Final Sequence in Mouchette (The Art of Memory)

the dark west wind, the sea wind, was already scattering the voices in the darkness. it toyed with them a moment and then lifted them all together, dispersing them with an angry roar. the voice which mouchette had just heard hovered in the air a long time, like a dead leaf floating interminably.

her secret was not one which could be shared, for it was connected with so many different things. it was like one of those sickly-looking plants which bring up, when one tries to uproot them, the lump of earth which has sustained them. yet she could make no effort to escape from the strange, delicious languor which filled her and seemed to be weaving around her, diligently and patiently, the threads of some invisible design.

the old woman had indeed uttered the necessary words. the wonderful thing was that she had somehow torn mouchette’s secret from her. no mere words could have softened mouchette’s stony heart or drawn tears from her.

but the voice which mouchette could hear was infinitely more gentle. was it a voice? she listened to it like a dog listening to his master as he encourages and pacifies him. it was like the old woman’s voice, but also like arsène’s, and now and again even like madame’s. it spoke no human language; it was nothing more than a dying, whispering murmur. then it was silent.

then she twisted over and looked up into the sky. she felt the insidious flow of the water along her head and neck, filling her ears with its joyful sound. she knew that life was slipping away from her, and the smell of the grave itself rose to her nostrils.

text by george bernanos, nouvelle histoire de mouchette, librarie plon, 1937 (english edition: new york review books 2005)

via the art of memory: robert bresson, georges bernanos, nouvelle histoire de mouchette






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