Friday, October 19, 2007

Formidable

I said to myself, as I stood on the platform at St. Raphael, that I must buy a book to read on the way up to Paris. To that end I moved back into the station to have a look at the bookstall, but abandoned my intention as soon as I had collided in the doorway with a middle-aged woman. She had something of the stance of a Spanish fighting bull, and I felt a nervous impulse, as I retreated rapidly before her, to make it quite clear that I had never been a matador and had, indeed, always felt a peculiar affection and regard for bulls. Her face suggested the muzzle of a very fierce animal; and her eyes were prolonged by blue lines till the proportion they bore to the rest of her features was queerly nonhuman. She had taken from her shoulders a wine-coloured scarf of very rich crepe de Chine to slip through the collar of her bulldog as a lead; and one could believe she would deal as practically with the most precious fabric in the world if there was need.

Nothing I am cataloguing sounds endearing. Yet I forgot about the bookstall, and there was no one in the station who did not watch her and let the pretty girls go hang. It appeared afterwards that it was the novelist, Colette, a personality so strong that for her parallel one has to go outside life to great literature and cite the wife of Bath. In thirty years she has been putting into infallible artistic form her gross, wise, limited, eternal views about life, at times leaving The Well of Loneliness beaten at the post, at times producing little candid pearls of innocence, since these too are aspects of the universe. It is one of the peculiar virtues of the French race that it can take the kind of sturdy long-lived strength which in other countries remains dedicated to the body and yoke it to the service of the mind.

--Rebecca West, Ending in Earnest

2 comments:

Clare said...

Hi SFP,

Just wishing you good luck for the bookathon tomorrow!

SFP said...

Thank you, Clare!