Un Tout Petit Livre
by Clive Collins

We were friends before we were lovers and then we were not even friends. It was when we were friends that she gave me the little book. Which is not a book but a box for snuff perhaps, or perhaps a case for pills. It is tiny, made of metal, a no longer shiny silver, or a pewter that wears its patina of age like an old queen from long ago and far away. I have never cleaned it. Did not dare, never wanted to.

The little book that is not a book became mine as a gift. I was in Lisbon, staying with my friend who was not yet my lover. What was between us then was a ten-year affection, a survivor of those events that mark time in our lives: the death of some we love, a marriage and its breaking, separation. We had survived and were again together to know we had survived. There was champagne, food in a little café by the sea and, pushed towards me across the shining square of checked American cloth covering our table, there was the little book. It was not wrapped and when she said I should open it, she meant open the little book itself. Inside was a note, unsigned, “Un tout petit livre qui vient souhaiter à ton livre d’être vite et bien édité…”. I was trying to write then and the little book that was not a book was a seed, she said, one that would grow.

It did. Her wish came true. My book that was a book was well edited, if not quickly so. I had what she wanted for me, a sort of success, though unlike the little book, it proved as evanescent a thing as love.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Un Tout Petit Livre, Tokyo, 2016.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have treasured the little book for more than thirty years now and it is one of my most treasured possessions.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Leicester, England, Clive Collins has spent the greater part of his life working as a teacher in Ireland, Sierra Leone, and now Japan. He is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. More recently his work has appeared online journals such as Penny, Cecile’s Writers, and He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Carried Away and Other Stories will be published in 2017 by Red Bird Chapbooks.