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A Multitude of Sins (Anglais) Broché – 4 février 2003

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This was at a time when my marriage was still happy.

We were living in a large city in the northeast. It was winter. February. The coldest month. I was, of course, still trying to write, and my wife was working as a translator for a small publishing company that specialized in Czech scientific papers. We had been married for ten years and were still enjoying that strange, exhilarating illusion that we had survived the worst of life's hardships.

The apartment we rented was in the old factory section on the south end of the city, the living space only a great, empty room with tall windows front and back, and almost no electric light. The natural light was all. A famous avant-garde theater director had lived in the room before and put on his jagged, nihilistic plays there, so that all the walls were painted black, and along one were still riser seats for his small disaffected audiences. Our bed--my wife's and mine--was in one dark corner where we'd arranged some of the tall, black-canvas scenery drops for our privacy. Though, of course, there was no one for us to need privacy from.

Each night when my wife came back from her work, we would go out into the cold, shining streets and find a restaurant to have our meal in. Later we would stop for an hour in a bar and have coffee or a brandy, and talk intensely about the translations my wife was working on, though never (blessedly) about the work I was by then already failing at.

Our wish, needless to say, was to stay out of the apartment as long as we could. For not only was there almost no light inside, but each night at seven the building's owner would turn off the heat, so that by ten--on our floor, the highest--it was too cold to be anywhere but in bed piled over with blankets, barely able to move. My wife, at that time, was working long hours and was always fatigued, and although sometimes we would come home a little drunk and make love in the dark bed under blankets, mostly she would fall straight into bed exhausted and be snoring before I could climb in beside her.

And so it happened that on many nights that winter, in the cold, large, nearly empty room, I would be awake, often wide awake from the strong coffee we'd drunk. And often I would walk the floor from window to window, looking out into the night, down to the vacant street or up into the ghostly sky that burned with the shimmery luminance of the city's buildings, buildings I couldn't even see. Often I had a blanket or sometimes two around my shoulders, and I wore the coarse heavy socks I'd kept from when I was a boy.

It was on such a cold night that--through the windows at the back of the flat, windows giving first onto an alley below, then farther across a space where a wire factory had been demolished, providing a view of buildings on the street parallel to ours--I saw, inside a long, yellow-lit apartment, the figure of a woman slowly undressing, from all appearances oblivious to the world outside the window glass.

Because of the distance, I could not see her well or at all clearly, could only see that she was small in stature and seemingly thin, with close-cropped dark hair--a petite woman in every sense. The yellow light in the room where she was seemed to blaze and made her skin bronze and shiny, and her movements, seen through the windows, appeared stylized and slightly unreal, like the movements of a silhouette or in an old motion picture.

I, though, alone in the frigid dark, wrapped in blankets that covered my head like a shawl, with my wife sleeping, oblivious, a few paces away--I was rapt by this sight. At first I moved close to the window glass, close enough to feel the cold on my cheeks. But then, sensing I might be noticed even at that distance, I slipped back into the room. Eventually I went to the corner and clicked off the small lamp my wife kept beside our bed, so that I was totally hidden in the dark. And after another few minutes I went to a drawer and found the pair of silver opera glasses which the theater director had left, and took them near the window and watched the woman across the space of darkness from my own space of darkness.

I don't know all that I thought. Undoubtedly I was aroused. Undoubtedly I was thrilled by the secrecy of watching out of the dark. Undoubtedly I loved the very illicitness of it, of my wife sleeping nearby and knowing nothing of what I was doing. It is also possible I even liked the cold as it surrounded me, as complete as the night itself, may even have felt that the sight of the woman--whom I took to be young and lacking caution or discretion--held me somehow, insulated me and made the world stop and be perfectly expressible as two poles connected by my line of vision. I am sure now that all of this had to do with my impending failures.

