“Mes très chères chaussures de pointe” by Anna Nabutovsky

In the French programme at Abelard, in addition to learning the language, students at all levels are encouraged to use their knowledge to compose short stories, poems and songs in French.  Here is one sample, a “love letter” composed by Anna Nabutovsky, a grade-11 student in our core-French programme:

Mes très chères chaussures de pointe !

Je vous aime avec tout mon cœur. Je vous aime passionnément. Vous êtes mon monde, ma vie, et tout mon existence dépend de vous. Votre beauté est sans pareil, à l’intérieur aussi bien qu’à l’extérieur. Je sais que je ne suis pas toujours gentille avec vous, je vous blesse, je vous casse, et pour vous venger vous faites saigner mes orteils; mais quand je vous quitte vous êtes déchirées. Je ne veux pas vous jeter de la poudre aux yeux et je veux être tout à fait sincère avec vous: Je ne peux pas me changer, mais je veux que vous sachiez que malgré tout, je chérirai toujours notre amitié et le temps que nous avons passé ensemble. Je ne vous oublierai jamais. Vous serez toujours tout près de moi: dans mon cœur et dans mon placard.

Je vous aimerai toujours.


What is Education?

by Abelard teacher Mark Young

Let’s start with this: One of the fundamental responsibilities of modern society is to provide its citizens with an education. But have you noticed that there tends to be very little discussion about what education is exactly? We have a sense that it’s important to get, not just any education, but a good education. And we have a sense that a good education means being challenged, working hard, and being taught by proficient, caring teachers. But the question lingers: what is education?

And then another question emerges. What is the point of education? The answer our society tends to provide involves looking at education as a means to an end. The thinking goes something like this: the goal is to get a good education with high marks so that you can then become a lawyer, a doctor, or an engineer with the professional fulfillment that entails, but also so that you can then afford a large house and a fast car. This sounds reasonable enough, although we might start to wonder how valuable something is if it is only a means to an end.

And if that is the purpose of education, there are other questions as well, questions like the following. If I’m going to be an architect, why should I learn Latin? And why should a doctor understand what the poet Wordsworth meant when he said “the child is father of the man”? And if I’m going to write the Great Canadian Novel, what good is calculus? And if I’m destined to be an engineer, why should I care about the Renaissance?

So there seems to be some confusion about what education is, and at the same time education seems to be something we have to get through in order to arrive somewhere else.

Let’s slow this down and see if we can approach education from another perspective. One of the most efficient ways to understand what a word means is to look at its etymology, in other words, what the origin of the word is. As it turns out, the word education is derived from Latin. It means the following: to bring out what already exists. This is an idea that the Greek philosopher Plato developed 2400 years ago. He believed that each one of us possesses a complete understanding of the world and even the universe. All we need is a key to unlock this knowledge. Education is this very key Plato talks about.

Now around the same time that Plato was developing this provocative idea about where knowledge comes from, another famous Athenian named Sophocles wrote the following: The world is full of many remarkable things, but none is more remarkable than the human race. Sophocles thought that the human race was remarkable because of our ability to create cities which then unleashed human potential in many different directions.

One of the best ways to draw out what already exists inside you is to come face to face with all the remarkable achievements Sophocles suggests: breath-taking art, poetry, music, death-defying advances in medicine and the sciences, the elegance of mathematics, and the explosive power of language.

This confrontation, or meeting, between you and the best that humanity has to offer is meant to stimulate the need we all have to appreciate and understand excellence. It is the key to unlocking your own remarkable abilities.

So education turns out to be something quite extraordinary: an attempt to unlock the potential of each student so that she or he can understand the world in all its complexity, beauty, and sophistication. In this sense, education is a birthright for each one of us; in other words, it is what makes us essentially human.

Sam’s advice to new Abelardians

 The following article was published in the September edition of the Abelard student-run monthly newspaper. She kindly gave us permission to reprint it here.

 By: Samantha Tristen  


 Hello fellow Abelardians!

It’s hard to believe that September has nearly ended. For some of us, this has been our first month at Abelard; for others, we are returning students ready for another great year.

