2. I could tell you how for a long time I thought my memory was paralyzed: twenty years passed outside France and what have I left of it?
- Take a good look, said my father, take a good look, we're going through the Suez Canal!
I was seven years old, we were standing on the bridge of the boat that was returning from Cochin China, the water below was far away, I felt lost, perched like a bird, minuscule.
I have forgotten Suez, the significant canal, I've only kept the command, which was not to forget, the sensation of my height above the sea, the uneasiness. How not to fall?
I hold on to images.
Contrary to my belief, when I verify, they are all there.
All of them, I can't know that, but many, that's for sure, more and more of them as I tap the floor with my blind man's cane, the floor of my secret dwelling.
I could tell how for a long time I wrote with transparent letters, like the alphabet noodles they put in soups.
And then one day, I pronounced words with my voice, I made movements with my body, we were acting in the theater, at least we were learning to, each part of me became clairvoyant.
I invented the real:
Agatha with Cristobal's heart.
But then cristobalite is at the heart of agate.
Or I was rediscovering what I had perhaps, once, long ago, learned.
I would write Cappadocia, and I would know at the same instant, I who knew nothing, where Cappadocia was.
On the shore of the Black Sea.

3. The puzzle existed, I hoped gradually to put its pieces back in place. Scattered by what fright?
If anyone asked me, so many years spent writing, does that make any sense? I could try to answer, to explain.
I have a taste for dates and a sense of debt, I am there to bear witness.
Our quest will cease when we arrive at our point of departure, knowing the spot for the first time.
Obviously writing is a return, a supplement to a journey.
That's why I would like, on this occasion, to call myself by other names.
Or to assume another sex.
"I am a man."
That's what Isa used to say, I am a man, Isa who laughs, who loves her husband the way one loves a woman.
This moment of my life, I have hardly had time, I was looking elsewhere, there was, there was.
To put it back together? Date-books, letters, testimonies? Or to track it down? Or to lose myself in its tracks?
To proceed in a different way. To begin with, cross out lines, be interested in other things.
I say to myself, stay calm, words inside, people outside, there is my flow. Still calmer. The rescued word springs forth, scattered but gathered.
Lacunary memory or absolute memory, I travel backward to find the sea again.

4. "I must tell you, Boris, I don't like the sea," wrote Marina to Boris Pasternak.
She was nonetheless staying at the seashore, at Saint-Gilles-sur-Vie.
Come there from Paris, to spend her vacation?
Already in exile, what was she looking for south of Noirmoutier?
In that town which is now called Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie "stripped of style, bushes, sand and crosses" she runs to see if la Vie flows upstream or downstream.
La Vie is the little river.
It's sometimes said: life is a long river.
When you're in Brittany, it's the sea, rather, that arrives and departs, that denudes the earth, transforms it into a moonscape, which then comes back, which recovers it.
Eyes notice when it has disappeared, identify its absence, because of the blue-tinged peninsulas and islands that mark its limit, or the beginning of the sky.
The sea, says Marina, is insurmountable and humiliating.
" ... dictatorship, Boris, and wounded pride."
While waiting for it to return, which it seems will be never, silt has replaced it, it glistens like water.
A few very black rocks break its flatness, you'd think the light was behind them, you'd think it was dusk, at the edge of a crater, near petrified earth.
Nevertheless, the light comes from above, through an invisible fog.

5. On the wet shore, skiffs, boats, lying on their sides, out of their element.
"The earth is cold, and I am sorry for it, but the sea is not cold.
"It's a monstrous plate, a huge cradle that spills the child out, I mean the boat.
"I put that in my notebook to tell it to you, Boris. I don't like the sea, too much like love.
"To stay there, waiting."
I don't like things, either, writes Marina, or people who hoard them, who live alone, in the midst of their suitcases.
Strange night that night in itself.
I only like the devil, with him, we can dance on the embers.
That's what the Bretons do with their own devil. Old Paul, Old William, Little Yves.
Quarquase of the dead made of wood, molded or painted, Ankou.
His country is frozen and foggy, to enter it, one must cross a river.
It's the dwelling of the Anaons, the dead souls. Laundresses of the night.
"Life is a train station. I will leave soon, for where I don't know."
Chant and disenchantment. Marina's or the sea's?

6. The bus took us to the port at La Pallice.
Paul is outside, on the sidewalk, I wait in a café.
Everything seemed petrified, people, time, the bus, all that.
The sea is so muddy you'd say a field, stormy beneath the foam.
Trip in a taxi to Saint-Martin-de-Ré, la-Flotte-en-Ré, Marie-de-Ré.
The convicts' prison, the low stone arch from where the canals led up to the cell-boat.
Return to La Rochelle.
Birds in flight, little black crosses.
Rue Sur-les-Murs, rue des Fagots, and rue des Trois-Moulins.
The Lantern Tower, the Four Sergeants' Tower.
We live on rue Sur-les-Murs, we watch the sea from our house, from first thing in the morning till nightfall.
It's muddy or it's clear.
I think of the Moai kava kava statue on Easter Island.
It has two heads, the wood it's carved of comes from Toromino.
One sees only its obsidian eyes, rimmed with a narrow gold line.

