Yesterday I returned six French novels to Portsmouth Central library, next to Portsmouth and Southsea station. This library was flooded about six months ago by children who thought it hilarious to block up all the plugs on the top floor, and leave all taps on full blast overnight. The library remained closed for several months while thousands of pounds worth of damage was repaired. But recently it reopened, and I regained access to their exceptional European fiction section.

The book I enjoyed most was by Philippe Besson: ‘Les Jours Fragiles’ (‘Fragile/Difficult Days’). It is about the poet Arthur Rimbaud, as observed through the loving eyes of his sister, Isabelle, close to him throughout his last dying years. His debauched past is sketched with dark family disapproval, and his suffering present (he lost a leg in Africa, and was unbearably tormented mentally and physically by this) is strangely gripping and moving.

If only the trains had been behaving it would have been a perfect day…

French to English I can manage; English to French is hard work in large doses.

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