Which is, quite frankly, hardly a deal-breaker. It occupies a beautifully restored, 18th-century palace in the heart of the old city, near one of its prettiest viewpoints, and almost every item of artwork and textile has been designed and made in Portugal, some of it within metres of the hotel. Most of the mid-century-modern-style furniture come from leading bespoke manufacturer Room 2 Fit. Handmade letterpress typography artworks feature the poetry of Fernando Pessoa.
At rooftop Lumni the menu includes refined dishes such as scallops with saffron, endives and caviar. Despite having large windows and being at the edge of the pulsing nightlife area of Bairro Alto, the bedrooms here are pin-drop quiet. Address: The Lumiares, R. The number of regulars who choose to return here year after year is almost as impressive as the astonishingly good game viewing on this 45,hectare concession.
So how do you improve on such a popular classic? The result is a glamorous showstopper with the comfortable feel of a pair of soft Italian-leather boots. It is distinctly vintage antique brass; Chesterfield sofas , yet slick where you want it to be, with handmade Mervyn Gers ceramics, Belgian-linen sheets on hand-stitched, crackled-leather beds and an iPad in place of printed information. In between game drives, guests can take private yoga classes, relax in the library, swim lengths in the lap pool or sign up for a firm-handed massage in the Africology spa.
FLASH POINT Mombo has played a pivotal role in the protection of rhinos relocated from other parts of Africa and there is a wall of fame in camp dedicated to each beast named and dated that has made the journey to safety, thanks to guest sponsorship. Bed linen in soft shades of blue and apricot; contemporary tapestries on the wall. The industrial concrete-and-copper aesthetic in the 29 bedrooms, most of which have enclosed balconies, is offset with terrazzo-tiled bathrooms and rugs.
Or pop out for dinner; Surry Hills is a foodie hub and popular hangouts such as Chin Chin and Longrain are steps away. The bedrooms combine utilitarian chic and urban sophistication with parquet floors, brass bedframes and handsome, solid-oak writing desks. The 11 bedrooms are in a former cowshed with a separate dining room carved out of another outbuilding. The architect who oversaw the conversion is Kristina Wachtmeister. Bedrooms are smart Scandinavian: wooden floors, minimal furnishings but no stinting on comfort with great beds, deep tubs, and L:A Bruket soaps scented with sage, lavender and rosemary.
The whole place has a character that only comes with family-run outfits: artworks hung in just the right place; a labrador dozing by the fireplace in the restaurant. FLASH POINT Brunch is something special here, with outstanding pancakes served the traditional way, with whipped cream and jam, as well as meatballs and a frittata topped with onion cream. Shikumen houses — low-rise tenements with distinctive ornamental stone gates — were once a defining feature of the Shanghai cityscape.
Today they are vanishingly rare. Each villa is arranged over three storeys and has its own entrance courtyard and rooftop terrace. Rooms radiate off a central staircase. The interiors — high ceilings, lots of dark wood offset by silky teal greens and petrol blues — are evocative of the much-admired Shanghai Deco style without being cloying or themey. The scale of the hotel is intimate, so it comes as a surprise to discover that, in addition to the villas, 40 additional residences occupy the opposite side of the courtyard. The spa is small but well equipped; the restaurant by stellar French chef Pierre Gagnaire is elegant but unfussy; likewise the boulangerie at street level, which creates a sense of connection between the hotel and the city beyond.
That this group of buildings remains intact is wonderful; that its new incarnation as a hotel allows visitors to spend time in such a uniquely Shanghainese space even more so. Staff at the reception desk pair their checked suits with striped shirts and floral ties.
Beyond them, the lobby pops with a hotchpotch of sourced vintage furniture in contrasting bright colours and bold motifs; even the gym is plastered with flowery, fuschia wallpaper. Breakfast here is just as beautiful with ricotta pancakes drizzled in pink raspberry sauce; for supper, green-flecked short rib and pork-belly pho is served with a side of bright Sriracha. The visual symphony continues in the bedrooms, where patterned fabrics clashes affably.
The newest Taj outpost is set on Havelock, an Indian island closer to Burma than its mother country, with dense forests and beautiful beaches. And this hotel has both: in front of it, two miles of pale, floury sand drops gently into a pale-sapphire sea, and soaring above it are jungles of giant mahua and padauk trees that have stood here for centuries.
Amid the palm trees and ponds of the landscaped, acre estate are 50 contemporary villas, with whitewashed wooden walls and curvaceous roofs inspired by the homes of the indigenous Jarawa tribe. All have muslin-draped four-posters and deep bathtubs from which to admire the stars through glass-panelled ceilings. Most guests spend their days reclining on day-beds beside the Olympic-length pool, swimming in the Indian Ocean or propping up the long bar, chatting to the friendly staff who whip up coconut cocktails and serve sensationally light crab salads, tandoor lobster and chicken baked in bamboo stems.
No one can fail to be impressed. The meticulously restored interiors by architect Teresa Nunes da Ponte include coffered wooden ceilings, elaborate rococo stucco work and a graceful, spiral staircase that twirls upwards and upwards through the old limestone walls of this bedroom palace. The interiors combine heritage and contemporary with muted colours, raw linens and pale silks; all have particularly sumptuous beds made up with thread-count Egyptian-cotton sheets. Breakfast is served poolside as Lisbon wakes below you. Before this stylish little place opened in Shibuya, the area was packed with love hotels, but lacked a proper base from which to explore its smart stores, excellent restaurants and great bars.
Trunk, which is owned by a Japanese wedding-event magnate and so houses its own chapel should the idea strike you, is one of the first hotels in the country to emulate the Western model of creating social spaces for guests and locals to hang out together. The experiment works: the substantial lobby and outdoor terrace, with its communal tables, bar and DJ decks, attracts co-working groups of budding entrepreneurs early in the day, Tokyo ladies who lunch a bit later, and a mixed crowd of expats, visitors and residents at night.
