Read THE HOUSE ON THE CLIFF…

 

LA VILLA SUR LA FALAISE / THE HOUSE ON THE CLIFF

Casterman, 2012

The pitch, from which all of the stories followed, written by Benoît Sokal (translated from the original French) -

The villa at the end of the road (La villa au bout du chemin). This is how people refer to the strange house facing the sea on the edge of the cliff, north of the island.

This week there was an extremely fierce storm. The cliff collapsed and so did half of the house.

The sight is now quite eerie: seen from the land and from certain points of view, the building appears intact whereas seen from the sea, it looks very different: the villa seems to have been carefully and accurately cut by a giant knife which would have kept on cutting into the rock itself…

The sight is now quite eerie: seen from the land and from certain points of view, the building appears intact whereas seen from the sea, it looks very different: the villa seems to have been carefully and accurately cut by a giant knife which would have kept on cutting into the rock itself…

It has become an attraction for the past few days: people put out to sea so they can look at the sight from there and discover the unveiled intimacy of the villa at the end of the road; the indecently exposed rooms where part of the furniture oddly seems to persist in fulfilling its ornamental and functional roles despite the cataclysm.

In order to prevent any looting, the island authorities have had to close access to the small beach, down the cliff, where the rubble left by the storm piled up.

Charlotte Dorval sets foot on the island one week after the event. She has come to record the damages undergone by the family house.

She was told that the house was in a sorry state due to the storm but Charlotte was not expecting to find only one half of the house, threatened by the void. The other half having already fallen down 30 metres below with a whole section of the cliff… Some props have been hastily installed to make up for this precarious equilibrium and try and delay the fall of the rest of the house…

She had inherited the villa after her father’s death but for some reasons Charlotte had never come back since the end of her teenage years…

What should she do now, she is wondering… go inside the shaky house and check through the cupboards and drawers, sorting out, making the inventory of the valuables… or go away and follow the mayor’s advice by letting the town services complete the storm’s work and raze these obscene ruins…

The young woman is now wondering whether, given the circumstances, it was such a good idea to bring her son who is sleeping on the backseat of the rental car she parked just down the road.

Behind a curtain of maritime pines, in a small cove protected from the winds and the storms, lies the house of the only neighbour. He is a writer and he is now observing Charlotte from the window as she stares at the remains of her happy past… He had not seen her for 15 years… and he is finding that she looks more and more like her mother.

If the Charlotte I’ve drawn looks familiar, it’s because I’d just completed Adamtine and decided, for familiarity’s sake, that she’s The Bystander’s sister. At the time I wrote this we were also in the middle of buying our first flat, which goes some way to explaining the tone…

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