Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Usually, I only read one book at once (fiction, that is). But over the next six months I will be thinking about eighteenth-century France in preparation for a summer school I’m teaching. So I’ll be reading and re-reading the fiction of the period, but I don’t want that to be all I read. So I’m going to try reading one book at home and another one on public transport and everywhere else! My ‘home’ book is still When Christ and His Saints Slept and my ‘away’ book is Julie, or The New Heloise by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
This is a book I’ve had on my shelves for many years and never actually got round to, although it’s an important classic – a romantic eighteenth-century bestseller which had a far-reaching influence on the development of the novel. It is rather a chunkster, which may have put me off. But it’s also a novel in letters, so it’s broken up into quite short segments. So far I’ve read letters from Julie d’Étange, a young girl of good family living in Switzerland, and Saint-Preux, her tutor, who has fallen in love with her but knows it is hopeless because he won’t be considered sufficiently rich and well-born to marry her.
The first teaser is from a Saint-Preux letter, the second from one of Julie’s. I’ve quoted first from the 1997 translation by Philip Stewart and Jean Vache, then the equivalent passage in the French language Pleiade edition, which is the one I’m actually reading.
A hundred times a day I am tempted to throw myself at your feet, to bathe them in my tears, there to find death or forgiveness. Each time a mortal terror numbs my courage; my knees tremble and dare not bend; the words expire on my lips, and my soul can muster no reassurance against the dread of provoking you.
That’s Saint-Preux writing to Julie. Here’s the original French:
Cent fois le jour je suis tenté de me jetter à vos pieds, de les arroser de mes pleurs, d’y obtenir la mort ou mon pardon. Toujours un effroi mortal glace mon courage; mes genoux tremblent et n’osent fléchir; la parole expire sur mes lèvres, et mon ame ne trouve aucune assurance contre la frayeur de vous irriter.
Okay, now here’s Julie:
I believe, I hope, that a heart that seemed to me deserving of all the affection of my own will not belie the generosity I am expecting of it. I further hope that if it were craven enough to take advantage of my disarray and of the admissions it has wrested from me, contempt and indignation would restore the reason I have lost, and I would not myself be so craven as to fear a lover of whom I should have to be ashamed.
And en français:
Je crois, j’espère, qu’un cœur qui m’a paru mériter tout l’attachement du mien ne démentira pas la générosité que j’attends de lui. J’espère encore qui s’il était assez lâche pour abuser de mon égarement et des aveux qu’il m’arrache, le mépris, l’indignation me rendroient la raison que j’ai perdue, et que je ne serais pas assez lâche moi-même pour craindre un amant dont j’aurais à rougir.