There are 15 minimalist, highly functional bedrooms, many with big balconies looking out over the surrounding, surprisingly quiet alleyways. FLASH POINT Its diminutive size and access to the local scene means anyone staying here can connect with Tokyo in ways previously unheard of in a city dominated by high-rise hotels with sealed windows. When biblical winter storms hit Big Sur last year, Ventana weathered an eight-month closure by getting a spectacular makeover. While the original, rustic-luxe style remains rough-hewn cedar buildings; cabin-esque rooms with lots of wood, even tents in the woods , the slicker details are all Alila.
What was once a dirt car park for staff is now a manicured, ocean-facing meadow; a new infinity-edged hot tub and outdoor spa cabanas face a peaceful redwood grove to the rear. Across the road, Post Ranch Inn has always been hailed as the place to stay in these parts. But if Post is all Hollywood and helipads, Ventana is more laid-back zen, letting the environs speak for themselves.
When Elena Lops first came across this delightful fortified masseria just north of the town of Noto nine years ago, it was a crumbling ruin. Since then, she has restored it with great care and dedication: plaster stripped away to reveal original stone arches; roof tiles cleaned and relaid; unhinged doors rescued and re-hung peeling paint included. The result is a joy, successfully straddling old and new, with only 12 bedrooms but communal spaces big enough to hold a crowd with cool stone floors and vaulted ceilings painted the colours of Sicily: delicate duck-egg blue, dusty pink and soft green.
Lops has filled inside and out with a mix of contemporary Italian design pieces, vintage finds and ceramics, and custom-made cementine tiles from Morocco. Wake up and smell the oranges. Owners Pete Holman and Martin Grant — both expats from London — have struck a sympathetic and handsome balance between restoring a classic Spanish townhouse and creating a clean, contemporary space: patterned hydraulic floor tiles, all polished and buffed up, lie beneath clean-cut cubic four-posters; graphic art hangs beside raffia figurines found at a local market; abstract wire pendants illuminate intricately stuccoed ceilings.
Outside there is a terrace covered in wisteria for morning coffee and an elegant slither of a pool with sun loungers on which to while away drowsy summer afternoons. Breakfast is a slick operation from the hands-on duo themselves. The daily changing three-course feast could include a courgette-and-ham tortilla, a granola, compote and yogurt pot, or fluffy lemon-ricotta pancakes. This is undoubtedly an under-the-radar sanctuary your friends will thank you for telling them about. New owner the Sydell Group has worked with French interior designer Jacques Garcia, who took the coin-themed detailing of the original blue-and-gold Italianate ceiling as a starting point and wove it through everything from menu covers to matchbooks.
The Italian theme is continued in the Coffee Bar, modelled on the Florian in Venice , and light lunches of chickpea fries in the Lobby restaurant. Drinks whizz Leo Robitschek has brought over some of his favourite cocktails from New York to the Giannini Bar, and introduced a few distinctly Californian additions such as the Dr Feelgood mezcal , fino sherry and avocado.
All the bedrooms are big and cheery with entrance halls, marble tables and elegant sofas covered in thick floral fabrics. The marble bathrooms are gilt trimmed, and cupboards are lined with custom-print wallpaper, as is the box containing Italian Leone sweets by the bed. Here nothing has been left to chance. Guests are welcomed with an invitation to take pinches of ground copal-tree resin, prized by the Mayans for its spiritual properties, and sprinkle it on embers while mindfully releasing any worries from the outside world.
Free-to-join activities include morning ashtanga and kundalini yoga , quetzal senso meditation and group honey massages on the beach. Kfir Levy started Habitas with his partner Eduardo Castillo as a pop-up event to foster personal development through music, communal dinners and active participation. This is their first permanent property — others will follow in Namibia and Malibu — although the three-storey Clubhouse, fronted by a sheltered beach and pool, is the only fixed structure in the complex, comprising beach-level, Latin-America-meets-the-Med restaurant Moro, a yoga mezzanine and rooftop events space.
The tents themselves have hardwood floors and outdoor rain showers and are sparsely, albeit thoughtfully, furnished with vintage dressers and mismatched rugs. The sliding glass doors on the semi-enclosed terraces open wide to the Caribbean sea crashing over a slate-grey escarpment of rocks. And the networking opportunities are stellar. Address : Carretera Tulum-Bocapaila km 4. At first sight, the thatched roofs of Bisate Lodge look like the shaggy nests of a colony of creative weaver birds suspended in the cloud forests. Clearly this is a place at ease in its African skin, and it has settled naturally into its location.
South African architect Nick Plewman has drawn inspiration from the traditions of Rwandan royal palaces with their fluid, curvaceous lines, ribbed walls and use of materials such as wood, volcanic rock, bamboo and rattan. The family who have been building the palaces in Nyanza for generations advised on the construction details. Interior designer Caline Williams-Wynn, from the Cape Town studio Artichoke, has channelled relevant themes with Rwandan textiles, cowhide rugs and furnishings decorated with imigongo, a local adobe art form of swirling geometric patterns.
With their high ceilings, the villas — there are only six — feel as vast as churches. Stone fireplaces form the centrepiece of elegant seating areas, and fur throws cover the divans. The one non-traditional element here are the floor-to-ceiling windows opening onto long balconies with views across agricultural fields to Bisoke, Karisimbi and Mikeno, the three magnificent volcanoes of the famously mist-covered Virunga mountains. It is also just a short drive to park headquarters, from which treks set out to visit the mountain gorillas. Watch our video on Rwanda, Africa.
There are 19 Soho Houses now. White City is the latest. And there are three more to come Amsterdam , Barcelona and Brooklyn, which opens as we go to press in the months ahead. Good grief. You might have thought Nick Jones would be all out of moves by now. But no. The biggest is simply that it works as well as it does, considering its non-central location not obviously sexy or characterful and the space it occupies in what used to be BBC Television Centre one of those monolithic concrete affairs that students of architecture get excited about but the rest of us tend to block out as the visual equivalent of a car alarm going off in the middle of the night.
