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Editor's note:

July 29, 2001

The following passage from the middle of John Berger's short story, "The Museum of Desire" (Book Review, July 22), was omitted due to a production error (our apologies to the author and to readers):

I saw her for the first time. She was coming up the staircase alone. Everything she wore was black. Flat black shoes, black stockings, black skirt, black cardigan, a black band in her hair. She was the size of a large marionette, about four feet tall. Her pale hands hovered or flew through the air as she talked. She was elderly and I had the impression that her thinness was to do with slipping through time. Yet there was nothing skeletal about her. If she was like one of the departed, she was like a nymph. Around her neck, she wore a black ribbon with a card attached to it. On the card was printed the famous name of The Collection and, in smaller letters, her own name. Her first name was Amanda. She was so small that the card looked absurdly large, like a label pinned to a dress in a shop window, announcing a last-minute bargain.

"In the showcase over there, you can see a snuffbox made of carnelian and gold. In those days young women as well as men took snuff. It cleared the head and sharpened the senses." She raised her chin, threw her head back and sniffed.

It is hard to describe her face. I studied it again and again and each time, it shifted like a page being turned in a book.

"This particular snuffbox has a secret drawer in which the owner kept a tiny gouache portrait, no larger than a postage stamp, of his mistress. Look at her smile. I would say it was she who gave him the snuff box. Carnelian is a red variety of agate, mined in Sicily. The colour perhaps reminded her in some way of him. Most women, you see, see men as either red or blue." She shrugged her frail shoulders. "The red ones are easier."

When she stopped talking, she did not look at the public but turned her back and walked on. Despite her smallness, she walked much faster than her followers. She was wearing a ring on her left thumb. I suspect that her black hair was a wig, for I'm sure she preferred wigs to rinses.

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