Monday, November 06, 2006

the end of a good man's life

Adrien Douady, professor of maths at the University of Paris, and friend and advisor to Dr. Hubbard, died on Thursday. Sarah, Roland, and I were with him on an outing to see the region near his vacation home in Les Arcs. It was while swimming near a rocky shoreline at the base of l’Esterel. Roland was in the water with him and brought him into shore; I helped pull him from the water onto the rocks. I don’t feel at liberty here to share more of the details, but I would like to describe the time we spent with him (which I would have written about anyway).

Adrien picked up the three of us at the train station in Les Arcs in the mid-afternoon on Wednesday. He promptly drove us to the Medieval City in town and dropped us off at the bottom. He instructed us to climb the labyrinthine streets and to meet him at the top. Once we rejoined him, he began indicating some of the plants around the area: an olive tree, a rosemary bush, a prickly pear cactus. He indicated a balcony from which the Queen of the Night aria was sung in a performance of The Magic Flute, and persisted in humming that tune for the rest of the afternoon.

Once we arrived at the Douadys’ house, he led us through the surrounding woods, pointing out where boars had rooted in the ground and making us try to guess what a certain plant was (it was thyme). We became convinced we had heard a boar and began tracking it. We eventually came to where we thought it was, and discovered that most of the sounds we’d been hearing were made by trees rubbing against each other in the wind.

We returned to the house, and began cutting wood. Adrien had cut down a tree he thought was too near the house. Roland picked up the chain saw and worked on cutting up the tree. Sarah and I moved the wood over to a pile. It was nice to be outside, enjoying nature and doing some manual labor.

Adrien and his wife Régine invited a few of their neighbors over for dinner. Régine made a marvelous traditional Algerian couscous meal. It was a pleasant repast, with conversation topics varying among house construction, the arriving mistral, wind power, tides in Normandy, and voting in the States.

In the morning, at breakfast, I reminisced about singing “L’amant de Saint Jean” with Adrien in Denmark. (I meant to post the pictures above earlier.) They started teaching me another chanson, “Le vin blanc”. We headed out and saw some of Adrien’s favorite swimming places.

I knew Douady as a brilliant, supportive, fun-loving man. He loved to sing and to swim. He loved doing all sorts of mathematics, and people loved having him in talks for his insight and humor. He was here at the Université de Provence the week before he died to give a talk on the work of two of his students, Buff and Chéritat, of whom he was very proud. We were fortunate to hear his final lecture. He was always full of character, life, and passion. Sarah and Roland knew him better than I, but everyone who met him knew he was a special, wonderful man.

Rest in peace, Adrien.


Luke said...

*hugs* to all involved

Becky said...

Joshua I hope you know how many prayers and messages of hope and healing are being sent your way. Love Aunt Becky