7. The glasses are pink, the hair parted at the top of the head and gathered in a single braid, down one side.
The neck is circled by a yellow scarf, which goes around and then down.
The left hand supports the temple and the forehead, which does not aspire to thoughts, nor to depth, for the temple and the forehead laugh as much as the mouth does, in front of the blue-painted door.
I am a displaced person in a country at war.
I'm seeking the song, I must find it, find it absolutely, it's an idea, it's my idea, my only idea.
The song is old, barely a memory that persists and burns, that cannot be grabbed like a feather at the fair, from the carousel.
From time to time I go out nevertheless, from my house, from my neighborhood, from my city.
I go out, I move, you could say I move, I'm quite advanced my whole life long, trajectory I pursue humming the very old song.
I'm not humming, I'm searching for the lost song. Find it, find it! I perform for myself, speeches, I exhort myself, push myself into combat, also emit inglorious cries, arrgh!
When I lived on the China Sea, I would run off with Gerard into the mangrove swamp, to look for it.
I ran, I jumped, I put my head down between my legs and looked.
Between the trees' branches, there was no more sky, everything was upside down, difficult.

8. Sailing back up the sea of Oman, I searched for it on the steamer cleaving the water, convinced of its grandeur.
And yet the boat was old, well worn.
It spit coal and listed to one side, the wind was too strong, the cargo badly distributed.
On Ebrié Lagoon, I looked for it on my bicycle racing along the coast that led to school where Monsieur Parisot taught the stories of history and the numbers of tables and the letters of fables and conjugations.
Oh, conjugations!
When I lived in Sunugal, I looked for it in the dust that came up the roads, that covered people's feet and clay palaces.
Secular fatigue, something invented, similar, I told myself, to very lost music.
When I came back to Île-de-France, winter was frequent, winter surprised me.
I knew summer, nothing but summer, I felt that I had crossed the frontier in the direction of a return, of exile's end.
So many years, I said to myself, on one side, so many years on one side and now on the other without my noticing?
It was not to be believed, my eye, it was to be believed (was I going crazy?).
Light filtered through my lids, a sleeping woman's or a bird's, sewn shut by a harsh master.
Now, I said to myself, everything will be different, familiar.
The very old song lives somewhere, in the beloved country. Isn't that true?

9. In my childhood, I had learned how to run quickly around tables.
The more I ran, the less often I was caught.
Punctual Santa Clauses came all the way to the tropics, they brought me books that I would read, rewrite.
I cut the pages with my fingers holding them down the middle, no need of any tools.
They called me dear sorrowful one.
I had learned very early what it cost to carry that. My burdens, afterwards, only grew.
It was wartime, I didn't get away from that, I didn't get over that.
We had gone far away, I got used to being elsewhere, the unnamed.
So I insist: to write is to take a running start on untangling the blanks.
There were two Barbarians, were ten, were a thousand, you couldn't see them but you heard them.
Little right-angled streets. Behind closed shutters, the shadows of a party.
When I arrived in the garden, guests were turning the spits, women seated in the midst of their dresses.
Everyone was eating handfuls of rice and fish from enameled bowls.
Velvet, lamb suint.

10. I had been married, given the bread, whiteness of the veil, the candle's wax.
I had been looked at, like a bird I was mounted.
The sea spilling its limits, it was beyond comprehension, too full, the dune begun, begun again beneath the solid sky.
In the wind's space the seashells breathed.
The war lasted a long time. When someone went out, they didn't come back, or came back rouged with blood.
The banker's wife churned butter in the garden, rings on her fingers.
I intended to live at least to see. I did not see much. For there's the moral order, and below it, inextricable, the great tablets of the law.
Even fate loses its force there.
I took myself for an insect, I looked at people indirectly, as it were, from the side.
It happened also (think of the audacity) that I'd feel embarrassed about my superiority.
- Animals are wise, they are saints, said the child.
- Sometimes I think that I'd like not to think, the old lady answered him.
In the notoriously unstable house, the child sang the ballad of the soldier.

11. I've traveled my whole life long in countries with splendid names. I've entered into their legends as if I were a king myself.
"Pero me gustan también las rosas."

I've made my way up yellow rivers in patched-up boats, climbed the thousand peaks and crossed the marshlands.
"Pero me gustan también las rosas."

In those countries become my own, I have built roads and houses, bridges, aqueducts and railroads, fed, cared for and sometimes healed.
"Pero me gustan también las rosas."

I have also brought the fire of our cannons and our bombs, destroyed, killed, buried, for these countries were not my own.
"Pero me gustan también las rosas."

But at present I live at ease between the sea and the mountains, I read books to understand the meaning of each thing.
"Pero me gustan también las rosas."