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The Civilized, Chapter 30 - English Translation of Les Civilisés


English Text

Like a fatally wounded animal that wanted only to lick its wounds in its lair, Fierce only stopped his flight when he reached his cabin on the Bayard. He sat down on his bed, his elbows on his knees, his head between his hands.

He whispered "it's over." The words didn't stir up any response within him. The tumult in his mind had been so violent at first, and now it had died and there was an awful, wrenching void. But still horror coursed through his blood: his heart felt like it was being stabbed again and again by sharpened claws, squeezing it brutally, threatening to burst, and his thighs and stomach felt the atrocious contraction that only alpinists who have fallen from cliffs feel. When he had suffered to the extent that he was at the end of his strength, his head fell between his hands, and he slept or passed out. But as soon as he awoken again the nightmare flashed once more in his mind.

It was an even worse suffering this time, because now his brain could think again. And the idea that he was dead for Sélysette, that he wouldn't see her - never! never again! - drew out a moan of agony from him. He repeated over and over again the mantra "it's over," as his wasted life flashed in front of his eyes, his inevitable death stalking him. To fall once again into vice, into nihilism, into civilization - no! I "like women and wine more," said Lorenzaccio once, "that's enough to give some debauchery, but not enough to make me into a debaucher." Fierce no longer wanted them, no longer had the courage for it.

The hope of forgiveness, of pity from Sélysette, didn't even cross his mind: you forgave a guilty man, you had pity on the unfortunate, but you don't marry a liar, you whose taken the name and the mask of an honest man that you loved. Fierce was that liar, and Sélysette had seen his sins with her own eyes. What was the solution? Things had never been clearer: Fierce sneered with powerlessness and his despair: he could write, plead, cry, but it was over, over, over. He hammered the word into his brain. And then, like a drowning fool who tries to drag himself out of a well with ragged nails against smooth stone walls - he wrote, he begged, he cried. But the letter came back to him sealed, and with it, a brief note where his word was given back to him - a note that he received like a body blow, like a guillotine's blade slicing through him.

He didn't eat breakfast, or lunch, or dinner. Seven hours sounded, seven hours in the evening. He realized that the whole day had gone past, from dawn to dusk. In the gathering darkness, he shook at his loneliness: a childish fear drove him from his cabin. The cruiser was already silent and dark. The trumpets had sounded out the hauling down of the colors in the evening, the crew was on the bridge, the empty battery loomed massively, low and mournful like a cathedral's crypt. Fierce, hastily, made for the gangway, fleeing the silence and the shadows. On the quay, night hadn't fully descended yet.

He walked at random, but randomness quietly tugged his feet to Moïs Street, and when he realized where he was going, he was afraid again and turned about. This time, he looked for Mévil's house, looking for sympathy in his depression, from anyone he could find.

But Mévil wasn't home. Fierce saw the open gate and the serving boys on the doorstep, a surprised and worried group. The master, who had gone out alone after the siesta, hadn't left any orders for them and wasn't back yet.

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With heavy steps, Fierce started to walk off again. He went to look for Mévil, he looked for Torral, trying to find a hand that he could hold in his darkness.

He crossed Catinat Street, and running people jostled him unexpectedly. The city was in an uproar, an uproar that slipped by him in his abjection. The crowd, still dense after twilight, seemed shaken by some growing fear. Far away, at the hotel where posters were being put up showing telegrams from news agencies, a stream of people was converging in with shouts and frantic crushing power. There were rumors of a riot. Couriers were running off, newspaper criers shouted, and their seized papers were brandished about like flags. An anxious mood had seized even the Chinese, who forgot their tireless labor to stand about chattering on shops' doorsteps, and even white women had been pulled out of their creole indolence, bare headed and without makeup, running to hear the news. Saigon, gripped by a whirlwind of madness and panic, had been tragically jolted out of its eternal slumber.

French Text


  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8
  9. Chapter 9
  10. Chapter 10
  11. Chapter 11
  12. Chapter 12
  13. Chapter 13
  14. Chapter 14
  15. Chapter 15
  16. Chapter 16
  17. Chapter 17
  18. Chapter 18
  19. Chapter 19
  20. Chapter 20
  21. Chapter 21
  22. Chapter 22
  23. Chapter 23
  24. Chapter 24
  25. Chapter 25
  26. Chapter 26
  27. Chapter 27
  28. Chapter 28
  29. Chapter 29
  30. Chapter 30
  31. Chapter 31
  32. Chapter 32
  33. Chapter 33
  34. Chapter 34
  35. Chapter 35
  36. Chapter 36

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