Day is breaking. For the first time, I’m able to think about what’s in store for us. Soon the Italian boat will be out there in Alon Harbour, which I’m just now beginning to distinguish. It seems as if I can already feel the rolling of the sea. The sea will take us to that holy city, the wind will push us all the way to the door of the desert. I never spoke of G__ with my father. He didn’t want us to talk about it. He had a way of looking at you, very simply and directly, that stopped you from asking questions. Afterwards, when he wasn’t there anymore, it no longer mattered. One day Uncle Simon Ruben asked Mama if it wasn’t time to start thinking about instruction - he meant religion - to make up for lost time. Mama always refused, without saying no but simply saying we’ll see about that later, because it was against my father’s wishes. She said it would come in time, when I was old enough to choose. She too believed that religion was a matter of choice. She didn’t even want people to call me by my Jewish name, she said “Hélène” because it was also my name, the name she’d given me. But I called myself by my real name, Esther, I didn’t want any other name now. One day my father told me the story of Esther, who was called Hadassa, and had neither father nor mother, and how she had married King Ahasuerus and dared to enter the grand chamber where the king was enthroned to ask him to save her people. And Simon Ruben told me about her, but he said the name of G__ should not be pronounced, or written, and that’s why I thought it was a name that was like the sea, an immense name that was impossible to know in its entirety. So now I know it’s true, I have to reach the other side, cross the sea, all the way to Eretz Israel and Jerusalem, I have to find that force. I never thought it was such a difficult door we had to go through. The fatigue, the cold prevent me from thinking about anything else. All I can think of is this interminable night that is now ending in a gray dawn, and the wind in the giant trees, and the sound of the sea between the sharp rocks. I drop off to sleep just then, lying close to Mama, listening to wind flapping in the blanket like a sail, listening to the unbroken sound of the waves on the sandy beach. Perhaps I dream that when I open my eyes the ship will be out there on the sparkling sea.
[Wandering Star, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]