Suddenly a silence fell over the room. Henri saw with surprise that Paula was sitting down at the piano. She began to sing. It had been a very long time since that had happened. Henri tried to listen to her with an impartial ear; he had never been able to form a true opinion as to the value of that voice. Certainly it wasn't mediocre; at times it even sounded like the echo of a bronze bell, muffled in velvet. Once again he asked himself why, exactly, she had given up singing. At the time, he had looked upon it as a sacrifice, an overpowering proof of her love for him. Later he was surprised to find that Paula continually avoided every opportunity that would have challenged her, and he had often wondered if she hadn't used their love simply as a pretext to escape the test.
There was a burst of applause; Henri applauded with the others.
"Her voice is still as beautiful as ever," Anne said quietly. "If she appeared in public again, I'm certain she'd be well received."
"Do you really think so?" Henri asked. "Isn't it a little late?"
"Why?" A few lessons..." Anne looked hesitantly at Henri. "You know, I think it would do her good. You ought to encourage it."
"Maybe you're right," he said.
He studied Paula, who was smiling and listening to Claudie de Belzunce's gushing compliments. No doubt about it, he thought. It would change her life. Being without anything to do was not doing her any good. And wouldn't it just simplify things for him. And, after all, why not? Tonight everything seemed possible. Paula would become famous, she would devote herself to her career. And he would be free, would travel wherever he liked, would have brief, happy affairs here and there. Why not? He smiled and walked over to Nadine; she was standing next to the heater, gloomily chewing gum.
—Simone de Beauvoir, Les Mandarins, p. 21