Anne Enright

The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch

for Martin

This is the story of how she buried him with her own hands, on the slopes of the Cerro Cora.

A Fish

Paris , March 1854

Francisco solano Lopez put his penis inside Eliza Lynch on a lovely spring day in Paris, in 1854. They were in a house on the rue St-Sulpice; a famous street, down which people have always strolled in a state of pleasant imagining. In the spring of 1854, no imagination was needed as Francisco Solano Lopez pushed his penis into Eliza Lynch and pulled it back again, twenty times in all. This was quite a lot of times for Francisco Solano Lopez, but something about Eliza Lynch distracted him from the usual rush of his pleasure. Something about Eliza Lynch gave him pause.

Outside, the birds sang, trees rustled and fancy carriages rattled by. Inside, the four-poster bed was hung with turquoise, its enormous baldaquin billowing above them and gathered into a pucker of silk that mirrored, as she lay under it, the lovely navel of Eliza Lynch.

Apart from the magnificent bed, she had nothing. There was a burled walnut box pushed into a corner, an ormolu clock ticked on a mantel of ordinary stone, a simple table of inlaid tulipwood was burdened by a statue of the flagellated Christ. The room was practically bare, if you did not count the bed. But the bed was overwhelming, it was a room within the room; it was a palace, across whose yielding floor Lopez crawled, laughing, in order to engage more thoroughly with the laughing Eliza Lynch.

Which, without further delay, he did.

Many people would come to regret this moment. You might say that everyone came to regret it – except for the two participants, Francisco Lopez and Eliza Lynch, Il Mariscal and La Lincha, Paco and Liz. Already unreal. They were the kind of people who attracted stories – not to mention bias, rumours, lies, rage: the whole tangle pulled into a knot by time, made Gordian by history. The details cannot be unpicked. But this much we may not doubt: there was a joining of parts, and it happened in spring, on the rue St-Sulpice.

Paco and Liz, laughing on the bed. Mme Lynch silently looking at the silently looking Senor Lopez. The tart from County Cork turning towards the turquoise, as the little mestizo handles it into her. It was a moment that garnered the blame of nations, as if everything started here. Something did start here – there are such things as beginnings – but what? But what?

They became lovers. In jig time, in marching time, in twenty beats, they moved from strangers to the rest of their lives. And they knew it. Such luck!

Outside, the birds chirped themselves to sleep, while his hired horse blew into his oats and the coachman snored. The clock on the mantel said midnight, or five o'clock. The clock on the mantel was stopped. And all you could hear was the suck and pull of his breath.

Who was he? He was heir apparent to Paraguay, a country that no one had ever heard of. Who was Eliza? She was very much herself. He had come to her house in order to improve his French, or so he said. The words he learned that evening were 'King of Diamonds', 'Queen of Spades', 'trick'. He learned the French for sons of bitches, then truffles, pig's nose and tongue. Also a phrase: 'If I win, you will not like me.' After which pleasant nonsense, they went to bed.

Oh Eliza. In fact, she did speak many languages: she romped in French, married in English, and she ate in the Irish of her childhood kitchen. She had school Latin and spa German, but her fate, now, was in Spanish, and she would die in Guarani, which is to say, obscurely. The lover in her head spoke Russian, in whispers. The devil in her head spoke Portuguese.

And so, Francisco put his penis, son penis, su penis, into the nameless part of Eliza Lynch. He put that thing, which is the same in English, French or Spanish, into a part of Eliza Lynch that is, in any language, obscene.


He was rich.


He was immensely rich.

He had ordered, that day, seventy pairs of silver-tipped boots – with presumably elevated insoles; because he was small, there was no gainsaying the fact that he was really quite small, but he was stunningly rich, so she, spilled out beneath him, must be magnificent.


She was silent.

It would not do to shout. Whatever surprise she felt at this, most surprising, intrusion must register as a mere stretch of her eyebrows, a fullness of her jostled mouth; her forehead suffused with a kind of puzzled tranquillity, as though the question – whatever question it might be -answered itself.


There was no telling how long he would take.

His hair smelt of lilacs and horses. His breath smelt of decay. His shirt was pulled impatiently open at the neck and a filthy leather pouch dabbed at her chest. Money? No – his money was folded and stuffed down the side of his boots. Vast sums. There was a flurry of paper when he dumped them, all unheeding, on the floor. Then his short military jacket; crusted with gold braid and held to lopsided attention by the remarkable epaulettes. After which his pants. His legs very thick and gnarled. His shirt dangling down.

She was wearing her sapphires. Also a peignoir of shrugged-off silk. It flowed down her arms and moved under her, like water.


Her lips jolted apart.

She must be his first woman in weeks. In Paris the whores would laugh at him, of course – that is why they were paid so much. Cora Pearl with her whip. Or Dolores at the Cafe Anglais with her diamonds and a bloody cough. Because they were all dying. Death in the bedroom and death again at the card table, where they would take his money, trick after trick. Here is the fool in from the colonies, let me introduce you to… M. le Duc de something he would not catch. Some ghoul of a German banker. A tart with diamonds in her hair, sitting in to watch. And if he tried to touch her, she would laugh in his face. The game continuing in silence. The stakes going up and up. The tart not laughing, any more. Up, and up and up.


He reared away from her.

She might bite him. She might tear at his bottom lip, if it were not for the terrible breath. When he walked into her drawing room, you could smell it from the doorway. No idea of where to sit or how to stand, until she took his hat in her own hands and said, quite natural-like, that he must leave it beside him here on the floor. This was what they did in Paris, she said to him, these strange Frenchmen, they left their hats on the floor so everyone could see their names in gilt letters written on the band – she spent her first weeks in town

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