Nadav Spiegelman

The Opposing Shore

Julien Gracq
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My nocturnal occupations were more frivolous
In his firm intention of removing me from the capital and of inuring me to the demands of a sterner existence, my father had perhaps served me beyond my vague desires for change. The province of Syrtes, on the remote southern border, is a kind of Ultima Thule among Orsenna’s territories. Few and ill kept are the roads linking it to the capital, across a region which is virtually a desert. The coastline bordering it, flat and festooned with dangerous reefs, has never permitted the establishment of a navigable harbor. The sea beyond is empty, and the desolation of these shores is rendered only more apparent by ancient ruins
There is great charm in leaving a familiar city at dawn for a novel destination. Nothing was stirring yet in Orsenna’s sleepy streets, and the great palm fronds spread all the more broadly above blind walls, the chiming of the cathedral clock wakened a dim yet lingering vibration from the old facades
companions in debauchery
A recollection, tinged with both absurdity and mystery, slowly rose to consciousness—it had been obscurely goading me ever since I had been assigned to this forsaken outpost: on the Syrtes frontier where I would soon be, Orsenna was at war. What detracted from the gravity of the matter was the fact that Orsenna had been at war for three hundred years.
A calm fulfillment, the salutation of a pure juvenescence, ascended from this infinite morning. I gulped it down like sparkling wine, that gentle cavalcade through the open country, but it was less the gaping future than the environing persistence of an assured and familiar present, yet one already doomed, which filled my heart to bursting: distancing myself with all possible speed from my city, I inhaled Orsenna as deeply as I could fill my lungs