Plus rose que le ciel

Garçon laitier et son chien


Le paysage devint accidenté, abrupt, le train s'arrêta à une petite gare entre deux montagnes.[1]

Then the river disappeared, the countryside became hilly and steep, and the train stopped at a little station between two mountains.[2]

Gion and Ike pretended to bodysurf. The waves were big enough to worry Wolff, but in the water with the boys there was a lifeguard, who kept them out of the dangerous crosscurrents.

Though the three figures in the water were not more than two white and one black tin soldier, Amy saw that Gion cared more for Ike than for himself, pulling him back towards the beach, reinforcing the lifeguard's warnings, holding Ike's arm, wrestling with Ike, who was stronger, letting Ike push him under.

How different was Ike from Gion! Ike fought Gion and resisted the lifeguard out of boredom, dared the biggest waves to make Wolff suffer, pushed Gion under water and desperately bored hit the water with his hands as if his arms would be the blades of a chopper. Amy knew, and she felt that Wolff feared, that Louisa feared too, that they were losing Ike, losing Wenzel again, that keeping Ike from flying had robbed his life of all meaning Ike's life ever had.


On ne voyait au fond de la gorge, au bord du torrent, qu'une maison de garde enfoncée dans l'eau qui coulait au ras des fenêtres.

Far down the gorge, on the edge of a hurrying stream, one could only see a solitary watch-house, embedded in the water that ran past on a level with its windows.

Amy knew Gion's and Ike's body so well, that the distance seemed not to diminish their size while the lifeguard was just a dark ant trying to stay on his legs in the surf. Amy saw or guessed that Gion tried to please and entertain Ike; that Ike had to make Gion suffer to feel alive and loved, that Gion liked to suffer because it was Ike who made him suffer.

Amy saw the tiny figures jumping into the breaking waves, and was aware of the three silent adults watching them, Wolff, Louisa, and herself. Amy knew that Wolff had decided that Ike was Wenzel, that for Wolff the case was closed, decisions had to be taken and stuck to. Wolff was worried for Ike out of habit, Wolff was protecting Ike, but Wolff had given Wenzel his life back, now it was up to Ike to live.

Wenzel bound them together like five survivors of a shipwreck, who had faced death together, and now felt different from those who hadn't been in the same lifeboat.

Amy thought about what Gion had told her, what Ike had told him; that had happened to Ike in the castle, she had no reason not to believe Gion, who had no reason to lie to her and no need as he knew himself pardoned in advance. She had read too many of Leonie's books not to know that reincarnation was part of upper-class life, to extend one's existence beyond birth and death corresponded to their bigger than life idea of their own importance. It didn't affect her, it was astonishing, extraordinary, as was their palace in a busy street in Munich, their liveried servants and "would their lordships…?" existence opposite a Mercedes Benz showroom. For Amy that Ike was Wenzel mattered less than what it meant to Gion, what would become of Gion, whether Wenzel too, would love Gion.


Si un être peut être le produit d'un sol dont on goûte en lui le charme particulier, plus encore que le paysan que j'avais tant désiré voir apparaître quand j'errais seul du côté de Méséglise, dans les bois de Roussainville, ce devait être le grande garçon que je vis sortir de cette maison et, sur le sentier qu'illuminait obliquement le soleil levant, venir vers la gare en portant une jarre de lait.

If a person can be the product of a soil to the extent of embodying for us the quintessence of its peculiar charm, more even than the peasant boy who I had so desperately longed to see appear when I wandered by myself along the Méséglise way, in the woods of Roussainville, such a person must have been the tall boy who I now saw emerge from the house and, climbing a path lighted by the first slanting rays of the sun, come towards the station carrying a jar of milk.

Though Gion was fifty meters away Amy's eyes enlarged every detail of his body, as a bustards eyes focus on a small animal hundred meters below. Gion's movements betrayed what he felt, how his happiness depended on whether his master looked at him, more or less, touched him, talked to him, in between Gion's pulling up his too large surf shorts, spitting and shaking his head to get water out of his ears, complaining and at the same time challenging the older and stronger Ike to wrestle with him once more, to push him under again.


Dans la vallée à qui ces hauteurs cachaient le reste du monde, il ne devait jamais voir personne que dans ces trains qui ne s'arrêtaient qu'un instant.

In his valley from which the rest of the world was hidden by these heights, he must never see anyone save in these trains which stopped for a moment only.

