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The First Swig of Beer

It’s the only one that counts. The others, longer and longer, more and more insignificant, have a mild pastiness, a tepid abundance. The last, perhaps, comes back with the illusion of finishing strong.

But the first swig! Swig? It starts way before the mouth. On your lips there is already that moist gold, that freshness amplified by the foam, then slowly on the palette, a slightly bitter happiness. How that first swig lingers! You take it right away, with a falsely instinctive enthusiasm. In fact, it has all been written: the quantity, neither too much nor too little, that gives it its allure; the immediate sense of wellbeing punctuated with a sigh, a click of the tongue, or a simple silence that is just as good; the misleading sense of an infinite pleasure opening up … At the same time, you already know that the best part is over. You set the glass down, push it away on the little coaster. You savor the color, a fake honey, chilled sunshine. In a ritual of waiting and wisdom, you’d like to capture this miracle that happens and then fades. Contentedly, on the side of the glass you read the brand of the beer that you have ordered. But the container and its contents can question each other infinitely. You would like to keep the secret of pure gold, capture it with a formula. But in front of the little white table bathed in sunlight, the disappointed alchemist can merely keep up appearances, and drink more and more beer with less and less joy: it’s a bitter happiness: you drink to forget the first swig.

- Philippe Delerm

(Translated from French by yours truly. It's already been translated and published in English, but I never read the translation. I'm curious to see how mine compares. The trick, which I haven't mastered, to translation is being faithful to the original and making it sound like someone wrote in English in the first place. I tend to err on the side of faithfulness. Which is why it always sounds strange. On-line translators are a help - Google's is better than Babelfish -, but anybody who thinks they provide good, accurate translations is delusional. Anyway, I may continue this experiment later)



February 2019



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