Is that Simone de Beauvoir?
It is, he replies
Her coiffure, a construction. A diadem, her hair scraped back and then drawn up in a curving arc to the middle of her head. She ignores it, as a hommage to her great brow. Her brow: yes, an expanse. I flutter about above it, I bustle around, I have only an hour to live, I've said it, I say it again.
I hide my hands under the table, I see more and more clearly a female writer.
I order a second drink: thus habits are born.
Simone de Beauvoir was writing a book: where? In the same oxygen that I was breathing. About 10 metres separated her hand which held a pen from mine which held a cigarette. A woman, dressed like everyone else, was writing her books in public but did not look about her. She faded into the background in her concentration. No, this was not the cinema.
Further away, on the same row of seats is Jean-Paul Sartre, the waiter told me.
From La Folie en Tete, by Violette Leduc (Gallimard, Paris, 1970)
(Research by Kate Oldfield)
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