by Robert Pinget
The curé of Fantoine is an amateur. He hasn’t much of a gift for God. He’s bored. He subscribes to theater magazines. He dips into the fashionable authors. He gleans in learned vineyards. He passes for a scholar, but he’s a rotter.
The Fantoine belfry dates from the ninth century. It is extremely stylish. It’s a pity that it goes for walks at night. It can’t read. It visits the church, the village, the environs. You get used to its moods.
The inhabitants of Fantoine are hopeless. They drink. They work. They drink. Their children are epileptic, their wives pregnant.
The Fantoine postman is a wag. When he goes to the café he orders a vermouth. The proprietor asks him: “Dry?” He answers: “No; wet.” It’s always the same. When he’s finished it he goes out, saying: “Love and kisses, see you soon.” An epistolary convention.
The Fantoine crocodiles are stuffed. The cows are made of whitewood. The haylofts mumble. At midday, they shout from one street to the next, they strangle the hens, they cut the calves’ throats.
But the curé of Fantoine is bored. Luckily, someone from Agapa-la-Ville takes an interest in him and sends him a book on Cambodia. The curé buries himself in it. He’s no longer bored. He teaches himself the Khmer language. He says: “Ban, La’a, Ke mien, You, Kandiet, Pisa bay, Pisa Kraya.” Likewise Khmer mythology. He says: “Vishnu, Lakshmana, Rama, Raksava Viradha, Sita, Hanuman.” Likewise Khmer art. He says: “Angkor Wat, Bayon, Neak Pean, Naga, Nang Sbek, Ram-Vong, Ram Khbach, Sayam.”
The Fantoine belfry no longer goes for walks at night. It listens to the curé divagating.
The inhabitants of Fantoine become interesting: they ape the royal dancing girls.
The forest of Fantoine becomes populated with yak demons, with Mrinh Hangveal spirits, with Banra trees. Paddyfields cover the country. The Mekong river carries alluvial deposits.
The sacrilege is complete.
It was at this point that the curé of Fantoine made a mistake during the Consecration and said: “Hic est enim corpus Yak” . . .
A gigantic demon sprang out of the Host, dispatched the curé, and pulverized the church.
And Vishnu the Eternal deigned to smile.
“One day, a certain person happened to be in a certain place–Manhattan, let’s say.” No, that won’t do. We must say: “A horse dealer happened to be in Bucharest just at the moment when . . .” I’d prefer: “In Vaugirard, one rainy day, my wife . . .” No. The simplest is:
Once upon a time sometime, in Manhattan, a person who was a horse dealer in Bucharest just at the moment when Vaugirard was annexed to Paris, in the rain, my wife . . .
The result is that people don’t understand. If they are determined to look for a meaning they’ll more or less grasp that it’s a question of one and the same person. Now such is not the case. It’s a question of several people who were each several persons, in different places at the same moment. It’s impossible to say this synthetically and with precision. One can only suggest synchronism by enumerating and linking propositions together by adverbial phrases. But the effect would be spoiled. A story must make an immediate impression. Never mind, to hell with elegance, I’ll tell it just the same.
One day in 1860, the date of the annexation of Vaugirard to Paris, at the very moment of the signature of the document, a lady who lived in Manhattan took the boat for Bucharest where she had been working as a horse dealer for two years, and waited for me near the Medici fountain.
At the same moment a Bucharest horse dealer, a real flesh and blood horse dealer who had lived in the town for two years and who was not to budge from it until his death, left Manhattan and waited for me in the rain in Paris.
At the same moment my future wife, who was waiting for me in the Luxembourg Gardens and was furious because I was late, sold a packhorse in Bucharest and left Manhattan.
So far, it’s clear. I must now say that the person from Manhattan was going to Bucharest to visit the horse dealer. The horse dealer was waiting for her. My future wife, at the fountain, was waiting for herself between the two of them. When the person had arrived in Bucharest and gone into the horse dealer’s premises—the latter was therefore visiting himself—the person kissed herself on the mouth, my wife did both (I was married by this time), and all three were in my bed.
I may add that my wife was the person from Manhattan, whom I met six months later and whom I had arranged to meet in the Luxembourg Gardens on the day of the annexation of Vaugirard. Given that while she was waiting for me she was thinking of her departure from Manhattan and of her Bucharest horse dealer, it follows on the other hand that she must have been present at the fountain six months later, for she was madly in love with me. Love does things like that, and many others, that’s a platitude. As for the horse dealer, he knew beforehand that he’d be jealous six months later. Hatred has the same effect: so he was present at the Medici fountain right from the start. My wife and her lover, when they met in Bucharest and found themselves at the same time in my bed . . . But I won’t dwell on it, it’s crystal-clear.