Friday, December 02, 2005

Spoil 1.62

The road signs (France is the only country I know where drivers are warned about beetroot on the road; BETTERAVES, I once saw in a red warning triangle, with a picture of a car slipping out of control). Beaux-arts town halls. Wine-tasting in smelly chalk0caves by the side of the road. I could go on, but that's enough, or I'll soon be babbling about lime trees and pétanque and eating bread dipped in rough red wine. Everyone has a private list, and those of other people quickly appear vain and sentimental. I read a list the other day headed 'What I like'. It went: 'Salad, cinnamon, cheese, pimento, marzipan, the smell of new-cut hay [would you read on?] ...roses, peonies, lavender, champagne, loosely-held political convictions, Glenn Gould...' The list, which is by Roland Barthes, continues, as lists do. One item you approve, the next stirs irritation. After 'Médoc wine' and 'having change', Barthes approves of 'Bouvard et Pécuchet'. Good; fine; we'll read on. What's next? 'Walking in sandals on the lanes of sout-west France.' It's enough to make you drive all the way to south-west France and strew some beetroot on the lanes.
J. Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot, 84.


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