Nothing more happened. Though, in the nights to come I stayed awake to watch the woman, letting my wife go off to sleep in her fatigue. Each night, and for a week following, the woman would appear at her window and slowly disrobe in her room (a room I never tried to imagine, although on the wall behind her was what looked like a drawing of a springing deer). Once her clothes were shed away, exposing her bony shoulders and small breasts and thin legs and rib cage and modest, rounded stomach, the woman would for a while cast about the room in the bronze light, window to window, enacting what seemed to me a kind of languid, ritual dance or a pattern of possibly theatrical movements, rising and bowing and extending her arms, arching her neck, while making her hands perform graceful lilting gestures I didn't understand and did not try to, taken as I was by her nakedness and by the sight on occasion of the dark swatch of hair between her legs. It was all arousal and secrecy and illicitness and really nothing else.

This I did for a week, as I said, and then I stopped. Simply one night, draped again in blankets, I went to the window with my opera glasses, saw the lights on across the vacant space. For a while I saw no one. And then for no particular reason I turned and got into bed with my wife, warm and smelling of brandy and sweat and sleep under her blankets, and went to sleep myself, never thinking to look through the window again.

Though one afternoon a week after I had stopped watching through the window, I left my desk in a moment of frustration and pointless despair, and stalked out into the winter daylight and up along the row of fashionable businesses where the old buildings were being restyled as dress shops and successful artists' galleries. I walked right to the river, clogged then with great squares of gray ice. I walked on to the university section, nearly to where my wife was at that hour working. And then, as the light was failing, I started back toward my street, my face hard with cold, my shoulders stiff, my gloveless hands frozen and red. As I turned a corner to take a quicker route back to my block, I found that I was unexpectedly passing before the building into which I had for days been spying. Something about it made me know it, though I'd never been aware of walking past there before, or even seen it in daylight. And just at that moment, letting herself into the building's tall front door, was the woman I had watched for those several nights and taken pleasure and undoubtedly secret consolation from. I knew her face, naturally--small and round and, as I saw, impassive. And to my surprise though not to my chagrin, she was old. Possibly she was seventy or even older. A Chinese, dressed in thin black trousers and a thin black coat, inside which she must've been as cold as I was. Indeed, she must've been freezing. She was carrying plastic bags of groceries slung to her arms and clutched in her hands. When I stopped and looked at her she turned and gazed down the steps at me with an expression I can only think now was indifference mingled with just the smallest recognition of threat. She was old, after all. I might suddenly have felt the urge to harm her, and easily could've. But of course that was not my thought. She turned back to the door and seemed to hurry her key into the lock. She looked my way once more, as I heard the bolt shoot profoundly back. I said nothing, did not even look at her again. I didn't want her to think my mind contained what it did and also what it did not. And I walked on then, feeling oddly but in no way surprisingly betrayed, simply passed on down the street toward my room and my own doors, my life entering, as it was at that moment, its first, long cycle of necessity.

quality time

Where he stopped for the red light on busy Sheridan Road, Wales watched a woman fall down in the snow. A sudden loss of footing on the slick, walked-over hummock the plows had left at the crosswalk. Must be old, Wales thought, though it was dark and he couldn't see her face, only her fall--backwards. She wore a long gray, man's coat and boots and a knitted cap pulled down. Or else, of course, she was drinking, he supposed, watching her through his salted windshield as he waited. She could be younger, too. Younger and drinking.

Wales was driving to The Drake to spend the night with a woman named Jena, a married woman whose husband had done colossally well in real estate. Jena had taken a suite in The Drake for a week--to paint. She was forty. She had her husband's permission. They--she and Wales--had done this five nights in a row now. He wanted it to go on.

Wales had worked abroad for fourteen years, writing for various outlets--in Barcelona, Stockholm, Berlin. Always in English. He'd lately realized he'd been away too long, had lost touch with things American. But a friend from years ago, a reporter he'd known in London, had called and said, come back, come home, come to Chicago, teach a seminar on exactly what it's like to be James Wales. Just two days a week, for a couple of months, then back to Berlin. "The Literature of the Actual," his friend who'd become a professor had said, and laughed. It was funny. Like Hegel was funny. None of the students took it too seriously.

