une rangée oblique

^ 1978 (orig. pub. 1957)

He drinks his soup in rapid spoonfuls. Although he makes no excessive gestures, although he holds his spoon quite properly and swallows the liquid without making any noise, he seems to display, in this modest task, a disproportionate energy and zest. It would be difficult to specify exactly in what way he is neglecting some essential rule, at what particular point he is lacking in discretion.

Avoiding any notable defect, his behavior, nevertheless, does not pass unnoticed. And, by contrast, it accentuates the fact that A… has just completed the same operation without having seemed to move — but without attracting any attention, on the other hand, by an abnormal immobility. It takes a glance at her empty though stained plate to discover that she has not neglected to serve herself.

Memory succeeds, moreover, in reconstituting several movements of her right hand and her lips, several comings and goings of the spoon between the plate and her mouth, which might be considered as significant.

To be still more certain, it is enough to ask her if she doesn’t think the cook has made the soup too salty.

“Oh no,” she answers, “you have to eat salt so as not to sweat.”

Which, on reflection, does not prove beyond a doubt that she tasted the soup today.

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