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Norah, Fanta, Khady Demba and many others we never hear of

October 26, 2012 15 comments

Trois femmes puissantes de Marie Ndiaye 2009. English title : Three Strong Women

Their names are Norah, Fanta and Khady Demba. They live in France or in Senegal or have lived in both countries. Their stories are not exactly linked but more adjacent like pieces of fabric composing a patchwork quilt. The novel is structured into three parts, each one relating the story of one woman.

The first part is for Norah and it’s her voice we’re hearing. At 38, she’s the daughter of a French hairdresser and a Senegalese. His father left his wife and children behind to go back to Senegal when Norah was a little girl and her mother struggled to raise her and her sister on her own. Now Norah’s father has begged her to come and visit him in Senegal. The novel starts when she arrives at her father’s house. As Norah gets reacquainted with her father’s way-of-life and adjusts to the changes, she recalls her childhood, analyses her present fears and her mixed feeling toward this man. Then she discovers why he called her.

The second part is for Fanta and the only image of her that we will have is through her husband’s eyes, Rudy Descas. He used to live in Senegal and met Fanta there when they both worked as teachers in a French high school. Fanta comes from a poor family and with a lot of work and willpower, she started a career as a teacher of French literature, quite an achievement for an African woman from her origin. We quickly understand that Rudy pushed her to move back to France but they never found work as teachers there. They are now living rather poorly, Rudy sells kitchens, Fanta doesn’t have a job and their marriage is falling apart. Rudy loves her madly but doesn’t seem to know how to show it anymore; he’s too embittered by his life and he feels like a failure.

The third part is the sour voyage from life to hell of Khady Demba, guilty of being a young widow with no children. When her in-laws throw her out of their house, she starts a voyage to the unknown with little experience, little education and no financial means.

Trois femmes puissantes is a tribute to all women who fight for their dignity through adversity. Norah, Fanta and Khady Demba have things in common: they fought to climb the social ladder, to achieve something and be independent. And men smash all their hard work. Norah’s father undermined her confidence from the start with his lack of interest in his daughters who were unfortunate not to be sons and girls who didn’t meet his definition of what a woman should be. Her partner messes up with the orderly life she has patiently built with her daughter in such a way that she feels that she admitted an enemy in her home. Her brother is the catalyst of two radical changes in her life, once as a child, once as an adult.

For Fanta, she fell in love with Rudy and following him to France was the beginning of her end. She couldn’t be a teacher there and she lost her identity. It’s difficult to have a clear portrait of Fanta because Rudy is the one who describes her. And dear, doesn’t he have heavy issues to cope with! His mother believes in angels and promotes angels through fliers. In France, I can tell you that a mother who leaves fliers around te enlighten her fellow citizens about the presence of angels among us is not seen as religious but as totally crazy.

For Khady Demba, the untimely death of her husband turns her life upside down in the most horrible way. After their in-laws have kicked her out, she’s the victim of other men too.

The three women remain strong in their mind and face the worse although sometimes their sanity wobbles. They stick to who they are and cling to their identity as a life-saver. They keep their dignity and Kadhy Demba’s attempts at dignity are the most poignant I’ve read in a long time.

The three stories are also an indirect thought about the relationship between France and Africa. Marie Ndiyae is black, her father is Senegalese. Her mother raised her as a single mom after her father left when she was a little girl. She has only met him a couple of times. She doesn’t feel African but she has mixed-blood and it can’t be discarded because it’s visible.

Although Trois femmes puissantes reveals terrible events, there is no useless pathos. Marie Ndiaye describes the inner minds of her protagonists –Norah, Rudy and Khady Demba –in a most realistic way. She’s analytical and with a dose of surreal elements sometimes. There’s a recurring pattern of birds in the three stories, a recurring pattern of bad luck. Fanta’s story appears less terrible than the two others, perhaps because she’s seen through Rudy’s eyes, she’s less real. Each part ends with a short paragraph, a sort of conclusion. It gives a feeling of an oral tale.