For those of you who are new to Abelard, I would like to give a few pieces of advice I hope you’ll find useful. If you’re starting in grade nine or have transferred here from another high school, the new experience can be rather daunting. As someone who has been here since the ninth grade, I hope I can offer some helpful tips to aid you throughout the year.

  1. Your teachers are here to help you. At Abelard, we are so fortunate to have teachers who are extremely dedicated to teaching and bringing out the best in students. They genuinely care about how you are doing, and want to see you improve and succeed. If you have any questions about classes, assignments, or anything else, don’t be afraid to ask one of the teachers. It is their job to guide you, and they truly do care about how you are doing. So don’t hesitate to ask for something if you need it!
  2. The community is welcoming and friendly. One of the greatest advantages to being in such a small school is the community that is formed. It is very easy to make friends with people in all grades. Everyone mingles with one another, and everyone is friendly and kind. Abelardians are also extremely supportive towards one another; we have all experienced exam stress and have all encountered a difficult assignment, so we understand each other remarkably well. Abelardians are the greatest people on the planet, and our community is unique and wonderful.
  3. Staying organized makes everything easier. It is much more simple and efficient to write down your homework than to try to remember it. Maintaining an organized locker throughout the year makes things easier when you are rushing from class to class or need to find something. There will be times in the year when you will feel stressed and overwhelmed, but this stress can be softened if you are well-organized. However, everyone has a different method of organization that works best for them, so use what benefits you the most.
  4. Take advantage of the opportunities provided. One of the best things about Abelard is the vast range of interesting courses it offers. It is easy to maintain all your interests, as well as develop new ones. For example, I have wanted to be an archaeologist since I was three, but I also love math and science. I have been able to keep up my interests in both the humanities and the math/sciences, plus developing entirely new interests, such as Attic Greek. Abelard also offers unique opportunities outside of the classroom. We are informed of great places to volunteer, work, or visit. Our student council always plans interesting excursions and fun movie nights. If I can give only one piece of wisdom, it is to take advantage of the fantastic and unique opportunities that are given here. I sincerely hope that you find these pieces of advice to be helpful. Remember, Abelard is more than a school; it is an environment dedicated to helping its students grow and bringing out the best in everyone.

A beautiful Thanksgiving note from an alumnus

While travelling in Paris, Abelard graduate Gabe de Roche posted the following heart-warming status update on his Facebook page (and kindly agreed to let us share it):
Today in Paris, I visited the Cimetière Père Lachaise where Pierre Abelard is buried (avec Héloïse, “les restes enfin réunis”).  I didn’t expect the memorial to move me so much, but it certainly did make me reflect on the profound and edifying education I received throughout my four years at the Abelard School.  I leave Paris tomorrow, and I don’t think I could have appreciated this city, and been inspired by the centuries of creation that have occurred here, without the Abelard School and its talented teachers who, in my opinion, are without parallel.  They include Alina Rossinsky, Brian Blair, Michelle Lefolii, Josh Fullan, Shai ॐ Maharaj, and Mark Young.  I’m just a tourist, like so many others, but I wanted my former teachers to know that their lessons left a lasting and even constant impact that has enriched me so much.  At every turn, this is a city that my education has helped me appreciate in a way that I would be so much poorer for not having experienced.  But that was true long before I got here.  So while it may not be Thanksgiving in France, it’s Thanksgiving in Toronto.  So… Thank you, Abelard School!

On the Abelard Liberal Arts Education, by Brian Blair

A Graduation Address by

Brian Blair

Head, Classics Department, The Abelard School

On this beautiful day, we are here to celebrate the achievements of a wonderful group of young men and women who have already achieved so much and who are facing exciting prospects for the future.

In their time at Abelard, what kind of education have these students received? A liberal education. And what’s that, exactly?

The idea of a liberal education is very old. In fact, we can trace it back to the Roman philosopher Seneca. In the writing and thinking of Seneca, we see an important shift in emphasis in the meaning of the Latin word liberalis. Literally, this word means “free”, and when applied to education it denotes the type of person who would receive a good education – the liberales, the “free”, i.e. “free-born”. To Seneca, however, an education should be “liberal” or “free” in the sense that it should free or liberate the student’s mind so that the student can take charge of his or her own thinking.

