Papillon – Henri Charrière
- They’re crazy, I thought: do they really suppose that this ton of bricks falling on my head is going to worry me to the point of commiting suicide? I am brave and I always shall be brave. I’ll fight everyone and everything. I’ll start right away, tomorrow.
- Zoraima really began to look pregnant. Lali was rather jealous and she obliged me to make love at any hour of the day or night and in any convenient place. Zoraima also wanted to be made love to, but fortunately only at night.
- ..These ants were close on an inch long and they stood high on their legs. Each one was carrying this enormous piece of leaf. I followed them to the plant they were stripping and I discovered the whole thing was thoroughly organized. First there were the cutters, who did nothing but get the pieces ready: they were working away on a gigantic leaf something like the ones on a banana palm, very skilfully and very quickly cutting off pieces all the same size, which they dropped to the ground. Down below there were ants of the same sort but slightly different. These ones had a grey stripe on the side of their jaws: and they stood in a half circle, supervising the carriers. The carriers came filing in from the right and they went off towards the left in the direction of the ant-hill. They snatched up their loads before getting into line, but sometimes what with their hurry in trying to load and to get into position, there was a jam. Then the police-ants would step in and shove the workers into their proper places. I couldn’t understand the crime one worker had committed, but she was brought out of the ranks and one police-ant bit off her head while another divided her body in two in the middle. They then stopped two workers; they put down their loads, scratched a hole, buried the three parts of the ant- head, chest, bottom piece – and covered them over with earth.
- ‘..The bird is a sort of wild bush cock. Of course, it’s never so much as to see an ordinary hen or a cock or a human being. Well, I catch one, I take it to the village and I sell it to one who has a hen-run – they’re always in demand. Right. You don’t have to clip his wings, you don’t have to do anything at all: at nightfall you put him into the henhouse and when you open the door in the morning there he is, standing by, looking like he was counting the cocks and hens as they come out. He comes out after them, and although he eats alongside of them, all the time he’s watching – he looks up, he looks sideways and he looks into the bushes all round. There’s no watcdog to touch him. In the evening he stands there at the door and although no one can tell how, he knows if there’s a hen or two missing, and he goes and finds them. And whether it’s a cock or whether it’s a hen, he drives them in, pecking them like mad to teach them to keep an eye on the clock. He kills rats, snakes, shrews, spiders and centipedes; and a bird of prey has hardly appeared in the sky before he sends everyone off to hide in the grass while he stands there defying it. He never quits the hen-run for a moment.’ And this was the wonderful bird we had just eaten.
I don’t normally comment on the books I put up extracts from on my blog, but this time I have to say that although I haven’t actually read the original french, Patrick O’Brian’s translation renders so badly at times it hurts to read, or so I feel..