Tuesday, May 08, 2018

I read and I dream about hell

I sleep to my heart's content, day and night. Between naps, I read. A huge fatigue turns up between books, between naps. A black hole to swallow me up. The poets keep me company, I'm damned along with them, in the books and in my room in the country where I read. I read and I dream about hell and about the scarlet sky at the end of hell, like a bright border of flames.
Sometimes you find what you need. Am I Disturbing You? by Anne Hébert was that book, in a second-hand shop I'd never been to on a stretch of street I rarely walk.

Overly poetic, dreamlike, confusing, empty of plot, characters too slight to make sense, too much white space. And yet.

What I take away from this slim novella, though, the relevant thing I need to process is how someone can enter your life for so brief a period and suddenly leave it and leave an indelible imprint on you and dredge up long-forgotten (long-buried?) aspects of self, despite never really knowing each other, never having a claim on each other (that is, no explicit claim).

The story is of Delphine, evidently pregnant, and obsessed with Patrick Chemin, who has allegedly proclaimed his love for her but is recently married to the Fat Lady. Édouard and Stéphane find Delphine in the square.
There was a girl who hadn't moved for quite a while, who was sitting on the rim of the fountain with the water streaming at her back. There was something surprising about her stillness. From her entire little person there emanated a kind of obstinacy at being there in the mist from the fountain, an unwillingness to exist anywhere else — elbows on her knees, folded in on herself, slightly shocked at finding herself in the world.
Stéphane falls for her fast; for Édouard it's a slow burn. Édouard's a copywriter. Delphine has eyes only for Patrick and speaks only of her dead grandmother. Delphine never really disturbs anyone, until she does. Édouard finally dredges up some deeply painful (and painfully vague) childhood memories that explain nothing.

I have enjoyed reading Hébert in the past. Reading her now I'm reminded of Patrick Mondiano, but with characters more ephemeral, less grounded in reality.

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