Emmanuelle Pagano was born in Rodez (Aveyron) in 1969. She graduated in Fine Arts, and has conducted university research in the field of aesthetics in film and multimedia. P.O.L has published four novels - three of them centered on childhood - which were highly acclaimed by critics.
Adèle, the narrator and main protagonist of The Cave teenagers, was born with a male body but subsequently underwent surgery to become the woman she now is. The story relates how she returns to her home region and takes a job driving the local school bus. Two lakes are mentioned in the extract. One is an artificial lake under which now lies the farm where Adèle was born and spent her childhood, with her parents and her brother Axel. The other is a natural, volcanic lake where she often goes to spend time on her own. It is beside this lake that the extract opens.
Close to the lake there’s open ground where I can park. At the edge of it, an apple-tree. The rotten apples on the ground stick to the tyres that crush them to pulp. I get out and pick two that are perfectly ripe. The sun is rising, there is barely any light. I’ll have to go soon but I have enough the time to get out. From here you can’t see the water but you know the lake is there, beyond the chimera of trees. In the early morning the broad air is full of mist. This is the lake’s own space, the lake that is my sea, my time.
I often stop here between runs, before or after.
Though the apples don’t know it, it’s not yet really autumn, it’s just the beginning of September, still early morning, but going back to school makes the leaves fall, everyone can see that, and my shoes are wet with morning dew on the carpark above the forest that surrounds the lake.
Soon the days will shorten and I will only see the older children in the dark of the morning or the dark of the afternoon.
I go down, through the fine drizzle, towards the trees farther below. I could be walking out of a kind of nothingness. I follow the path that I myself opened, sometimes moving slowly along, sometimes hurrying, keen, wanting to get there fast through the boughs and misty haze. The path slopes gently, branches scratching you as you descend. There are pockets of cold wet air and the smell of water, and some days the sound of beavers in the distance, like along the river when I was small. From my footsteps, from my memory, sounds break and fade.
Where the path ends there’s a weeping birch, tall, old, bowed. Underneath it, that’s my shelter, an oval space, confined, snug. I sit down but the lake, oozing coldly up between the roots, all grey or black, is so loud despite my inner calm, despite the loneliness we share.
It is never quiet this crater-lake though it is deaf and blind, a grey void, breaking like an immemorial wave. The less it sees, the less visible it becomes. Its loud commotion echoes round.
The lake of the drowned farm is so much more calm