Yet work it does. The look is difficult to characterise. There are lots of test- card patterns, dressing-room-style mirrors and other retro TV-inspired touches. The lifts resemble the Tardises in Doctor Who. The whole place has a tremendous sense of warmth and humour and playfulness — one that somehow spills outside and brings a good-natured glow to a part of West London not conspicuously blessed with such qualities. There goes the neighbourhood! And thank goodness for that. Part of the reason they have been overlooked is that, other than Bom Bom Island, they have lacked the kind of properties to attract all but the intrepid traveller.
The arrival of beautiful Sundy Praia on a secluded bay on Principe, the smaller and even quieter of the two islands, has changed all that. The creation of French architect Didier Lefort, this handsome lodge consists of 15 tented villas, though you would be forgiven for not clocking the tented part. These are seriously smart bedrooms: big, beautifully designed and elegantly furnished.
A vast stone bath stands in a windowed alcove; huge beds offer views of the sea and the beach through floor-to-ceiling windows; there are private pools on the wide wooden decks. Soaps, creams, spa oils, even snacks in the mini-bar, have all been made using organic and sustainable local ingredients. The South African landscape designer Greg Straw has carefully cocooned everything using indigenous plants. Soaring bamboo ribs echo the massive trees of the surrounding forests, supporting a space of cathedral proportions. The hotel is a delight of visual surprises.
In the lobby, known as The Library, guests are greeted by an enormous blue poetry wall filled with quotations from Marcel Proust. And in the bedrooms gold wallpaper doubles as artwork and rich, velvety curtains offset mid-century-modern furniture. But perhaps the biggest and best surprise lies within the two restaurants: the opulent all-day Somerset and Art-Deco-inspired rooftop Devereaux. Both showcase sensational seasonal dishes from hot chef Lee Wolen, who has a knack for making diners rave about something as seemingly simple as whole-roasted chicken, and as eyebrow raising and entirely delicious as smoked-beet tartare.
Elsewhere in this sleek new arrival there are yoga and meditation classes, a rooftop pool for the warmer months, and even a Tesla car for nearby drop-offs. Not Viceroy. This makes an ideal launch pad to explore all things local. The 20 bedrooms, each named after explorers who have stayed here over the decades, range from a person dorm to wonderfully romantic suites.
Summer glacier walks and winter ski days are rewarded with three courses of hearty Savoyard food boozy cheese and girolles on toast, creamy tartiflette and blackberry tart served on enamel tableware and washed down with local wines. Style-wise, the Sanders combines Danish mid-century modern and colonial British wickerwork here and there, palms in pots , while the Sanders Kitchen, with its seasonal menu, white-tiled walls and white marble tables, has the feel of a French bistro — three looks that are all about relaxed cosiness and feeling at ease.
Should you casually mention plans for the next day, it is probable you will come down to breakfast to find the concierge has printed off a map, laminated in case it rains. What the cleverly converted motel lacks in waterfront access, however, it makes up for in serious style. Owners Taliah and Sein Lowry have opted for a sleek palette of whites, blacks and neutrals, adding texture with woven lampshades, linen curtains and piles of plump cushions. There are 14 suites, some with small kitchens, but for couples the pick of the lot is The Barn with its reclaimed beams and skylit shower.
For those travelling in a posse, the five-bedroom Cottage, set in a tropical garden, is just the thing. This is the new hotel everyone in Hong Kong is talking about. The original building — a relatively diminutive storey office block — opened in , when its distinctive eco-friendly windows, sharply angled to frustrate the tropical sun, were regarded as radical. Today, those same portals provide the rooms and suites with sensational panoramas but, with its expanse of white marble in the lobby and Andre Fu interiors in the signature restaurant, there is little evidence that this was once a hive stuffed with government bureaucrats.
The inner-city setting ensures there is a real buzz about the place, with a steady stream of Hong Kong residents and visiting hot shots swinging by to check it out. As a result, the ground-floor Murray Lane bar fills up shortly after sunset a thirst-quenching lemongrass gin-and-tonic heads the menu , and well-shod diners are finding their way to the latest outpost of Michelin-starred Guo Fu Lu restaurant for its top-notch Cantonese food, including crispy roast goose and delicious king prawns with walnuts.
His designs are notoriously theatrical. In bedrooms there are 39, all different , Royal Doulton terracotta panels depicting biblical scenes sit alongside intricate silk screens stitched with golden butterflies and turquoise peacock feathers. Downstairs, the original octagonal chapel is now the swinging Baptist Bar and Grill, dishing up reimagined British fare coronation crab salad; Herdwick lamb saddle with miso braised shoulder beneath its huge dome.
And throughout, the attention to detail is staggering: hand-stencilled walls that took French artists weeks to complete; silver tankards for serving beer that will be engraved with initials for regular guests; a staff wardrobe in custom-made silk, jacquard and cashmere, and Lalique glass hummingbirds, parakeets and cuckoos perching on lights and chandeliers. Read our full review of L'oscar hotel, London. The only hotel in the northern Shaviyani Atoll, a comet of starry-white sands with barely another island in sight, Sirru Fen Fushi has the kind of horizon views that could convince even the most scientific mind that the world is flat.
Over time, it will form an artificial reef as well as an inspiring, ever-changing artwork. Is a snorkel around a subaquatic gallery reason enough to visit? But other temptations include enormous villas with cool, glamorous interiors of creamy marble, crochet rugs, rope chandeliers and plenty of amber-coloured hardwoods. There are bicycles to zip between morning yoga, art and photography classes and Thai, Balinese and Indian massages at the Willow Stream spa. Dining, too, is tip-top, with plenty of local flavours on the menu: egg hoppers and mango juice for breakfast; grilled lobster and cold baby coconuts for lunch; reef fish paired with sake for supper.
