‘The world is blue like an orange’.
Paul Eluard, the French poet, said that the world was blue like an orange. When I read that phrase for the first time it made so much sense to me. In France, the expression ‘finding the other half of the orange’ means soul mate, partner, unexpected train station Dr Zhivago, snow flake speckled love affair for the duration of a life time with no bad timing, misunderstandings or betrayals of the Anna Karenina type. In other terms, the half of an orange is a fairy tale image. One is not only brought up on rules and principles, but on images. Irrational images that clamp themselves deep into us, we believe we own them. They possess us like the colours of stain-glass windows possess the light flowing through them. We may think we own them, but our thoughts are really owned by our first images. In my childhood, my parents carried on about the half of an orange as often as other people did about health or a good education. Finding the other half of one’s orange was a canon of my childhood, referred to with reverence.
My mother’s share in my sexual education was all about oranges. Everyone was one half of an orange, all you needed was to find the other half, she exuded more than explained. Gregorio Marañón had written all about it in a book. Yet his book was not in her house – I searched for it in vain. Her information came from another source. Gregorio Marañón was a famous Spanish doctor and writer who thought that every man had his ideal woman enshrined in his psyche. Men would love closer and closer until they reached the one person whose peculiar cocktail of qualities fitted their own perfectly. Women were exactly the same, except that their task (according to the Spanish doctor) was more in waiting mode. Socrates had spoken of it before Marañón, but Marañón seemed to have convinced my mother more deeply than Plato’s volumes in the Pleiades, the venerable French classic publisher, sitting primly in her bookshelf.
I still own them. I have just looked at them. They are worn down, tired out. My mother read like a boa constrictor: She would ingurgitate ideas in flesh and blood, until they became part of her everyday life. I have never liked Socrates and his beard and smart ass opinion on everything. I discovered later on that he was exciting Athenian youths agains democracy at a time when Sparta’s dictatorship was menacing the Republic. That’s why they asked him to drink the hemlock after his trial. Like Socrates, my mother was attracted to strong methods. My parents ideas were right wing, but like many French people, their heart was on the Left. My father sent his eldest son to Germany to learn German just before the war, but he joined the Resistance as soon as they set foot in Paris. This dichotomy expressed itself in their reading. My parents read certain authors by duty, then devoured others with opposite opinions. Marañón was one of those. Yet, my mother had quite other reasons to speak of him with a reverence.
Pilar, her oldest friend, had loved Gregorio Marañón’s son.
After school a girl told me that my theories about the half of an orange were bullshit. It was just an Indian fairy tale, she said. A prince and a princess are each given a half of the same orange and sent off on a voyage to find each other. But the prince gets too hungry and eats his half. The story didn’t say what happened to the princess.
Believing in the half of an orange has led me into unimaginable trouble. Believing in the half of an orange is why I find myself living in Australia.
Just like the magic factory in Chernobyl that made energy out of nothing, my parents clothed reality with enchanted colours. I have a flawed eyesight and a dangerously euphoric outlook. I believe in the half of an orange. I believe the world is blue like an orange.