The woman who'd fallen--old, young, drunk, sober, he wasn't sure--had gotten to her feet now, and for some reason had put one hand on top of her head, as if the wind was blowing. Traffic rushed in front of her up Sheridan Road, accumulating speed behind headlights. Tall sixties apartment blocks--a long file of them, all with nice views--separated the street from the lake. It was early March. Wintry.

The stoplight stayed red for Wales's lane, though the oncoming cars began turning in front of him in quick procession onto Ardmore Street. But the woman who'd fallen and had her hand on her head took this moment to step out into the thoroughfare. And for some lucky reason the driver in the nearest lane, the lane by the curb, slowed and came to a stop for her. Though the woman never saw this, never sensed she had, by taking two, perhaps three unwise steps, put herself in danger. Who knows what's buzzing in that head, Wales thought, watching. A moment ago she was lying in the snow. A moment before that everything had been fine.

The cars opposite continued turning hurriedly onto Ardmore Street. And it was the cars in this lane--the middle turning lane--whose drivers did not see the woman as she stepped uncertainly, farther into the street. Though it seemed she did see them, because she extended the same hand that had been touching her head and held it palm outward, as if she expected the turning cars to stop as she stepped into their lane. And it was one of these cars, a dark van, resembling a small spaceship (and, Wales thought, moving too fast, much faster than reasonable under the conditions), one of these speeding cars that hit the woman flush-on, bore directly into her side like a boat ramming her, never thinking of brakes, and in so doing knocked her not up into the air or under the wheels or onto its non-existent hood, but sloughed her to the side and onto the road--changed her in an instant from an old, young, possibly drunk, possibly sober woman in a gray man's coat, into a collection of assorted remnants on a frozen pavement.

Dead, Wales thought--not five feet from where he and his lane now began to pass smartly by, the light having gone green and horns having commenced behind. In his side mirror he saw the woman's motionless body in the road (he was already a half block beyond the scene). The street was congested both ways, more car horns were blaring. He saw that the van, its taillights brilliant red, had stopped, a figure was rushing back into the road, arms waving crazily. People were hurrying from the bus stop, from the apartment buildings. Traffic was coming to a halt on that side.

He'd thought to stop, but stopping wouldn't have helped, Wales thought, looking again into the mirror from a half block farther on. A collection of shadowy people stood out on the pavement, peering down. He couldn't see the woman. Though no one was kneeling to assist her--which was a sure sign. His heart began rocketing. Cold sweat rose on his neck in the warm car. He was suddenly jittery. It's always bad to die when you don't want to. That had been the motto of a man named Peter Swayzee he'd known in Spain--a photographer, a silly man who was dead now, shot to pieces covering a skirmish in East Africa, someplace where the journalists expected to be protected. He himself had never done that--covered a war or a skirmish or a border flare-up or a firefight. He had no wish for that. It was reckless. He preferred the parts that weren't war. Culture. And he was now in Chicago.

Turning south onto the Outer Drive along the lake, Wales began to go over what seemed remarkable about the death he'd just witnessed. Some way he felt now seemed to need resolving, unburdening. It was always important to tabulate one's responses.

