Lima Al-Azzeh

Laurence Cossé … Couldn’t Have Said it Better

In Couldn't Have Said It Better on November 2, 2010 at 8:08 pm

French novelist Laurence Cossé, Image ©Catherine Hélie/Gallimard

Every now and again, I come across a passage in a novel (let’s face it, it’s almost always a novel) that takes me aback so far I have to shut the book right away in equal parts surprise and fear. It’s as though some cosmic being has an omnipotent view of my life and is writing pieces of it in a story. It’s both surreal and magnificent to identify so much with words written and offered by somebody else, particularly if you’ve never met that person, and will likely never get to in your entire life. It always helps me feel like I am not alone in my struggles. In that respect, the written word has always managed to save my life. 

My interest in writing and storytelling has always come from the stern belief that no matter how unlikely two stories may be, you can find some identifying feature within another person’s story that you can nod your head at and say, with conviction, “Yes, I understand.” Whether you have been through the very same situation, or can find within yourself the ability to see past your own experiences and truly empathize with someone else’s. With this blog, I sometimes hope to pen the words that will bring comfort, solace, or understanding to someone. To me, the highest compliment is when someone confesses that they have identified with something that I’ve said.

In the absence of finding my own words, I hope to be a beacon sharing the words of others whom have impacted me at some point, and with that make this small-seeming world even smaller.

Before I share these beautiful words that have provided me with much comfort as of late, allow me to shed some light on some recent experiences of mine that caused the great need for them.

A little while ago I sent a text to my friend:

You know that guy I told you about, from a couple of years ago? Yeah. He just walked into the restaurant I’m eating at. He’s still with her.

To which he responded:

Doesn’t that make you feel a little better? You know, after all that, they’re still together?

At the time, I thought this to be a reasonable question. After being rebuffed in favour of someone else, does it spare you any dignity to know that the person he chose is of such value to him, that they still maintain close ties? A minute later, I responded back:

No. Because it’s never nice to realize you’re still not the one who was picked.

I regretted sending the message as soon as it left my phone, I thought it betrayed such selfishness, such a childish inability to adapt and move on. It’s only recently that I realized, what I said, no matter how inelegantly, was simply the truth. It was simply human.

In a cruel twist of fate, I sit here two years later, coming to terms with a similar conclusion. I’ve spent the better half of this year struggling with the concept of relationships, friendships and selflessness as a part of one giant complicated package. I’ve grappled with my own morality, my own choices, and came head to head with my own fight or flight instincts. First I fought, but later, I had no choice but to flee. I’ve harboured much guilt and have had some serious misgivings about my decisions. I am in a phase where I am reconciling myself to these choices, and allowing myself permission to feel pride for pushing myself into a place where I can hopefully triumph in the end. This passage from a truly lovely novel appropriately titled “A Novel Bookstore” by French novelist Laurence Cossé couldn’t have come at  a better time and frankly, I couldn’t have said it better.


But if I am to be sincere, I don’t want to hide from you the fact that every day, in your presence, I have experienced what people call somewhat excessively the sufferings of death and passion.

You must have wondered why I disappeared, sometimes, why from time to time I wouldn’t answer. Here is why: no matter how much one tries to expect nothing, to want nothing, it is not easy to see a young woman playing the role one would have liked to have in another life, and to see her happy and, what is even harder, to see her making someone else happy.

Everything is fine. There is nothing for me to find fault with, nothing at all. I hold no grudges, either with you or with her, of course, or even with myself. But what may happen, simply, is that the ordeal will get to be too much for me, and I may feel obliged to take my leave, out of weakness, or in a surge of energy, so that at last I can catch my breath.


… she gave means to anyone who came near her … she gave other people the means for their ambition. Not everybody wanted to use them, or knew how to use them. As for me, nowadays I get the impression that I was only able to make use of them with her, associated with her: I was driven by her, and her hopefulness, and the strength of conviction which may have been nothing more than the energy of despair.

I had learned from her that there is not a great deal of difference between strength and weakness.

  1. Amazing! Can’t wait to borrow this from you. Please also lend me that other novel you said I need to read, I forget the name! Love your literary nature!

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