captured fly, taking each individual in isolation, going over them in detail. He parks his red hatchback—it looks like an aquarium that needs cleaning—in front of that elegant white building that rises thirty meters above the Corniche. Actes Sud, coll. And then, suddenly, love appears. Life regains its enchantment for Basile, the real no longer eludes him, and by the light of this incandescent relationship, the philosopher tries once again to find order in the world ….
Basile had had barely enough time to relish the sight of her in her Eve costume, barely enough time to catch a glimpse of the golden triangle crowning, like a capital, the summit of her long legs, which met in the delta to which, he knew, he was summoned, and barely enough time to fix in his mind the vision of her entirely naked body, before his beautiful Middle Eastern girl had suddenly broken off their embrace and fled, and he, without reacting, still completely occupied by the awakening of his desire, had watched her escaping before his eyes, had seen her bound swiftly out of the grove, where they had taken refuge after the announcement that the garden was about to close, and run skipping beneath the enormous leaves of the banana trees, leaving him, also naked, planted there on his two legs, like a male condemned to chase the lustful female amidst the invisible predators prowling around that jungle.
He was stupefied, Basile was; it no longer sufficed to seduce, or even to let himself be seduced by, a young student whose as yet undetermined thesis subject might provide a ready pretext, no, this time the challenge hurled at him touched the deepest part of himself, his male nature, his virility, his life force. Could flesh still have such an effect on him? Or was it that the sensation of nudity sent him back to some frightening, savage, archaic dimension of himself?
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Or to the evidence of his animal nature? And therefore to the animality of women, which he desired and feared at the same time? And when all was. For the dazzling vision of that feminine body bounding naked among the beds of ferns, orchids, or philodendrons had not only flummoxed him, it had also violently catapulted him into the world before culture, where man and woman were hardly distinct from animals, where he no longer entirely recognized himself in the skin that was now his own, or could no longer find words for the disorderly pulsations that were jolting him, and whose origins, he knew, were not solely sexual.
But he had no choice, the girl must be pursued at once, or rather, scented, tracked as one stalks game, she must be hiding behind some giant banana or mangrove leaf, all he had to do was to start moving, to advance on his two legs, like a male chasing a female, it was still possible to do that in the year , and in the winter garden of a contemporary capital. Reread Dostoevsky! She had desired to couple with him in savage, ancient mating; by hiding she had obliged him to seek her out, in other words, to hunt her, to hunt her as one hunts wild game, and the simultaneously extraordinary and preposterous fact was that a chance encounter had just transformed Basile into a woman-hunter.
As he moved forward, naked, under the leaves, advancing very slowly on his two legs, the soles of his feet quite flat on the moist ground, he slipped back into primeval movement patterns, not only those of his early twenties, but also those whose origins preceded the beginning of time, or at least of human memory, when nothing distinguished men from beasts; something new had emerged in him, something that would perhaps be ephemeral, would endure for the time of a hunt, of a copulation, or, who knows, of a love affair; he had become, once again, physical.
And the sign thereof was not merely the spear thrusting out from between his thighs, he was coming alive again as a man, as a male, and this was a feeling that surpassed in intensity all the death-dealing thoughts which had assailed him for more than a year, yes, a real feeling of happiness, mingled with a little fear, but triumphing over the recurrent urge to end it all that he brooded upon at night while sitting on his sixth-floor balcony and sipping strong alcoholic beverages.
Except that the year was , and a young woman had just drawn him into her snare,.
- Babel Minute Zero by Guy-Philippe Goldstein.
- Bien caché dans mon cerisier (French Edition).
- Bestselling Series.
But the old days were long gone. At the wheel of his gleaming Mercedes, he drives big bosses, high-end prostitutes, show biz stars, new Russians, warlords and vacationing billionaires. From the finest restaurants of Paris to the most improbable places of debauchery by way of the runways at Le Bourget where the private jets land, Jules has a front row view - albeit as a spectator who has difficulty making ends meet - of the lives of the very rich.
He knows. For Jules is at war. At war with his colleagues to drive the best tippers. Jules is like that: he always sees things on a large scale. Just how far is he willing to go to land, one day, on the back seat of the limo? Bertrand Latour is forty-five years old. He has worked as an accountant, a packer, a medical representative, real estate agent, and … a limousine chauffeur for a Paris luxury hotel. The goal of any sensible young man should be to quickly free himself from need by accumulating a large pile of money.
As a young man, that had been my goal. The house had a yard with a solitary ping pong table, the roof leaked, a highway ran nearby and the neighboring housing project had received bad press; it would be amazing if we managed to get four hundred thousand euros from it all. While my father did die well before the age of one hundred, it was due to a work accident. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Babel Minute Zero , please sign up.
Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. Jun 07, Paul rated it really liked it. Very interesting and frighteningly realistic read en francais about cyber-warfare. Very thought-provoking. Some plot devices are a bit clunky.