Seneca argues that only this sort of education will develop each person’s capability to be fully human, by which he means self-aware, self-governing, and capable of respecting the humanity of all human beings. “Soon we shall breathe our last,” he writes rather lugubriously. “In the meantime, while we live, while we are among human beings, let us cultivate our humanity.”

How do we do this, how do we “cultivate our humanity”? Three capacities are essential to the cultivation of these richer human connections, and they are all, I believe, built into the very structure of an Abelard School education.

First is the capacity for critical examination of oneself and one’s traditions – to live what Socrates referred to as “the examined life”.

Second, we need an ability to see ourselves, not simply as citizens of some local region or group, but also as human beings bound to all other human beings by ties of recognition and concern. To quote the Roman playwright Terence: “I am a human being. I consider nothing human alien to me.”

Third, we need what I would like to call the narrative imagination. This means the ability to think what it might be like to be in another person’s shoes, to be an intelligent reader (so to speak) of that person’s story, and to understand the emotions, wishes, and desires that person might have.

To quote Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning pro-democracy activist, “Education is not simply about academic achievement. As spelled out in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is about understanding, tolerance, and friendship, which form the basis of peace in our world.”

All the students you see before you today have taken part in such an education, and this is only the beginning of what will be, for all of them I’m sure, a lifelong process. Thank you.

The Abelard Vision, by Michelle Lefolii (Principal)

The first question we asked ourselves when we established Abelard in 1997 was what type of school we would be happy to attend ourselves. It was surprisingly simple to come up with a consensus: a school which above and beyond all else fostered a love of knowledge and learning, and would feed the innate curiosity of the students and introduce them to the most remarkable accomplishments and discoveries of humankind. A school which taught Latin and Greek, art and philosophy, in which mathematics and science were key to understanding and bettering the world, and in which the greatest works of literature provided the inspiration to a new generation of thinkers and writers. A school, in short, which valued the life of the mind. It had to be academically rigorous: we wanted our curriculum to train the best-educated new thinkers of a generation. But it had to be a place in which this training was a joyful exercise, not a dull pursuit of a finite end.

We’re extremely proud that we’ve created such a school. By the end of their senior year, our students haven’t just read Homer and Virgil, they’ve translated passages from the original. They haven’t simply read a few good books and learned how to write an essay, they’ve studied and written sophisticated critical analyses of many of the greatest works of English literature, including To the LighthouseMoby DickWaiting for Godot and Ulysses. In philosophy class they haven’t just read a textbook or the novel Sophie’s World, they’ve studied epistemology, metaphysics and ethics in primary texts by philosophers from antiquity to the present day. Our French students speak fluently and read and discuss novels and plays in the original. Our mathematics and computer science students regularly win national and international awards. Many of our creative writing students have completed novels, plays and sophisticated collections of poetry and metrical verse. Our science students have been given an advanced and sophisticated foundation in physics, chemistry and biology, and regularly impress the university professors who visit our school as being even more knowledgeable than many of their own students.

We are so proud of our students: of how they meet the demands of our exacting curriculum, of how they display remarkable commitment to their own studies and compassion for those around them. We’re proud of the way in which they use the skills they’ve acquired to create new paradigms of their own. They make us proud when we overhear them talking about Sophocles in the hallways, speaking to each other in Latin or French or Russian or some peculiar combination of all three at lunchtime, or discussing Fermat’s last theorem while they wait for the elevator. When we hear laughter coming from the classrooms and know that it’s because someone has made a clever pun or quoted Oscar Wilde, we’re very happy. As teachers, we are completely invested in our students. Our first goal is and has always been to provide our students with the type of education that will motivate and guide them throughout their lives. We hope and believe that we do so.

We started the Abelard school eighteen years ago because we love to teach, we’re passionate about our disciplines, and we want to live and work in an environment in which knowledge and its acquisition are transformative. We want the world to be a better place, and we think that by giving our students the remarkable education we offer we are not only handing them the tools to construct that world, but inspiring them to do so.