The novel is wonderfully composed and echoes to other forms of art. It’s a literary triptych of stoic and strong women, like iconic paintings put in churches. It’s a symphony with three movements, telling about women’s condition in general, in Senegal and in France in particular.

When Trois femmes puissantes was first published, I remember reading a glowing review of it and that the article included a quote from the book and I thought I wouldn’t like it. I picked it again by chance at the library, when I was looking for an audio book. I started listening to the audio version read by Dominique Blanc but it proved difficult to enjoy the beautiful prose of Marie Ndiaye while driving, therefore I eventually borrowed the paper edition. Dominique Blanc reads marvelously though, giving the rhythm of her steady voice to the rhythm of the author’s sentences. It could have been enchanting to hear it in good conditions.

You can also read reviews by Stu at Winston’s Dad and Iris at Iris On Books. Like Iris, I preferred the first and the last stories but Rudi’s struggle with his life and the terrible guilt he feels for not being able to make her precious wife happy got to me too.  I’m glad to say I was wrong to shy away from this book. Marie Ndiaye won the Prix Goncourt in 2009 for this novel and it’s well-deserved. Although it wasn’t an easy read, I felt compelled to read further. This book has everything to become a classic: excellent and unique prose, universal theme and stories without obvious references to current events which anchor a book in its time.

We, damaged people

October 21, 2012 22 comments

Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem by Arthur Miller. 1949. French title: Mort d’un commis voyageur.

You’re going to read about theatre again as I renewed my subscription to the city theatre. The first play we chose was Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. I read it before attending the play and I was both excited and curious when I entered the theatre. Excited to see the play on stage as I found it very good on paper and curious to see what the director would do with the numerous stage directions Miller included in his text.

Willy Loman is the salesman mentioned in the title of the play. When the lights appear on the stage, Willy is coming home from work, it’s late, he’s exhausted. His wife Linda wakes up and greets him. We quickly learn that he’s over 60, that he has worked as a salesman for the same company since 36 years and that he’s in charge of New England sales for his company. He travels the whole week and comes back on weekends.

But tonight, Willy is distraught and came back home on a Monday night when he should have been in Boston. He can’t drive anymore because he can’t focus enough. He was almost in an accident and when back driving very slowly, afraid as he was to kill someone in a car crash. Willy is no longer a good salesman, he’s burnt out and his employer stopped paying him a salary, he lives on commissions.

Willy and Linda make too much noise and wake up their sons Biff and Happy. Biff has come after a three months errand and at 34, he’s not settled yet. Happy usually lives by himself but is back in his old room for now.

The play has two intertwined stories. In the first place, it’s Willy’s story, his professional fall and his small life. Willy is a true believer in the American dream and its pendant, the consumer society where you buy on credit. He constantly regrets not following his brother Ben in Alaska to seek fortune. Ben died a rich man. Willy has lived the life of a middle-class man: he worked to support a wife, two kids, buy a car, a house and all kinds of domestic equipment but starts doubting, now that he’s older:

Figure it out. Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it.

And with hindsight, his life seems a bit meaningless.

Once in my life I would like to own something outright before it’s broken! I’m always in a race with the junkyard! I just finished paying for the car and it’s on its last legs. The refrigerator consumes belts like a goddam maniac. They time those things. They time them so when you finally paid for them, they’re used up.

With the loss of his professional standing, his confidence is shattered and he speaks to himself aloud, ruminating conversations with his brother Ben or with Biff. Willy worked for a better life for himself and a better life for his boys but he failed miserably on both sides.

Biff has tried dozens of different jobs and can’t keep one for a long time. He never had a serious relationship with a woman and is nowhere near getting married. All this isn’t a choice but the result of a vast personal failure. His younger brother Happy works in company, usually lives in his apartment and is a womanizer. Sex is almost an addiction, he sorts of suffer of the all-whores-but-mommy syndrome. Here are the two brothers talking about women and sex:

HAPPY: I get that any time I want, Biff. Whenever I feel disgusted. The only trouble is, it gets like bowling or something. I just keep knockin’ them over and it doesn’t mean anything. You still run around a lot?

