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This report is taken from PN Review 223, Volume 41 Number 5, May - June 2015.

The Hamlet of the Bees,
translated by Alan Bernheimer, with poem-beehives by Alec Finlay
Valery Larbaud
The beehives back against a low wall which bears the iron standards of a vine arbour. In front the slope of the big garden (including kitchen garden and orchard) offers them a broad view of farmland and wooded hills. Behind you can see in summer, through the laden grapevines, the roses in the flowerbed that borders the paved courtyard of my family home.

I have always seen them in this remote spot, quiet, with their little Swiss-chalet roofs, and facing south.

As a child I hardly ever went near them, because it was forbidden. And this rule seemed to create a great distance between the paths I could frequent and the one I called The Hamlet of the Bees. Even today I go there only at the beginning of each visit home, or the following day, and always with some uneasiness, as if I feared to find it abandoned. I stop a few feet from the first hive and I go on only after having ascertained that the inhabitants are still there, whether I see one bee shoot out of an opening, or a compact mass of these citizens filling the shadows and edges of their doorway in a dark lather, oily and golden. I would like to think that they have seen me and have interpreted my presence as a visit.

The Hamlet of the Bees             

I ought perhaps to pay another at each of my departures, but either I don’t have time or I don’t think of it. Then again, these departures at vacation’s end occur well ...


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