Silences, or a Woman's Life (French Literature)
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When a woman falls into a coma, her daughter accompanies her through six weeks of agony, bearing witness to the prolonged death imposed upon her by the monstrous machine of modern medicine. During this final voyage through the fog, the narrator attempts to reconstruct the portrait of a woman who she deeply loved.
When you see them, slow-moving and serene in their haloes of white locks, you take heart, and you tell yourself that growing old isn’t perhaps so terrible after all. But usually you glimpse these old ladies in the street, or, when you’re little, emerging from church with lace shawls over their heads; or you look for them in photograph albums where you can barely make them out in the yellowing prints. It’s rare that you know any of them. More likely you will fondly imagine them, some melancholy
of this night broken only by the wheezing underneath your gauze choker, I keep telling myself—biting my lips so as not to cry it out—I tell myself it’s a good thing you’re asleep at last and no longer realize how near your life was to its end. But then why, why do people always say this about the dead? Why does everyone look for reassurance in this final silence, this final collapse, telling themselves over and over that the dead will be at peace, that their underground sleep is an eternal rest?
around and hold out my hand, and then we’re running together down a station platform under a sunlit high glass roof. I’d taken my time when I left the lycée, thinking I’d wander down to the Jardin des Poètes, kicking my way slowly through the brown and yellow horse-chestnut leaves, some damp and soft, others brittle. I didn’t feel like going home; I knew she wouldn’t be there. The silent piano would be shut, haughtily withdrawn into its corner, proud that no one could stroke it but her. Awaiting
feeling tired, no more than that. She said she would go back to Paris as soon as possible. She wouldn’t lie down. ‘At least have lunch with us’—so she joined us, and everything was fine. We went into the living room for coffee. I hand her a cup. She sets it on the armrest of her chair, opens her bag, takes out her cigarette holder, and I light her Chesterfield for her. We’re talking and, all of a sudden, halfway through a sentence, she sits up and stares at me. She grabs her chair and the coffee
was allowed to laugh. Her face would turn pink—she herself would break into silent laughter, shaking her head and saying, “Just look at the two of us!” We would stumble the rest of our way to the car, greeting as we went all the deceased in the central avenue. “We’re not being serious,” she’d say, “but after all, you can’t spend your whole life crying.” Yes, autumn has been lovely this year. Hardly enough wind to trouble the plump, rough chrysanthemum heads, and no rain at all. On All Saints’