Lydia Millet

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart

États-Unis   2005

Genre de texte

Rêve de la protagoniste, Ann. Elle fait ce rêve au tout début du roman. Elle rêve des trois savants responsables de l’invention de la bombe atomique : Oppenheimer, Fermi et Szilard. Après ce rêve, ces trois savants ressuscitent pour lancer une campagne contre la prolifération des armes nucléaires.

Plus loin dans le roman, la narratrice racontera ce rêve à son mari, Ben. On mentionne alors qu’elle soupçonne avoir été à demi éveillée au moment de ce rêve.

Texte original

Édition originale
Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, Toronto: Harcourt, 2006, p. 3-4, 7-8, 15 et 19.


Trois hommes et un champignon

On a clear, cool spring night more than half a century after the invention of the atom bomb, a woman lying in her bed in the rich and leisured citadel of Santa Fe, New Mexico, had a dream.

This itself was not surprising.

To be precise it was less a dream than an idea in the struggle of waking up. She thought the dream as she began to rouse herself and she was left, after waking, with an urgency that had no answer. She was left salty and dry, trussed up in a sheet, the length of her a shudder of vague regret.

In the dream a man was kneeling in the desert.

The man was J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Father of the Atom Bomb. The desert was an American desert: it was the New Mexico desert, and the site was named Trinity. Oppenheimer named it that. He gave lofty names to all his works, all except Fat Man and Little Boy.

These details would be revealed to her later. At the time nothing had a name but the man.

The man’s porkpie hat was tipped forward on his head and his pants were torn. His knobby knees were scratched and the abrasions were full of sand. She almost thought she could feel the sand against her own raw flesh, where the grains agitated. It may have been dust on the sheet beneath her, or, further removed, dust between the sheet and the mattress, a pea dreamed by a princess.

He was bent over abjectly, his face turned to the ground.

Then there was the flash, as bright as a thousand suns, which turned night into day. And on the horizon the fireball rose, spreading silently. In the spreading she felt peace, peace and what came before, as though the country beneath her, with its wide prairies, had been returned to the wild. She saw the cloud churning and growing, majestic and broad, and thought: No, not a mushroom, but a tree. A great and ancient tree, growing and sheltering us all.

The sight of it was poetry, the kind that turns men’s bones to dust before their hearts.

At this point in the scene she confused it with the Bible. The man named Oppenheimer saw what he had made, and it was beautiful. But when he looked at it, the light burned out his eyes and turned him blind.

She saw the rolling balls of the eyes when he righted himself to face the tree, and they were white like eggs. [...]

In the scene that was not quite a dream she saw the man named Oppenheimer kneeling in the desert when the first atomic bomb went off, and he was wearing his characteristic porkpie hat.

The scene had other elements, such as a squirrel shaped like a long balloon, dragging its belly on the ground. The squirrel came before Oppenheimer and then it retired politely. The squirrel was not present when the mushroom cloud rose over the horizon on its slowly twisting stem.

Neither was her mother, who had also been in the dream when it was still a dream, before it drew itself out of a well of sleep. Twelve years old, her mother rode a blue bicycle along the top of a white wall. She saw not the color blue in the dream but only the word blue, blue bicycle. Her mother did not need to hold the handlebars and she was proud of this; her hands were in the air, flitting birdlike as she rode. From the ends of the bicycle handles sprouted bright-colored strips of plastic, and on her small fingers the little mothergirl wore bulging candy rings. Color was at her hand.

Watching the girl ride along the wall, almost dreaming, her heart broke that she had never known her mother when she was young. As she turned in her sheets, hot, almost waking completely, she thought; She will never be young again. None of us will ever, ever be young again.

She wanted to cry, but was more thirsty.

Nothing was present at the end of the scene. Squirrels, mothers, bicycles vanished. And the faint, dry aftertaste of it all was only a porkpie hat.

As soon as we know it, it is gone.

When she realized she was awake she also realized she was sweating, and her shirt was sticking to her skin. She flicked on the nightstand lamp. [...]

What happened was, the night of the dream, three men were born again. [...]

For a while after the dream Ann did not think about Oppenheimer, the so-called father of the Atom Bomb, physicist and genius.

She had no reason to think of Oppenheimer in her waking life and she seldom remembered dreams. When she did they tended to be dreams she thought were trivial: dreams in which her hair had been elaborately curled and she was weighing down her head, dreams in which she had not been warned there was a test, dreams of wooden spoons, breadfruit, and once an angry monkey.

She did not think about Oppenheimer per se but she remembered the bent man and the death-light. She remembered waking up sweating, and staying up until the sun rose, and the bitter, dry aftertaste.

Texte sous droits.

Page d'accueil

- +