“The Most Beautiful Book In The World” And Some Other Stories

Today I have finished the last book from the series of three written by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt that I bought a while ago.

Called “The most beautiful book in the world and some other stories”, comprises in it’s 202 pages eight stories of eight different women, each one making your heart mealt in a sea of bitterness towards their destiny, but which makes you understand how fragile life is and how small are we in front of our destiny.

The first story is about Wanda Winnipeg, a woman who was raised in poorness, but who met faime after marrying a few rich people and transformed into a billionaire. One day she meets at an exposition to the author of the paintings, and she recognises a person that she thought she would never see again. It was about Cesario, the man that she seduced when she was 15 in the attempt to determine him make her a woman. She wanted an experimented man, and she wanted the most beautiful man she would find, as she would have plenty of time afterwards to sleep with ugly reach people.

Now Cesario was 80 years old, and almost no trace of the man he used to be was left in him, except the deep eyes, but which also had lost their light.

The second story is called “It’s a beautiful rainy day” and tells the story of Helene, a woman who was born for perfection. In her childhood was bothered by aything that wasn’t perfect. An uncleaned room, cars not parked in the same direction etc. As she became older, she had the same feeling with men. Every defect was a torment for her, and she got to 35 years old with no perspective for the future. In highschool she was changing her boyfriends like she was changing her socks, but it wasn’t because she was some kind of conquistador or because she wasn’t capable of keeping a man next to her, but because with each relationship she was looking for perfection. And when she realised that the one next to her was far from perfection, she was leaving. It wasn’t until she met Antoine. He wasn’t a perfect man, but was one that was seeing beautiful in anything. It was a man that managed to make her kind of temperate her feelings toward imperfection or at least not to express them so loudly. They decided to get married, but the destiny made that the only one that managed to temeperate her would not be the one destined for her.

The third story is called The intruder and is the one that intrigued me the most. It is the story of an apparently 35 year old woman who thinks she had seen a women wondering around her house and who apparently starts to move things around. She calls the police a few times being scared of what the intruder might do to her, but when they get there they tell her nobody is inside.  She decides to stalk her and stays awake overnight waiting in a closed for her to show up, but she never does. She changes the locker of the door but somehow the woman still manages to go in and out easily. One day, a man appears at her door and she says that it is her husband who got back from the Middle East. But when he comes in he tells her that he no longer lives there and that he has two kids with another woman. She becomes more and more confused and angry and he throws him out. Which is actually her story and why is the intruder keep comming in and out without stealing anything but just moving things around?

The fourth story is called The false and tells the story of Aimee Favart, a women who was for 25 years old the lover of a married man. The day he tells her he will leave her for moving with his wife in the south of France to live the end of their life there, she feels as if her life is over. She burries herself in bitterness and kills the old Aimee, the loving woman dedicated to the man she loves and transformes herself into an apparently strong woman who survives a breakup. After she is fired from her job, she tries to find something else to work, but her new charater of a woman who analyses everything is not very useful and her efforts remain without a result. She tries at some point to sell the Picasso painting she received from George, the man who left her, but she finds that it is a false. She has a revelation that she can rent a room of her house and so she meets Kumiko, a japanese student that needed a place to stay. When Aimee finds out that she has cancer, she feels free and wants to die quickly to get rid of this life. But Kumiko, who got attached, tells her that there are treatements in Japan that do not exist yet in France. Annoyed that she does not let her die, she decides to punish her. And so she calls her and creates her will in which leaves the false panting to her. But what surprise would have had if she would have given the painiting to Kumiko and would have lived.

Getting to the fifth story, called Everything to be happy, we learn about the story of a woman who apparently has everything: a loving husband, a place to stay, a beautiful life, many friends, but who finds always something to complain and who is annoyed when people tell her she has everything to be happy. At some point, she herself starts to be convinced about that. But her world crahes when one day she meets a boy who looks exactly like her husband and who is his son. And she is even more devastated when she finds that her husband made another family while he was married with her. She starts frequeting a shrink to be counseled, but she is even more surprised when he tells her that he knew. But as time passes, she realises that he made that mistake because he wanted children that she couldn’t give him, and that he stayed with her because he loved her. Releaved, she wants to get back to hug her husband and tell him how much she loves him too, but unfortunately she will never get back to her old life.

