Commentary

Marcelle Sauvageot

Some ballads begin as your letter does: ‘You, whom I’ve loved so much…’ This past tense, with the present still resounding so close, is as sad as the ends of parties, when the lights are turned off and you remain alone, watching the couples go off into the dark streets. It’s over: nothing else is to be expected, and yet you stay there indefinitely, knowing that nothing more will happen. You have notes like a guitar’s; at times, like a chorus that repeats: ‘I could not have given you happiness.’ It’s an old song from long ago, like a dried flower…Does the past become an old thing so quickly?

Sauvageot wrote Commentary in a sanitarium not long before her death from tuberculosis, and it lies somewhere between fiction and memoir, reading like a journal or a collection of letters-not-sent to a lover who has announced from afar that he will marry another woman. She expresses her anger and disappointment while analyzing the societal forces playing outside of the relationship itself. It’s amazingly feminist for its time, intimate in its sadness and defiantly hopeful.

You are gone but I am finding myself again, and I am less alone than I was during the days when I was looking for you. I have come back to myself, and with myself, I will fight to carry on.

Gabriel Valjan’s review goes into some detail in what the translation from the French fails to convey, as well as some background information on Sauvageot.