Friday 29th January 1971
Miss Arsinoë corners me near a radiator in order to announce, on the verge of tears, that her little cat has died. “Where is he now?” she asks while looking at me fixedly from behind her moustaches. “Can a cat not die of grief, Madam?”
Friday 25th March
Miss Arsinoë, queen of fairies carrying a rosary, as quarrelsome as a weasel, complains that Cheucheu, the Head, makes remarks to her during staff meetings and is after her with his very imperfect sympathy. One day when she unfortunately and red with embarrassment drops her white rosary in front of about ten people, I pick it up and, holding it out to her, am wondering why she is so ashamed of Jesus.
Monday 24th May - 14h30
Among other nonsense, Miss Arsinoë reveals that every Sunday evening she goes to mass at the Sacré Coeur, because it is pleasant up there and because her friend, Miss Hunégonde, “a good soldiers’ pot”, always demands to know whether she prays religiously for her. Both of them teach at the Papi barracks!
Monday 31st May 1976
Miss Arsinoé, combative-mathematician and cousin of a well-connected Director, arranges a food-evening at her flat, place Cluchu : 22 guests are on the programme, among them the hierarchy of the Papi Establishment. But Pataphos, who retired last year, stays away at the last moment, for the No.1 did not give the proper attention to the departure of this elitist graeco-latinist. Nonetheless the party took place in excellent conditions.
“The Ayatollah” Arsinoé, cousin of director San Frusquin, sorbonical ex-mathematician, finds the present archbishop of Paris too far on the left, and she obliged the Head of the Petit Lycée to publicly present his apologies to her, in front of the pupils, the ones exactly before whom he had pestered the lady. “A kiss for a greeting?”, Cheucheu had suggested to her, opening wide his arms, while the frightened lady retreated from this college “Satan”: so, Miss Arsinoé presented to me the lycée’s two chaplains: the older one (“who will become Bishop, don’t repeat it”) declares to me without ceremony that he keeps an eye on Miss Arsinoé, “for she chats up all my young priests”. And the targeted lady-parishioner taking revenge by whispering into my ear that the chaplain was her dear pupil in the beginners’ form at the Lycée Valmy and that...and that...agreu...agreu..., all this while raising a ciborium of overflowing champagne and before I permit myself to observe that at Lourdes, only water was drunk...fresh, at the Soubirous’ of the time at least, and before asking them to remind me, please, of the name of that doctor in theology, famous for his thesis on the dialogues between Bernadette and the Mother of Jesus - a thousand pages - and who does not know the least little word of the language used by the two interlocutors.
1st November 1977 - Maths
By Pierre-Louis L. and Jean-Christophe Y., members of the Academy of Sciences, who advocate a translation of their works into a language as elementary as the maths of the same name, for maths have taken the place of latin in terms of selection: “the world obeys mathematical laws” (H’m, h’m!). Does this mean that the history of figures is only the long march which separates one from zero (“ a zero without value, a shell and nothing inside”, according to Shakespeare)? And Miss Arsinoé takes up her knitting again - rabbit 3 and rabbit 4, rabbit 7; rabbit 7 and rabbit 3, rabbit 10 - on the way to the Nobel Prize for mathematics.
Claude d’Esplas (Les Merlufleaux)
All rights reserved
Translation : Dagmar Coward Kuschke (Tübingen)