Transcriptions: Writing

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'Transcriptions: Writing' is a project inviting MA Creative Writing students from Birkbeck, University of London, to write a short fiction response to a National Gallery painting.

Courbet: 'Still Life with Apples and a Pomegranate'

Thea Bennett

Gustave Courbet, Still Life with Apples and a Pomegranate
Gustave Courbet: Still Life with Apples and a Pomegranate, 1871-2 

His sister brought the orchard into Sainte-Pelagie. Six months’ worth of distilled sun, rain, fragrant earth resting in chipped pottery. He put a red apple to his nose. Wine and strawberries drowned the sour prison odour of his cell, the tang of stale water in the tarnished tankard. He bit into a green apple. The acid freshness of sunlight on grass brought dormant juices racing to his mouth.

His sister left. He saw the full round bodies of the bruised apples pressing against each other. He broke the tough skin of the pomegranate. His mouth rejected its thin bloody juice, the harsh dryness of its yellow pith.

Persephone, he remembered from his schooldays, tasted this bittersweet fruit. For each seed consumed she was condemned to a month in the underworld. His own dark sentence was half done. But he would not again lie in leaf-dappled light under his family’s fruit trees.