The Destiny of Nathalie X

BOOK: The Destiny of Nathalie X
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Acclaim for
estiny of

“Boyd writes in a grand, old-time way, with complex plots and sweeping historical backdrops … sure-footed … exciting … marvelous.”

Washington Post Book World

“Ranging in setting from Hollywood to London to an imaginary Brazil, and in time from World War I to the present, [
The Destiny of Nathalie X
] highlights Mr. Boyd’s pleasing variousness as a writer. He is at once as playful as the most perverse meta-fictionist yet as passionate as the lushest writer of romance.”

The New York Times Book Review

“[Boyd is] a deft master of witty manipulation.”

The Observer

“Mr. Boyd shares with Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis the priceless asset of knowing just how long a scene should run.”

The Times

“A wonderful collection … hilarious … striking.… With a seemingly effortless touch, [Boyd] evokes the shape of many worlds.”

New Jersey Star-Ledger

“Mr. Boyd is a writer of consummate skill in the ranks of Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene.”

The Kansas City Star

“Dazzling.… Hilarious.… Boyd’s [
The Destiny of Nathalie X
] confirms him as one of our foremost short-story writers.”

The Daily Telegraph

estiny of

William Boyd was born in Ghana in 1952 and was educated at the universities of Nice, Glasgow and Oxford. His novels include
The Blue Afternoon
, winner of the 1995
Los Angeles Times
Book Prize for Best Fiction;
A Good Man in Africa
, winner of the Whitbread and the Somerset Maugham Awards;
An Ice-Cream War
, shortlisted for the Booker Prize;
Stars and Bars
; and
Brazzaville Beach
, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His many screenplays include
Mr. Johnson
, based on the Joyce Cary novel, and
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
, from the book by Mario Vargas Llosa. His articles have appeared in
The New York Times
, the
Washington Post
and the
Los Angeles Times
. Mr. Boyd is married and lives in London.


Copyright © 1995, 1997 by William Boyd

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Originally published in Great Britain, in different form, by Sinclair-Stevenson, London, in 1995. First published in the United States in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, in 1997.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the Knopf edition as follows:

Boyd, William.
The destiny of Nathalie X and other stories / William Boyd.—

p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-307-77826-0
1. Manners and customs—Fiction. I. Title.
PR6052.09192D47 1997
823’.914—dc20 96-17564

Random House Web address:


For Susan


Four of these stories have been published in
“The Destiny of Nathalie X,” “Cork,” “Transfigured Night” and “Alpes-Maritimes.” “Alpes-Maritimes” also made it into a second Penguin edition of my first volume of short stories—
On the Yankee Station
(1981)—but has never been collected between hard covers and I wanted to include it here, albeit in a slightly altered form. “Loose Continuity” was published in
The New Yorker
, “The Dream Lover” in
London Magazine
, “Hôtel des Voyageurs” in the
Daily Telegraph
and “N Is for N” appeared in
Hockney’s Alphabet
(Faber and Faber, 1993).

London, 1997

estiny of

Man’s Voice(over)

a theory about this town, this place where we work and wrangle, where we swindle and swive. It was told to me by this writer I knew. He said: “It’s only a dance, but then again, it’s the only dance.” I’m not so sure he’s right, but anyway, he’s dead now …

Fade In

a time—actually, not so very long ago at all, come to think of it—in east-central West Africa, on one enervating May morning, Aurélien No sat on the stoop of his father’s house staring aimlessly at the road that led to Murkina Leto, state capital of the People’s Republic of Kiq. The sun’s force seemed to press upon the dusty brown landscape with redundant intensity, Aurélien thought idly, there was no moisture left out there to evaporate and it seemed … He searched for a word for a second or two: it seemed “stupid” that all that calorific energy should go to waste.

He called for his little brother Marius to fetch him another beer but no reply came from inside the house. He scratched his cheek; he thought he could taste metal in his mouth—that new filling. He shifted his weight on his cane chair and wondered vaguely why cane made that curious squeaking sound. Then his eye was caught by the sight of a small blue van that was making its way up the middle of the road with what seemed like undue celerity, tooting its horn at the occasional roadside pedestrian and browsing cow not so much to scare them out of the way as to announce the importance of this errand it was on.

To Aurélien’s mild astonishment the blue van turned abruptly into his father’s driveway and stopped equally abruptly before the front door. As the laterite dust thrown up by the tires slowly dispersed, the postman emerged from the auburn cloud like a messenger from the gods carrying before him a stiff envelope blazoned with an important-looking crest.

. For sure, I remember that day when he won the prize. Personally, I was glad of the distraction. He had been emmerding me all morning. “Get this,” “Get that,” “Fetch me a beer.” I just knew it had gone quiet for ten minutes. When I came out onto the stoop he was sitting there, looking even more vacant than normal, just staring at this paper in his hands. “Hey, Coco,” I said to him. “Military service, mmm? Poor
. Wait till those bastard sergeants give you one up the
He said nothing, so I took the paper from his hands and read it. It was the hundred thousand francs that had shocked him, struck him dumb.

Le Destin de Nathalie X
(metteur en scène Aurélien No) won the Prix d’Or at the
concours général
in Paris of l’Ecole
Supérieure des Etudes Cinématographiques (ESEC), the Kiq minister of culture (Aurélien’s brother-in-law) laid on a reception for two hundred guests at the ministry. After a long speech the minister called Aurélien onto the podium to shake his hand. Aurélien had gathered his small tight dreadlocks into a loose sheaf on the top of his head, and the photographs from that special evening show him startled and blinking in a silvery wash of the flashbulbs, some natural flinch causing the fronds of his dreadlock sheaf to toss simultaneously in one direction as if blown by a stiff breeze.

The minister asked him what he planned to do with the prize money.

“Good question,” Aurélien said, and thought for ten seconds or so before replying. “It’s a condition of the prize that I put the money toward another film.”

“Here in Kiq?” the minister said, smiling knowingly.

“Of course.”

. “It’s impossible,” I said when he called me. “Completely out of the question. Are you mad? What kind of film could you make in Kiq?” He came to my apartment in Paris, he said he wanted me to be in his new film. I say I don’t want to be an actress. Well, as soon as I started explaining Aurélien saw I was making sense. That’s what I like about Aurélien, by the way, he is responsive to the powers of reason. Absolutely not, I said to Aurélien, never in my life. He said he had an idea, but only I could do it. I said, look what happened the last time, do you think I’m crazy? I’ve only been out of the clinic one month. He just smiled at me. He said, what do you think if we go to Hollywood?

Aurélien No turned out of the rental park at LAX and wondered which direction to take. Delphine Drelle sat beside him
studying her face intently in the mirror of her compact and moaning about the dehydrating effect of international air travel. In the back seat of the car sat Bertrand Holbish, a photographer, and ex-boyfriend of Delphine, squashed in the cramped space left by the two large scratched and dented silver aluminum boxes that held the camera and the sound equipment.

Aurélien turned left, drove four hundred meters and turned left again. He saw a sign directing him to the freeway and followed it until he reached a hotel.
, he saw it was called as he pulled carefully into the forecourt. The hotel was a six-story rectangle. The orange plastic cladding on the balconies had been bleached salmon pink by the sun.

BOOK: The Destiny of Nathalie X
12.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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