For a moment their life, which was like a world of its own, with its own rules and laws, stood still in front of Amy's eyes like a picture. The moving ocean and Gion and Ike moving in it, unaware of danger, and the immobile earth with Wolff, Louisa and herself, sitting, watching, silent, sad, knowing that this moment would not last, and happy because they understood, that exactly its fleeting quality made this moment precious. For each of them time seemed to have come to dead point where the past was over and the future had not yet begun, but how different would that future be from their dark past full of tears! Wolff would live his life, a thoroughly mediocre life perhaps, managing breweries, buying breweries, trying to keep Socialists and Prussians out of Bavarian politics. (Amy expected him to become what she had always seen in him, the future president of the German Brewers' Association. Here is not the place to record her later astonishment when Wolff married his lesbian cousin Louisa rather than a successful entrepreneur's burberrized daughter driving a black souped-up Golf convertible.)


Il longea les wagons, offrant du café au lait à quelques voyageurs réveillés.

He passed down the line of carriages offering coffee and milk to a few awakened passengers.

Looking, Amy became aware of herself looking, of her being more in the water with Gion, than here on her chair. How much had she read since she had arrived? How much in the plane? Five sentences at best altogether, but Proust's art was such that five sentences seemed enough to enchant her life, to make her look at her own life with his eyes. He had loved; and she loved. His soundproofed room was like her basement room in the boarding school, was like the cocoon in which she had waited for this. Too long she had looked at life through others' eyes, suffered others' pain, filled and washed others' coffee cups. She had lived for others, who in return had forsaken her. Suffering had not made her a novelist, but had made her live her life like she was a character in a novel about her own suffering and pain, which in this late afternoon on the terrace of the Bali Oberoi came to a wonderfully satisfying end. True, her role was only to lend her voice, her senses, her body to the characters, and what did a novel mean anyway? But what a wonderful story it was, and what an ending!


Empourpré des reflets du matin, son visage était plus rose que le ciel.

Flushed with the glow of morning, his face was rosier than the sky.

Ike and Gion came out of the water, followed by the lifeguard carrying his buoy. Between joking with Ike Gion looked at Amy, at Amy? In her direction. Was Gion as beautiful as she wanted to believe? Ike wore his comme-il-faut beauty, his Midwest x Engadin beauty, his cruel white toothed smile which made one long to be the one he loved, his prime time soap opera teenage beefcake body like another piece of Ralph Lauren Tommy Hilfiger apparel. Ike enjoyed to move, to fight, to play, for Ike Gion was among others his twenty-four hours, seven days a week, punching ball, sparring and wrestling partner. Ike was his body. Gion was Ike's body. Matt, Leta and necessity had taught Ike that beyond sex and dope, "dough" was the Ultimate Good, which justified, sanctified, glorified. That Ike was Wenzel meant nothing to Ike, that Ike from offering himself in vain to his straight beloved in the hope of anchoring himself definitely in Wolff's world, had become a partner in Wolff's wealth meant everything to Ike. That Ike now owned AirPalü meant he owned Matt and Leta like he owned Gion, which again was like sex, was like sex for Matt and Leta like it was sex for Gion.

Gion's extremely fair skin glowed rose in the setting sun, but also with health and the exasperation of playing in the surf, of wrestling with Ike, of holding his breath while Ike pushed him under, and also of looking forward to shower with Ike, alone with Ike, as Ike's victim, enjoying how much Ike needed him.


Je ressentis devant lui ce désir de vivre qui renaît en nous chaque fois que nous prenons de nouveau conscience de la beauté et du bonheur.

I felt on seeing him that desire to live which is reborn in us whenever we become conscious anew of beauty and of happiness.

The boys passed the chairs, laughing, joking, and slapping each other with their towels. Ike sat down for a second on Louisa's chair, grinning at Wolff, saying "I'm Wenzel!" when Wolff told him not soil Louisa's chair with the sand Ike was digging from the net pockets of his surf shorts, giving Gion the time to sit down on Amy's chair, pushing his cool wet lower back against her legs, like he had a right to do so, or knew he was invited to, which he was. If only he would stay forever! If only there were a way to make these seconds last longer! Amy tried to feel the happiness, which she knew she must feel. The desperation that you can't feel happiness was like a simile for her love; that love in itself was the wonder, which made you happy. To be allowed to love, to have an object for the love which her heart wanted to love, was not just enough, was enough and more than enough for her.


Nous oublions toujours qu'ils sont individuels et, leur substituant dans notre esprit un type de convention que nous formons en faisant une sorte de moyenne entre les différents visages qui nous ont plu, entre les plaisirs que nous avons connus, nous n'avons que des images abstraites qui sont languissantes et fades parce qu'il leur manque précisément ce caractère d'une chose nouvelle, différente de ce que nous avons connu, ce caractère qui est propre à la beauté et au bonheur.

