Pirouettes

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First Edition

Paris, Fasquelle, (Bibliothèque Charpentier),1932.

Preface

"This novel, then entitled "LE MARIAGE DE PELUQUE" and today called "PIROUETTES", I wrote it on the marble counter of the printing-house, on the rough paper sheets that are used to pull proofs, and my dream of having thirty pages ready in advance, never was fulfilled..."

Written for Fortunio (new release in 1920), a "literary, artistic and theatrical" magazine created by Marcel Pagnol and his friends in khâgne*, "PIROUETTES" recounts Louis-Irénée Peluque's impudent love affairs. Many years later, Eugène Fasquelle, Pagnol's friend and publisher, offered the author to publish "Pirouettes"...
(...)
"Thus, I decided to rewrite that long short story, I wanted to flesh it out, complete it, correct it, give it the weight of a real novel. Therefore, polishing my finest quill, having filled my writing case with indelible ink, I tried to amend "PIROUETTES".
And, as early as the very first sentences, the young man I used to be came back to my mind, the cheerful occupant of furnished hotel rooms on rue d'Orsel.
And it appeared to me that I had no right to correct his work, to cut one of his chapters, to add a page he had not written. He might have had good reasons that I no longer know. And I did not want to meddle with those posthumous pages."

*Translator's note: Khâgne is the second year of a two-year preparatory course for the arts section of the École Normale Supérieure.

- It's no laughing matter, you fool! Stop your silly faces and that insane grin! Indeed, I told a small lie to the father-in-law. But I had to!
He emptied his pipe, knocking it against his heel.
- I told him I was a chemist. My laughter grew even louder.
- What is this sniggering supposed to mean? he cried out angrily.
Listen to me! Lucie introduced me to her father: "Monsieur Peluque is an eminent chemist." I swear I had never told her anything like this.
But the fact is that she believed I was a chemist.
- All you had to do was turn a sentence about philosophy, which is the chemistry of soul, or the crucible of introspection? That would have been a good way of clarifying things without hurting her feelings.
- I did not. First, I liked this title as a chemist because it wasn't mine; you know I like to try on other people's hats.
Second, the father-in-law answered:
"A chemist? Very well! Shells, powder, cartridges, science, usefulness, future! I feared that you might be a poet, an eater of verbs, ethics, philosophy and all the rest. Congratulations, young man!" I could not back out!
- What does your father-in-law do for a living?
- Captain, for entertainment of course. He leaves his pay in the officers' pension fund; for you can well imagine that with his fortune... and he is a very delicate man: he did not tell me that; I understood without him having to spell things out.
- And you claimed that you were making money?
- I told him that I was to take my third exam session for the bachelor's degree in chemistry by the month of July. We will get married once I pass the examination.
- Then you shall never get married. A malicious smile appeared on his face.
- Do you know my cousin Henri Peluque, from Tarascon, who lives here by himself to take the said chemistry examination? He already passed both first sessions. When he passes the third one, I will show the results to the delighted father-in-law who will marry us.
- But then? You shall have to tell that you're not even holder of the baccalaureate, and that you don't even know the formula for alcohol, which by the way you are saturated with!
- C6 H5 OH, he said solemnly. Then I will have the girl and the money.
I will coldly confess to the father-in-law that I am a philosopher, and given his temper, I will have a good opportunity to prove it!
- But there remains a great danger. What if your cousin failed?
He is a very smart boy, but who goes wenching and hardly ever studies!
- Not any more!, said Peluque, winking.
- What? Is his father here?
- Almost, for I am watching him, the beloved cousin! For the slightest prank I shall write a letter to his parents. I was outraged.
- And what do you think people will think of you, seeing you working as a spy?
- Nobody knows it's me!
- What? Do you write anonymous letters?
- Oh! He said reproachfully. My letters are not anonymous!
I sign: "Tom Barclay, Salvation Army First Class". And, besides, it's for his own good. When he passes the examination, I will confess everything to him.
Then, he will tell me: "Louis-Irénée, you saved me". And he will shed grateful tears on the joints of my knees.