Eternity and Engagement: Infinity and Books in Thomas Wharton’s Salamander, by Laura Harris (grade 12)

Thomas Wharton’s Salamander is about an eighteenth century printer, Nicholas Flood, and his extraordinary quest to create the infinite book. At heart, though, Salamander is about reading and the process of creating books. Flood never does create the infinite book, but over the course of the novel, books become temporarily infinite by the process of creating them through reading, writing and printing.

Early in Salamander, Flood has a conversation with the Abbé de Saint-Foix about the Abbé’s life, relationship to books and the concept of time. Near the end of this conversation, the Abbé tells Flood of an Islamic saying that “an hour of reading is one stolen from Paradise,” and then adds that “an hour of writing gives one a foretaste of the other place” (76). Heaven and Hell are both eternal, which simply means that the time of their existence is infinite. Thus reading and writing are both able to give a taste of infinity, which may or may not be pleasant. Printing also gives a taste of eternity to Flood, who, when locked in the Count’s dungeon does not notice the passage of eleven years as he uses his imaginary press to print a book that “would climb into being on the infinite spiral of the Fibbonacci sequence” (106).

The process of creating books requires reading, writing and printing, all of which give a taste of an infinity of time. That writing and printing create books is obvious, but reading is less so. Reading creates books because every reader comes to a books with a unique combination of books previously read, life experience and culture or world view. Using this background, he or she creates a unique version of the story. For instance, when Irena reads the Libraria Technicum, she imagines London as a place where “the people of highest and lowest classes mingl[e] together in the streets, greeting one another without ceremony as fellow citizens,” while Flood sees only “the result of cramming so many people into such a small space” (85). Each reader can even approach a single book in many different ways: fairy tales are read on a simple archetypal level in childhood and on a far more complex level later on.  When the number of potential readers and all their approaches to a single book are combined, there is a nearly infinite number of ways each book can be read. Although the work of the writer and printer often influences the readers’ creations of the book, it is not necessary as the Abbé finding utter satisfaction, and even deeper meaning from the blank books shows. Thus the infinite readings for each book make every book an infinite book, but no book is or could be the infinite book.

While all books can be infinite books, they are not infinite at all times. One can never stand in front of a book and say, “here is an infinite book”. Books are made infinite by their creators, readers, writers and printers. To remain infinite, books need someone, somewhere to be engaged with, and providing new interpretations for them. Wharton informs his reader that there are thousands of books in the castle, but he or she cannot know anything about them beyond that they are bundles of paper, ink and bindings. When the characters of Salamander begin reading and describing them, they allows both themselves and the reader to imagine interpretations and make these books infinite for a moment.

In Salamander, Flood searches for a way to create the infinite book, but ironically the answer lies at the beginning of his quest, when the Abbé speaks of creating books by reading, writing and printing as granting the creator access to an infinity of time. By combining this miraculous experience with the endless ways readers can approach a book, each book becomes infinite while someone is engaged with the book. Consciously or subconsciously, this means that every time someone reads a book, they gain a glimpse into the marvel of infinity.

BYWAY by Noa Magen (grade 12)

The old man lay in his bed. His chest rose and fell slowly, growing more and more slow with each wheezy breath that shook his frail body ever so gently. His sheets were ragged and dirtied and moth-eaten, as was he. The rough cloths were stained with old blood, old spit, and old booze. They piled on him in uneven arrangements, every shroud a slightly different shade of various faded dyes. Some had ragged tassels, a number of which had been ripped away from the body of their covering with time, whose strings were damp and frayed. The thin fiber of a certain tassel hung by the old man’s finger. It swayed slightly in the wind of the cracked window, stroking the finger softly again and again as it swung limply from side to side. The finger was thick and ruddy, its calloused skin was numbed by labor of the past and cold of the present, spotted with age. The nail was dense and blue around the edges, discoloured throughout, and flaking at the tips. His face was heavy and fat. The wrinkles were set deep into his flesh, displaying a design not unlike a wave as it reaches the shore, worn and many layered, cascading down his face. His eyes, red and lined with gunk, waded in their own liquids which seeped out of their corners steadily. The tears ran along the creases of his face in the zig zag pattern of its meandering path, sluggishly covering his cheeks and running down his neck in rotund droplets. His eyelids fluttered closed, short, dark eyelashes batting against each other stupidly. He attempted, uselessly, to keep them open. Each time he pried them apart, the sludge separated into thin strands which broke and retreated into the mass on either lid. The old man did this once, and then another time, and then another time still, struggling, raging against his death, thundering against his final moments.

