JUDY KRAVIS

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Friday, 4 December 2020

A complex urban dream about failing to get to the dentist despite the help of a man called Camille, had me searching, on a cold windy afternoon, through my diary from 1967 for the name of a novel that I thought might have been Camille ou l'Incertitude. I was in Paris with M at Easter that year, staying in a hotel room with a red ceiling. Our wanderings around Paris took us one stormy day to Montparnasse and what I described as a collection of open bones of houses peeled bare & fallen into piles of rubbish. A big placard announced that this was the Cité Falguière. Most window glass was broken and light fell in everywhere onto mirrors, paintings mobiles and floorboards. It started to rain and we were invited in to a room partitioned off with sacking, planks and pots of dead daffodils. There was a woman by a stove, two younger ones, the man who'd invited us in and an older man in a beret. The older man was the only one who said anything, sucking on Gauloises, talking about his favourite novel, Corinne ou l'Italie, a doorstopper of a volume bound in dark green.  Then other people arrived and the rain stopped and soon we left. Though we were only sheltering from the rain, there was something life-long about it, I wrote.

I never did read Corinne ou l'Italie, which is by Madame de Stael, though in the nineties one of my colleagues was teaching it in a literary seminar and I remembered the old man in the Cité Falguière. That was the last time I thought about it until today, until the dream about not getting to the dentist despite the help of a man called Camille.

A couple of months after the old man in the ruins of the Cité Falguière, I was back in Brighton, at the theatre. I didn't much like the play, I reported in my diary, but I liked Gladys who played the piano, and I liked the old man sitting next to me who read a novel called Stranger in Italy during the the interval. But more than all that, god, I like this record that's playing, I wrote. So often it was music that held everything.

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