In the Sirru Fen universe, beach break and culture cohabit perfectly. The story of Amanyangyun could hardly be more extraordinary. In , Ma Dadong, a self-made billionaire, took a break from business in Shanghai to visit his parents. When he went back to work he took with him some curious souvenirs of his trip — 50 disassembled houses from the Ming and Qing Dynasties and 10, camphor trees, the oldest of which were dated back two millennia, ancient earth still clinging to their roots.
All were slated for destruction to make way for a dam. The houses were reassembled and transformed into 13 antique villas, 24 courtyard suites and a ravishing cultural pavilion known as Nan Shufang. Almost no room for disagreement. His voice had a Parisian twang. A communication consultant could not have better advised him on his side parting. It won over well-brought up women as well as men impressed with his cunning. They showed photos of him in Los Angeles with famous actors, extracts of a report where showbiz personalities go into a Las Vegas hotel, freezing the image on a car in the background which he is coming out of, his unclear but recognizable face surrounded by a red circle.
He spoke with poise, seriousness, thoughtfulness, with bursts of boastfulness. As the generic credits rolled at the end, we saw him rub his thighs under the table, get up, take a few uncomfortable steps in his oversized boilersuit, then form a triangle with the bare arms that emerged from the short sleeves of his top. A prison warder with a moustache handcuffed him. A few roads criss-cross over the countryside, flanked by an auction room, a fire station, some warehouses.
One is a no-through road, running up to a cornfield. They would walk among the shivering ears of corn, taller than them, whose sharp leaves they feared as much as knifeblades. Spread out in the middle of the field, they would rip up a few ears, swaddled in a grey sheath that seemed as fragile as garlic skin but was in fact very strong, out of which emerged curly red threads. They had spent the afternoon in Tarbes, waiting in front of the department store. Five or six gangly-armed boys peeled themselves off the porch pillars and back with the slow movements of aquatic plants, admired by two short and heavily made-up girls chewing gum; the other teenagers went by on the pavement opposite, disdainful and scared.
His house was near the field, still is. It was unfinished, remains so. There was no car parked in front of the house. The sound of his footsteps on the gravel irritated him. At the entrance, a small hallway with an oval mirror with a blue plastic. Without looking, he went past the vertical strip made by the slight opening of the kitchen door, Minou under the table where a can of dogfood was stuck in a stainless steel bowl next to a bottle of vodka, and into the living room with the blinds always drawn shut.
A low sofa, armrests carrying full ashtrays, and two big velvet armchairs, sagging like seals, surrounded a television set left on. The presenter with jowly labrador cheeks fatuously announcing the programming for the evening ahead kept disappearing into a little sparkling dot. In front of the mirror, swinging his hips and throwing an arm in the air, index finger pointed, to the beat, he slipped on a pair of strawberry-patterned boxer shorts the first boxer shorts!
He became increasingly animated, made windmill shapes with his wrists and danced, danced, danced. The music came to a crackling halt. He stopped suddenly, like a dropped puppet. His face clouded over. Shoulders weighed down with cast iron, glue on the soles of his feet, a steel cable round his neck, he entered the living room. His mother, squinting to avoid her own cigarette smoke, was pouring herself a vodka at the coffee table, on which she had thrown a black crocodile skin handbag, shiny as a piano.
Without acknowledging his presence, she lay down on the sofa. Her leather waistcoat crumpled, revealing a thin gold chain around her waist. With one foot she eased the shoe off the other, and vice-versa; the turquoise fringed boots fell onto the sheepskin rug with a little fatal thud. They faced each other, like two. With a flick of her chin, she instructed her son to turn on the TV.
She scratched her stomach. The dog came even more reluctantly than the son. He came back out stubborn-faced and wearing a navy blue waterproof jacket.
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His mother was putting a record on, grasping it between her fingers. She missed the edge twice, making the needle slide towards the middle with the sound of a zip fastening. A mumbled curse slipped out between her teeth. Ask for permission? And why not wear a helmet? She would have forbidden him to go out on it, as she had principles when she was reminded that she was a mother.
Broadway He was allowed in to Broadway. Black brick walls, decorative juke-box and, at one end of the bar in a booth, a young skinny man with big purple spots on his chin playing disco music. It was also an affectionate gesture, otherwise why would he sometimes invite the bouncer for coffee?
At school, he would go to see his teachers at the end of class to assuage with his smile their disappointment in his indifference to their teaching,. The big guys drew closer. His cousin, a head chef in Toulouse, had been called in to join the staff by Irene, you know, Irene from Casa Irena, the famous restaurant at the ski resort!
One evening, some customers arrived late at the Toulouse restaurant. He only likes paella. Opposite them, a big body with a big voice was gesticulating wildly and hooting out swearwords. Oh rugby girls, loud, crude, always ready, at five in the morning, to slip under the body of a drunken player who ejaculates too fast saying mummy then cries like a baby! She was two heads taller than him. He headed back home in the small hours, shoulders hunched, collar turned up, one hand gripping his scooter handlebar, the other buried between his thighs, kept awake by the cold, brows furrowed and teeth clenched.
Born in , Vincent Delecroix lives in Paris where he teaches philosophy. His previous novel, Ce qui est perdu, was published in A single object is the focus of these ten stories: a shoe lying on a Paris rooftop. All the characters, many of whom reappear in other stories, live in one of the buildings that surround this central courtyard somewhere near the Gare du Nord. This is not a collection of short stories but a novel. Here we meet a young boy who spends his days dreaming, a burglar who is hopelessly in love, three vicious gangsters, a one-legged man, a TV presenter coming to terms with his own mediocrity, a heartbroken dog, an illegal immigrant, an eccentric old lady, a very modern artist, a suicidal narrator … and a shoe of endless fictional possibilities.
Vincent Delecroix brings a new, freer style to this brilliant, often hilarious collection of intertwined tales, a style which marks the height of his powers. These variations on the theme of an abandoned shoe allow him to work in wildly different registers from philosophical fantasy to elegiac lament and comedy of manners. The tragic flaw So they sat for a moment, leaning against one of the square chimneys protruding from the roof, as much to catch their breath as to think. With their backs pressed to the chimney, which blocked the far end of the roof from view, they sat cross-legged and waited, the first man no longer daring to open his mouth, the second man, the elder man, staring into space.
