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Exquisite Pain (Day 21)

Exquisite Pain (Day 21)

Sophie Calle Exquisite Pain (Day 21) 2000 Two embroidery text panels, two photo panels

Embroidery panels, each: 50 3/4 x 22 1/2 inches; each framed: 53 x 24 3/8 inches
Photo panels, each: 18 1/2 x 23 1/4 inches, each framed: 19 3/4 x 24 3/8 inches
Overall: 75 1/2 x 51 1/2 inches (191.8 x 130.8 cm)
Edition of 3
(Inventory #18506)


Twenty-one days ago, the man I love left me.
January 25, 1985, at two in the morning, in room 261 of the Imperial Hotel, New Delhi. Three months earlier, I had gone away to Japan. He had warned me: too long. He couldn’t be sure he’d wait for me. But I took the risk. I hated the trip right from the start. I worried he would put his threat into practice. Then I got this letter: his “darling little wife” he called me. I thought I had won. My last evening in Tokyo was one of the most beautiful of my whole life. We had just spoken. He had it all planned: his plane would land in New Delhi one hour before mine. I had missed him so badly and now I would be seeing him again. For ninety-two days I had been obsessed with this reunion. When I was boarding the plane, they handed me a message: M. was in hospital and I had to call my father. The only explanation I could think of was that he’d had an accident on the way to the airport. Ten hours went by imagining the worst before I could get hold of him. At home. He muttered something about having an infected finger and wanting to come and take me in his arms. I knew he had met another woman. And instead of insulting him for his cowardice, for that crazy telegram, I stammered that I was unlucky and hung up. It was all my fault. I should never have gone away. I would never find another man like him again. I spent the night staring at the red telephone as if paralyzed, cursing that stupid trip.
text, English (anonymous):
It was June 1977. I was eighteen. I can’t remember what day it was. I could find out, though I’ve done my level best to forget. I was an intern in an agricultural training college at Plenée-Jugon, in Brittany. That morning, when I woke up, when I opened my eyes, I saw red, and through that red, nothing. I had gone blind overnight. Nobody at Rennes hospital understood why I couldn’t see any more. So I found my way to Paris. They took me in at Cochin hospital and notified my mother, who was living in Oran, Algeria. She was very poor and didn’t speak French. She managed to get a one-way ticket to Marseille. At the train station, she begged the money for the fare to Paris. She turned up in my hospital room in mid-July. It is the story of her journey that is my most painful memory. More than losing my sight.

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