Sunday, September 05, 2010

Silk worms

“… the magnaneries, the attics where, season by season, the silkworms were hatched and where they ate their vast quantities of mulberry leaves and spun their cocoons and were sent down to the last filature at Ruasse to be boiled alive as the precious silk was unwound onto bobbins.
Audrun could just remember the old magnaneries at the mas, the smell of them, and the chill in the air as you climbed the steps towards the well-ventilated rooms, and the sound of the thirty thousand worms chomping on leaves, like the sound of hail on the roof.
‘It was terrible work,’ Bernadette had told her. “Terrible, terrible work. You had to collect bunches and bunches of mulberry leaves every single day. And if it had been raining and the leaves were wet, you knew a lot of the worms were going to die, because the damp gave them some intestinal infection. But there was nothing you could do. Every morning, you just had to pick out the dead ones and carry on. And the stink up there, of the dead worms and all the horrible excretions, was vile. I used to gag, sometimes. I hated every minute of that work.’
Yet she had done it without complaining.”

Rose Tremain (2010), Trespass. Chatto & Windus, London, p.34


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