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Le phare des Sanguinaires

24 February 2010

The beginning of one of my favorite short stories of all time, from the book Lettres de mon moulin by Alphonse Daudet. I got to see it performed by his great-great-grandson at a theatre festival in Avignon this summer, Aurélien Daudet, seen in the video below starting at 1:37. English translation below.

Cette nuit je n’ai pas pu dormir. Le mistral était en colère, et les éclats de sa grande voix m’ont tenu éveillé jusqu’au matin. Balançant lourdement ses ailes muiltées qui sifflaient à la bise comme les agrès d’un navire, tout le moulin craquait. Des tuiles s’envolaient de sa toiture en déroute. Au loin, les pins serrés dont la colline est couverte s’agitaient et bruissaient dans l’ombre. On se serait cru en pleine mer…

Figurez-vous une île rougeâtre et d’aspect farouche; le phare à une pointe, à l’autre une vielle tour génoise où, de mon temps, logeait un aigle. En bas, au bord de l’eau, un lazaret en ruine, envahi de partout par les herbes…Voilà l’île des Sanguinaires comme je l’ai revue cette nuit, en entendant ronfler mes pins. C’était dans cette île enchantée qu’avant d’avoir un moulin j’allais m’enfermer quelquefois, lorsque j’avais besoin de grand air et de solitude.


Tonight, I could not sleep. The mistral [the strong Northwest wind] was furious, and its raised great voice kept me awake until morning. Balancing heavily its mutilated wings whistled in the North wind like the apparatuses of a ship, the whole windmill creaked. Tiles were flying off the roofing in disarray. In the distance, the cut pines which cover the hill were swaying and rustling in the darkness. One would have imagined himself in open sea…

Imagine a reddish island and with an untamed appearance; the lighthouse at one point, at the other an old Genoese tower where, in my time, an eagle lodged. Below, on the edge of the water, a lazaretto in ruin, invaded from every side by plants…There was the island of the Sanguinaires, as I saw it tonight, listening to my pines roar. It was on this enchanted island that before having a windmill, I went to lock my self up every now and then, when I greatly needed lots of air and solitude.

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