THE COLD MAN
“Each man kills the thing he loves”
Written by Oscar Wilde, the sentence was used by Gavin Friday, Virgin Prunes’ main vocalist, to title his first solo album, and sung with nonchalant abandon by Jeanne Moreau in Querelle, the film by Rainer W. Fassbinder.
On that October afternoon, sitting in his customary coffee-shop, Mr. Cold contentedly sipped his bourbon while smoking his fourth lucky strike. He was at ease. He had just killed.
Medium height, flawless hair and dark suit, he looked superb. To a less attentive look, he could pass by a lawyer, or a solicitor. Looking closer though, one would see the briefcase from which sprang an English translation of Les fleurs du mal (1857), by Baudelaire, the inventor of modernity and love, which was, according to him, the “the natural occupation of men of leisure”.
The book provoked a scandal when it was first published, and started the symbolist movement in literature, moving apart from realism and naturalism in its exploration of the unconscious. We were witnessing the emancipation of modern art. In one of the prefaces he wrote for the book, Baudelaire stated that his task was to “extract beauty from Evil”. In yet another preface to the same text, the author claimed that he “was accused of all the crimes he described”. Certainly.
Mr. Cold recalled the memory of the girl’s face on the beach. Beautiful and delicate, so obviously erotic a combination. And fatal, thereof. On the dark oak finish table, Mr. Cold answered with visible bore to a questionnaire sent to him by his publisher, on writing and symbolism, whatever that may be. It was time to, between cigarettes, devise his next story.
Outside, day was giving way to night. That perplexing moment when all is possible.