Some of you will remember that I have been mentioning the Swiss writer Clarisse Francillon (1899 -1976) for a few years now. She is the writer I discovered by finding myself in a small back room at my local library; unbeknownst to me I had stumbled into her archives.
I’m very excited to share a first translation of her work into English. This is “Saturday Evening”, first published in 1944 as a novella by the Swiss Schiller Foundation, from whom Francillon had won a special prize the year before. Francillon wrote about women, their sexuality and their lives, and although it may seem quite mild for today’s standards, there is quite a lot simmering under the surface in this story. Later she would get ever more daring, and I look forward to placing some of those pieces!
Much of her later work is set in Paris, (and I am always calling her the Mavis Gallant of Switzerland) and so it’s a treat to have this story come out first, which is set here in Switzerland, in Lausanne and in the small lakeside village of Cully. It’s the story of an ordinary evening, a village party and dance, and a young woman named Rita who is ready for her life to change…
Stoll said, “A man gets rather lonely in a city in the evening, you see. Spending the whole day on business, you see, but the evening… so if there’s a chance to meet a nice lady…”
To Rita’s ears the words “nice lady” sounded rather disagreeable. Like an old woman, walking slowly, with a black purse, and not a young woman of twenty who was sometimes positively thrilled to be alive, and sometimes so sad. She glanced again at the package of earrings.
“I wanted to thank you,” she said. “You shouldn’t have, you know,” she continued, shy. Even if it wasn’t so long ago her friend Evelyn was telling her that one needed to know how make men pay. A habit just like another.
“If you like them, then I’m happy,” said Stoll.
He took a sip of his vermouth. Sounds of voices, of dishes, and on the palm-tree decorated stage, the stand of a silent double bass. Was she going to the ball in Cully tonight in a wrinkled dress? She felt a certain regret. Not because of Jean-Pierre, no. Jean-Pierre wouldn’t even notice. He said, and this was the last word on it, not before we’re married and that’s it. That was how he was. But Rita liked her clothing carefully ironed, pressed.
You can read the entire story here.