We invariably forget that these are individual qualities, and mentally substituting for them a conventional type at which we arrive by striking a sort of mean among the different faces that have taken our fancy, among the pleasures we have known, we are left with mere abstract images which are lifeless and insipid because they lack precisely that element of novelty, different from anything we have known, that element which is peculiar to beauty and to happiness.

Amy felt his wet surf shorts cool against her legs, and while her legs tried to become hands and feel more, her eyes drank his lean upper body, the flat of his back, his slim and strong upper arms. Gion let the sand, which he too was digging out of his pockets rain down on her thigh and her coy bathing suit, expecting to get scolded by her or Wolff, dropping sand intentionally unintentionally where she couldn't brush it off decently. Gion was grinning, enjoying his power over her, pushing her legs with his back and then reaching turning backwards towards her with a movement which under the innocent purpose of getting the key of Ike's and his room (but then instead of picking up the key, just checking the time on her watch), was so similar to a prelude to a kiss, and his smile so lascivious, as if he knew that she desired him, that she worried for a second, not about kissing him, which she would have done, but that Louisa or Wolff would object.


Et nous portons sur la vie un jugement pessimiste et que nous supposons juste, car nous avons cru y faire entrer en ligne de compte le bonheur et la beauté, quand nous les avons omis et remplacés par des synthèses où d'eux il n'y a pas un seul atome.

And we deliver on life a pessimistic judgement which we suppose to be accurate, for we believed we were taking happiness and beauty into account, whereas in fact we left them out and replaced them by syntheses in which there is not a single atom of either.

After Ike and Gion left, after trying their best to insinuate that they didn't simply leave to shower, that the great forbidden was about to happen, which after twelve months of the same joke repeated daily didn't shock. Louisa thought it prevented pimples, Wolff had already in Wenzel found the constant rubbing of salt into the wound of having a gay brother tiring, while Amy felt stimulated by the idea of two beautiful boys making love.


C'est ainsi que bâille d'avance d'ennui un lettré à qui on parle d'un nouveau "beau livre", parce qu'il imagine une sorte de composé de tous les beaux livres qu'il a lus, tandis qu'un beau livre est particulier, imprévisible, et n'est pas fait de la somme de tous les chefs-d'œuvre précédents, mais de quelque chose que s'être parfaitement assimilé cette somme ne suffit nullement à faire trouver, car c'est justement en dehors d'elle.

So it is that a well-read man will at once begin to yawn with boredom when one speaks to him of a new "good book" because he imagines a sort of composite of all the good books that he has read, whereas a good book is something special, something unforeseeable.

To hide her embarrassment Amy opened her book and read a few lines. What before had been her only remedy to forget that her life was trickling away without being lived, now became a false front behind which she imagined Gion and Ike making love as she had surprised them making in Munich, both looking proud rather than ashamed, while she felt confused – it wasn't the first time she caught students red-handed – more because of the pain of ripping her eyes away from their naked bodies than because she respected their privacy, and without rebuking them. Ike had told her countless times what Gion was good for. Too many years in a boarding school had taught her that innocence is at best youthful thoughtlessness, a state when sexual (self)gratification is as spontaneous as scratching a mosquito bite.


[A l'ombre] Dès qu'il a eu connaissance de cette nouvelle œuvre, le lettré, tout à l'heure blasé, se sent de l'intérêt pour la réalité qu'elle dépeint.

[Briquebec] Ce sera la Chartreuse de Parme, un roman d'Emilie Bronté, une nouvelle de Francis Jammes et aussitôt le lettré tout à l'heure blasé se sent de l'intérêt pour la réalité que lui aura peint le nouveau écrivain.

Such would be la Chartreuse de Parme, an Emily Brontë novel, a story by Francis Jammes and immediately the well-read man, however jaded his palate, feels his interest awaken to the reality which is depicted for him by the new great writer.

Amy felt naughty, thrilled naughty, to recall the image of the two boys, naked, heated, Ike's face which in the torment of lust, seemed to acquire a different beauty, less himself than lust itself, vibrant like an early morning meadow. Ike's hands were caressing Gion's head, desperately begging Gion not to stop. Gion, in whose eyes she could see his triumph, that she should see how he controlled Ike, how Ike depended on him, how whatever Ike was talking, Ike was the addict and Gion was the drug.

To be thrilled was to be alive. The thrill connected her with herself in the train to Munich, when she had felt like a prisoner who escaped after twenty years in a gulag, like a mortally wounded person who miraculously survived, laughing, thankful, remembering the hateful "you've always liked to sit in the sunny spot!" That she was forty years old meant nothing. She felt like a girl again, her body might no more be fit for love, but she was still fit to live, to be free!

