Thursday, March 24


I stayed there on my own, gazing at the sea. I never will forget that morning. It moved me as much as any love-affair. The colours on the sea-bed, because of the shells and the shell-fish, the madrepores and the corals, etc., the colours are more various than an April meadow covered in primroses. And as for the surface of the sea, every possible colour played across it, all shimmering and fading and melting into each other, from chocolate to amethyst, pink to lapis lazuli and the palest shade of green. It was extraordinary, and if I'd been a painter, I'd have been exceedingly peeved at the thought of how false any reproduction of this reality (granted that such a thing were even possible) would seem. We left Kosseir that afternoon at four, feeling very sad. There were tears in my eyes when I shook hands with our host and climbed up onto my camel. It is always sad to leave a place you know you'll never see again. Such are the melancholy pleasures of the traveller's life, perhaps the most valuable thing it has to offer.

-- Gustave Flaubert Letter to Louis Bouilhet 2 June 1850
Translated by Geoffrey Wall