Candy Storyby Marie Redonnet, Theodore Roosevelt
Candy Story recounts a turbulent year in the life of Mia, a young woman whose apparent calm is perpetually threatened by inner doubts and outer catastrophe. Her modest dreams of happiness are dashed by the deaths of her mother, old friends, and her lover. Mia is a talented writer, the author of an autobiographical novel. Now, assailed by calamity and/i>
Candy Story recounts a turbulent year in the life of Mia, a young woman whose apparent calm is perpetually threatened by inner doubts and outer catastrophe. Her modest dreams of happiness are dashed by the deaths of her mother, old friends, and her lover. Mia is a talented writer, the author of an autobiographical novel. Now, assailed by calamity and misfortune, she struggles with writer’s block, confounded—at least for the moment—by the senseless world around her.
Candy Story is the fourth novel by Marie Redonnet. Translations of the first three—Hôtel Splendid, Forever Valley, and Rose Mellie Rose—are also available from the University of Nebraska Press. In its unadorned prose and passionate focus on the inner life of a young woman, this fourth novel is unmistakably allied to the earlier ones. It will enthrall Redonnet’s admirers and win new ones.
Born in Paris in 1947, Redonnet taught for a number of years in a suburban lycée before deciding to pursue a writing career full time. Since her volume of poetry Le Mort & Cie appeared in 1985, she has published four novels, a novella, numerous short stories, and three dramatic works.
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Ma now lives at the Home in the Woods in Mells-le-Château.From her balcony all she can see are trees and thedistant lake. Because she no longer sees clearly and confusestimes and places, she thinks she has returned to Sise.Ma only remembers of Sise what she saw as a little girlfrom the window of Madame Alma's room; and what shesaw was the sea, the sea so calm in Sise Bay that it seemedlike a lake. Madame Alma, the mayor's widow, owned ahouse with a little tower. Ma called it the château. Now inher mind she confuses the Home and the château.
Today, June 21, is different from any other day becauseMa and I were both born on the twenty-first of June. Onher birthday Ma wanted to look her very best. She askedMademoiselle Aldine, the nurse who takes care of her, torinse and set her hair. Ma put on her prettiest suit, anexact copy of the original Chanel suit, to which she hadadded a little fur collar. Even though she has rheumatismin her arms and hands, she's still able to sew when shewants to alter a dress that she finds out-of-date. The suit ismade of brushed silk and she wears it with an embroideredblouse, the same color as the headband MademoiselleAldine placed on her silver hair. Gold threads in theheadband reflect nicely against her hair. Looking at herselfin the mirror, Ma must have thought that on herbirthday she resembled Madame Alma, a very elegantlady in her eyes though she was only the widow of themayor of Sise. When Ma was little she spent her days withher best friend, Lou, the cook's daughter, pretending to bean elegant lady.
Ma wears earrings for the firsttime, two fine pearls in thehollow of a little gold shell. She tells me the commandergave them to her this morning for her birthday. She is asthrilled as a young girl. The commander is the new residentat the Home and lives in the room next to her. Whenshe goes out onto her balcony to water her flowers, theytalk to each other. He tells her about his life as commanderof the fort at Rore during the war. Ma listens withadmiration. She sees him as a war hero the person whosaved the fort at Rore from the enemy. Ma would like toknow everything about him. When it's dark and he thinksshe's watching a nighttime soap opera on cable TV, shespies on him from behind the awning on her balcony. Sheturns up the volume so he won't think she's watching him.Just as the show begins and everyone at the Home sitsdown to watch, he goes out onto his balcony. He wearshis thick, fur-lined coat and his long wool scarf so as notto catch cold, and he sits in his armchair with his backsettled into the cushions. With large binoculars that datefrom his days as commander of the fort at Rore, he staresin the direction of the woods. Ma wonders what he couldbe looking at so intently. At that hour there are no horseraces at the track and the bridle paths in the woods aredeserted so it can't be the horses he stares at with hisbinoculars. Ma knows all about his passion for horses. Itdates from his days as commander of the fort at Rore,where he was known as the best rider. When he could nolonger ride he developed a passion for the races. He hasnever let Ma borrow his binoculars. He insists on hisprivacy. Their conversations always take place on the balcony.He has never invited her to his room, as if he didn'twant her to see the inside. With Madame Aldine's theaterbinoculars, Ma has been able to see only as far as thetraffic circle, where African women wearing leopard-skinshorts walk back and forth on the edge of the sidewalkand men slowly drive by, again and again. It cannot be thetraffic circle that the commander watches with his binoculars.He could see all that every night on cable TV aftermidnight. Ma thinks he must have a secret. He must bewatching something visible only to him beyond the trafficcircle.
