Authors: Yasmina Reza
“Give me, give me the glasses!” reaching out across the table, a desperate, crustacean-like arm.
Marie-Thérèse's glasses correct the world for a moment and at once create the urge to vomit. Adam gets up. I must get some air, I'll wait outside. In the hall he puts on his coat, feels all the pockets. He already has a foot in the passageway when she says, I enjoyed seeing you again.
He descends the cold concrete staircase fast, hurtling down the steps, he passes the mailboxes, which he can read clearly, he notes, as he thrusts open the glass door. The first thing he sees outside is the white restaurant. It, too, is a little obscured by mist, but he doesn't think it's the mist in his eyes, it's the real mist of the weather. There's no longer a green sign and no
longer any light behind the windows and the curtains. Almost no light around anymore, except that from the lampposts. He takes out his cell phone and calls Albert. He hears the ringing tone and then the recorded message. He says: Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. And hangs up. He walks at random toward the parking lot. He hears the sounds of several cars in the distance. None of them approaches. He walks at random toward the lake. Where are the birds, he thinks, still making his way toward the dark expanse. He crosses the Sunday strollers' pathway, that's the name he gives it, and almost falls, as he steps over the useless parapet. He follows the grassy slope that plunges down into the water. A scent of undergrowth hangs in the air, is it the night or the fog, a scent of damp earth and water lilies. He thinks of water lilies lining fast-flowing rivers, of trees laid flat, who knows why, torn up by the wind or struck by lightning. He thinks of water lilies growing amid dead boughs, countless branches, dead and peeling. He remembers the solitary animal from the forests of Asia. One day I'll go into the mountain forests of Asia, he thinks. And then he sees them. Tucked in close to one bank, huddled together, sleeping perhaps, ducks, swans, and possibly other kinds of birds, it's a closed book to him. Adam walks closer. And then, is it because of his eyes, the
darkness, or the mist, all lie can see now is a petrified, downy mass.
When the car arrives at the parking lot Adam doesn't hear it. What he hears is his name. His name tossed onto the breeze, brazenly proclaimed on all sides, and he feels the same pang as years ago at Suresnes when his mother shouted Adam out of the window. This shout simultaneously revealed his name, his window, the time for his bath or his homework, and his mother's voice and face, and he was the only one to be summoned like that right in the middle of a game, right in the middle of a chase, and if he was not the only one he was always the first one to be summoned, he remembers, and the only one in that extra-shrill voice that mortified him. Marie-Thérèse is on her balcony half hidden by the cement balustrade. She's pointing to the taxi down below. When will she stop being there? He slips on the slope, crosses the Sunday strollers' pathway, and heads straight for the Xantia. He says, Rue Morère, in the fourteenth, by the Porte de Châtillon. The woman starts the car and goes into a sweeping U-turn in the parking lot. Adam looks at the meter, the back of the woman's neck, the puppet dangling from the rearview mirror. He sees the Jeep Wrangler, the darkness over the lake as they go by. He lifts his head. On the empty terrace that looks
immense Marie-Thérèse Lyoc is waving good-bye. A signal he would have been unaware of, he thinks, had he not looked up, and which would then have been addressed to nobody. He lowers the window to put his arm out, she can't see him inside the car, he thinks, but the vehicle accelerates and his own gesture traces a line in the void.
Adam lays his head back on the seat, his eyes closed. The green shoe has disappeared. In its place he thinks he can see alternating black and white squares at the end of a dark road. Over the course of several years, he reflects, sitting there in the Xantia as it climbs the slope and turns off who knows where, he used to play chess with Goncharki, each of them believing himself superior to the other. As their sessions continued Goncharki had gotten into the habit of sprinkling himself before every game with Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet, Churchill's perfume. One day, unable to stand it any longer, Adam had said, I'm suffocating, I can't go on playing in these conditions. A warrior's perfume, Goncharki had calmly replied, moving his castle. A cheat's perfume, Adam had retorted. A cheat? Yes. You drench yourself on purpose to distract me. Pathetic, Goncharki had concluded, laying down his king. He would have to talk to Guen about this succession of visions. Should any significance be
attributed to them beyond the physiological? A shoe and a chessboard. Don't tell me, Professor (now I've lost my left eye you're the only person I want to deal with), that the body fashions images at random, don't tell me, because you know nothing about it, that it's purely a matter of chance, when we close our eyes, whether we see a shoe or a chessboard. On the day of Winston Churchill's funeral Goncharki's father, hunched beside his radio set, following the whole ceremony over the air and frowning at the smallest noise, had looked up and said: “God is not as great as Churchill.” It was not so much the extravagance of the remark that had struck Goncharki at the age of thirteen as the expression of ferocious perspicacity and also, he felt he could perceive, of condemnation that accompanied it. It was, he had related, a
in the cosmic sense. Goncharki's book on Meyer Lansky began with these words: “Night falls in the sad Florida apartment that has no view and only one bedroom with twin beds.” Adam liked this lame sentence, which came to him who knows why. What story could you tell, he thinks, you have no story to tell, and what's more you've never been able to tell stories, let alone make them up, even for your children, people say you're a writer and you don't even know how to tell your children a story, no you don't,
you don't know how to come up with events, obstacles, sudden reversals, you surprised yourself with
The Black Prince of Mea-Hor
but Blade is immortal, you don't tell an immortal's life story, the truth about immortals is that they have no life story. You make up adventures, nothing more, anyone can do that.
FIRST VINTAGE INTERNATIONAL EDITION, FEBRUARY 2008
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Copyright © 2003 by Editions Albin Michel S.A. and Yasmina Reza.
Vintage is a registered trademark and Vintage International and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the Knopf edition as follows:
[Adam Haberberg. English]
Adam Haberberg / by Yasmina Reza; translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan. —1st American ed.
I. Strachan, Geoffrey. II. Title.