« The ant king and other stories », Jouiselle-aux-Chantes   


Jouiselle-aux-Chantes is the city of erotic forgetting.

The spores of a certain mushroom produce dementia in those who find themselves in Jouiselle-aux-Chantes in the spring. Those who have grown up there are somewhat resistant: they treat the spring as a time to be very careful doing business, a time when everyone is slightly drunk. But visitors to Jouiselle-aux-Chantes in the spring display all the symptoms of senility: they do not recognize their own wives and husbands; they forget their names, professions, and histories.

The wise city fathers of Jouiselle-aux-Chantes, rather than treating the spores as a calamity, have marketed their city as an erotic paradise. Couples coming to Jouiselle-aux-Chantes forget their rivalries and resentments, and frolic and cuddle as if meeting again for the first time. Businesswomen’s hearts race like schoolgirls’. Sailors blush. Kisses are clumsy but full of promise. If a debutante propositions the gardener working in her parents’ garden, it can produce no scandal; if a priest forgets his vows, it is no sin.

In the fall, the mushrooms die, and the cool air clears everyone’s heads. Most of the tourists go home—confused, but treasuring snatches of memory of the high life they lived in Jouiselle-aux-Chantes. But there are always those for whom the season of forgetfulness is their undoing, for whom the return of memory is cruel.

In the fall, the grave diggers always have plenty to do.