The Marmoset

InterrogationAdam leant back in his chair, lit a cigarette, took a sip out of the bottle, and waited. He waited without knowing exactly for what, settling down vaguely between two layers of warm air and watching the monkey. A man and woman went slowly past the table, loitering along with their eyes fixed on the small furry animal.

“Pretty things, marmosets,” said the man.

“Yes, but bad tempered,” said the woman. “I remember my grandmother had one for a time; she was always giving it titbits. But do you suppose it was grateful? Not at all,it would bite her ear till it bled, the nasty brute.”

“That may have been a sign of affection,” said the man.

Adam was suddenly seized by a ridiculous impulse to get things straight. He turned to the couple and explained.

“It’s neither pretty nor bad-tempered,” he said, “it’s just a marmoset.”

—From J. M. G. Le Clézio, The Interrogation