Archive for December, 2016

A story from Villa Amalia by Pascal Quignard

December 8, 2016

The photo


Written on the back of the photo



Inscription in front of book

The copy of ‘Villa Amalia’ I got second-hand from Amazon had this photo in it and this inscription in the front.

So what does the inscription say?  It looks like: J’adore cette photo première d’un bonheur retrouvé. 26 janvier 2013 But surely the première should be in front of the photo–unless it’s in apposition, in which case there’s a comma missing?

The birthday boy seems to be well over 30 if you count the candles on the cake, so bonheur may have been missing for some time…

If it’s really première then [she] has formed the p differently there and in photo. If you look at janvier [her] v extends below the line, which increases the number of possibilities for the suspect word. [She] and [her] are my supposition from j’adore and an inscription in the front of the book. Restoring the omissions there gives us La souffrance [,l’amour, la musique, la faim] avai[en]t fait d’elle une femme intense–which looks like a case of adapting the sentence to refer to oneself.

There are no shes in the photo, which would be strange for a family gathering, so this she might have taken the picture.  Let”s call her Ann Hidden, since she’s behind the camera.  The man on the left of the picture seems to have the same shaped face as the candle-blower-out, which lends credence to the family gathering idea.

My conclusion for the time being is that it’s not a birthday party–there aren’t enough people–but a family celebration of the lad overcoming some mishap and the candles (say) represent the number of [periods] he was in hospital/prison/rehab/married to that woman, though he looks a bit young for some of those. If it was hospital/rehab, that would explain why he is warmly dressed while the bloke behind him is in shirtsleeves.

It’s much easier to leave out punctuation–note that there’s no full stop at the end of the sentence–than put an adjective in the wrong place, so première is a noun in apposition to photo, with some meaning like Première épreuve tirée pour la correction. ‘Galley-proof of happiness’ is quite good really.

Then  the inscription La souffrance…avait fait d’elle une femme intense would fit in well with [Ann Hidden’s] [son] returning from [rehab] [or from death’s door].

There is another and perhaps better idea. When I first looked I thought it had to be pleine or remplie, just by context but could find no way of making that fit what appear to be the letters. The second “l” in elle above doesn’t extend above the line, so you might be OK with pl- plénière [plenary] could fit the bill. I think that in French ‘plenary photo’ would be OK.   Plenary photo from a recovered happiness.  That would indeed imply that [she] took the photo–it would be plenary from her point of view but not the others’.  Which leaves the putative ‘l’ that doesn’t extend above the line–which may not be a problem at all–and the absence of one accent to deal with…A missing accent is better than a missing comma…

Were it not that I have bad dreams…

December 1, 2016


A middle-aged bureaucrat has collected data on his sleep pattern for 29 weeks or so. He works 4 days a week (not Wednesdays) and wants to know whether these data should impel him towards early retirement.  We can see from the above that the prospect of going back to work on Monday and Thursday causes some lack of sleep.

Table of sleep data

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Mean 06:25 07:10 05:12 06:52 07:40 07:07 05:00
N 29 29 29 29 29 28 28
Min 01:00 03:00 02:00 04:00 05:00 05:00 00:00
Max 08:30 09:00 07:30 09:00 10:00 12:00 07:00
Q1 06:00 06:30 05:00 06:00 06:30 06:52 04:30
Q2 06:30 07:30 05:30 07:00 07:30 07:15 05:45
Q3 07:30 08:00 06:00 07:30 08:00 08:07 06:30
StDev 01:27 01:29 01:19 01:07 01:07 01:26 01:35

The overall mean is 06:29, while results here indicate an average of 06:50 for those aged 40-55.  The difference is hardly large, but in the other hand the justified expectation of sleeping poorly tw0 nights a week is not something one would wish to continue indefinitely.

We presume that there are essentially two possible explanations for the smaller amount of sleep on Sunday and Tuesday nights:  apprehension and having to get up early/change in routine.  If it was purely a case of the latter, we would expect the effect to be greater on a Sunday night since there are two days of changed routine to account for as against one on a Wednesday night.  But in fact there is no significant difference between the means for Wednesday and Sunday, so we presume apprehension is playing a role here.

Our preliminary recommendation would be for the client to collect the same data for a substantial period of leave so as to establish how far the results above deviate from the natural pattern.  And here it is!