As we read more from the book, we get to the sixth story, The barefoot princess. We read about Fabio, an actor so beautful that could put a spell on any women, but that unfortunately was not an as good actor. At the beggining of his carrier, he played in some plays that brought him fame when the world wasn’t yet aware of the badly he plays. That time, he received a basket of yellow orchids from a woman. He talked to her and then they spent the night together after which he left without saying goodbye. Overtime, his mind remains stuck to the woman.  He now goes back to the village where he met her, but will he find her there, or will she be still in love with him?

As I got closer to the end, I got to the story of Odette Toulemonde, a simple widow woman who was appasionate by a writer called Balthasar Balsan. She gets the ocasion to get an autograph from him, but she is not even capable to spell her name and so she gets an autograph for Dette (duty). On the other hand, the life of Balthasar is on the opposite side. He is a famous writer who has everything, a wife, a carrier, fans, but he is bored by the life he has. He is unhappy. One day though, his carrier turns around when Olaf Pims destroys his new novel saying that it has no value and brakes it during the show. And the other people start to be influenced by him which leads Balthasar out of his fame. The things escalate quickly when he finds out his wife is having an affair with the man that distroyed his carrier. He then starts to read the letter that Odette gave to him in the subsequent autograph session and in which she confesses that he saved her from suicide and gave her life back with his books. He feels all the love that lies in it, and starts looking for her. When he finds her, he asks her if he could spend some days in her house which she accepts. His tries to seduce her led to failure as she said that it is no use to start being romantically envolved, as she does not want to be a one night stand and their affair would lead to nowhere. He decides to wait and to give her some time, but things start to escalate. Will he manage to soften her heart? Will she give up her priciples?

And so we get to the last story, “The most beautiful book in the world”. The story is about Siberia, about the gulag, about four woman that are locked because their political oppinions. The events happen like 60 years ago in Siberia where Lilly, Irina, Tatiana and Olga plan to write to her daughters. They collect ciggarets sheets which they stick one to another. They use the pencil that Olga hid in her hair and manage to finally have the necessary matterials. But what will they write? Anything they would want to write would fill in much more than three pages what they had planned. Finally, Lily makes the first step and writes the letter. Curious, Tatiana asks her what did she write. Lilly tells her the secret, which Tatiana thaught it was genious. All of them actually thought that and wrote the same letter. They created a notebook with them, and the first one to get out would deliver the letters. And the first one happened to be Lilly. Now, after so much time since the events, the daughters are still keeping the notebook and are meeting regularely to talk, to remember. And they call it as the most beautifull book in the world. They admit that it might be books more beautiful, but for them that will always be the most beautiful. And ironic enough, the book itself wasn’t a masterpiece or even something sentimentalist. Each woman decided to write to her daughter a recipe. Yes, a recipe. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they thought that recipe would comprise all of their feelings.

This book meant to me more than just another one on my list, more than Schmitt, more than just another article in the blog. For me it meant the story of you and me, the life that any of us could have, the story that should teach us that life is fragile and that we must enjoy every single moment of it. There are sad stories and happy stories, but each one of them touched my heart in such a way that I will never be the same. I mean yeah I will still be me, but everytime I read stories like the ones Schmitt presented, I feel like I evolve into something else, something better. My feelings are raised to the level of art and I try to enjoy my life in some other way. I look at the one I love more passionately, I appreciate my parents more, I enjoy the sun more as I realise that life is short and the only thing that will matter at the end will not be how many houses you bought, how many goods you have, but the feelings you had and the one you gave, the smile on the people’s faces when you made them happy. Also the book show us that no matter how much money you have or how poor you are, if you have a family or not, the need for happiness is the same. We all feel the urge to be happy, to love and to be loved.

Another thing that caught my attention was te cover of the book. It shows a woman in a bus that is levitating above the others. I didn’t find the exact meaning of the cover, but I guess it could be many. It could be the belief of the author that the spirit of the reader is above the others, it could be the fact that the women sees nothing around but the book when she is reading, it could be the fact that she feels so easy when she reads as if she was floating, or maybe just the fact that she feels like her spirit rises as she learns that the life is not what she thought she was, but a fragile plate that could get broken if we do not take care of it. The authour wrote this book while he was filming a movie. He signed a contract which forbid him to perform dangerous sports or actions and they even recommended him not to write durring the filming. The book was written stealthily, and he felt again that adrenaline of clandestine writing and the joy. And I could feel that in the book. I felt more passion, more life than in other books and personally I feel honoured that I had the opportunity to read this book.

© picnicontheshelf, July 15, 2018

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