FRE 480Y Translation: French to English


Michel Tournier, Gemini, trans. Anne Carter
(Doubleday, 1982)

Tuesday 1940 hours. Milepost 2,838 MISSION CITY. The forest already, the real northern forest, which is to say not the neat, thinly planted woodland of Stanley Park, where every tree is a landmark in itself, but an impenetrable tangle of small trees all growing into one another, a real paradise for game of all kinds, furred and feathered. Conclusion: the beauty of woods is man-made.

Tuesday 2020 hours. Milepost 2,809.6 AGASSIZ. The sliding door of my compartment opened suddenly and a black steward slammed a prepacked meal down on my tabletop. One glance assures me that the restaurant car is not working. So it is total seclusion then, until tomorrow morning at least. I shall make the best of it in my tiny cell, the outside wall of which is a clear window letting in the dense, black, close-set pine forest with the rays of the setting sun breaking through it mysteriously from time to time.

Tuesday 2215 hours. Milepost 2,750.7 NORTH BEND. A lengthy halt. Shouts and people running on the platform. I get the impression that this is the last station of any importance before the long night's haul. I have time to ask myself the old question which is bound to occur to a sedentary like myself on any journey: why not stop here? There are men, women, and children who look on these passing places as home. They were born here. Probably some of them can't even picture any other land over the horizon. So why not me? What right have I to come here and go away again knowing nothing at all about North Bend, its streets, its houses, and its people? Isn't there something in my nocturnal passing which is worse than contempt, a denial of this country's very existence, an implied consigning of North Bend to oblivion? The same depressing question often comes into my mind when I am dashing through some village, town or stretch of countryside and I catch a lightning glimpse of young men laughing in a square, an old man watering his horses, a woman hanging out her washing with a small child clinging round her legs. Life is there, simple and peaceful, and I am flouting it, slapping it in the face with my idiotic rush...

But this time, also, I am going on. The red train heads wailing into the night and the mountains and the platform slips by, taking with it two girls deep in earnest conversation, and I shall never know anything about them, or about North Bend...