Le mot juste


Gustave Flaubert was famous for extolling the virtues of le mot juste – the right word. He slaved for years on each of his novels, agonising over each word and its placement, controlling as much as he could the experience of the reader and what they got out of his works.

Some days it feels like life is a bit like that. Scrabbling for the right words, the right phrasing. Trying to make yourself heard, understood, as much as possible. Trying to control other people’s conceptions of you as much as you can in the space before interpretation.

I met up with a friend today who I haven’t seen in a very long time. We were uni friends, learned a language together, witnessed a revolution together. We’ve both changed so much in the years since we’ve seen one another – and yet while we were together, we reverted back to the selves that we were when we knew each other. We’ve discovered that we have so much more in common now than we did then – and still I find myself feigning interest in her work with her church, in things that I don’t have as much of an interest in, rather than directing the conversation back to Star Trek and Doctor Who and the things I know we both love and could talk about for hours.

I often used to notice that when I went home to stay with my parents, I’d regress into a self that was much more like the one I was as a 17-year-old than who I am now. It’s disconcerting to find that I haven’t grown out of that yet.


2 thoughts on “Le mot juste

  1. I sometimes wonder if part of this occurs because we believe that the person we are seeing wants to see that other version of ourselves that they remember because they haven’t grown with us and seen all of those minute changes that have shaped who we are now.

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