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  • The Garden
  • Monique Wittig
    Translated by Lorie Sauble-Otto (bio)

Deformed, altered in their physique, in their gestures, in their thinking, no matter what their sex, their species, their race, creatures, enslaved by the social and political body as a whole, testify, even in the shape of their bodies, to the effects of the brutality and the violence of what we call culture.

—Camille Larsen, Culture or Domination

At noon the garden is covered in a violet haze.1 There is no movement on the paths of rose-colored sand. Rows of flowers of different species receive a cloud of water dispersed by big rotating sprinklers. But there is no wind to agitate them. The bodies are laid out side by side in deck chairs, immobile, naked. A voice is heard from time to time. Then silence. Numerous hours pass without anything happening. One watches the sky through the fountains' mist, one waits for a cloud to form and to disintegrate, but most of the time the sky is empty, gray, blue, white. Not even a bird passes. In the middle of the day the feeders come to nourish the bodies. They arrive from everywhere, and despite the transparency of their wings, the sky is all obscured. Their bodies are red, blue-green, very shiny, ringed in various places. The feeders fly up close, and without touching down they practice mouth-to-mouth, their beaks slide between the lips, and they vomit into the gullet thick and syrupy liquids whose composition varies every day. One closes one's eyes so as not to see the large pendulous eyes that move in all directions, but despite long habit it is still difficult to get used to them. One can, however, watch without displeasure the multiple veins of their wings that one discerns clearly despite their movement. At times some of the bodies refuse nourishment. Then the beaks are forced between the lips, and it is impossible to offer any real resistance despite their apparent fragility. When the feeders have gone, at times some of the [End Page 553] bodies start to make long and sweet raucous howls, never-ending. Or some start to laugh and shake their heads in all directions. They are drunk, to tell the truth, and they shout, they make all kinds of noises with their throats. Others fall asleep. Time stands still. Now and then the noise of a petal falling attracts attention. Or it's the whistling of one of the numerous jets of water at the end of its run and about to stop. One hardly speaks. From the body, in this position, only the head can perceive the other parts when looking down, the cylindrical chest, the stomach, the legs both fused and divided, whose diminishing shape resembles the tail of the big blue fish that can be seen in the pools. It is said that the bodies used to live in the oceans. They were called mermaids. But the mermaids had forelimbs. The bodies have this in common with the mermaids; they swim perfectly and they sing, it is said, as the mermaids used to sing. One sings only when one is in the water, at bath time. One can do it any time when in the open air. One never does. In the water of the pools, the sound waves don't leave the surface. So one sings. This is the time of day that everyone awaits. The big apes come a bit before sunset. They walk solemnly while beating their tambourines with bare hands. Their bodies are without clothes, and on their heads they wear silver-colored caps. One by one they carry the bodies to the pool where they let them fall with great splashes. One lets oneself go to the bottom of the pool. One comes and goes very quickly, from bottom to top, in all directions, and in passing one brushes against the enormous blue fish that move aside. Sometimes one plays with them, belly-to-belly, in a kind of battle. Most of all one sings. One sings, letting oneself drift away, head toward the sky. One makes stridencies, modulations, low and barely audible sighs. One twirls...


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pp. 553-561
Launched on MUSE
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