The minutes ticked by. All the different lives secretly going on behind the windows. I wonder what goes on in there. Absent-mindedly, the two men began to study at the line of small windows on the far side of the courtyard. The balconies were decked with flowers, some with geraniums, others with plastic flowers, their colours faded from years of constant rain.
Laundry hung out to dry and there were washing lines strung from one window to another whose purpose was mysterious. See that? One of them was ajar and through it he could clearly see a young black woman leaning over her sink doing the washing up. The second man, the elder man, looked at him and sighed wearily. I mean, what? You were expecting Hermes scarves hanging off the washing lines? The two men abandoned their sociological observations. Right, better get a move on, said the older man but his companion was still staring at the building opposite.
We had a window like that when I was a kid, onto a courtyard I mean. It was the kitchen window. I used to lean out and to call down to my mates and tell them to come come up. There were girls too. Did I ever tell you about this? He was staring into space now. One of them was blonde and the other two had dark hair, and one was way older than the other two. Pretty fucked up, yeah? And you know what? Guess what happened next. But the second man, the elder man, had no intention of asking what happened next, he was busy peering over the chimney, checking out what was going on.
So, anyway, said the younger man, unruffled, the three of them asked me to choose. Mad, innit? There they are asking me to choose one of them. How was I supposed to pick one? An who should I pick? And to make it worse I knew that if I picked one of them, the other two would be completely gutted, because in my dream, they were all, like, totally in love with me. How was I supposed to choose? His cheeks were beginning to flush with rage. Know what I mean? The younger man just nodded then, carefully, almost crawling, they crept out from their temporary hiding place.
No one, said the first man, the younger man, after a few minutes. The second flinched, and stopped in his tracks they were on all fours now and could feel the chill unpleasant damp of the wet zinc , then he turned to the first man: whaddya mean no one? The second man, the elder man, shot him a blank, bovine look.
But just then they noticed something at the edge of the roof, something that they could not identify at first, something small and black. They crawled closer. The shoe was wedged in the gutter; faded, cracked, misshapen, it looked as if it had been lying there, lashed by the weather, since time immemorial.
It had warped into what looked like an angry frown. Both men stared at the shoe, not quite knowing what to do. Jesus, it fucking stinks, said the first man, the younger man, I can hardly breathe. But the second man, the older man, was completely engrossed in staring at the shoe. The voice was clearly coming from there. The two men froze, more out of surprise than in compliance with the order. The second man, the older man, was the first to recover his composure. Philoctetes popped his head round the side of the chimney.
I could spot you a mile off. I could have capped the pair of you bunch of times. And they saw that he was aiming an impressive pump-action shotgun which looked to be in perfect working order. Can we at least sit down? Philoctetes nodded and the two men sat crossed-legged on the zinc roof warily watching as Philoctetes stepped out from his hiding place. Philoctetes moved towards them, almost on hands and knees, and when they saw his leg, the younger man could not help but clap his his hand over his mouth and whisper: fuck! All that remained of the leg was a repulsive, festering sore.
It was swollen like a rotting aubergine and ranged in colour from violet to yellow to a greenish black. The stench was nauseating. Jesus, your leg! Odysseus choked on the words. Philoctetes, with an effort that must have caused him unspeakable agony, sat down facing them, a few feet away on the opposite roof. Oh, you mean this leg? Odysseus glanced at the younger man, who could not tear his eyes from the swollen, suppurating limb.
Help the Aged Whenever I try to talk to my great-nephew about the situation, he gives me this condescending look. When I remember what he got up to as a boy. He made his share of mistakes. We always have a cup of tea together. Not that I particularly approved of what he used to wear, but there was something touching about him, his little boy lost look.
He nods, of course, of course, but … But what? He always said it was the bay at La Napoule where we used to go on holidays. I have to admit, I get a sort of perverse pleasure out of talking to him about it. You see it was getting on my nerves, I tell him, having to look at that thing lying outside my window every morning.
He nods. Well, anyway. He takes another biscuit. Mr Khader at the corner shop, he agrees with me. He said to me: people these days are just slobs. You see? He said it, not me. I can see his tea is getting cold. Do you want another cup? I asked Mr Khader. Maybe you should talk to the council. My nephew nods in silence. He pours himself another cup of tea. I put some more biscuits on the plate.
Anyway, I did call them, those numbers. I sigh. The right one, the right one, how am I supposed to know which number gets you through to the people who specialize in shoes on roofs? I must have a bit of a mean streak in me somewhere. There are not many people like that these days.
Mr Khader is a bit reactionary. Madam they said in a patronizing tone , we have more important things to do. Because my nephew, apparently, knows quite a bit about the duties and responsibilities of the fire department. All right, but what does it cost them? My nephew knows a thing or two about the fire brigade.
So, yes, I phoned back. That sort of overstatement is typical of my nephew. They have lives to save. There he goes, my nephew waxing lyrical about the public sector. But this was important to me, it was doing my head in. Imagine if that shoe suddenly fell out of that gutter and hit some child playing in the courtyard.
He looks me straight in the eye. I find this remark a little hurtful. We sit in silence for a moment. My husband may not have been much of a painter, but he was a brave man. Louise Desbrusses was born one April 3rd. The Two Sisters know what is necessary. The Two Sisters know that it is always necessary to be better than the others; otherwise, they are not as good. They learned that early. Even more so this morning, if that is possible. For the Older One. All of this is done with humour, fashioned with a deep knowledge of human relations, power relations, and psychology. In this brief excerpt, we recognize the inimitable style of Louise Desbrusses in this, her second novel.
It recounts a day in the life of three women, a mother and her two daughters. Not everyone experienced this day the same way. Not everyone experienced the preparation for this day the same way. Not even the Two Sisters.
Aïe Aïe Aïe !