The man lay now in a different place, his head and stomach pressed against the cold, wet ground. The grass upon which he had woken was long and unkempt. Each strand was accustomed to shining in the warm light of the day, gold and green intertwined in each blade, collectively forming rolling waves which stretched out beyond the farthermost point the eye could see. Each strand would stand a soldier of a battalion, lanky and fragile as all soldiers are. Now, however, they stood less gloriously, the night having depressed their lengths and lowered them to the earth. The grass was damp now, damp with dew, and the dew moistened the young man’s face. His head flattened the turf on which it was resting. The rest of his body seemed alien to him, though not quite as alien as his surroundings. His dry lips were parted, parched skin peeling as they begged for water silently. A lowly trickle of water parted the dark and newly submissive blades of the lea like a snake. It was so thin and insignificant in the greater scheme of the complex world whose factories hummed on unawares that this dribble of accumulated moist would save a man’s life. It approached him leisurely in the fading light of dusk, and his muddled mind grew excitable as it saw its salvation. The pearly serpent twisted and became thicker as it hoarded what droplets it encountered. It glistened now in the dull gleam of twilight, mauve on silver, in the day’s fading luster, on the eve of the man’s comrades’ deaths, though he had not yet been made aware of this.

He heard the high clinks of a hammer hitting nail. He heard the grinding sound of a saw cutting into wood. He heard the crackling of the fire sending waves of heat onto his already sweat drenched body. He heard the rasp of a chair being carved into existence. He tasted the war and perspiration and musty stench of the room on his lips. He smelled the sawdust which covered the floor and the rusting tools being worked by the rusting men. He felt the tired, monotonous, rhythmic tune of the place, void of speech, a factory of fraudulent manhood. In its vacuous patterns, the shop was easy to tune out. He stood on his raw, aching feet, which throbbed and seemed to hum a jaded rhythm of their own. His rough tongue brushed the roof of his mouth back and forth, numbing it gradually. He would abrade it for hours until he could no longer feel either, at which point he would stop, awaiting the return of sensation, and begin the process once more. His mouth began to tingle and sting as if little eruptions were bringing it back from the dead. He moved the pudgy muscle on his teeth, beginning to detect each corrugated bone. A mouse darted out of a small hole in the thin wall and scurried across the floor, narrowly avoiding many a raised shoe and swung mallet until it was eradicated by a stout hobnail. The cracked edges of the man’s mouth twitched upwards, then frowned.

The man was seated now on the cheap plastic bench of the local children’s playground. The bench was a revolting shade of bright teal, rough with little bumps to prevent the children’s skin from adhering to it when they would, inevitably, fall upon it, so that their skin would not tear and bleed. The bench was built so that the children would not scream and cry, so that their parents would not have to soothe them and tend to their injuries, so that they would not have to hear their shrieks and hold their own heads and shout from the pain of their lingering hangovers which the teal only aggravated. The man rubbed his thumb on this surface and stuck his grey feet further into the cold, wet sand. His shabby sandals, made of flat strips of patterned rope which he had broken in so long ago, lay nearby. Grains of sand pooled in the imprint of his heel and became entrenched in the ridges of the shoe’s straps. He pictured the return to his home, where his wife would shout at him for bringing in the “mounds and mounds of filth” and screech like the children, his child, in the playground. He looked up and saw the bright, tawdry colours of the playground equipment. He looked out at his own offspring, the only offspring in the whole of the park. A child with golden locks and a fat, heavy face fell and began to sob as she attempted to remove the sand from her mouth, sticking out her little red tongue and wiping it frantically with her little red hands. The man’s gaze continued onto the swings, which seemed to be the only honest thing in the place. It swung, drab and grey and covered in rust, from one side to the other over and over again with a constant tune, a grating, melodic scrape propelled by the howling wind of late November. They were alone under the grey sky, utterly bleak and pallid, alone save the feeble, nondescript trees, having been stripped of all pride with their vibrant leaves long gone,  and the fake, gaudy jungle gyms, under the flat, ashen clouds so far above them: alone, without a soul as witness.

