Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mare Nostrum

The following text is the English translation of the introduction scene to Rêves de Gloire, my last novel, published by L'Atalante in April 2011. It received four French science fiction awards since then.

I did the first draft of the translation and Norman Spinrad the rewriting, as he is far more skilled in English that I will ever be, even in my dreams.

Curious readers can find Norman's review in the April/May 2012 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine here.

Down I went to the Pointe Pescade, just like in the song, but I had neither vautrien, nor Moroccan friend with me. Nor was there any hint of a wheel of fire in the sky.
The beach was deserted in this season. The white paint peeled on the planks of the closed refreshment bar. The blue-green sea was undulating lazily under the winter sun. A few overturned crafts lay on the sand; sitting on one of them, an old Arab with a white turban on his head sipped some tea while smoking a cigarette.
I felt like a stranger.
I went to stand in front of the sea. The Mare Nostrum of the ancients, bearing the load of a multimillenial history. The weather was beautiful but rather cool. In the mountains, the snow had piled quite high by in the upper reaches; Kabylia and Aures had declared a state of emergency and asked for international help to open up the isolated villages. Two hundred reservists and five hundred civilians volunteers had left Algiers this very morning to go and lend a hand. Tunisia had sent choppers, and Morocco medical staff.
The Maghreb's solidarity was in play once again, despite the antagonisms dividing its different countries. And the only thing that pleased me this fucking Saturday morning was the swift announcement of the participation of Algérois in the salvage and clearing operations.
After about a dozen minutes, I turned away from the sight of the bay and its rocks. Over there was France, from now on a distant and menacing country, a frightening shadow crouched beyond the horizon. I turned my back to it and walked towards my car.
I was reaching the parking lot when I saw him.
He was looking toward me, standing on the side of the road, dressed in a white suit, leaning on a simple walking-stick besides which a metal bottle was sparkling in the sunlight. A big Mercedes, as white as his clothes, was parked a few meters away from him near my Deux-Chevaux—which a tall man in a black suit was contemplating pensively, smoking a cigarette. He glanced at me, then purposefully turned his attention back to my car.
The very old man took two steps in my direction. I felt a sense of déjà-vu. Or rather, déjà-lu, not seen before in the flesh, but read somehow, somewhere.
It was odd, this man in white and the empty beach, the discreet driver and the nonchalant fisherman.
It was strange, something was missing.
I walked toward the old man. I bowed, one hand over my heart.
'How do you do, monsieur Camus?'

© Éditions l'Atalante

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