Especially not the Two Sisters. The Younger One even less. Yet the Two Sisters were raised together. Yet the Two Sisters were raised elsewhere. Their first names, for example. Their first names are not fashionable. Certainly not. Fashion goes out of fashion.
Their first names are original. But not overly so. That would be vulgar. Their first names are crowns. The Two Sisters wear them like crowns. Other times like shields. When they were children, the Other explained their first names to them, why she had chosen them, the rights her choice had given them, the rights her choice had given her, the duties they had toward her choice. The Other compared them to the names of the children of others.
She sighed: to think you are better and to be incapable of choosing a first name. The Two Sisters know that their first names are well chosen, that they are superior to other first names, the first names of the children of others. Both first names are superior to those of the children of others, and that is what counts. The Two Sisters know this. The Two Sisters know what counts. The Two Sisters know that is it always necessary to be better than the others, above them; otherwise, they are not as good.
They learned early to compare. And therefore they know how to locate each mistake, detect each flaw, track down each imperfection. To know this, to compare, locate, detect, track down, makes certain choices difficult. The concern this morning is to select the right clothes, the right makeup, the right jewellery, and all the accessories suited to the crown of the name. For the Older One, who never likes to leave anything to chance, the task is arduous everyday.
It is even more so this morning, if that is possible. The Younger One is trying to rise to a new challenge today, to dress as if the others were random people, as if she did not know them, as if this had no consequence, as if this did not have the slightest importance. She hates rushing, arriving. This, she wants to hope, will prevent the fear of others from reappearing. Today, she has decided, she will not let herself be frightened. They do not mean a thing to her, she thinks. She will remain calm. If this state endures, she will consider herself satisfied. For today.
The Older One does not see things this way. At all. The Older One is coming out of obligation. Out of necessity. So as not to leave an empty place. To show that she has her own place. A place that belongs to her. That she occupies, her place. To defend her. In combat, the Older One is prepared, meticulous, precise. She thinks she knows more than anyone, more than the Younger One; she knows the importance each detail has, will have. Clothing is like armour.
Clothing is armour. Her armour. There can be no flaws. The others are on the lookout. Ready for anything. Ready to laugh. No, not laugh. They will leave laughing to the Other and her daughters. They smile. Barely smile. To make it seem the effort is vain. To show that they are superior. The Older One knows that they are not superior, not above, but she wants it to look that way.
It shows in her first name. It must show in her appearance. It shows in her appearance. It shows. Crown, shield, armor, the Older One is strong. The Older One is a warrior. The Younger One is also a warrior. The Older One always thought of her that way, as her Younger One. They have to be. They owe it to her. The Older One owes it to her. And the Younger One owes it her, too. And yet this morning it seems to the Older One that her Younger One is distracted. The Older One is upset. For an instant.
She reassures herself. Her Younger One has not come for a while. She has gotten drowsy. The Older One counts on the others who never give up. They have to. Mother needs this support. Today still. Today even more. Today above all. Today Mother appears to. Her beauty is eaten away by it. She, the elegant one, is dressed badly. Yes, dressed badly. The Two Sisters are embarrassed by it. Yes, embarrassed. Her face is a little, yes, puffy, as if she had been crying, and her body more, yes, emaciated than ever.
Total failure. Especially to the Younger One.
BIBLIOGRAPHIE DE LEÏLA SEBBAR
Even to the Older One. Among others, Mother will be alone, more alone, if that is possible, in this state. Of course, Father will be by her side. Father is always by her side. But the Older One knows Mother cannot count on Father. Father is of no use. One day, almost in the beginning, he declared himself neutral. To be neutral, for Mother, is not possible, it amounts to not being neutral: you are either for her or against her. The Older One knows that. The Younger One knows that. The Two Sisters know that. Mother taught them that. Therefore the Older One is for her. Therefore the Younger One is for her.
Therefore the Two Sisters are for her. Because the forces are not equal. Because the fight is not fair. And Mother is getting exhausted. And Mother is exhausted. And Mother can only count on her daughters. Mother therefore counts on her daughters. She counts on the Two Sisters. The Two Sisters joined by the first names they received, the upbringing they underwent, the houses in which they grew up, the schools where they studied, the city where they did not live. Of course, the Younger One lives faraway now. This is the occasion, the Older One decides, who has been revising, training, and applying herself constantly.
Because the Older One hates injustice. Because the Younger One hates injustice. Because the Two Sisters hate injustice. The Other is counting on them to protect her from the others who surround her. The Younger One also kisses people. The Younger One kisses all and the Younger One kisses sundry.
The Younger One kisses everyone. She kisses aunts and uncles, she kisses girl cousins and boy cousins, she kisses wives and husbands, she kisses sisters, brothers, a few old people, children, many children. She kisses the same people as before, and she kisses new faces. She kisses all those who came to the Lake House every summer and also all the others who never came and will never go. She kisses them but does not think of the Lake House, especially not, where Father went on vacation as child already.
She will think of that later. For now she tries to think of nothing, of nothing in particular, of nothing as particular. For now she is concentrating, she is concentrating on trying not to think about concentrating. Letting nothing infiltrate her and her state, no poison, she has promised herself. To absorb none of it and she has also promised herself to produce none of it.
The greatest danger comes from oneself, the Younger One knows from recent knowledge. She will be prudent. Poison, even in small doses, is not something her new skin will tolerate. Too fresh. Fragile, therefore, the Younger One knows from ancient knowledge. Because she was born without skin.
A serious affliction. Being born without skin is not suited to war. Each clash gives rise to a bitter pain that extends throughout the body. A few clashes are enough for the insides to retract. When these clashes are constant, you retract so much you think you will never be redeployed. These clashes were constant, to the point that the Younger One began to think she would never be redeployed.
Yet one day this occurred. And then everything started all over again. When there were no longer clashes, the Younger One sought. And the Younger One found them. The Younger One did not know she found them. The Younger One knew nothing. If the Younger One really wanted to know, she would have known. First she would have known that she found these clashes; then she would have known that she sought out these clashes she found. Once again she thought she would never be redeployed. But this occurred.
