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The Longest Night : Veronique Le Guen Found That 111 Days in a Cave Changed More Than Her Sense of Time

December 09, 1988|RONE TEMPEST | Times Staff Writer

In fact, she began to focus all of her hostility on Siffre, the scientist who was "torturing" her from above. She did a sketch of her cave that included a self-portrait. Published with a series of articles that she wrote from underground for Figaro magazine in Paris, it showed her strapped and laced with wires and probes.

The sketch also showed a bookshelf that showed Siffre as the author of texts on sadomasochism. And she drew a dart board on the wall with Siffre's face covered with dart wounds.

Affection for Cave

But as her resentment and hatred of her scientific master mounted, her affection for the cave and her books steadily increased.

When she finally received word from above that her time underground was over, she was overcome with affection for her cave. She placed candles around the interior of the large cavern to highlight its features and she had a final affectionate conversation with the stalagmites:

"One last time," she wrote in her diary. "I spoke to my stalagmites. I praised their bearing, their elegance. I didn't mention their age because like Dorian Gray, they are not accessible to time. I thought, not without pangs of the heart, one of those furtive and lucid visions of life, that I would come back with white hair, my face wrinkled like an old apple. I would be with them again, these staunch companions of youth, still as bright and fine as they were today."

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