Jules et Jim

From Chapter One

It was about the year 1907.

Jules, short and plump, a stranger to Paris, had asked Jim, tall and thin, whom he hardly knew, to get him into the Bal des Quat-z'Arts, and Jim had found him a ticket and taken him to the costumier's. It was while Jules was gently turning over one material after another and choosing a simple costume, that of a slave, that Jim's friendship for Jules was born. The friendship grew during the ball, which Jules took in serenely, his eyes round with wonder and brimming with humour and tenderness.

The next day, they had their first real conversation. Jules had no woman in his life in Paris, and he wanted one. Jim had several. He introduced Jules to a young musician. At first things looked promising. For a week Jules was rather taken, and so was she. Then Jules decided she was too cerebral; and she, that he was too placid and ironical.

Jules and Jim saw each other every day. They sat up late at night, each teaching the other the language and literature of his own country. They showed each other one another's poems and translated them together. Their talk was leisurely; neither had ever found so attentive a listener. The regulars at the bar soon concluded, without the two young men's realising it, that their relationship must be abnormal.

Jim introduced Jules into literary cafes frequented by celebrities. Jules was appreciated there and Jim was pleased. In one of these cafes Jim had a girlfriend, a pretty, independent, casual young woman who could stand the nocturnal pace in Les Halles better than all the poets and still be on her feet at six in the morning. Loftily, as if from a height, she distributed her brief favours; and whatever life might do to her she kept her outlaw liberty and an immediate wit that always found its mark. The three of them went out together several times. She disconcerted Jules, whom she considered nice, but ineffective. He thought her remarkable but alarming. She brought along a pleasant silly girl for Jules - and Jules found her pleasant, but silly.

So Jim couldn't do antyhting for Jules. He persuaded him to go hunting on his own, but Jules, possibly through being bothered by his still imperfect French, never got anywhere. Jim told Jules, 'It's not a question of language,' and gave him a lecture on strategy.

'You might as well lend me your shoes or your boxing-gloves,' said Jules, 'all your things are too big for me.'

Jules, against Jim's advice, had recourse to professionals. But there was no satisfaction in that.

They fell back on their translations and conversations.