Sleeping Beauty on the Barricades

January 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

I joined a creative writing group some months ago. We usually meet once a week and do two or three themed writing prompts. Today, we tried our hands at fairy tales – I had to write a story about Sleeping Beauty, set in Paris in May 1968. The original story was written in German, but I decided to translate it and share it with you. Enjoy!

Il était une fois a Paris that is not described in the travel guides. A Paris where the students were fed up with everything. A Paris were the young were hanging on the lips of Jean-Paul Sartre who told them stories about Being and Nothingness.

Rose did not understand everything he said, but she too was under the spell of the cross-eyed philosopher. Rose was smart and beautiful, she had graduated top of the class at high school and was now a first-year French literature major. She was one of the girls who had been born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Whenever she participated in a rally, some of her fellow students forgot what they were fighting for and threw glances her way. Rose, who was so pretty in her almost too short skirts and yet so aloof.

She was in the front line the day they occupied the university. What had started out as a small movement had seized the whole city. The historic main building of the university had never been so crammed, people were crowding in the lecture rooms and in the hallways.

Rose wasn’t the only one to faint that day. The air was pregnant with ideas, there was hardly any room for oxygen. Rose was just about to leave the building when she lost consciousness and dropped to the floor. The boys who usually stared at her carried her outside. “Rose? Rose, are you okay?”, one of them asked. Rose didn’t answer. She was just lying there, on the concrete in front of the university. Was she still unconscious? Had she fallen asleep? She was breathing calmly, peacefully. Rose, the aloof girl, looked as fragile as a porcelain doll.

Jacques bent over her and gave her a tender kiss on the cheek. Rose opened her eyes and looked around.

Jacques held his cheek. It still hurt from the slap. He could hear Rose whisper: “Now I know what Simone meant when she said you’re not born a woman, but you become one.”


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