“Francine (Draft for the September Lecture)” is a short story by Maria Antònia Martí Escayol, a science fiction writer who lives in Barcelona, Spain. My translation of the story appears in World Science Fiction #1: Visions to Preserve the Biodiversity of the Future. This haunting tale investigates the death and posthumous life of Francine, daughter of René Descartes. It’s one of sixteen outstanding works in this anthology by some of the world’s finest authors.
The Deep Dish reading will also feature Dawn Bonanno, Steven H Silver, Evan Steuber, and Laura Kat Young. In addition, it will celebrate the release of Mary Anne Mohanraj’s new book, A Feast of Serendib: Recipes from Sri Lanka. Come and sample some delicious treats from the cookbook! I know Mary Anne, and she’s a great cook and passionate about her family’s homeland. Volumes Bookcafe also sells coffee, beer, wine, and baked goods, and Deep Dish is always a friendly event.
Since I can’t give you some of her chili-mango cashews over the internet, let me give you a taste of “Francine”:
The joy of the house was Francine. She was born in 1635, the same year in which France declared war on Spain, and Japan prohibited its merchants from traveling overseas. Her childhood took place amid the tree-lined streets and lawn-filled parks of the city, and the books and discussion circles of her home. Helena’s hospitality inspired an extensive group of intellectuals to form the Orbis de Deventer (for more information, consult historian Franklin Rudolf Ankersmit’s 2021 book by Goethe publishers).…
… A few months after her visit to the laboratory, the first symptoms of Francine’s illness, scarlet fever, made their appearance. According to the official account, the illness began on August 21st, and the girl died three weeks later on September 7th. According to Helena’s diary, the illness began in April, and the next day the girl lost her ability to speak, a little later consciousness, and she died five months later. Francine herself, in her notes from 1650, described the sensations she recalled of those initial moments:
“The warm glow of consciousness pulled me down into an insupportable interior heat. My body became a glass vial haunted by atoms teeming amid red ashes. Some atoms found a proper place inside myself and squeezed in harmoniously. Others simply remained suspended, colliding from time to time in senseless struggle. Some atoms were terrestrial, flat, and square; others aqueous, round, empty, wet, and spongy; or gaseous, long, and straight; or igneous, acute, and sharp. Their random movements traced out the destiny of my new world. A world where, for a long time, I would be merely a body without a head.”