COURAGEOUS TO THE END
“Before their date she coloured her mouth with poppies from a tube, powdered her cheeks, the whole lot, the net result was she was hidden, masked. She would realise that her lipstick had bled onto her front teeth, ravaging her smile into something a tad carnivorous. Bartolomeo had decided against telling her: under the cruelly misfired make-up, she looked too fragile to cope with the comment. These failed preparations succeeded in moving the young man. He thought Sali pretty, if a little ridiculous, she was somehow like a china cup teetering on the edge of the shelf, of disaster, in distress.”
Sali, Bartolomeo. A love that lasts thirty years. But a grain of sand blocks its smooth continuation: when Bartolomeo is compiling a survey of footpaths in the Pyrenees, he suffers a stroke. How to live through this with him? How to believe in life? Sali stays by his bedside with mute determination. As an inverse mirror image of her, the chatty nurse Olga buzzes around him crooning her Spanish words. And as Bartolomeo – “Lo Méo” – slips away, his life gradually slips into view: swimming in the icy waters of mountain lakes, following steep footpaths, children growing up. There is one last resort against his fatal stroke: the will of a woman who has made up her mind to bring pleasure into her husband’s final moments.
Courageous to the End is a very moving book that embraces incapacity and death in a generous, frenzied dance.
Marine Westphal is as courageous as her central character. She is twenty-six and a nurse. She has previously won the George Sand short story competition.