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Annie Perreault

THE WOMAN IN VALENCIA

Translated from the French by Ann Marie Boulanger

Qc fiction

Revision: Peter McCambridge

Proofreading: David Warriner, Elizabeth West

Book design: Folio infographie

Cover & logo: Maison 1608 by Solisco

Cover art: Spirit Level by Jordan Sullivan, jordan-sullivan.com

Fiction editor: Peter McCambridge

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Copyright © 2018 Les Éditions Alto

Originally published under the title La femme de Valence

by Les Éditions Alto, 2018 (Québec City, Québec)

Translation copyright © Ann Marie Boulanger

ISBN 978-1-77186-237-0 pbk; 978-1-77186-238-7 epub; 978-1-77186-239-4 pdf

Legal Deposit, 1st quarter 2021

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

Library and Archives Canada

Published by QC Fiction, an imprint of Baraka Books

Printed and bound in Québec

TRADE DISTRIBUTION & RETURNS

Canada - UTP Distribution: UTPdistribution.com

United States & World - Independent Publishers Group: IPGbook.com

We acknowledge the financial support for translation and promotion of the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC), the Government of Québec tax credit for book publishing administered by SODEC, the Government of Canada, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Contents

I

THREE DAYS IN VALENCIA

(THE ARBITRARY COLOUR OF THE SKY)

THE WOMAN IN VALENCIA

MONTREAL, SUMMER 2009

BARCELONA

LEAVING BARCELONA

AT THE TRAIN STATION

ON THE TRAIN

DISCOVERING VALENCIA

STAYING IN VALENCIA: THE VALENCIA PALACE HOTEL

GETTING AROUND VALENCIA

DAY 2 ITINERARY: THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS

WE MIGHT AS WELL FLY

THREATS AND EMERGENCIES

THE HOTEL AT NIGHT

ROOM 714

DAY 3 ITINERARY

WORTH THE DETOUR: THE VALENCIA INSTITUTE OF MODERN ART

PUERTA DE SERRANOS

THE TRAIN RIDE

BACK IN BARCELONA

SITGES

MONTREAL AIRPORT

II

RETURN TO VALENCIA

(THE HOSTILE POINT ON THE HORIZON)

THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE

THE WEATHER OUTSIDE

2025 VALENCIA MARATHON: STARTING LINE

KILOMETRE 1

KILOMETRE 2

KILOMETRE 3

KILOMETRE 4

KILOMETRE 5

TRAVELLING LIGHT

WHEN TO LEAVE?

AT THE AIRPORT

TRAVELLING FOR A LIVING

LANDING IN SPAIN

THINGS SEEN AND DONE

GETTING AROUND BARCELONA

WHERE TO SLEEP?

WHERE TO EAT?

NOT TO BE MISSED: CULINARY DELICACIES

BARCELONA ON A SHOESTRING

KILOMETRE 6

KILOMETRE 7

KILOMETRE 8

KILOMETRE 9

KILOMETRE 10

THE TIME DIFFERENCE

LEAVING BARCELONA

TRAVEL BY TRAIN

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

KILOMETRE 11

KILOMETRE 12

KILOMETRE 13

KILOMETRE 14

KILOMETRE 15

GETTING ORIENTED IN VALENCIA

STAYING IN VALENCIA: THE VALENCIA PALACE HOTEL

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: BENICALAP PARK

GETTING AROUND VALENCIA

KILOMETRE 16

KILOMETRE 17

KILOMETRE 18

KILOMETRE 19

KILOMETRE 20

NOT TO BE MISSED: PUERTA DE SERRANOS

WHERE TO SLEEP?

KILOMETRE 21.1

KILOMETRE 22

KILOMETRE 23

KILOMETRE 24

KILOMETRE 25

DAY 2 ITINERARY: THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS

THE CATHEDRAL

BLOCKING THE VIEW

KILOMETRE 26

KILOMETRE 27

KILOMETRE 28

KILOMETRE 29

KILOMETRE 30

THREATS AND EMERGENCIES

UNFORESEEN EVENTS

KILOMETRE 31

KILOMETRE 32

KILOMETRE 33

KILOMETRE 34

KILOMETRE 35

HAIR CARE

VALENCIA PALACE HOTEL

THE LOCALS

WORTH THE DETOUR: THE VALENCIA INSTITUTE OF MODERN ART

NOT TO BE MISSED: MERCADO DE COLÓN

IN THE CAR

GETTING ORIENTED

EL PERELLÓ

KILOMETRE 36

KILOMETRE 37

THE PRETTIEST BEACHES IN VALENCIA

KILOMETRE 38

KILOMETRE 39

THE SEA AT NIGHT

KILOMETRE 40

LEAVING VALENCIA

KILOMETRE 41

LEAVING

42.2 KILOMETRES

Points de repère

Epigraphe

Page de Titre

“Indifference is the paralysis of the soul; it is premature death.”

— Anton Chekhov, “A Boring Story”

(translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

“How to avoid going back? Get lost. I don’t know how. You’ll learn. I need some signpost to lead me astray. Make your mind a blank. Refuse to recognize familiar landmarks. Turn your steps towards the most hostile point on the horizon, towards the vast marshlands, bewilderingly criss-crossed by a thousand causeways.”

— Marguerite Duras, The Vice-Consul (translated by Eileen Ellenbogen

A terrible chill runs through your body when you think back to Valencia.

And yet, it was August in a city by the sea, almost the end of summer vacation, the tail end of a suffocatingly hot summer. It happened next to the pool, when the light was at its peak.

You were stretched out in what little shade there was to be had on a rooftop, your mind elsewhere. Not one for swanky hotels and bikinis, you were wearing a suit that you’d bought the day before, strings knotted tightly over your hipbones and around your neck. You were lazing on a deck chair, an open book resting on your stomach like a delicate paper tent. You had absolutely no expectations, other than soaking up the sun, getting a little rest, lazing in the tropical heat. Lying there limply, you were completely worry free, untroubled by any thoughts of the past, wanting nothing other than to be left alone. Through heavy eyelids, your gaze travelled idly between the sky, the perfectly straight row of empty lounge chairs, and the smattering of moles on your thigh like tiny black pinheads embedded in your flesh.

You must’ve spent a good hour lounging like that, killing time, when you noticed something moving out of the corner of your eye, to your left. A woman was walking toward you. You turned to look over your shoulder and at that precise second, Valencia became—and would forever remain—a city of ice. The sky turned to grey, to concrete.

You were the last person to speak to her. On the roof of the Valencia Palace Hotel, you did nothing to stop the withered blonde woman. You didn’t lay a hand on her shoulder, didn’t suggest that she sit or lie down, didn’t offer her a glass of water. You didn’t even light her cigarette when she fumbled with her

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