Joyce Bellinger, who had been hired ten days earlier to work aboard the Mark Twain, said of opening day, “I always remember that I was out there the night before. It was really a mess, you know. There was paint all over, and tools, and drop cloths. The windows were still covered with paint. Everybody was running around. And there were knives and hammers. The ticket booth for the Mark Twain wasn’t even half finished. And we thought, “My gosh! How are they going to be able to open it for the press and all the celebrities and everybody who’s going to be here the following day?” So we came back the next morning, and it just sparkled. Everything was clean and beautiful, and it looked just simply great.”
But she got there at eight in the morning. Most of the guests that day would have agreed with C. V. Wood: “It was a madhouse!”
Gardeners usually say that time in the garden is shorter than it actually is; that planned hour simply slips away. The beginning and end of gardening depends on the tasks that day, or physical limitations such as darkness falling. In the process, time passes from objective clock time to subjective or nature’s time. Tasks such as weeding or checking on progress are neverending; mowing the grass is episodic – it happens regularly, but each time the task is finite. Natural time relies on sunrise and sunset, and seasons, determined by something beyond ourselves. It is measured by the time it takes for seeds to germinate and become carrots or cornflowers, or the arrival of favourite birds. Working with nature’s time disconnects me and other gardeners from externally imposed rhythms of activity punctuated by events such as commuting, meetings or meals.
Fiction is, of course, by definition an “unreal thing,” but by emphasizing the “incidental” nature of her (nonfictional) columns, Ferrante suggests that whatever truths she arrives at in them are just as “unreal” as the truths arrived at in fiction. In the column “The False and the True,” she explains that indeed, she “can’t trace a line of separation between fiction and nonfiction.”
“A Bookshop in Berlin” is her account of her life there, and then of her flight to safety — from Germany through France to Switzerland — in the early years of World War II. Originally published in 1945, it was rediscovered in a jumble sale in Nice in 2010 and republished in France in 2015 with a beautiful preface by Patrick Modiano. Stephanie Smee’s English translation captures the storytelling cadences of the original French, which is touching, considering that Frenkel would have acquired them through her own deep reading of French literature and the devoted friendships she formed in France. Her affinity with that country would save her life on more than one occasion.
When we say the world is haunted
we mean untranslated