Short summary - Sunlight on Cold Water
Journalist Gilles Lantier, now thirty-five years old, is depressed. Almost every day he wakes up at dawn, and his heart pounds with what he calls the fear of life. He has an attractive appearance, an interesting profession, he has achieved success, but he is gnawed by melancholy and hopeless despair. He lives in a three-room apartment with the beautiful Eloise, who works as a fashion model, but he never had spiritual closeness with her, and now she has ceased to attract him even physically. During a party with his friend and colleague Jean Gilles, going to wash his hands in the bathroom, he suddenly felt an inexplicable horror at the sight of a small pink bar of soap. He stretches out his hands to take it, and cannot, as if the soap has turned into some kind of small nocturnal animal, lurking in the darkness and ready to crawl over his hand. So Gilles discovers that, most likely, he develops a mental illness.
Gilles works in the international department of the newspaper. Bloody events are taking place in the world, awakening in his fellows a tickling feeling of horror, and not so long ago he would also willingly gasp with them, expressing his indignation, but now he experiences only annoyance and irritation from these events because they distract his attention from a genuine, his own drama. Jean notices that something is wrong with his friend, tries to shake him up somehow, advises him to either go to rest or go on a business trip, but to no avail, because Gilles dislikes any kind of activity. Over the past three months, he has practically stopped dating all his friends and acquaintances. The doctor, whom Gilles turned to, prescribed a medicine for him just in case, but explained that the main medicine for this disease is time, that you just need to wait out the crisis, and most importantly - to rest. The same advice is given to him by Eloise, who also had something similar a few years ago. Gilles eventually hears all this advice and goes to rest with his older sister Odilia, who lives in a village near Limoges.
When he lived there, without experiencing any improvement, for two weeks, his sister drags him to visit Limoges, and there Gilles meets Natalie Sylvener. The red-haired and green-eyed beauty Natalie, the wife of a local judicial official, feels like the queen of Limousin, that is, that historical region of France, the center of which is Limoges, and she wants to please a visiting Parisian, besides a journalist. Moreover, she falls in love with him at first sight. But the heartthrob Gilles this time does not have the slightest inclination to love adventures, and he flees. However, the next day Natalie herself visits his sister. Between Gilles and Natalie, a love relationship is quickly struck, in which the initiative constantly belongs to her. Gilles is showing the first signs of recovery and renewed interest in life.
Meanwhile, in Paris in his newspaper, the position of editor-in-chief is vacated, and Jean proposes the candidacy of Gilles, who, in connection with this, is forced to urgently return to the capital. Everything is going as well as possible, and Gilles is approved in the post. However, although he dreamed of this promotion for a long time, now this success does not worry him too much. For with his thoughts he is in Limoges. He understands that he is seriously in love, does not find a place for himself, constantly calls Natalie. And he explains the situation to Eloise, who naturally suffers greatly from the need to part with Gilles. Only three days have passed, and Gilles is already rushing to Limoges again. The vacation continues. Lovers spend a lot of time together. One day, Gilles finds himself at an evening organized by the Sylveners in their rich house, where, as the journalist's experienced gaze notes, it was not luxury that you wouldn’t surprise a Parisian suppress, but a feeling of lasting prosperity. At this evening, Gilles has a conversation with his brother Natalie, who frankly admits to him that he is in despair, because he considers Gilles a weak, weak-willed egoist.
Natalie had previously expressed her readiness to leave her husband and follow Gilles even to the ends of the world, and this conversation pushes Gilles to take more decisive actions, and he decides to take her home as soon as possible. Finally, the vacation ends, Gilles leaves, and three days later - to observe decency - Natalie comes to him in Paris. Several months pass. Gilles is gradually settling into a new position. Natalie visits museums, theaters, visits the sights of the capital. Then he gets a job in a travel agency. Not so much for money as for making your life more meaningful. Everything seems to be going well, but the first crack appears in this relationship. The editor-in-chief, who is also the owner of the newspaper, who invited Gilles, Natalie and Jean to dinner, smugly quotes Chamfort, claiming that these words belong to Stendhal. Natalie, a well-read and at the same time uncompromising woman, corrects him, which causes displeasure among both the boss and the weak-willed, adaptable Gilles. And in general, he is more and more at the mercy of the contradictions tearing him apart. In his soul, a conflict is brewing between love for Natalie, gratitude to her for his miraculous healing and longing for the former free life, thirst for freedom, the desire to feel independent and to communicate more, as in the old days, with friends.
Having gone on the occasion of her aunt's illness and death to Limoges, where her husband persuades her to stay, Natalie burns all the bridges behind her and makes the final choice in favor of Gilles. A rash move, as it soon becomes clear. One morning Gilles comes to the editorial office radiant: the night before he wrote a very good article on the events in Greece connected with the coming to power of the "black colonels". He reads it to Natalie, she admires this article, and Gilles feels a surge of strength. This is very important for him, because lately he has had something like a creative crisis. Both the editor-in-chief and Jean praised the article. And after they released the newspaper issue that day. Gilles invites Jean to his home. They sit in the living room, drink Calvados, and here Gilles discovers an irresistible craving for psychoanalysis. He begins to explain to Jean that once Natalie helped him a lot, warmed him and brought him back to life, but that now her custody is strangling him, her imperiousness, straightforwardness and integrity are a burden to him. At the same time, he admits that he has nothing to blame his girlfriend for, that he himself is more likely to blame, more precisely, his sluggish, weak, unstable character. To this analysis, as the author notes. Gilles should have added that he cannot even imagine life without Natalie, but in a fit of pride and self-satisfaction, seeing the clear sympathy of his friend and drinking companion, he relieves himself of this recognition. And completely in vain. Because it suddenly turns out that Natalie at that moment was not at work at all, as they assumed, but nearby, in the bedroom, and heard the entire conversation from start to finish. True, when she went out to her friends, she did not tell them this. She looks calm. Having exchanged two or three words with friends, she leaves the house. A few hours later, it turns out that she did not go on business at all, but rented a room in one of the hotels and took a huge dose of sleeping pills there. It is not possible to save her. In the hands of Gilles is her suicide note: “You have nothing to do with it, my dear. I was always a little exalted and didn’t love anyone but you. ”