The thrill of sitting in the plane to Bali jetting away from her basement prison, the double thrill of looking forward to the beautiful, sensuous unknown which the name "Bali" promised, the triple thrill of Gion's head first on her shoulder, and later, when he curled up on his seat, in her lap, trusting her no questions asked, to carry him through the sky, to protect his dream. She had stroked gently his head, wondering what kind of boy he was inside himself, what kind of boy would leave his home (she did not know how little home he had, how unwelcome he had been de conceptione) to belong to and follow a teenage adventurer roaming the world in a quest for dough, dope and sex.


[A l'ombre] Tel, étranger aux modèles de beauté que dessinait ma pensée quand je me trouvais seul, le beau garçon me donna aussitôt le goût d'un certain bonheur (seule forme, toujours particulière, sous laquelle nous puissions connaître le goût du bonheur), d'un bonheur qui se réaliserait en vivant auprès de lui.

[Briquebec] Tel, étranger aux modèles de beauté qu'imaginait ma pensée quand j'étais seul, appartenant à mes yeux, les traits énergiques et doux, la souple démarche du beau garçon.

In such a way, completely unrelated to the models of beauty which I was wont to conjure up in my mind when I was by myself, did the supple bearing of this handsome boy, with energetic and gentle features, appear to my eyes.

Amy had been sitting in her most ladylike position, adapted to the Louis (some Bavarian Louis) chair, trying to make a good impression, not yet believing that what for herself was a done deal was a done deal for Wolff and Louisa too, that like she was looking for any job, they were looking for any teacher, and like herself were surprised at the happy coincidence of mutual sympathy. Balancing on her chair and balancing her coffee cup and saucer as she had seen ladies doing at ladies' parties, on photos, in films, on TV, Ike had been what she had expected, the Ralph Lauren kid rich people were bound to have, good looking, blond, blue eyed, tall, athletic off-spring (what did she know at the time, whose off-spring Ike was, how Ike had sprung forth from a trailer full of Aero Revues with part of the back cover ripped off for the filter of a family size joint, that though no other profession than pilot had ever been considered for him, he had been trained as a money sniffing dog, more efficient than any FDA drug dog. To smile at the strangers Leta and Matt dragged into their trailer was the first thing Ike was taught. To smile and drag strangers into their trailer was the second thing he learnt, for Ike LetaMattIke were the gang, to keep flying the goal, Greenbacks more necessary than a Purple Heart.)

Ike was what she had expected, the rich spoilt kid who said, "I'm Ike, how do you do?" in American English and looked her over like he was considering hiring her. But behind Ike Gion stumbled into the salon, with his too heavy boots, fatigues, tight khaki T-shirt and dog chain, smiling as if he were a joke, "I'm Ike's friend".

"He's my pony!"

While Wolff told Ike who sat on Wolff's chair's armrest to shut up and not to damage the antique chair, Gion had already sat down on Amy's chair's armrest holding her hand and explaining her what he had told her before, that he was Ike's pony, that Ike was okay, that she would be okay.


[A l'ombre] Mais ici encore la cessation momentanée de l'habitude agissait pour une grande part.

[Briquebec] Et leur vue me donna aussitôt le goût d'un certain bonheur (– seule forme sous laquelle nous puissions connaître le goût du Bonheur) – d'un bonheur qui se réaliserait en vivant auprès de lui.

And the sight of them gave me all at once the taste for a certain happiness - (the sole form in which we may acquire a taste for Happiness) - for a happiness that would be realized by my staying and living there by his side.

At night, Amy's first night in Leonie's bedroom she tried to calm her foolish heart with rationalizations. Didn't she know that on the first day things always look brightest, that Gion was thirteen and her student, that though he might have the gift to make people comfortable, he was a boy and that it was her pathogenic loneliness which made her see friends in people who just tried to be nice? Tomorrow would be her first day as a teacher-educator and the last thing she needed was her mind to be clouded with thoughts of illicit love. It was unavoidable for a teacher to think of one student more than of another, but these were spoilt rich brats and she had to put down the law tomorrow or never.


[A l'ombre] Je faisais bénéficier le marchand de lait de ce que c'était mon être au complet, apte à goûter de vives jouissances, qui était en face de lui.

[Briquebec] Peut'être le faisais-je un peu bénéficier de ce que c'était mon être au complet, un être nouveau, goûtant de vives jouissances, que était en face de lui.

Perhaps I was receiving, a little, the benefit of the fact that it was the whole of my being, a new being, tasting the keenest joys, which confronted him.

