“L’astragale,” by Albertine Sarrazin (extract; introduction and version originale followed by translation)

Published in 1965 by (and copyright) Jean-Jacques Pauvert — who rose to fame when as a 20-year-old he decided to publish the Marquis de Sade’s “Histoire de Juiliette,” which earned him an ultimately triumphant 10-year legal battle with the State — “L’astragale” is a novelized account of Albertine Sarrazin’s adventures escaping and on the lam from a girl’s reformatory. Translated literally as “the ankle bone,” “astragale” can also be interpreted as serving no purpose or useless.

Le ciel s’était éloigné d’au moins dix mètres. Je restais assise, pas pressée. Le choc avait dû casser les pierres, ma main droit tâtonnait sur des éboulis. A mesure que je respirais, le silence atténuait l’explosion d’étoiles dont les retombées crépitaient encore dans ma tête. Les arêtes blanches des pierres éclairaient faiblement l’obscurité: ma main quitta le sol, passa sur mon bras gauche, remonta jusqu’à l’épaule, descendit à travers côtes jusqu’au bassin : rien. J’était intacte, je pouvais continuer.

Je me mis debout. Le nez brusquement projeté contre les ronces, étalée en croix, je me rappelai que j’avais omis de vérifier aussi mes jambes. Trouant la nuit, des voix sages et connues chantonnaient :

— Attention, Anne, tu finiras par te casser une patte !

Je me remis en position assise et recommençai à m’explorer. Cette fois, je rencontrai, au niveau de la cheville, une grosseur étrange, qui enflait et pulsait sous mes doigts….

Lorsque je vais à la consultation, toubib, pour essayer de me faire porter pâle, que je vous décris des maux imaginaire dans les endroits que je pense inaccessibles ; lorsque je dois vous monter des tisanes au lit, petites sœurs, sur mes pieds de marcheuse modèle, moi qui envie vos indigestions…. Fini, tout cela : maintenant, vous allez me soigner, vous ou d’autres, j’ai la patte cassée.

Je levai les yeux, vers le haut du mur où ce monde restait, endormi : j’ai volé, mes chéries ! J’ai volé, plané, et tournoyé pendant une seconde qui était longue et bonne, un siècle. Et je suis là, assise, délivrée de là-haut, délivrée de vous.

Translation by  Paul Ben-Itzak:

The heavens had just receded by at least 30 yards.

I remained planted on the ground, in no particular hurry. The shock must have shattered the stones; my right hand groped around among the debris. As I continued to inhale, the silence attenuated the explosion of stars from which the fallout was still crackling in my head. The ivory arteries of the stones feebly illuminated the darkness: my hand left the ground, stroked my left arm, climbed up to my shoulders, descended across my ribs and back down to the foundation: Nothing. I was intact. I could go on.

I stood up. My nose abruptly butting up against the blackberry brambles, spreading out into a cross, I suddenly remembered that I’d forgotten to also verify my legs. Piercing the night, wise and familiar voices sung out:

“Be careful, Anne! You’re going to end up by breaking your foot!”

I plopped back down again and continued exploring. This time, I encountered, at the level of my ankle, a strange lump, which swelled up and throbbed under my fingers….

When I went to see you, saw-bones, trying to make myself appear frail; when I described imaginary aches in spots I thought you couldn’t reach; when I had to bring you herbal teas in bed, my sisters, primly gliding on my delicate feet, I who was jealous of your indigestions…. All that is in the past. Now it’s your turn to take care of me, you or others — my foot is busted.

I lifted my eyes, towards the wall where this world remained, sound asleep. I have flown, my darlings! I have flown, soared, and swirled for a second which was long and good — a century. And I’m here, sitting down, released from the other side, liberated from you.

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