"Madame, l'auteur était bien jeune lorsqu'il a écrit ce livre; il le met à vos pieds, Madame, en vous demandant beaucoup, beaucoup d'indulgence" thus begins the author whose footsteps I, without being aware, wound up following across continents. It's the sort of nudge on the rib that upon realization makes you wonder: how many intricate paths in our lives do we heedlessly enter, exit, re-enter, cross over and under without ever having the slightest clue of where we've stepped into or out from?
It's dinner time and the entrée, smoked trout with dill sauce and cherry tomatoes, is looking dandy. My friend Suglum and her husband have been very kind to have me over for a meal at their flat in Grünerløkka. At the risk of being perceived as bulimic, I've been chopping the fish to particles to avoid her getting up and bring the next dish. All I want is to have her go on about her time in the South Pacific and the anthropological research she carried out there. "You've probably read 'The way to paradise', haven't you?" It takes me by surprise that my passive role has been interrupted and I manage to nod while almost fumbling my glass of white wine onto Genk, who seems more amused than worried at my clumsiness. "Besides the references to Gaugin in Tahiti", I blurt out, "Vargas Llosa mentions a book called Rarahu". I haven't yet finished saying this when it hits me that three years before Rarahu, Pierre Loti wrote Aziyadé while being in Istanbul, which I happen to be visiting in just a few hours time. Perhaps a chance to have a coffee where he used to sit and reflect, looking over the golden horn?
Having had a charming one night stop-over (see Letter from home), I set out to my main destination in the West corner of Africa landing in Dakar at the heat of Senegalese mid day. A day trip to Lac Rose serves me as a warm up -literally- and soon after my friend Hanna and I are ready to head off north to the jewel of the Senegal River: la ville de Saint Louis. On the second day of exploring the town I almost trip over a line of wooden statuettes for being distracted by a street sign (see below). The kid selling the pieces is giggling and asks me if I could please do the pirouette again yet I barely listen. I'm too focused frantically going over the pages of my guide until I find the sought out confirmation : Pierre Loti wrote "Le Roman d'un Spahi" while being stationed in Saint Louis in 1881.
A cute coincidence? If anything, a blip, a desafinado note de um coração que bate calado? I decide to ponder over it while I steal some of the joy from Miss Bernhardt.