I wished Ma a happy birthday and gave her a present. Igave her a wristwatch that I bought on the Place Vendômebecause Ma always told me that the best jeweler inParis was on the Place Vendôme. She has never worn awatch before. She has always told time by her alarm clockthat made the tick-tock she liked to hear. The alarmclock, which is very old, just broke and the watchmakercouldn't find the parts to fix it. Ma put the watch on herwrist. For her it's just a bracelet. She has no interest in thewatch because it doesn't make a sound.
Ma wished me a happy birthday, also. She gave me a littlebox with a diamond inside, her only souvenir of MadameAlma, who never told her where the unset diamond camefrom. Ma had never told me about the diamond before.Then she gave me her second gift, the one she gives meevery year a check in an envelope. This time the check isbigger than usual, all the money in booklet A from heraccount at the savings bank. She wants me to take theunset diamond and the money from booklet A to thejeweler on the Place Vendôme to have a ring made, engravedon the inside: Ma for Mia. I have never worn a ringbefore.
Ma brought out a bottle of Laurent Perrier rosé from herlittle fridge and a cherry tart with vanilla cream that shebought at Fauchon. To her mind, there's no better treat inthe world. She telephoned the commander to ask himover for a glass of champagne. This is the first time she hasinvited him to her room. She's so happy he accepted herinvitation and so excited to introduce me to him. He'sjust as much of a gourmand as Ma. He doesn't speakmuch because he has tonsillitis and his voice is hoarse. Hehas on a cream-colored cashmere scarf and a black corduroysuit. He asked Ma whether she has started herwatercolor painting. She said she would wait until afterher birthday. Madame Alma taught her to paint and shehas decided to take it up again. She asks him how hisMemoirs are progressing. He has decided to begin all overagain. Ma gazes at the commander with pride. She wantsto take up watercolor painting again so that he will beproud of her as well. I told them I had to go and left thetwo of them together for the first time in Ma's room, totalk of their plans for the future.
It's a direct trip from the station at Mells-le-Château toParis-Notre-Dame, with one stop at Mills-le-Pont. Sincethe bank is still open I went to deposit my check. Curtz isat the window in front of me changing a wad of dollarsinto yen. He's wearing dark glasses and has a tan. I didn'tknow that he lived near Notre-Dame and that we wereneighbors. He just returned from New York and is leavingfor Tokyo to give a series of lectures on Witz. He's asrushed as ever, He didn't even have time to ask me how Iwas doing. He simply told me he hoped I would have agood vacation and said to call him at his office at Morénowhen he returned. I realized then that it was not just mybirthday but also the first day of summer. If Curtz hadasked me where I was going on vacation, I wouldn't haveknown how to answer.
The one thing I know for sure is that I won't be relivinglast summer's adventure when I took off to the Andesalone. I had suddenly decided to take the trip after havingrun into Curtz. Curtz wanted to meet me after havingread Sise Memories, my first novel, which had just been
Excerpted from CANDY STORY by Marie Redonnet. Copyright © 1992 by P.O.L..
Translation copyright © 1995 the University of Nebraska Press.Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Alexandra Quinn is a program associate at The Academy of American Poets in New York. This is her first book-length translation.
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