The Spurious Incident of the Leg and the Black-Out by Phil Doran

Sawed off, preserved in formaldehyde, an object of morbidity, the leg, rediscovered in a storeroom: aborted fetuses of Siamese twins; gruesome relic of the dramatic.  Too many leaps off the end of Puccini, she reasoned. Doctors amputate. Anaesthesia by ether. She blacked out, singing La Marseillaise!!

Never expected Bordeaux. Was embarrassed by nosing. Whole place in lock down. Took 23 to put it on display. Besieged by doubters, who label apparently surviving relatives, DNA tests clear up the mystery - memory of factoids to enrich the fairy tale of the simple. Stage-struck three years later in Paris. Old-timers recall Rochester Graves on tour in 1905: secret, illegitimate, single. Embroidered story, eventually.  Celebrated truly, nonetheless. A magical ability to con audiences. Raphael and Hugo: stage gold. And New York, New York!...

During Latin America, immense. Spoke only in slight English. Iowa perhaps. Barrier brought truth. Absent from melodrama: intensity, ecstasy, insanity, curiosity and enthusiasm provoked.

Greatest curtain, at 56, in 1900 remembrance of Napoleon's patriotic tragedy - available in French. Each night uproar, tumult, deliriousness. Roman arenas of the Caesars. Silent cinema on YouTube: a curious monologue, despite 50 years of one lung, 30 years of one kidney and, eventually, gangrene: either leg. Amputation under the knee. Wheelchair wits. Mère la chaise. Père Lachaise. Driven by French soldiers, she managed 1923.

At 79, Sarah Bernhardt was dead.


The original article from which this story was conceived can be found here, below the blurb: