As the Eagle Flies: read an extract from the latest Peirene novella

Read the opening pages of Nolwenn Le Blevennec’s As the Eagle Flies, translated by Madeleine Rogers. Telling the story of an affair between two journalists with a sharp wit and a refreshing honesty, Le Blevennec uses literature, psychology, and popular culture to get to the heart of questions about love, family and identity. This is a book about getting lost in other people, and the lengths we go to to find ourselves again.


My days were spent scurrying around like some busy little mammal. Back then my children were still young. After work I would run to them. I mean I would literally run, risking the danger – the one no one ever talks about – of my brain bashing against the inside of my skull. Coming home from reporting, I would be so eager to see them that I’d leave my bag on the train. The camera roll on my phone was full of pictures of them: a work of documentation on the level of a suburban American obsessed with the tidiness of his neighbour’s lawn. I was holding on to no less than four videos of my eldest dancing to the Crocodile Song, and I was incapable of deleting a single one. I had tried. They were the same, but different. The only limit to my devotion was that I never cooked for them.

In the spring of 2016, my youngest son was a little over a year old when, one evening, I didn’t come home as quickly as usual. I had stopped by a drinks party on the third floor of the excessively large building that housed the newsroom of the magazine where I worked, a low-ceilinged, open-plan space with black cables running across the floor. I’d been working there for a good two years but had never really noticed Joseph, the artistic director. I hadn’t ever given him much thought, even though he was considered the prodigy of the team. Even though he had a signature style: he always wore a polo neck. I remember, that first time, we talked about Boulogne-sur-Mer. I have a soft spot for that town, up there on the north coast, because of its highly competitive downsides (weather, low elevation) and because it relies on the primary sector, which I find quaint. Like the port of Guilvinec in Brittany. It’s quaint, the port of Guilvinec. So that’s more or less what I said, and that it was undoubtedly better to go on holiday there than to the South. I added that the Mediterranean is nasty, that the sea is too calm there, that the water is scummy and yellow, that it stings your skin. That it’s disgusting.

Basically, I was talking shit, and Joseph let me know it. It was brilliant, because everything I said infuriated him, and everything he added made me laugh. It was like we were playing a game of Jenga, and it was getting vertiginously high. My face felt like it was sizzling; sparks were falling into my plastic cup of red wine. The conversation lasted twenty minutes, and it was like something was gently squeezing my insides the whole time. I don’t know if I had yet noticed his extensible bottom lip, the strange bit of skin on his forehead that you’d sometimes feel like playing with, or his tendency to rock backwards and forwards while talking. These are actually his defining qualities. What I did notice was that I liked him, that he was about my height and that his hair
was thick and curly. I thought, You could definitely hide a rubber in there.

Three years later, I find myself no more than ten metres away from the location of that first encounter. 1 January 2019. I’m on call in the newsroom, and my partner for the day is a colleague who’s giving me the urge to run away: he wishes me ‘Happy New Year’ every time we make eye contact. As for Joseph, he took off several months ago. At the moment, he’s exhibiting in Budapest. You can see a few pictures from his new life as an artist on Instagram, and on a few sketchy websites if you’re not scared of getting a virus. Which is the case for me. He’s living his best life. While here I am, scrolling endlessly through Twitter, where the outrage du jour is a climate-sceptic TV clip. It’s pathetic. I end up clicking on my email archive, which doesn’t bode well at all. I reread our messages in silence. But on this, the first day of 2019, I realize that these exchanges don’t upset me. That my throat hasn’t tightened. That they no longer intoxicate me. Everyone told me that indifference would break through in the end. I see that the moment has come.