You must have been surprised when I left so suddenly. I apologize for that but do not regret it. I cannot tell whether you too can hear the hurricane of internal music stirring inside me over the last few days like Tristan da Cunha’s towering flames. Oh! I would so like to succumb to the tempest that, only the day before yesterday, in the forest, urged me to touch your white dress. But I am afraid of love, Isabelle, and of myself. I do not know what Renée or anyone else may have told you about my life. You and I have sometimes talked of it; I have not told you the truth. That is the charm of new acquaintances: the hope that, in their eyes and by denying the truth, we can transform a past that we wish had been happier. Our friendship has gone beyond the point of overly flattering confidences. Men surrender their souls, as women do their bodies, in successive and carefully defended stages. One after the other, I have thrown my most secret troops into battle. My true memories, corralled in their enclave, will soon give themselves up and come out into the open.
I am a long way from you now, in the very room in which I slept as a child. On the wall are the shelves laden with books that my mother has been keeping for more than twenty years “for her eldest grandson.” Will I have sons? That wide red spine stained with ink is my old Greek dictionary, those gold bindings, my prizes. I wish I could tell you everything, Isabelle, from the sensitive little boy to the cynical adolescent, and on to the unhappy, wounded man. I wish I could tell you everything in complete innocence, exactitude, and humility. Perhaps, if I manage to finish writing this, I will not have the courage to show it to you. Never mind. It is still worthwhile, if only for my own sake, to assess what my life has been.
Excerpted from Climates by Andre Maurois. Copyright © 2012 by Andre Maurois. Excerpted by permission of Other Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.