This time, my beloved Akitsa, I would like to share with you my memories of that very country, which, although completely alien to us, somehow became our home having returned there four times since our first visit in the summer of 1897; we found something there, which we could not find in other, perhaps more polite and charming lands, a certain energy, some sort of boost to our health, not just in the physical sense, but spiritually too. Out of our five trips to Brittany, it was indeed the last visit that was the least pleasant for me, but this could simply be due to the fact that we were caught up in the outbreak of the Second World War in Trebeurden, a war possibly even more absurd than the first. In any case, it is impossible to compare that last summer in Britanny with those we spent there in 1897, 1905, 1906 and 1925 – the first three in Primel, the fourth in Camaret.
Our first trip to Primel was quite unforgettable – when that unrivalled view of the bay opened out before us from the vantage of the hill, along which the road to Plougasnou. And how many romance-filled walks we had there with the ancient fisherman's lodging as our base, given to us by rather portly Madame Talbot, or that little house which had only just been built, rented out to us by the Le Dunnfs. Do you remember those wonderful excursions along the opposite bank of the gulf, which passed through the village of Dieben and further still to Kergist and Saint Samson; or in the other direction, to the east, where we reached the wonderful church St Jean du Doigt, or when we made it to Ploumanach with its famous nightmare cliffs and the wonderful Notre Dame de la Clarté. And finally, that wonderful place, the little town of Morlaix, which was something of a metropolis for us! Sadly you were not able to accompany us, myself and the lovely Zheniak Lanceray, on our expeditions which lasted days at a time, taking in Guimiliau, Saint-Thégonnec, and also Dinan, Dol, Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Locronan, Quimper, Josselin and so on. They say that Brittany is an uncomfortable land, that there is always rain there, always a storm blowing. The climate in Brittany is indeed severe, but nonetheless I have never seen such bright and iridescent days like here in Brittany. On the other hand, what could be more beautiful than an unbridled ocean with its salty winds which carry with them a particularly strong feeling of vastness and something what I would call heroic! These pages will serve as a reminder, my trusty life companion, of the joys we experienced together and which belong to the highest order of joys simply because we experienced them together.
Your adoring and thankful husband,
During the summer of 1905, Benois stayed in Primel-
Tregastel with his wife, their three children and his niece, Sophie Lanceray. Benois was very fond of this village with its traditions and folklore, but was particularly fascinated by the rocks near Primel, comparing them to 'nature's games, full of mysterious and enchanting beauty" (quoted in Les peintres russes en Bretagne, idem, p. 42).
The nearby village of Saint-Jean-du-Doigt is so-called because its 15th century church contains a relic of Saint John the Baptist's finger.
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