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But signs of a new form of hostility - mysterious airs, winks, concealed smirks - began to appear among my fellow pupils. The same indications in his own circle were noticed by my brother. They were signs of something that was known, of allusions understood by  everyone, which concerned ourselves and no-one else, but could not be expressed clearly in our presence. Our mother noticed nothing and could never have noticed anything. Coming from an exclusively Nantian family, she thought it natural that people should express themselves with equivocal remarks and hidden meanings. In her world, the most everyday cliché demanded a twisting, snakelike circumlocution, interspersed with dotted lines.


Each day it seemed new heads were being gained by this spirit of collusion. I wondered if something dreadful hadn't happened in our house, known to everyone except my brother and myself.

If my father had not died simply of an influenza-based pneumonia, if my grandfather had not fallen down dead in the street after learning that his adversary in a lawsuit of a personal nature was insolvent, I would have supposed that someone else close to me was suspected of having poisoned them.

I talked to Touront about it and he promised to solve the riddle.

Some days later he summoned me in great high spirits:

"Your fellow townspeople are even more pig-ignorant than you thought they were. They are saying your parents used to have unnatural sexual tastes. Its ridiculous! I know your mother."

I burst out laughing. My mother! the thought of her lowering her lofty profile into the intimacy of one of the bigots she was surrounded with was absurdly comical, and the little I knew about my father gave me no grounds for attributing to him the character of a giton. 

But when I was alone and had recovered from my mirth I realised that I knew nothing about my parents. In front of their child a man and a woman behave as if they were in front of a photographer; they assume poses and keep their faces straight [se font une visage]. It is only through the keyhole that they can be seen as they really are. It was in vain that I crushed my eyelid up against the door every time my mother was alone with a friend, and the maid, who had long been practising this means of keeping herself informed, admitted to me that never had she seen anything of any interest.

It wasn't the old proverb that encouraged me to look for the fire that lay behind this sodomite and lesbian smoke; it was the absence of imagination among the Nantians. I judged them incapable of inventing even a malicious slander. It was not difficult to find the source, or rather the spark, at the beginning of it all. The homosexuals made up a sort of fraternity and, though there were a great many of them, each member knew all there was to be known about each of the others.

I went to a cafe in the place Groslin. An old lawyer, a friend of my family, went there every day trying to forget an unfaithful gunner. I had shown sufficient sympathy for his emotional distress to feel able to ask if he could relieve me of an annoying lack of certainty.

It was with an obvious pleasure that he gave me what I wanted. He told me that my father, at the moment when he left college, had been taken with a lively friendship for a boy of his own age. Nothing that he did or said would have given anyone any reason to doubt the innocence of this feeling, that was clearly reciprocated, if the young man had been a Nantian. Unfortunately, he was Egyptian and on the banks of the Loire it was assumed that those who live on the banks of the Nile necessarily have all the vices. The two friends were surrounded by scandal.

To put a stop to it my grandfather, fearing that his legal adversaries might use it as a weapon against himself, gave his son an ultimatum: either leave quickly for America or immediately get married. My father turned to Eugenie, the girl next door and a childhood friend, the daughter of a high-grade military officer and of his pious wife.

At the word 'marriage', she recoiled with horror, which she explained as follows:

The previous evening she had been indulging in her daily walk in the wood which surrounded her residence, walking slowly, buried in a novel by Mme Zenaïde Fleuriot, when she was surprised by the sound of whispering coming from a thicket.

The wood was private. Apart from Eugenie and her family, only an old lady who owned the adjacent property had access to it. What should she be doing in this place? Who was with her?

The young girl remembered that this honourable personage was to have invited her son and daughter-in-law. So as to introduce herself, she gently parted the branches and thought she was the victim of a hallucination. On the young man stretched out on the ground the young woman was engaged in an intimate act of kissing of an audacity that went beyond the possible.

Eugenie did not go back to her book. After long reflection, she had understood that this was an expression of love and in her thoughts she substituted all the couples she knew for the couple in the thicket. She applied this attitude to the severe elegance of her mother and the great dignity of her father. She tried to find it very funny but she wanted to cry. These contradictory attitudes were reconciled through the collapse of certain symbols [un effondrement symbolique]. Veil, crown, medal were strewn about the ground with the debris of the wedding altar.

The sharing of this confidence amused my father and he thought he could take advantage of it. He declared that she had surprised two perverts, two people who were sick, were victims of a vulgar literature and its words; and he told the young girl about his own idea of marriage [and how they could?] fly (3) towards mystical heights where two beings would melt the one into the other to grow in wisdom, multiplying spiritual goods.

(3)   The sentence appears to be deficient.

Three months later they were married.

Unfortunately, my father had continued to go about with the young man of the copper face; and his wife - this was really too much! - seemed to prefer to the conjugal support, the flexible arm of a girlfriend!

Eugenie's father, across a whirlwind of steel fired from one of the panoplies [un tourbillon d'acier tiré d'une des panoplies], swore that he would massacre the couple with their unFrench ways of carrying on, but the law official ensured the adoption of a more peaceful solution. Confident that all mouths would be shut if his daughter-in-law's womb were to be legally enlarged, he ordered the newly weds to reproduce themselves before the year had passed, failing which he would cut them off and, personally, pass everything he owned on to his daughter.

The two 'perverts' ["anormaux"] agreed that the procreative act had become a matter of urgency, and nine months later I was born.

The old pederast fell silent. I exclaimed:

"How is it that this story comes out now, when it goes back to before I was born and should have been forgotten the moment I appeared?"

"Forgotten! In Nantes, nothing that could ever do anyone any harm is forgotten, it is preserved, they wait for an opportunity and you gave it to them ... those few lines of praise on your paintings in a Paris newspaper."

They had turned me into the child of a nancy and a dyke.

That wasn't going to alter my filial affections, but it was enough to make me leave the land of Black Stupidity and never to return.