|The Cantrel family, January 1940 - My mother is the little girl standing on the chair|
The young man in uniform is her brother Paul, who was to die at Dunkirk
|La Robertsau, Algiers|
I was also intrigued by her as a person because her life is definitely a case of reality being more fascinating than fiction. Like Alexandra David-Neel who travelled to
'For those who know the value of and exquisite taste of solitary freedom (for one is only free when alone), the act of leaving is the bravest and most beautiful of all.'
Isabelle Eberhardt: 'A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.'
Isabelle was born in
From a young age she dreamt of adventure in far away lands,
'Je suis seul, et je rêve' (I am alone, and I dream).
It's interesting to see that she writes about herself as a man (by using the masculine form of 'seul'). Dressing up and living as a man allowed her freedoms which would have been denied to her as a woman - the freedom to travel or have access to zouaias (islamic religious schools), taverns and brothels.
In 1901 she married Slimane Ehnni, a spahi - a soldier from the French colonial army's light cavalry regiments, but her life was cut tragically short by a flash flood in Ain Sefra in October 1904. She was only 27 when she died.
Actually it sounds better in French: 'Le peintre des horizons en feu et des amandiers en pleurs'.
And what about this extract of one of her short stories set in Bou Saada - the Saharan oasis nicknamed 'the city of happiness' which was well-known to Hugo and Lucas Saintclair, the heroes of my historical romances ANGEL HEART and THE LION'S EMBRACE.
'Bou-Saada, la reine fauve vêtue de ses jardins obscurs et gardée par ses collines violettes, dort, voluptueuse, au bord escarpé de l'oued où l'eau bruisse sur les cailloux blancs et roses.' Isabelle Eberhardt, Pleurs d'amandiers, 1903
I won't even attempt to translate this into English!
What about you? Who was the writer who influenced you the most and made you dream?