In the plane Amy had fallen asleep too but in her sleep Gion's presence had not left her. In her dreams too, she was in love with Gion, basking in his sympathy for her like they were a naughty brother-sister pair, undisturbed by Ike's bragging about his sexual prowess, enjoying that when Ike demonstrated physically that Wolff was his, Gion reciprocated with her, acting the baby asking to be pampered, playing with her hands, like it was written that she had to love him.

When hours later she came to, she felt like a butterfly breaking out of her cocoon: Her present self was so much more a function of Gion's sleeping body on her lap and the first class section of the cabin containing them than of her past which that momentous "you've always liked to sit in the sunny spot!" had wiped out.

Gion's head in her lap, his hands under his face were pressing down where no male hands had touched her for years, and even more surprising, her own hands were holding his neck, her fingers playing with his ears. He opened his eyes and turned half on his back like a cat asking to be stroked, curling into her, grinning at her with languid impudence.


C'est d'ordinaire avec notre être réduit au minimum que nous vivons; la plupart de nos facultés restent endormies, parce qu'elles se reposent sur l'habitude qui sait ce qu'il y a à faire et n'a pas besoin d'elles.

As a rule it is with our being reduced to a minimum that we live, most of our faculties lie dormant because they can rely on Habit, which knows what there is to be done and has no need of their services.

When Gion took Amy's hand and put it on his head she understood that she had wasted the better half of her life, that she should have stuck to her childish child plan and like Josephine Baker adopted twenty street urchins, that not teaching but loving was her primary call, that to muzzle her heart had been wrong, and she began to play with his cheeks, like he was the baby he perhaps longed to be, he blowing up his cheeks, she pushing them back to make his lips explode, but when he began to speak it was to ask about Ike, whether Ike was sleeping too. Then he curled up again, with a shameless assumption that she would love to bear the discomfort of sitting while he was sleeping in her lap.


Mais par ce matin de voyage, l'interruption de la routine de mon existence, le changement de lieu et d'heure avaient rendu leur présence indispensable.

But on this morning of travel, in this railway carriage, the interruption of the routine of my existence, the unfamiliar place and time, had made their presence indispensable.

Amy carried Gion through the night. Louisa asked her whether the discomfort was not too much for her. How could she tell that it wasn't enough for her, that she hoped the plane would fly on forever through an endless night, that the moment would never come, when Gion would sit up, rub his eyes and turn into a big boy again, and she would be responsible for tooth-cleaning, hair-combing, face-washing two boys in the very age when resisting adults' wishes was most fun?


Mon habitude, qui était sédentaire et n'était pas matinale, faisait défaut, et toutes mes facultés étaient accourues pour la remplacer, rivalisant entre elles de zèle – s'élevant toutes, comme des vagues, à un même niveau inaccoutumé – de la plus basse à la plus noble, de la respiration, de l'appétit, et de la circulation sanguine à la sensibilité et à l'imagination.

My habits, which were sedentary and not matutinal, for once were missing, and all my faculties came hurrying to take their place, and even my simple organic functions of appetite or respiration were vying zealously with their nobler cousins.

But before that came hours of Gion sleeping and Amy holding him, of he abandoning himself to her closeness and her hands owning his body. What she had experienced before in the way of love paled. She vaguely remembered the affair she had had aged twenty-three with another teacher, she had thought this to be part of being a teacher, to go out with another teacher, dinners in restaurants, films, discussions over a glass of wine, and later slightly immature sex, after which she felt more distant, as if making love had revealed all the weaknesses of her colleague whose lovemaking wasn't more inspired than his comments on absent teachers in the teachers' room. Herself she knew that she had no experience, and experience taught her not to seek further experience.

Gion was different, he was baby, boy and man, he let her love him, as if that they both were underdogs made them siblings made in the gutter, as if that they both had nowhere else to go guaranteed that they would forgive each other, two chips of the same lousy block. Yeah, she thought thinking of the end of Ulysses, yeah, she would love Gion with unlimited unqualified love, not caring what kind of love it was to be.


Je ne sais si, en me faisant croire que ce garçon n'était pas pareil aux autres hommes, le charme sauvage de ces lieux ajoutait au sien, mais il le leur rendait.

I cannot say whether, in making me believe that this boy was unlike the rest of men, the rugged charm of the locality added to his own, but he was equal to it.

Amy knew that her falling in love was partly a product of the overthrow of the life she was accustomed to, and she wanted her love to complete the revolution which had happened to her. For a moment she thought about what it would mean to have sex with Gion, first shying away from the thought but then thinking it, as something which better remains a thought, but, and she caressed Gion's back, a delicious thought, as in thought her body would be as young as she wanted, and Gion as old as she wanted him, there is nothing wrong in dreaming, isn't it?


