The Energy of QuiberonBy Emmanuelle DE BOYSSON Sofitel Quiberon Thalassa Sea & Spa
My head was spinning. I went out into the garden to get some air.
By a big flat stone, I murmured “quadriskell.” Suddenly, I heard Jacques Brel’s voice coming from the bar. I could see his long, gangly figure in profile through the bay window. Young and spry, with a rebel lock of hair, he was strumming “Une valse à mille temps” on his guitar. Nearby, Romy Schneider smiled at him with her luminous smile from the film Les choses de la vie. Yves Montand, in a tweed jacket and roll-neck jumper, held the actress Simone Signoret by the shoulder, her blue eyes brimming with desire. Dalida danced wildly, his hair loose. Sunk in a leather armchair, Gregory Peck drank scotch with Lino Ventura. Sat at a table at a slight distance was my grandfather; I recognized his shaved head, large forehead and eager expression. Pipe in mouth, he was talking to a dark, good-looking man with a muscular body. It was Louison: there was no doubt. I wanted to run up to them, but stayed glued to my flat menhir stone.
Indifferent to my calls, the merry band played enthusiastically until the mist invaded the terrace. By the time I had crossed the Blue Bar they had vanished into thin air. I was haunted by the image of my grandfather. I went up to bed, searching nervously through my bag for my key. I was in a hurry to say the formula that would let me go back in time, through the mirror, like Alice.
After a peaceful night, I was woken by the desire to shout “quadriskell” at the gulls. I started by whispering the word in front of the bathroom mirror, then in front of my cup of coffee. Nothing happened. I decided to refresh my mind with a dip in the seawater pool. A lifeguard advised me to go from the hot pool into a tub of icy water. There’s nothing like it for boosting your circulation.
Alone in the open air Jacuzzi, I sang softly “quadriskell.” In that instant, a small plane crossed three little clouds which had attached themselves to each other in the middle of the gentle sky.
The bizarre canvas-winged bird, a microlight, bore the inscription “Caudron G4. 1913. Quiberon Air Show”. I thought it was an old model, but on the beach was a crowd dressed in Breton costume – roof-shaped headdresses and embroidered pinafores for the women, loose-fitting jackets for the men – dancing to the sound of bagpipes. I rubbed my eyes. Gradually it started to drizzle, and everything was obscured. Worrying. I slipped my dressing gown on, got dressed and went out towards the wild coast, wrapped in a yellow mac. At the end of a little path was the castle of Turpault. I slipped on the moss, still disoriented by what I had seen. What time was I in?
The sight of a walker with jeans and headphones on reassured me that I was in 2012. In front of the casino, one hand on an old stone wall, I had the urge to try my luck and let out “quadriskell.”
Caught in a whirlwind, I almost fell backwards. As I reeled, I came to my senses. The casino had disappeared. Now there were fishing boats moored in front of me. Fishermen were unloading boxes of sardines covered in ice and delivering them to the sardine canneries. The strong smell caught the back of my throat.
Local Bigouden people were coming out of a factory. In front of the Hôtel de l’Océan, men in hats chattered happily to women in long dresses. I listened carefully. A lady with a small dog laughed:
“I came on the cuckold’s train! I’ve come to take the waters and take a lover while my husband is in Paris.” A mariner told me the casino was on Place Hoche. Shaken, I was about to set off there when I saw a crowd forming around a woman in a sedan chair at the end of the quay. Her wooden leg stuck out of the door. All around, people shouted “It’s Sarah Bernhardt!” Surrounded by her entourage of monkeys, parrots, cats and dogs, the actress blew kisses into her path. Steeling myself, I approached a strongly built man with a little red goatee, a grey
cape and felt hat. “What year is it, please?” “It’s 1906, dear lady,” he replied in a suave voice. “May I introduce myself? Anatole
France. Would you accept the offer of a drink at the Grand Hôtel de France, where Sarah Bernhardt is going? Armand Caillavet has rented a house in Port Maria where I’m staying with his wife, my mistress of over twenty years. I’m very fond of Quiberon. Did you know it was here, in Port-Haliguen, where Captain Dreyfus landed on 1 July 1899, when he returned from Devil’s Island? I defended him with Zola. This peninsula inspires writers. It’s where Alphonse Daudet wrote The Little Parish Church. In his account of his travels in Brittany, Over Fields and Shores , Flaubert told of playing bagatelle at the casino. This summer, I’m determined to finish The Island of Penguins, a short satirical novel I hope will amuse you.” Charmed by the esteemed writer, I was only too happy to continue the conversation. Then the wind got up, a storm broke and the port emptied. Abandoned by the man who inspired Proust’s character Bergotte in In Search of Lost Time , I started
running towards the coast. The sea was wild on the cliff of Port-Goulom. A three-masted ship approached the shore, lost in the fog, its sails lowered. Screams pierced through the roaring of the waves. Propelled by the breakers, the Monte Cristo crashed onto the rocks with a long crunch. I let out a cry of horror. Soaked through, I took refuge in a cave. A peasant woman rushed through the torrents of water to the still-warm body of the captain lying on the heath. She searched him, stuffing coins into her petticoats, and tried to take his gold ring from his finger. It wouldn’t come off. Without a moment’s hesitation, she took a fishing knife and cut his finger off, before tumbling down towards
the village with her loot. Without thinking twice, I fled towards the thalassotherapy centre to fetch help. The earth started shaking
beneath my feet. The sea had retreated to the edge of the peninsula. Quiberon had become a continent invaded by forests.
The islands of Houat and Hoëdic and the entire gulf of Morbihan formed an immense wooded plateau inhabited by deer and wolves. In the distance rose the medieval city of the Birvideaux, with its walls, little steeples and golden palace. A line of men in red coats advanced in a procession down an earth path that snaked below. They were making their way to the chapel of Saint-Clément, chanting hymns. All of a sudden, night fell. My mobile phone rang. It was Gwenaëlle, reminding me of my appointment for a final hydromassage bath.
The sea had covered the wreck, the forests, Birvideaux. As I sat in the bubbling water, I resolved to return to Quiberon again. The vital energy of the druids is all around – the energy of my Breton ancestors and of the Tales of Quiberon and its Surroundings told by Lucien Gourong. It’s inside me, and inside those who will discover the secret of the quadriskell.
Shall we go to Louison’s?