From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

“One of the country’s best writers. . . . No one looks harder at contemporary American life, sees more, or expresses it with such hushed, deliberate care.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Haunting. . . . In each of these stories . . . there is something as delicate as the atmosphere in a Henry James tale. . . . There is also the spirit of something ineffable . . . a yearning for the world to be better than we expect. Chekhov and Cheever mastered such miracles from everyday dramas. Ford is among their company.” –The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Wrenching, intense, overflowing with compassion, A Multitude Of Sins leads us into the restless ambiguities of the heart.” –Dan Cryer, Newsday

"Encompass[es] the comedy and pathos and wit of our dislocated times. [and] reminds us how powerful short stories can be.” —Los Angeles Times

"Scorching. . . . These stories are wry, stark, and heartbreaking–and, with the quiet moral urgency at their core, make up Ford's most stinging collection to date." –Elle

"Robust. . . .This is vigorous writing, unfolding with the leisurely confidence that is the practiced craftsman's best illusion." —The Boston Globe

"Very powerful. . . . Ford has a fine sense of place, be it southern, western, or foreign." —The New York Review of Books

"Reasserts claims that in the hands of a lesser author would appear quaintly old-fashioned: that our lives have real importance, that there is such a thing as sin, that all of our actions…have consequences. It is a testament to Ford's gifts as a writer that in A Multitude of Sins this previously well-traveled ethical terrain feels shockingly new." –The New Leader

"Elegant, pristine, precise . . . these stories are indisputable proof that Ford is a contemporary master of the short story." –Esquire

"[Ford gives] a scope to private life that puts him in company with the master realists–think of Chekhov's short fiction or the best work of F. Scott Fitzgerald." –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 304 pages
  • Editeur : Vintage; Édition : Reprint (4 février 2003)
  • Collection : Vintage Contemporaries
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 037572656X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726569
  • Dimensions du produit: 13 x 1,5 x 20,3 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 38.228 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Lafourcade le 28 avril 2009
Format: Broché
J'ai acheté ce livre pour de mauvaises raisons: préparer l'agrégation, mais je vais le rerelire pour les bonnes. Si The Sportswriter était un peu soporifique, celui-ci "décoiffe". Psychologiquement, bien sûr. N'hésitez pas, lisez-le!
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Par Suparisis le 8 avril 2013
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Rien de plus banal que l'adultère, mais les nouvelles racontent des situations originales. Point de vue américain avec une touche d'hypocrisie, évidemment. Très bien narré.
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19 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An unflinching yet compassionate study of infidelity 14 avril 2002
Par Matthew Krichman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Richard Ford is undoubtedly one of America's finest authors. More than any other writer today, he has a special gift for creating characters with undeniable humanity. In this new collection of short stories, not his best work but excellent nonetheless, each character feels truly genuine, with human flaws and weaknesses that we all can relate to. Infidelity and its consequences is the main theme here, and Ford explores it with all the grace, subtlety, and compassion that readers have come to expect from him. The stories, for the most part, focus on everyday occurrences; Ford's work rarely relies on intriguing plot twists, but rather profound explorations of emotion and the human experience. In "Reunion," inspired by a John Cheever story, a man encounters the husband of a woman with whom he briefly had an affair, and stumbles through an awkward yet revealing conversation, set in the middle of Penn Station. In "Under the Radar," a woman admits to her