Replicas

“Tonight, the two waiters from the Café de Flore go to the Café Bonaparte for their aperitif; one has his ‘lady’ with him, the other has forgotten to take his flu pills; they are served…by the young waiter of the Café Bonaparte, who unlike them is on duty…A thousand examples of this reverberation, which is always fascinating: barber getting a haircut, shoeshine boy (in Morocco) having his shoes shined, a cook making herself dinner, an actor going to the theater on the night his own play is off, a screenwriter who sees films, a writer who reads books; Mlle M., an elderly secretary, cannot write the word ‘erasure’ without having to erase…”1

My friend tells me a story, from back home in Zimbabwe.

Her mother has a Mazda truck. It is old and beat-up, frequently requiring repair. Every now and then she calls a mechanic. She works outside the city, using the Mazda each time she travels. The mechanic can only work on the truck when she is in the city, and in her city house there is a maid. One day the maid tells my friend’s mother she is pregnant, and the mechanic is responsible. They are going to get married, the maid says. Everyone is happy; the maid moves out of the house, pregnant, married to the mechanic.

Time passes, a new maid is employed. The Mazda truck needs repair, and again a mechanic is hired, different from the first. The new maid again tells my friend’s mother she is pregnant. The second mechanic is responsible. Everyone, again, is happy. The new maid moves out of the house, pregnant, married to the second mechanic. When the Mazda is in need of repair again, my friend’s father says to my friend’s mother: Warn your mechanics!

A thousand examples of this reverberation.

  1. Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes (California: University of California Press, 1994), p.49 []

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