Colette is my favourite writer. Her style is earthy and luscious, and her life (I highly recommend Secrets of the Flesh by Judith Thurman, the best biography ever written on her) is fascinating on so many levels. I will probably write a series on her, since I am a great devotee of her work. Today I would like to translate a passage from one of her short stories, which deals with recovering from separation and heartbreak.
"You must wait for recovery, for the end of your love. You are suffering greatly, but worse is yet to come. There will be a time-in a month, in three months, I don't know when-when you will start suffering by fits. You will experience the lulls, the moments of animal-like amnesia that come for no reason, because you've slept well or been a bit sick...Oh my child, how terrible are the fits of pain!They sweep down on you without warning or care...In an innocent, light-hearted moment, a smooth liberated moment, mid-gesture, mid-laugh, the annihilating memory of the devastating loss stems your laughter, stops the hand carrying the tea cup to your lips, and suddenly you are terrified, wishing for death with the naive conviction that no one can suffer this much without dying, but you won't, as those before you didn't as well...The lulls will return, irregular, capricious, without rhyme nor reason. It will...be quite terrible. But...there is something even worse. There will come a moment when you will feel almost no pain. It's when you're almost cured that you will be a lost soul, roaming the earth, seeking, not daring to say what you mean...At those times, the bouts of unhappiness are harmless, and by a strange compensation effect, the lulls become unbearable, an abyss of luke-warm vertigo that sickens the heart...It's the moment of stupidity, of loss of balance...Your heart feels empty, wrinkled, floating in a chest swollen by occasional sighs which are not even sad. You go on the town with no aim, you walk for no reason, you stop without being tired. You scratch at the old pain with stupid enthusiasm, without extracting from it any blood, you keep touching the half-healed scar, you end up regretting, I swear, the searing, blunt pain. It's the dry, lost season, embittered by regret. Yes, the regret of having lost the beautiful, desperate, throbbing, masterful pain, you feel diminished, withered, inferior to all other creatures...You'll be secretly ashamed of yourself until...until recovery. It comes mysteriously, without making itself felt at first. But it's like the gradual reward for so much pain. Believe me, it will come, I don't know when. A soft spring day, or a damp autumn morning, maybe by moonlight, you will feel something living and undefinable voluptuously stretch out in your heart, like a happy, long, long snake, an unraveled velvet caterpillar, a loosening, a soft and nurturing tearing up like that of a budding iris...Without understanding why, you will put your hands behind your head and grin unexplicably. You will discover, with renewed innocence, that the light is pink through the lace of the curtains, and the carpet soft under your bare feet, that the smell of flowers and of ripe fruit make you exult rather than recoil. You will savour a shy happiness, free from desire, a delicate happiness, a bit shameful, selfish and self-protective...Yes, my child, yes, you will have another love."
LA ROBE LONGUE BRODÉE
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