“I already know a thing or two. I know it’s not clothes that make women beautiful or otherwise, nor beauty care, nor expensive creams, nor the distinction or costliness of their finery. I know the problem lies elsewhere. I don’t know where. I only know it isn’t where women think. I look at the women in the streets of Saigon, and upcountry. Some of them are very beautiful, very white, they take enormous care of their beauty here, especially upcountry. They don’t do anything, just save themselves up, save themselves up for Europe, for lovers, holidays in Italy, the long six-months leaves every three years, when at last they’ll be able to talk about what it’s like here, this peculiar colonial existence, the marvelous domestic service provided by the houseboys, the vegetation, the dances, the white villas, big enough to get lost in, occupied by officials in distant outposts. They wait, these women. They dress just for the sake of dressing. They look at themselves. In the shade of their villas, they look at themselves for later on, they dream of romance, they already have huge wardrobes full of more dresses than they know what to do with, added to one by one like time, like the long days of waiting. Some of them go mad. Some are deserted for a young maid who keeps her mouth shut. Ditched. You can hear the word hit them, hear the sound of the blow. Some kill themselves.
This self-betrayal of women always struck me as a mistake, an error.
You didn’t have to attract desire. Either it was in the woman who aroused it or it didn’t exist. Either it was there at first glance or else it had never been. It was instant knowledge of sexual relationship or it was nothing. That too I knew before I experienced it.”