[A l'ombre] La vie m'aurait paru délicieuse si seulement j'avais pu, heure par heure, la passer avec lui, l'accompagner jusqu'au torrent, jusqu'à la vache, jusqu'au train, être toujours à ses côtés, me sentir connu de lui, ayant ma place dans sa pensée.

[Briquebec] L'assurance singulière et gracieuse de ses mouvements, la farouche franchise de son regard vif e borné et toutes ces qualités naïves et vivantes qui avaient arrêté la forme de son nez, la rondeur de son menton, le dégagement de ses épaules, avec la décision d'un ciseau de sculpteur qui avait fait de lui la statue de toutes les qualités qui m'étaient étrangères et comme une personnification d'une vie à laquelle je ne participais pas, tout cela donna tout à coup quelque chose de si doux à l'endroit qu'il habitait, aux occupations insignificantes qui remplissaient son temps, que la vie m'aurait paru délicieuse si seulement j'avais pu, heure par heure, la passer avec lui, l'accompagner jusqu'au torrent, jusqu'à la vache, jusqu'au train, me sentant à côté de lui.

The singular and graceful assurance of his movements, the wild candour of his quick, piercing gaze and all those naive and lively qualities which had fixed the line of his nose, the curve of his chin, the looseness of his shoulders, with the sureness of a sculptor's chisel as if he had made of him a statue representing all the qualities which were foreign to me, like the personification of a life in which I took no part, all this suddenly gave something so sweet to the place in which he lived, to the insignificant tasks which occupied his time, that life would have seemed an exquisite thing to me if only I had been free to spend it, hour after hour, with him going to the stream, to the cow, to the train, to be always at his side, to feel that I was known to him, had my place in his thoughts.

Gion had shown Amy that life existed. In her mind his rustic sensual face and his smeary handwriting were one. Desiring him, and accepting her desire, she said good-bye to her old responsible teacher persona, and became more light-hearted, light-headed, adapted to the Wolff household which was like an early Clemente, a Basquiat (she had always loved modern art, because it contradicted everything she felt contradicted her). After twenty years of sacrifice she had been made to hear "you've always liked to sit in the sunny spot!" If she wasted her life, why not waste it for love?


Il m'aurait initié aux charmes de la vie rustique et des premières heures du jour.

He would have initiated me into the delights of country life and of early hours of the day.

To spite Ike he had entered her room one night and slept in her bed. His morning hard-on pressing against her hadn't been desire, for Gion she was a human being he liked, he enjoyed that she liked him too, but the idea that a woman could desire him sexually hadn't yet appeared to him. That first night in Leonie's bedroom, she hadn't yet known as she now knew, that Gion was so ready to abandon himself to her because for him women were as asexual as worker bees. To be near Gion, to be allowed to love Gion, to be loved by Gion was all Amy wanted.


Je lui fis signe qu'il vînt me donner du café au lait.

I signaled to him to bring me some of his coffee.

Gion came back because he had after all forgotten the key of Wolff's bungalow. Again he sat down on Amy's chair, again he reached over her, again intentionally making it look like he was about to kiss her, smiling, looking deeply into her eyes, as if he would understand her, and smiling playfully, as if her love and his laughing were two voices of a scherzo subtitled "d'amore".


J'avais besoin d'être remarqué de lui.

I felt the need to be noticed by him.

Amy understood that she loved Gion more than she had suspected. That he was this independent, unpredictable other being, tied to Ike, pained her. But if not Gion, who? He was Ike's, but at least they were swimming in the same aquarium, Gion couldn't escape, she wouldn't. Did he see her, did she exist for him? Or was he just betting with Ike that he could turn her on?


Il ne me vit pas, je l'appelai.

He did not see me; I called to him.

She looked at Gion, but already his eyes were looking for Ike, who was waiting, the joke was over, Ike was there.


Au-dessus de son corps très grand, le teint de sa figure était si doré et si rose qu'il avait l'air d'être vue à travers un vitrail illuminé.


[A l'ombre] Il revint sur ses pas, je ne pouvais détacher mes yeux de son visage de plus en plus large, pareil à un soleil qu'on pourrait fixer et qui s'approcherait jusqu'à venir tout près de vous, se laissant regarder de près, vous éblouissant d'or et de rouge.

[Briquebec] Il revint sur ses pas, me fixant de son regard droit et perçant, et comme les employés commençaient à fermer les portières me versa avec une rapidité et une adresse merveilleuses le café au lait fumant.

He retraced his steps, fastening his direct and penetrating gaze on me, and as the guards were starting to close the carriage doors and with marvellous speed and skill he poured me a steaming coffee.