husband that she had a brief affair with the host of a dinner party they are on their way to attend. In "Privacy," a man takes stock of his marriage after finding himself drawn to his neighbor, whose nude figure he views regularly from his apartment window. In each, Ford is deeply interested in the inner motivations of his characters. What makes them love? What makes them cheat? How do they justify their infidelities, both to themselves and their spouses? And how do they ultimately deal with their own guilt and the pain they have caused to those around them? Each of these questions is answered unflinchingly and unapologetically, but with the tenderness and charm for which Richard Ford's prose is well known.
11 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
I think I expected more 3 août 2002
Par J. Mullin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Cassette
I usually jump at the opportunity to hear authors read their own works, due in part to curiosity as to what they sound like, but more for the nuances and inflections only they can give to their written words. With that said, I found Mr. Ford's reading of his own short story collections to be a pretty uninspired affair.
Mr. Ford, one of our most celebrated and meticulous authors, is not blessed with a terribly strong reading voice, and he uses an odd, choppy style with numerous inopportune pauses that would indicate (if we didn't know better) unfamiliarity with the stories. I liked Richard Poe's excellend reading of Ford's masterpiece Independence Day much better. Poe breathed a lot more life into the characters.
As for the stories themselves, they were all good, and some were excellent. I really enjoyed Reunion, about a man who stumbles across the husband of a woman he had an affair with, in Grand Central Station, and feels oddly compelled to confront. Our protagonist doens't have anything particular to say to the husband of his former lover, who has slugged him in a hotel in St. Louis, he simply wanted to create an experience where before there was none. Other stories explore similar topics of marital infidelity, and the bitter aftermath of doomed affairs.
I also really liked the story of the young married couple on the way to a dinner party in their Mercedes Benz station wagon, in which the husband is floored by an admission, by his young trophy wife, that she has slept with their dinner party host. His reactions, and the stony silence that develops between them, are indicative of the strained relations between almost every couple in the collection.
My only problem with the stories, after reading about 5-6 of them, is that they are too similar to one another. Ford keeps retreading the same ground, writing about lawyers, realtors, St. Louis and the Mayfair Hotel in a cool, detached third person narrative. After awhile you forget you are reading (or listening to) fictional stories, and almost get a sense you are peeking at notes of a marriage counselor with a clinical sense of detachment. Ford doesn't seem to experiment enough, and sometimes I would get in my car, pop in a tape about unfulfilled 40-ish adulterers, and wonder whether this is the story of the couple in a Canadian hotel, the Connecticut realtors on a business trip to Phoenix, or the Grand Central protagonist reminiscing about his affair at the Mayfair. Each of the stories works well on its own, but reading them back to back you see patterns develop that frankly grow a little tiresome. Read them one or two at a time to enjoy Ford's meticulous prose, and his sharp observations about middle class malaise.
14 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Depressing and thought-provoking, but a good read 15 février 2002
Par David Roy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
A Multitude of Sins is a very interesting, somewhat depressing set of stories. Every one of them deals with adultery in one form or another. Sometimes a past adultery informs the plot of the story, sometimes the ending of it is the driving force. None of the stories actually deals with the beginning of it, except in flashback. Many times, the parties involved think back to the beginning and try to figure out what has gone wrong, and why a thrilling, secretive experience has become dull and boring.

