- Now, M. Verne, I'm going to put you next to M. Proust. His new book, A L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs
, has just come out. I'm sure you'll be dying to talk to him about it.
- But Madame, I am afraid this is impossible.
- Et pourquoi c'est impossible?
- I have been dead for fourteen years.
- Ah, M. Verne, always so exact with numbers! Not another word, please. Let me introduce you. M. Proust, M. Verne.
- Enchanté, monsieur.
- Ah, alors
, M. Proust, maybe you will be so kind as to tell me about your book?
- Mais bien sûr!
It is a tale of love, set mainly in a seaside resort -
- But this is extraordinary! I, too, have written such a book. It is called Le Rayon Vert
. Perhaps you have read it?
- I am afraid, M. Verne, I am not as well-read as I -
- It is of no matter, M. Proust, I will gladly tell you about it. It is a small novel of 251 pages, totalling some 55,610 words -
- Mine is somewhat longer -
- The gift of concision, M. Proust, is not given to all of us, but I am sure your book is also very fine. As I was saying, my novel is set in a seaside resort, more exactly in several such resorts. The action begins in the Clyde, but rapidly moves to Oban, Iona and lastly the Isle of Staffa. These are all places in the West of Scotland. The first, Oban, is a resort town within the Argyll and Bute council area that occupies a beautiful setting in the Firth of Lorn. Despite its small size, it is the largest town between Helensburgh and Fort William, and during the tourist season it can be crowded by up to 25,000 people. The -
- This is all tremendously interesting, M. Verne, but I believe you said your novel was about love?
- Indeed it is, M. Proust. The heroine, an impetuous young girl named Helena Campbell, has vowed that she will never marry until she has seen le rayon vert
, the Green Ray. This is an optical phenomenon that may sometimes be seen at the exact moment of sunset, but only over a pure and untroubled sea in perfect atmospheric conditions. According to a Scottish legend, a person who has witnessed le rayon vert
cannot then be deceived in romantic questions, but will see truly in their own heart and the hearts of others -
- That sounds very convenient, M. Verne. But -
- Ah, please, let me continue. The beautiful Helena is pursued by a M. Aristobulus Uriclos, a tedious gentlement of a scientific bent who continually fatigues her with long and unnecessary explanations that she has no wish to hear -
- I already feel very sorry for this poor girl.
- Indeed you should, M. Proust, indeed you should! Particularly as her uncles, who are also her guardians, have determined that she should marry M. Uriclos. But Miss Campbell meets a Mr. Olivier Sinclair, a handsome young artist whose life she fortuituously saves when he is near to drowning in the Whirlpool of Corryvreckan. This whirlpool is situated in a narrow strait between the islands of Jura and Scarba, in Argyll and Bute. Its name comes from the Gaelic Coire Bhreacain
meaning "cauldron of the speckled seas" or "cauldron of the plaid" -
- I must read more about this fascinating geographical phenomenon, M. Verne, you have veritably whetted my appetite. But please continue with the story. Miss Campbell falls in love with Mr. Sinclair?
- You have guessed correctly, M. Proust! Mr. Sinclair joins the girl's party, and together they go in search of le rayon vert
. But time after time, they fail to see it, due to various mishaps. I could give you examples -
- No, no, M. Verne, I am too impatient to learn the end. I imagine they finally see it and know the truth of their mutual feelings?
- Ah, M. Proust, there you are wrong! The ray does indeed finally produce itself. But the two lovers are so intent on looking into each other's eyes that they miss the moment. None the less, they are not dissatisfied. I try to suggest that, in matters of the heart, it is undesirable and indeed impossible to know absolute truth.
- You do?
- In my own simple way, M. Proust, I do.
- M. Verne, I am afraid I have misjudged you. Our novels are not as dissimilar as I believed. Maybe I will read yours after all.
- And I will read yours, M. Proust!
- Let us drink to that!