BIFF: Naa. I’d like to find a girl—steady, somebody with substance.

Willy’s relationship with Biff is broken and the clue to the damage only comes at the end of the play. They can’t communicate and we soon understand that Biff had a brilliant American future before him: he was popular in school, a good football player, he had scholarships for university. But he failed his math final in high school and never graduated. All his hopes of glory and a good job evaporated with this.

As the story unravels before our eyes we understand Willy’s responsibility in Biff’s failure. He never had his feet on the ground, indulged his sons in everything. They lived in a mutual adoration fueled by Linda’s blind adoration for her husband. This is a family where people don’t see reality as it is but nurture childish dreams of grandeur, a family where nobody questions Willy’s opinion or vision. He can only be right and no one could undermine his confidence. Willy is the king of his family but the king is naked. He isn’t open to advice or to the thought that he might be mistaken. Unfortunately, he based his faith in life upon the silly concept that to be successful, you must be popular, loved and daring. Isn’t that childish?

The play is powerful, painfully up-to-date when it comes to Willy’s work life and the treatment of senior employees in companies. It made me think about my carrier and brought me back to a question I’ve already asked myself many evenings: how on earth will I be able to work at the same rhythm as today when I’m 60? What will become of us in such a competitive corporate world when we’re old? How can a play written in 1949 resonate that strongly on that part? Perhaps it’s because working conditions are going backwards nowadays or because so many young people in their twenties have difficulties finding a permanent job and settling down.

The family dynamics gives a universal tone to the play and deals with the parents-children interactions. Do we expect too much of our children? How can you raise children to be themselves, unique, detached from you and pursuing their own goals and not the ones you decided for them, while giving them the right amount of guidance for them to have the best chance to make the most out of their potential?

On a literary point of view, Miller managed to break the codes of theatre. There is no unity of time, place or action here. Some scenes are flash backs from Biff’s adolescence and help the spectators understanding the events that led this family in this cul-de-sac. They also show Willy’s appalling principles of education or lack of principles actually. The characters are at the Lomans’ but some scenes are in a restaurant or in the office of different side characters. It’s like a film.

Death of a Salesman is Miller putting the American dream to pieces: Family? Dysfunctional and toxic. Climbing the social ladder? Useless. Working hard? What for? To buy more? This play is clever, witty, profound and powerful. For those who don’t like reading theatre, my friend watched the film directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Dustin Hoffman plays Willy and John Malkovich plays Biff. The scenario was written by Arthur Miller. I heard it’s excellent.

PS: one last quote, for the road:

CHARLEY: Willy, the jails are full of fearless characters.

BEN [clapping WILLY on the back, with a laugh at CHARLEY]: And the stock exchange, friend!

The Captain’s Daughter by Pushkin

October 14, 2012 7 comments

The Captain’s Daughter by Pushkin. 1836

When I loved a book or when I hated one, billets seem to write themselves on their own will. In both cases I have many things to say about a novel that stirred strong emotions. When the time I spent with a book only triggered mild feelings, I have difficulties writing about it without yawning. And that’s where I am now that I’m supposed to write about The Captain’s Daughter by Pushkin, which was our Book Club’s choice for October.

If I’m correct, with The Captain’s Daughter, Pushkin wrote the first great novel of Russian literature. After his poetry work, he decided it was time to try prose and was inspired to do so after reading Sir Walter Scott. [Note to self: read Scott one of these days, he influenced so many Western writers of the early 19th century.]. I read a French version translated in 1973 by Brice Parrain. The free version available online is a translation by Louis Viardot  which dates back to the 19th century. Turgenev helped him translate Pushkin and Gogol into French. So it’s supposed to be faithful to the original and yet the newer translation sounds better. My question now is whether this new translation isn’t too modern and thus erases the formal atmosphere of the original. I’ll never know.