The highlight of the novel has to be Abyss, the last story in the book. It's the longest story, and allows Ford to really get into the character of the two protagonists. Again, you see the beginning of their affair in flashback, the sudden spark when they first touch, and the red hot desire when they first truly look into each other's eyes. When the characters are sent to Phoenix for a convention, you see how their feelings have changed as the height of their passion comes crashing down into the dullness of reality and they each see what the other person is really like. Watching this relationship crumble, and then seeing the unexpected (at least to me) resolution to the story, was very intriguing, and made me want to finish the story as soon as possible.

The characters in each story are seekers, in a way. They are all searching for something to make their life complete. They are lost souls, searching for the fulfillment that life should bring, but doesn't always. Having an affair seems to them, at first, to fill that gap, but it never actually does. That's what makes the stories so depressing, in a way: seeing the fruitless search for life. Only one story has what's even close to a happy ending, and even that happiness is caused by the realization that their marriage is truly over. Most of the stories end with the characters having fallen, picking themselves up and resolving to move on through life's dense fog. A little wiser, perhaps. Or perhaps not. Some people never learn.

Still, depressing or not, I found all of the stories worthwhile to read. From the short vignettes to the longer pieces, each one contained interesting situations, or a nice twist, or even just making a point about life. I can't say I enjoyed the book, but I certainly did find it fascinating. I have never read any of Ford's stuff, but I may have to now that I've read some of his short fiction.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
original sin 10 juillet 2002
Par C. Fletcher - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I am continually astounded and impressed by Richard Ford's writing. "A Multitude of Sins," Ford's latest collection of short stories, cuts open for the reader fresh, bleeding slices of life from a series of marital infidels. Ford's incisive, intuitive skills of observation make you feel free as an invisible molecule of oxygen, permitted access to all of humanity's most private recesses.
Ford paints the interior lives of a series of mostly unhappy mid-Western professionals with the unflinching eye of a truly empathetic artist. This is not an easy read, but it is more than worth your time.
As Ford chronicles the various hurts and pains accumulated by lives not lived fully and the subsequent emotional dead-ends and disappointments that await most would-be escapees, one gets the sense that these stories are not so much about a multitude of sins, as about a single one. The sin of dissatisfaction might very well be an inherent human condition, a kind of original sin. We've all felt dissatisfaction to some degree with love, unfulfilled promise, and the way things are. If dissatisfaction is something we all have to contend with, maybe we can alleviate it by confessing our own versions of dissatisfaction. As Richard Ford's latest collection of stories, "A Multitude of Sins," makes clear, there is nothing like confession to satisfy the soul.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Peering deep into the human heart... 10 octobre 2011
Par John P. Jones III - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Richard Ford is a brilliant writer. The "techniques" of writing he has definitely mastered: dramatic tension, foreshadowing, incisive dialogue, et al. But I still recall the remark of a high school physics teacher who said: "I know people who can speak three languages, and have nothing to say in any of them." Ford is NOT one of those. He has the narrative skills, but more importantly, he has so much to say, particularly on the relationship between men and women. Sometimes noble; but all too often, ignoble. Just like in real life. Often there may be that experience that you believe has only occurred to you... and there it is, much more "universal" than you thought, in black and white, described by Ford. I've read most of Ford's works: Independence Day: Bascombe Trilogy (2), The Sports Writer, Rock Springs The Ultimate Good Luck, Wildlife, and Women with Men : Three Stories. There are elements of each of these books in this one, but the subject matter covered most nearly resembles "Women with Men," and "Rock Springs."

This volume is comprised of ten short stories, or, if you will, nine, with the novella, "Abyss." For some reason the publisher started with the weakest, and shortest story, "Privacy," a brief look at the voyeurism fantasy. "Quality Time" concerns an affair with an older, rich woman in the Drake Hotel, in Chicago. "Calling" is primarily set in New Orleans, and involves a duck hunting trip, and the relationship between a coming-of-age son, and his now out-of-the-closet gay father. "Reunion" involves another affair, set in St. Louis, and the subsequent meeting of the husband and lover in Grand Central Station in NYC. "Puppy" is also set in New Orleans, and how an abandoned puppy might threaten a marriage. Doing a "Robert Frost" could become incorporated in your vocabulary after this story. "Crèche" depicts a highly dysfunctional family on a ski trip in upper Michigan, and involves the only story which alludes to a non-consensual consummation of a relationship. "Dominion" is set in Canada; another affair, and a very different twist in the denouement. "Charity" involves a married couple, an ex-police officer and his public defender wife vacationing in Maine, and covers the "mid-life" crisis contemplating how a change in locale might alter their lives. "Abyss" is yet another affair, between a couple married to others. They are both in real estate, a touchstone of Ford in "Independence Day." The "abyss" is the Grand Canyon, which they decide to visit. Metaphorically, of course, the "abyss" is so much more.

Bons Mots? Of course there are more than a few. Consider: "Everyone gets to think he wins, though no one does. That was extremely lawyerly." Or, "Possibilities would diminish. Life would cease to be an open, flat plain upon which you walked with a chosen other, and become instead cluttered, impassable." Or, "It was her doing, she thought; she'd invented him, turned him into someone she had a use for. His real intelligence was not to resist." And, Canada, eh: "It seemed very Canadian. Canada, in so many ways, seemed superior to America anyway. Canada was saner, more tolerant, friendlier, safer, less litigious."

A marvelous, penetrating examination of the complex emotional issues surrounding the transient, or more permanent liaisons among men and women. Richard Ford is one of the very best chroniclers of American life today. 5-stars plus.
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