#AMREADING PATRICK MODIANO, Villa Triste.
In a resort town a stateless young man, who calls himself Count Chmara, meets Yvonne, an actress, and her protector, Dr. Meinthe, but who among them is the most enigmatic and the best at the role-playing game?
Meinthe. At long intervals, the muscles in his left cheek tensed, as if he were trying to catch a slipping, invisible monocle, but his dark glasses hid much of this twitching. Occasionally he’d thrust out his chin as though provoking someone. And then his right arm was shaken from time to time by an electrical discharge that communicated itself to his hand, which would trace arabesques in the air. All these tics were coordinated most harmoniously, and they gave him an agitated elegance.
Yvonne’s dog, Oswald. He belonged to a very rare strain of Great Danes, all of them congenitally afflicted by sadness and the ennui of life. Some of them even committed suicide. I wanted to know why sh’d chosen a dog with such a gloomy nature. Because there are more elegant than the others, she replied sharply.
Yvonne. She’d put on a beach robe with big orange and green stripes and lie across the bed to smoke a cigarette. It was very important for her to spend the season in this resort town, she explained. The season was going to be very brilliant. “Resort,” “season,” “very brilliant,” “Count Chmara” – who was lying to whom in this foreign language?
Count Chmara and Yvonne. We spent lazy days. We’d get up fairly early. In the morning, there was often mist—or rather a blue vapor that freed us from the law of gravity. We were light, so light…When we went down Boulevard Carabacel, we hardly touched the sidewalk.
A hotel that is past its glory days. The dreary walls and furniture begin to exude the sadness of shady hotels. There is a sickly-sweet smell in the corridors, which I can’t identify but must be the very odor of anxiety, of instability, of exile, of phoniness. A smell that has always accompanied me. The lobbies are nothing more than waiting rooms. Waiting for what, exactly? The lingering scent of Nansen passports.
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