Thin sheets of linen billowed lightly in the wind of the outdoors. The gust was let into the room through the large sash window, propped open. The window was painted white, as white as his bedding. The paint cracked and peeled into fragile curls, like wispy, bleached cinnamon sticks. On the ledge of the windowsill sat a poised matte blue vase, and in it a single flower. On its inside, concealed to its owner, the vase had a layer of carefully building water stains, lines which made perfect, delicate circles of pale grey around the vessel’s body. A sliver of paint collapsed into the bottle’s murky waters. The water was lukewarm, though cooler on the side facing the breeze, where the glass was chilled. The flower, wilted and barren, hung limply over the lip of the vase, its petals hanging loosely and ashen and its stem dangling into its stale drink. The stem could faintly taste with some nostalgia the bitter taste of alcoholic residue which the old flask held when it was younger. If it could have, it would have remarked with some dismay that that would have made refreshment much more pleasing. The three remaining petals dangle despondently with clear view of their fellows’ fates. In youth they were smooth and strong and elegant. They were cream coloured, tinted with a dainty shade of rose in their past, for which they had no affection, now lusterless and bruised brown around their edges. Memories of days gone by are never more than caustic gestures of the present’s qualms. A petal tumbled onto the ledge’s dusty surface, and died.

And then the man was no more.  

“The Intruder’s Body,” a short story by Ayesha Liaqat (grade 12)

I moved into this apartment a week ago. I am still trying to get accustomed to it. The wide tall windows, the low ceilings, the compact rooms and balcony gardens add a hint of Parisian glamour to the interior. 21 rue de Saulles is a splendid location. This is quite different from my old house in Istanbul. It was rather a country chalet. Everything lay afar there but it pleased me. I was quite satisfied to have my own plot of land. The chalet was not immense with very many rooms but rather spacious and cozy. I had designed it myself. On all four sides of the chalet lay gardens, each decorated with a different type of flower. The rose garden lay behind the chalet. White roses formed the border; yellow roses formed the outline of the maze, which, as it grew more and more complex, changed its colours based on the scale: yellow was followed by orange, orange by red and red by crimson red. The crimson red roses surrounded the fountain which gushed forth water now and again to nourish its companions, the roses. This garden I dedicated to my mother.

The garden in front of the chalet had a cobblestone pathway bordered by an alternating pattern of delphiniums and gladioli; an ivy arch sheltered the entrance. The garden proper was rather simple: plain grass grounds with flowerbeds of gardenia. This garden I dedicated to my father.

The garden on the right had a central pond full of water lilies. On the right side of the pond was a towering willow from which hung a swing and on the left was a wooden bench surrounded by ferns. This garden I dedicated to my grandmother.

The garden on the left was the closest to my heart. It housed a bandstand in the centre, encircled by deep green bushes at the base against the backdrop of magnolia trees. The pathway to the centre of the garden was aligned with jasmines accompanied by hanging lanterns. This garden I dedicated to my Beloved.

I always lived alone. I don’t recall ever noticing my solitude for I had already surrounded myself with memories held closest to my heart. People always posed a problem for me. In their presence, there was much tension; in their absence, much depression. Social and moral etiquettes teach us to let some thoughts repose in the depths of our hearts. It becomes difficult, however, to suppress sentiments which affect one so profoundly. You, gentle reader, are welcomed to refute the statement I am about to make for you and I see through different eyes. There are always aspects of each human being which appeal to us; regardless of how stupendous and magnificent their personality may be, we always find flaws here and there. Human nature is composed of imperfections, whether we consider the judge or the judged. Since memories are the only immutable and permanent aspects of human beings, it is best to capture them in a physical form lest they fade away.

It was a chilly evening; I lit up the fire and sat down to sip my jasmine tea.  Night began to spread its sheets over the firmament; soon the moon showed its face in all its beauty, accompanied by her procession of stars. There was no source of light in the room save the flickering fire, which cast shadows onto the wall, and the gentle moonlight. I recalled Halloween evenings from my childhood. I never understood the logic behind forcefully scaring oneself.  Like on Christmas day, grandma recounted her own horror stories on Halloween. Her best one was called “The Intruder’s Body.”

