by Benoît Duteurtre
Nicholas got up to wander through the square. He gazed at the cathedral's towers,hemmed within the scaffolding of a cleaning company. He tried to make outthe high passageways through which Quasimodo and Esmeralda had run in thatold movie. He got closer to the façade, where hundreds of cameralenses competed for views of copies of medieval statues. Autumn suninfused the bodies coming and going through the two doors. A few of themlingered on the bridge, watching the tourist boats pass, their loudspeakersrecounting the history of la Cité. At a distance hummed theflock of protector buses.
On thesquare, acrobats and sidewalk artists were holding a small street fair.Perched on a traffic post, a man made up like the eighteenth century imitatedthe slow, jerky motions of an elderly robot. On stools in frontof easels, painters portrayed Notre-Dame and its branch of the river--in the impressionist style. They studied the scene minutely, before returningto their canvases, where their brushes-- like magic wands-- eliminatedall traces of traffic, buses, tourists, video cameras, andscaffolding, reconstituting the image of Paris éternel.
At thecenter of the square, some kids were running around a donkey. This realbeast was harnessed to a souvenir cart: the Eiffel tower, the Butte ofMonmartre, French flags, cold drinks, declarations of the rights of man...The animal had a basketball cap from a Chicago team, stuck between histwo long ears. The brats were gorging him on candy and soft drinks. A plasticpail hung under his back end, so he could relieve himself. Now and then,he let out a piercing shriek, and a few passersby became angry aboutseeing him treated so barbarically, far from nature's wide open spaces.
Fartheroff, people clustered around a bunch of athletic teenagers who were doingpirouettes on roller skates. They whirled about with bare chests. Withfake nochalance they offered laid-back gestures to the admiring crowd.Various fashion statements (name-brand socks, headbands) were part of thisballet, climaxing in an ecstasy of acrobatics. Spinning above the ground,one of the virtuosos ended up in a split as the crowd applauded. Nicholaspeered through the line of spectators to admire his landing.
His dazewas interrupted by a wail. A police van filled with men in uniform shotout of the neighboring precinct at sixty miles per hour and began dodgingits way through traffic, on the way to an emergency. The great gem-cutwalls of Notre-Dame, all its cornices and gargoyles, bristled in the bluesky, girlded by their scaffolding. At the top of each tower, jets of grittywater projected by powerful machines slowly polished the stone, to bringback the dazzle of Paris.
Translated by Bruce Benderson
Date de création : 16/07/2005 @ 18:23
Dernière modification : 16/07/2005 @ 18:23
Catégorie : Extraits en anglais
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