The story takes places in 1773 when Pyotr Andreyich Grinyov, a young aristocrat is sent into military service in a remote fort near Orenburg, the Belogorsky fortress. During his journey, he is caught in a snow storm and generously compensates with a coat a fellow traveler who leads him to a shelter for the night. Pyoth eventually arrives to the fortress which is actually barely better than a village with a fence around it. He gets acquainted with his commanding officer, the captain Ivan Mironov, his wife Vassilia and his daughter Masha. Pyotr and Masha fall in love but Pyotr’s parents refuse the alliance as they judge that the girl is beneath him. At that moment, the Pugachev rebellion spreads in the region and the fortress is besieged. What will become of the two lovers?

The Pugachev uprising is a historical event that took place in Russia in 1773-1774. Pushkin was interested in it and wrote nonfiction about it. Catherine The Great wad ruling Russia at the time and Pugachev claimed to be emperor Peter III and started a civil war. He raised an army and won several battles against the Empress’s army. Pushkin made an enquiry, visiting people who had lived through the period, collecting stories and building up a novel with this raw material. I suppose that this historical side is the link between Pushkin and Scott. I wasn’t blown away by the book, even if I was eager to know what would happen as it is full of twists and turns. Perhaps the translation impaired my reading and the Russian prose is better than the French. I was into the story but didn’t feel strong emotions; the novel doesn’t linger on psychological insight and is more on the side of a plot-driven novel.

However, side aspects interested me because I learnt details about Russia at the time, in addition to the historical events. Of course, I’d never heard of the Pugachev uprising and the footnotes of my paper edition were useful. I didn’t understand all the details but understood the main events.

Through the pages you can pick up information about the Russian Empire, for example how noblemen estimate their wealth according to the number of souls they own. (And there will be Gogol’s Dead Souls in 1842) I noticed that Pyotr’s personal servant behaves like a slave and yet is surprisingly literate as he can write good letters. I laughed at the description of the French teacher Pyotr had as a child. The man was lazy and more interested in wine and duels than in actual education.

Then some war customs in the 18th century Russia horrified me. Do you know what they did to traitors? Cut their nose and/or their ears. As I write this, I wonder if this custom has something to do with Gogol’s choice for his wandering appendix in The Nose. (1835-1836). And deportation, sorry exile, in Siberia was already fashionable.

The Belogorsky fortress is only a fortress by name; the army there is little trained, Captain Mironov isn’t tight on practicing. They have only one cannon and only dispose of few weapons. It doesn’t give a good image of the imperial army. I thought about Lermontov and the fortress he will describe in A Hero of Our Time (1840).

The captain’s family is nice and loving as if Pushkin wanted to put forward a part of the society which usually remained behind the curtains. The Captain’s Daughter is light but doesn’t hide the atrocities of the Pugachev uprising or the bad shape of the Russian army. For me, this novel is to the Russian literature I’ve read what Ladies’ Paradise is to Zola’s work: a unique piece without darkness, with hope and good people. I probably would have made more of it if I knew better about Russian literature.

Now you’ve read this post and seen different covers for it. But none of the quite matches with the story. My edition has a portrait of Catherine The Greatand the ones I included here are anachronistic.

________________________

In November, our Book Club is reading Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler.

Apocalypse Baby by Virginie Despentes

October 7, 2012 27 comments

Apocalypse Bébé by Virginie Despentes. 2010. Available in German and Italian. Will be available in English (UK) in June 2013.

Virginie Despentes is a French writer born in 1969. Her first novel, Baise-moi (Do I have to translate?) was made into a film directed by Virginie Despentes herself and Coralie Trinh Ti. The film was first allowed for spectators over 16, then rated X (porn) and eventually rated for spectators over 18. I haven’t seen it, we’re in France, not in the US, when a movie is rated X, there’s really raw sex in there. I’m not particularly interested in that kind of movie. So she’s a writer I’d never read before and as you can easily imagine, political correctness is not in her line of work.