Gion's beauty so close took Amy's breath away. She closed her eyes, not to see that he didn't look at her, only to feel his warmth, to smell his body, but she didn't expect that when he got up, his lips brushed over her front, kissing her slightly, like a hasty good-night kiss.


[Briquebec] Je le regardais, il ne détournait pas les yeux.

I looked at him; he did not avert his eyes from me.

Gion got up and went towards Ike, but then came once more back and said, "I need some money." (One of Amy's jobs was to carry small change for all of them, Ike left it to Gion, and Gion spent it for Ike, Wolff carried no coins, and Louisa never bothered to learn the value of Indonesian currency.)

Like a dying person is said to review all her life in the last moment of her life, in a flash Amy saw the glorious tragedy of being in love with a gay teenager, and strangely enough wasn't worried, rather felt that love, any love, made life worth living.


Il posa sur moi son regard perçant, mais comme les employés fermaient les portières, le train se mit en marche; je le vis quitter la gare et reprendre le sentier, il faisait grand jour maintenant : je m'éloignais de l'aurore.


[Briquebec] J'essayais de l'attirer dans le wagon, il se dégagea en riant, "Allons, voyons, on part", le train se mit en marche; je le vis s'éloigner de la gare et reprendre le sentier.

I tried to entice him into the compartment; he pulled himself away laughing: "Come on now, look, it's leaving", as the train began to move; I saw him leave the station and walk back down the path.

Ike called Gion and they walked to their bungalow to take a shower. Amy sat up to adjust the brassière of her bathing suit, to follow Gion with her eyes, his rosy skin against the green grass, the shadows of the palm trees, what she saw were colors only, a Hockney painting. Her eyes followed Gion until they reached their pavilion. In her heart she felt with surgical precision the pain called "desire", and while she suffered she felt alive. The after sun-set green of the grass, the dark grayish brown of the palm trunks were still there, and the memory of the backs of the two boys inscribed on the image was like a sublime unwritten poem. She would never have the confidence to write down what she felt, but the sensation was so literary, that to perceive it felt like creating it.


Que mon exaltation eût été produite par ce garçon, ou au contraire eût causé la plus grande partie du plaisir que j'avais eu à me trouver près de lui, en tous cas il était si mêlée à lui que mon désir de le revoir était avant tout le désir moral de ne pas laisser cet état d'excitation périr entièrement, de ne pas être séparé à jamais de l'être qui y avait, même à son insu, participé.

Whether this state of exultation in which I found myself had been produced by this boy or on the other hand had been responsible for most of the pleasure that I had found in his presence, in either event he was so closely associated with it that my desire to see him again, like the predilection which endears opium smokers to their fellow smokers, was above all a mental desire not to allow this state of excitement to perish utterly, not to be separated for ever from the person who had participated in it.

Amy guessed that Ike and Gion would make love and imagined it so beautiful, that its image in her mind and that she wanted Gion with all her heart to be happy, gave her a thrill of deeply sensual enjoyment. She lay down again and closed her eyes, thinking nothing, just enjoying to be in love. From near the dining hall came the sound of a gamelan, and she understood that the secret of happiness was to be satisfied with the love you got. She thought of Gion making love with Ike and for a moment forgot who she was, where she was, and felt inside Gion, in the shower with Ike, feeling him up, not like a dream, like for one second she had managed to be Gion.


Ce n'est pas seulement que cet état fût agréable.

It was not only that this state was a pleasant one.

Amy looked at Louisa, at Wolff, who accepted her presence, and her foolishness, as if it was predestined that these five persons should sail through time in one vessel full of pain and happiness. She tried to bring back the moment of ecstasy, to understand how by forgetting to be Amy, she had succeeded to be Gion.


C'est surtout que (comme la tension plus grande d'une corde ou la vibration plus rapide d'un nerf produit une sonorité ou une couleur différente) il donnait une autre tonalité à ce que je voyais, il m'introduisait comme acteur dans un univers inconnu et infiniment plus intéressant; ce beau garçon que j'apercevais encore, tandis que le train accélérait sa marche, c'était comme une partie d'une vie autre que celle que je connaissais, séparée d'elle par un liséré, et où les sensations qu'éveillaient les objets n'étaient plus les mêmes, et d'où sortir maintenant eût été comme mourir à moi-même.

It was above all that (just as increased tension upon a string or the accelerated vibration of a nerve produces a qualitatively different sound or color), it gave another tonality to all that I saw, introduced me as an actor upon the stage of an unknown and infinitely more interesting universe; that handsome boy who I could still see, as the train gathered speed, walking back down the path by which he had come, was like part of a life other than the life I knew, separated from it by a clear boundary, in which the sensations aroused in me by things were no longer the same; it seemed that this boundary would be impossible to cross back over and now that I had entered this new life, to leave it would be to die myself.