There is an Intruder inhabiting Jane’s room. He reposes during the day and ambles at night. He feeds off of books: the complexity of the work determines the increase in his size. In the beginning, he poses no threat but as he reads, his stature and mental capacity increase, allowing him to reach and understand more books rather easily. And thus in a couple of weeks’ time, the Intruder becomes a grown man. Now, he believes himself to be the rightful owner of the room (and the house) and begins to seek revenge for the injustice towards him.

The fire went out and I laid myself in the couch. Suddenly, door knob turned and I heard footsteps fading in the direction of my room. I trembled from fear and spent the night at the kitchen table. While I had lost my sleep, I enumerated the strange occurrences on which I had turned a blind eye over the past couple of weeks. I recalled a day from last week when I noticed the bizarre order of Professor Moucheboume’s books in the book rack; magazines were lying on the floor in the living room; my essays were out of their folder on the kitchen table…

For once grandma’s memories were uncomforting. I was unable to block out her story. The Intruder came out one night and with anger flaring in his eyes rampaged through Jane’s house. When Jane returned home from the market, she found a crowd surrounding her house. Jane’s friends were happy to find her unharmed but the mystery remained: what was happening inside in such an inhumane manner? The noises came to an abrupt end and the crowd dispersed. Jane felt relieved and the valiant woman that she was, she entered the house. From that moment on, her whereabouts became an enigma.

The more thought I gave to the story, the more terrified I grew. Keeping my wits about me, I packed my possessions in the morning and boarded the train to Strasbourg. Oftentimes thoughts and imagination run too free for reality.

After having spent a week with my siblings, I returned to 21 rue de Saulles. While still on the street, I heard the pandemonium. Curious to finally solve Jane’s mystery, I entered the apartment. Seated on the sofa was an unusual man: a top hat over his voluminous curls, a Dali moustache, and a pince-nez.

I intended to converse with him and inquire about his presence; however, he lacked the interest. “Young Lady, from generations have we inhabited 21 rue de Saulles. Without further ado, instantly part from here lest my anger should boil up once more and end your life,” bellowed the Intruder. I had no such intentions. I remarked, “Sir, if you will, allow me to provide my explanation: I pay the rent, I do the dishes, I sweep the floor, I organize the books (which you, now I figure, have been disarraying), and I just came from a long journey! Have some humanity.”

The Intruder reddened and reached for his top hat; having placed it on his knee, he reached for his pocket from which he took out a shiny boning knife and turned it in his hands. With great difficulty I swallowed my saliva and trembled from fear. The Intruder stood up and approached me with his knife held out towards me. I leaned in to embrace him, placed my hand over his and turned the direction of the knife. Minutes later, he fell unconscious to the ground. Whatever followed, my eyes were unable to believe. Instead of blood gushing forth, his body parts detached and shrunk tenfold the size. Soon, a procession followed: the eyes led the nose, the ear, the cheeks, and the lips out the window; the next procession was led by the hallux toe and the index finger which led the arms and the legs; finally, the back and the skeleton dragged themselves out the window. This was the Intruder whom Jane had failed to annihilate. He was now gone. The satisfaction and pride which filled me were beyond description.

I went into kitchen and began to bake kugelhopf to commemorate the death of my childhood friend: the Intruder. His mystery had finally been unveiled.

Eight Days in Paris

A Travel Diary by Noa M.

la Seine IIFrom the first day of grade nine, each student has heard of the Paris Trip. To them, it seems a distant and almost allegorical event. It is spoken of so often with such nostalgia and wistfulness that they consider it to be a state that they will never achieve. Indeed, as a ninth grader, I too believed that I might never experience such a trip. The classes felt too difficult, the weeks and months too long. As a ninth grader, grade eleven felt almost as far away and imaginary as the trip itself. That year was one of the years in which the grade eleven and twelve French classes travelled across the world together for a week of Parisian splendour. I remember seeing the poster for the trip for the first time and envisaging what it would be like when it was my turn. I’d hazard a guess that we all did. Continue reading