Apocalypse Bébé is her seventh novel; it was published in 2010 and won the Prix Renaudot. Valentine, 15, has disappeared. She’s the daughter of a rather famous writer, François Galtan. Her mother vanished from her life when she was a baby and her formidable grand-mother helped François raise her. Valentine is on the wild side of adolescence, she drinks, has sex with strangers, misses school and pretty much does anything to be intolerable and unmanageable to her father and mother-in-law. Valentine was under surveillance from an employee of a PI agency, Lucie, when she disappears. Lucie is a poor PI, she ended up in this job by chance and clings to it out of fear of unemployment. So when Valentine disappears, she’s a bit overwhelmed with her task to actually find her instead of just watching her. She decides to ask for the help of La Hyène, a specialist in such matters.

Valentine is the Ariadne’s thread between the characters we will discover. The chapters follow chronologically the researches Claire and La Hyène do to find Valentine. In such, the book borrows to thrillers. But it has also the tone of a road-movie, leading Lucie and La Hyène in the places Valentine used to go and to Barcelona.

In each chapter we change of point of view, seeing the moment through the eyes of Lucie, La Hyène, François, Claire, the mother in law, Vanessa, Valentine’s mother and different participants to the research. All the characters don’t fit in our world. Valentine, raised by an old vindictive woman and a self-centered womanizer as a father, has no guiding light, no frame of references to ground her. The story slowly unravels the last twelvemonth of her young life before her disappearance.

All the characters have their own issues. Lucie is dull, self-conscious and entangled in a life she follows instead of leading it. La Hyène is an incredible character, full of violence and lucidity. She flirts with illegality and doesn’t hesitate to use doubtful methods when she thinks they’re needed. She has no moral compass and we’ll know where it comes from. Galtan is a pathetic writer, always looking for attention from the media, not quite detached from his mother and married to a woman he cheats on regularly. Claire is desperate and frightened. She thought that living her life according to the rules would bring her happiness but it didn’t and she feels betrayed. Valentine scares her with her raw violence, her lack of manners. Through Vanessa’s family we have a glimpse of society in the banlieues and the way general rules don’t apply there.

With Valentine as a thread and the different characters as a pattern, Despentes weaves a tapestry of today’s French society. She’s abrupt, nasty and provocative. She shows the country behind the curtains and analyses it without kindness. She points out the violence in the suburbs, the underground world. The ending is chilling and resonates with the current news, but I can’t say more to avoid spoilers. Her style is powerful, using street language when the character’s voice needs it. She catches the essence of our time. She’s as provocative as Houellebecq but for me, she succeeds where he fails. Houellebecq is a man of the 20th century. The two novels I read are provocative but in the past. They are based on the angst of the white male with a language that didn’t hit the mark. Virginie Despentes is a feminist, a lesbian I believe, and her light on our world is resolutely in the 21st century. Like Houellebecq, her vision of our society is dark and rather desperate but unlike Houellebecq she shows it with the means of our time. Her characters aren’t depressed, they adjust.

It’s good to read a novel different from an intimate drama, different from the story of a dysfunctional family only. Valentine’s family is dysfunctional but it’s not the theme of the book. Max wrote an entry about Cosmopolis and the creative cowardice of Anglo-American literature where he explains that, to him, contemporary Anglo-Saxon writers fail to capture our age. In her own trashy way, I think that Virgine Despentes succeeds in this. Her novel doesn’t sound like the product of a writing class but the expression of her gut feeling about our world.

I sure want to read another of her books.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

October 3, 2012 38 comments

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

[Deep male voice speaking American English with gritted teeth and clenched jaw, the kind that makes non-native English speakers long for a clear BBC voice]

Previsously on Book Around The Corner:

Otherwise, unread blog entries are piling up in my mailbox, sorry, sorry, sorry. I’m still reading The Turn of the Screw and it seems that no tool is going to fix my interest on it. I have to hurry though, or I’ll screw up for my Book Club meeting on Thursday. Yes, I know, the pun is terrible but a weekend of waiting lines turned my brain into mush. I need a fix, cause I’m going down…

Did Emma manage to finish The Turn of the Screw in time for her book club meeting? The suspense is unbearable… Let’s hear her out!