Once again. The last time, the Younger One would have preferred, who now knew with certain knowledge that life was a bitter test for those without skin, the Younger One who has promised herself not to let anyone, especially not herself, ruin her new skin ever again.
List of foreign recipients of the Légion d'Honneur by country
In order not to ruin it, she knows it would be better to avoid thinking of certain things. Things like the Lake House. But without struggling not to think about it. Struggling is already thinking about it. And if she cannot prevent herself from thinking about it she might as well find the best way of going about it, if that exists, rather than struggle. Perhaps, she says to herself, if she thinks about it a little, right away, here, among these people, without struggling not to think about it, yes, perhaps she will dream about it less.
So often at night she returns to the shade of the dark trees to run along the soft sand path toward the lake that looks so green from the balcony of the Lake House, which is no longer the family house. Sold with the memories everyone left there. The memories of those who did not buy it, did not want it. But the Lake House was not destined to end up in their hands. No way. The Younger One remembers it. To strangers rather than to the daughters of the Foreigner, the Lake House where they were only tolerated eight little days out of the year, always on the same date.
Delighted and apprehensive, they proceeded with caution.
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The others expected nothing from them but mistakes, stains, each gesture could be transformed into a blunder which would get them banished instantly, for which the Other would pay eternally and would in return make them pay for a long time too. To anticipate everything, Mother announced a list of prohibitions that were impossible to maintain: not to shame her, not to cause her worry, not to draw attention to oneself, to attain perfection. Even to honour her. Impossible, the competitors being disqualified by nature. But, for Mother, the Younger.
One and her sister tried. And despite the dangers neither of them got tired of the Lake House. A parcel belonged to them, a parcel where unfulfilled desires accumulated from other summer days, which they spent in exile, a parcel to which the Younger One was attached. Yes, even her. Yes, although after clashes that were too jarring, she left before the end of the eight little days. Even she would have wanted it, this parcel that no longer belongs to her.
Her parcel was sold. But not her memories, not the faded blue of the paint on the staircase, not the coarseness of the fringed bedspreads, not the smell of cleaning products or the taste of apricots stolen from the cellar, not the crunching of gravel under foot in the small courtyard or the fadedness of the blinds. Every detail, the Younger One can remember every detail. Better than the details of any other place she has lived. Even better than the house she chose with that man, the house in which she thought she would end her days, the house in which she almost died one day, the house she had to leave.
Even that place, she discovers today, even that person, she does not remember as well. An Ordinary Execution is his fifth novel. Vania Altman is said to be among the last survivors from a Russian nuclear submarine sunk in August in the shallow waters of the Barents Sea.
In a port on the Arctic Circle, his family is on tenterhooks: they seem to be about to have a second brush with history. His novel, based on real events, reveals the deep contempt for human life shown by the paranoid guardians of the Russian empire. That winter morning in , as on almost every day since the end of the war, my mother, who was a urologist, had started her shift at the hospital of M. She was doing the ward rounds behind the chief physician and his retinue of assistants when, in the corridor, a man directed to her by a charge-nurse asked to speak to her.
No one in the small group took offence. When the man approached the others turned away. It was not uncommon at the time for people to be picked up at their place of work, even though the preference among the secret police was for night-time arrests. To give someone a last glance, more out of curiosity than compassion, was a dangerous way of acknowledging a link with the individual under arrest.
The man who had come to apprehend my mother was in every respect true to the idea people have of members of the secret police. He introduced himself in a low voice so as not to be heard by anyone else, then he asked her to follow him, not very politely but also not harshly. A black limousine was parked at the hospital entrance. My mother expected to be surrounded by several men in the car, but not a bit of it. The driver did not even turn round when she got in to the back. The militiaman got in beside him and they set off without a word being spoken.
Thanks to a slight thaw the old snow on the pavements and verges had started to melt the night before, but it was hardening again, and looked even duller in colour. My mother could not imagine that she had been picked up for any reason other than that she was under arrest. She was aware too that there did not have to be a reason for an arrest. That was the basic principle of terror. She and my father had envisaged the possibility several times.
They had no reservations about the validity of the revolution, but now and then, alone together behind closed doors, they would mildly criticise its excesses. If her arrest was not down to pure chance, it was perhaps in those conversations that the reason should be sought. But how could they have been overheard? The secret police had perhaps been bugging the flat for months without their realising it.
Besides, the caretaker had a spare set of keys, and he could have let the people planting the microphones into their home. But why would they want to spy on them in particular? For several months my parents had been trying for a child. Every evening they had set about the task with great conscientiousness and regularity. The pleasure they derived from this almost made them forget the reason for it. They even took to spending the whole of their Sunday afternoons in the bedroom as the gloom enveloped Moscow, once my father had shelved the notebooks in which he wrote down hundreds of physics equations, his only passion in life apart from my mother.
She had an impish streak like most young Muscovite women of the period, and I can well imagine her wandering around the flat with nothing on, reminding my father that what applied to possessions was also true of women: private property had been abolished. One Monday morning, no different from any other, the caretaker had suddenly emerged from his lodge to stand at the foot of the stairs as my mother was coming down the last steps.
As she was concentrating on buttoning up her fake-fur coat and trying at the same time not to trip up, she nearly bumped into him. He was not usually a very affable man, and on this occasion he exuded too the contrite air of someone who had been turning over in his mind the criticisms he was about to make. Before I go on, do you acknowledge the fact? Just one thing, though. If, as the Olianovs claim, these problems have been going on for a year, you might like to ask yourself why they did not complain earlier.
He made a strange noise and turned on his heels. Before my mother had reached the door of the building she had begun to regret her arrogance. The memory of the incident had faded within a few days, but it came back to mind with particular sharpness when she was arrested. For several months now a justifiable fear had led her to carry, hidden in her clothing, a cyanide capsule, in order to escape, should she chance to get arrested, from any kind of interrogation or torture.
