Les cadeaux – presents

Taken from Catherine Cusset: ‘Un Brillant Avenir’

La nuit tombe. Ils ouvrent les cadeaux. Des dizaines de cadeaux que la grand-mère a préparés depuis des années pour Alex et sa future épouse. Marie se rend compte qu’elle remplit un rôle qui existait longtemps avant qu’elle rencontre Alex. “Frumos !” répète-t-elle après avoir demandé à Alex comment on dit ‘beau’. Elle a des crampes dans les zygomatiques à force de sourire. Il y a des pulls beiges informes que sa grand-mère a tricotés avec de la laine de mauvaise qualité. Un pour lui, un pour elle. Des sandales trop grandes, où il suffira de fourrer des boulettes de papier journal pour les ajuster, des napperons brodés main, des nappes qu’il faut laver et repasser après chaque usage alors qu’ils n’ont même pas de fer à repasser; un grand tapis synthétique d’un vert électrique à suspendre au mur du salon l’hiver pour conserver la chaleur, et toutes sortes d’objets kitsch, parmi lesquels une affreuse sculpture de poulbot grandeur nature, si lourde qu’on dirait du plomb.

“Un gamin,” dit la grand-mère en utilisant le mot français.

“En pierre,” ajoute en riant le grand-père, qui les a mis au défi de deviner la matière.

The presents. From Catherine Cusset : ‘A Great Future’

Night falls. They open their presents. Lots of presents that his grand-mother had been preparing over the years for Alex and for his future wife. Marie realized that she was fulfilling a role that had existed for a long time before she had met Alex. “Frumos !” she repeated after having asked Alex the word for ‘beautiful’. Her cheeks were aching from smiling too much. There were shapeless beige pullovers knitted with low-grade wool. One for him, one for her. Over-large sandals, which would need stuffing with balls of paper to make them fit, hand-embroidered tablemats, tablecloths that would need washing and ironing after every use, even though they did not even possess an iron; a large synthetic carpet in electric green which was for hanging on the living-room wall in winter to keep in the heat, and all sorts of kitsch articles, including a hideous life-sized sculpture of a Parisian urchin, so heavy it appeared to be made of lead.

“Un gamin,” said his grand-mother, using the french word.

“In stone,” added his grand-father, laughing, having asked them to guess what it was made of.

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