Until today her supreme moment had been, when Ike had said, "all women are cunts", and Gion had put him down, "stop it!" and Ike had said, "sorry!"

Then she had thought that more eloquent proof of Gion's love could not be found, but now she knew that this was mere remembering the past while what had just happened was in the present, and incomparably better, she relaxed and let herself be transported into Gion's body.


Pour avoir la douceur de me sentir du moins rattaché à cette vie, il eût suffi que j'habitasse assez près de la petite station pour pouvoir venir tous les matins demander du café au lait à ce paysan.

To have the consolation of feeling that I had at least an attachment to this new life, it would suffice that I should live near enough to the little station to be able to come to it every morning for a cup of coffee from the peasant boy.

Like Gion's life was glorified by his love for Ike, Amy's love for Gion had brought her back to life. She would never succeed to stop being herself, but as if seen through a lattice work in the moments between time she felt one moment Gion's sensations, one moment what he saw, one moment like an echo of sensations she had failed to perceive clearly which lingered on. When Gion and Ike came back, Gion's flushed face told her what she had missed and she was glad that Ike embarrassing all adults alike by calling Gion "my sex machine" let her hide her feelings under an appropriate understanding adult grin.


Mais, hélas! Il serait toujours absent de l'autre vie vers laquelle je m'en allais de plus en plus vite et que je ne me résignais à accepter qu'en combinant des plans qui me permettraient un jour de reprendre ce même train et de m'arrêter à cette même gare, projet qui avait aussi l'avantage de fournir un aliment à la disposition intéressée, active, pratique, machinale, paresseuse, centrifuge qui est celle de notre esprit, car il se détourne volontiers de l'effort qu'il faut pour approfondir en soi-même, d'une façon générale et désintéressée, une impression agréable que nous avons eue.

But alas, he must be for ever absent from the other life to which I was being borne with ever increasing speed, a life which I could resign myself to accept only by weaving plans that would enable me to take the same train again some day and stop at the same station, a project which had the further advantage of providing food for the selfish, active, practical, mechanical, indolent, centrifugal tendency which is that of the human mind, for it turns all too readily aside from the effort which is required to thoroughly examine in a general and disinterested manner an agreeable impression which we have received.

Time was carrying Amy towards death, and worse, habit. Emulation was her only chance to preserve the madness of her heart which kept her alive. If she managed not to discuss it with serious persons, which excluded Louisa on whom wealth had never impressed the need to be reasonable, who would as readily discuss telepathy or telekinesis as she discussed the purchase of a Slovakian Brewery with Wolff, Amy would continue to find inside Gion the handles of his mind, and take possession of his body whenever in the ecstasy of love Gion left it.


Et comme d'autre part nous voulons continuer à penser à elle, il préfère l'imaginer dans l'avenir, préparer habilement les circonstances qui pourront la faire renaître, ce qui ne nous apprend rien sur son essence, mais nous évite la fatigue de la recréer en nous-mêmes et nous permet d'espérer la recevoir de nouveau du dehors.

And since, at the same time, we wish to continue to think of that impression, the mind prefers to examine it in the future tense, to continue to bring about the circumstances which may make it recur - which, while giving us no clue as to the real nature of the thing, saves us the trouble of recreating it within ourselves and allows us to hope that we may receive it afresh from without.

Amy looked out over the sea and in the setting sun saw reflected the three adults sitting next to each other looking out into time, which was death, knowing without speaking that they had lived and were not sorry for it. In the corner of her eyes she saw that Wolff closed his eyes on the not new spectacle of Ike and Gion boasting about their great sex, which she enjoyed, and Wolff hated, and Louisa consumed like a strange food, when suddenly in a mad flash of literary genius Amy understood that once she would write her novel, they would be reduced to mere figments of her mind, and not only: Like Louisa controlled Wolff, Wolff Ike, Ike Gion, and all of them her, she would control all of them, and best of all, Gion.

[Briquebec] Tel mon esprit combinait les itinéraires qui me permettaient de retrouver le beau garçon tandis que je l'apercevais encore qui regagnait la maison de garde d'une marche assurée et vive, sous le ciel qui moins que son visage était rose.

In such a way my mind contrived itineraries which would allow me to find the handsome boy again whilst I began to see him anew as he returned to the watch house with an assured and brisk step, under a sky which was less rosy than his face.



[1]     Marcel Proust, "À l'ombre de jeunes filles en fleur".

[2]     Marcel Proust, "Briquebec", translated by Chris Taylor.