She had no wish to suffer. It was not in her nature, any more than spending long years in the great frosts of the East unable to know how much time she had left before the human being is reduced to an animal, then the animal to dust. My parents were childless at the time and they had simply agreed that the one ought not to be for the other a reason for staying alive at all costs.
They were in basic agreement that nothing on this earth was so precious as to justify putting up with torture. But my father had not gone to the lengths of acquiring a poison capsule. He only felt threatened when he behaved in a self-important manner. He was important in the eyes of the men and women under him in the scientific department he headed, but his significance decreased sharply when the number of people above him in the hierarchy was considered.
Besides, he was not a party member. He had looked into it carefully and found that the powers that be were more likely to take it out on party officials than on ordinary workers like himself. He was no more concerned for my mother since, in spite of the circumstances, his native optimism told him not to worry. In the car my mother had carefully removed the cyanide capsule from its hiding place in the lining of her coat and got it as close as possible to her genitals, betting that it would then escape the notice of her torturers.
The car stopped near a secondary entrance into the Kremlin, some distance from the Lubianka whose gate was known to everyone in Moscow, so that was a relief to her. The man got her out of the car, without much consideration but also without brutality, and led her through a maze of corridors and check-points where he showed his pass. In following him she was seized with a terrible urge to urinate, but dared not ask him where the toilets were, assuming there were any on their route.
The labyrinth seemed to go on for ever. She felt a pang of dread at the thought that they were going to interrogate her in a cellar in the Kremlin, far from the other political suspects. But a fresh clue gave her the glimmer of hope she craved. Such a room did not exist in the Kremlin, proving that they were not thinking of torturing her.
Of course, it was always possible that she would be deprived of sleep or, worse still, be gagged so that they could beat her. She had indeed uttered blasphemies and could not deny it. But another idea entered her head and gave her a terrible fright. In the great euphoria of the Revolution, when everyone was casting off their distinctive characteristics like a pauper his rags, her father had changed his name. From Altman he became Atline. But perhaps the secret police were conducting an investigation into the family background of every doctor in the Moscow area?
Then something obvious occurred to her and gave her. But it seemed to her that none of the consultants with a Jewish-sounding name in her hospital had been approached by the police. Logic would dictate that she would only be arrested after a lengthy investigation into her real name. The strength of a regime based on terror lies in its unpredictability; there needs to be an element of pure chance. So, as often happens when you give up the struggle, she started to float, letting herself be borne along. From the expression of the face of her guide as he opened a last door, she gathered that she had reached the end of her journey.
Once her guide had gone, she found herself alone in the presence of a dumpy woman in a brown uniform with black, greasy, thinning hair and a slight moustache. Gesturing to my mother to take a seat, she sat down herself, knees pressed together, on a monastery bench behind a desk. The desk in front of her was empty. After hesitating for a long time my mother could stand it no longer, and asked where the toilets were.
The way in for VIPs is lined with toilets as large as the most spacious community flats in Moscow. You must also know why no provision has been made in this part of the building for toilets for people like you. For some time now she had stopped looking at my mother, fastening her lacklustre gaze instead on the wall in front of her. After that she said nothing for about an hour, before deciding that it was time to act. My mother suddenly realised that if the women felt around in her genital area she would have to explain why she had hidden a cyanide capsule there.
She could not even go to the toilet and throw it down the lavatory. She was confused and terrified. If the woman found the poison she would undoubtedly confiscate it.
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She thought of putting an end to her life. Still, it seemed a trifle premature to do that without knowing how matters were going to turn out. On the other hand, if she were deprived of that capsule, it would no longer be possible for her to elude her fate.
Just keep your undies. She then had to pass her garments one by one to the orderly who examined them meticulously. When that was over she came up to my mother and felt around under her knickers. She stopped at the capsule which bulged slightly and asked her to hand over the object. Her black Caucasian eyes glinted. It is very likely that she was blushing, but she did not take long to come up with an explanation.
They were no longer lacklustre; they expressed severe doubts. Who knows, they may let you have it back. Who made it? But I can tell you that the corridor behind that door leads only to the top brass, to very highly-placed men who want to see people like you without anyone else knowing. At that moment another uniformed woman entered. She had the bored air of a museum attendant for whom the time is dragging. The first woman gave the other a report and handed over the capsule, asking her to pass it on.
The new arrival popped it in her pocket and gave my mother a nasty look. Then time resumed its dreary course. Nothing happened during the next five hours. My mother felt lost without her capsule. She realised that if she was not guilty of anything before entering the fortress, she certainly was now. A poisoner who. The gravity of her crime was in direct proportion to the status of the person she was going to meet. But she preferred to think that the warder had got over-excited. For a countrywoman like her any smartlydressed moujik had to be a top person. She came to this conclusion at three in the afternoon.
She had to wait another twelve hours before she was able to leave the ante-room. She was fetched by a soldier who searched her again, perfunctorily, before ushering her into the corner office. The soldier knocked. There was no reply for a while. Then one of the panels of the huge double-door was opened, and my mother froze on the spot. There, before her, was Joseph Stalin.
Claire Fercak was born in After studying philosophy she worked at the publishers La Chasse au Snark and wrote for the Journal de la culture. She is currently a freelance writer at Redux magazine and works in a publishing firm. The author pieces together a personal genesis, not in the chronological order of autobiography but in the to and fro of disrupted temporalities. An unfathomable and elusive figure, this father. Against this traumatic enigma, this black genealogical hole, she has built herself a glass jail which serves at first as a chimerical refuge before.
Her world consists of her house shared with the dog Chiffon and the suffocating father, himself an accident waiting to happen and the hospital with its doctors, their conflicting diagnoses and their litany of medications. Little clouds of mist come out of her mouth and condense on the pane. In her eyes reddened from crying the look is of a devastated country, an earth scorched, struck with small deaths of tissue.
In the middle of the pane, a pattern. With her forehead pressed against the window and her hands twisted behind her back, she whistles a sad tune. Within it, silently, her memories squabble.