Actually, I had a lot of trouble with The Turn of the Screw and I didn’t finish it on time. I was relieved that the others from the book club felt the same. They had been more conscientious than me and had read the book anyway. I was determined to finish it afterwards, to discover the ending by myself and write a proper billet. Here is the story:

A mysterious gentleman in London has the care of his nephew Miles and his niece Flora. He doesn’t want to get involved in their education and sends them to the country under the care of a governess. The narrator of the Turn of the Screw is that governess. She arrives at Bly, the estate in the country where the children are settled. Mrs Grose is a servant who lives on the estate and took take of Flora until the governess arrives. The governess finds Flora and then Miles quite charming and likeable. Miles was expelled from boarding school for something so awful that it’s never clearly said. One night, while the governess is having a walk in the park, she sees a ghost on one of the towers of the house. She soon discovers that there isn’t one but two ghosts and that they are Miss Jessel, the former governess and a male servant named Quint. She also discovers that the children see the ghosts too.

I’m still trying to understand why I didn’t like it while it’s so praised. I loved the other James I’ve read before, so it’s not the writer. That must be the genre: a ghost story, referenced as a Gothic tale by James himself:

Was there a “secret” at Bly—a mystery of Udolpho or an insane, an unmentionable relative kept in unsuspected confinement?

I’m French, as you may already know and I wonder if I didn’t have a strong stroke of Frenchness while reading this. First the 17th century, René Descartes and his rationalism came in the way; scepticism won the battle and I didn’t manage to accept the concept of ghost as a prerequisite to the story. Second, what could have Miles done to get expelled from school for such an unnamable thing? The naughty 18th century popped up and twisted my views. And of course, you have the coded letters between George Sand and Alfred de Musset at the beginning of the 19th century. It seemed to me that James had sown seeds of sex and pedophilia between the lines. The ghosts, Miss Jessen and Quint are supposed to be scoundrels but the reader never gets to know exactly what they did. I thought “don’t beat around the bush and just tell us the scandalous details”. Well, was it even possible to give the details in Victorian England? So isn’t the ghost environment just a pretext to tell us entirely another story and get around the censorship?

Here is Mrs Grose talking to the governess; she slips and lets her new friend guess that Quint’s behaviour toward Miles was gross:

And you tell me they were ‘great friends’?”“Oh, it wasn’t HIM!” Mrs Grose with emphasis declared. “It was Quint’s own fancy. To play with him, I mean, I mean—to spoil him.” She paused a moment; then she added: “Quint was much too free.” This gave me, straight from my vision of his face—SUCH a face!—a sudden sickness of disgust. “Too free with MY boy?” “Too free with everyone!” Vous me dites qu’ils étaient grands amis ? – Oh ! pas lui ! » déclara Mrs. Grose avec intention. C’était le genre de Quint… de jouer avec lui… je veux dire, de le gâter. – Elle se tut, un instant, puis ajouta : – Quint prenait trop de libertés. » À ces mots, évoquant subitement une vision de son visage, – de quel visage ! – j’éprouvai une nausée de dégoût. « Des libertés avec mon garçon ! – Des libertés, avec tout le monde ! »

I don’t know exactly what Quint was much too free conveys in English. In French, Quint prenait trop de libertés in this context insinuates inappropriate sexual advances. Later, the idea that sex is behind the whole story pops up again:

To do it in ANY way was an act of violence, for what did it consist of but the obtrusion of the idea of grossness and guilt on a small helpless creature who had been for me a revelation of the possibilities of beautiful intercourse? quelque moyen que j’employasse, je commettais un acte de violence, car que faisais-je, sinon pénétrer d’une idée de grossièreté et de culpabilité une petite créature sans défense qui m’avait révélé la possibilité de rapports délicieux ?

I put the French beside the English because the translation enforces the sexual innuendos. The obtrusion of the idea of grossness becomes pénétrer d’une idée de grossièreté, which sounds quite strange in French. Furthermore, beautiful intercourse becomes rapports délicieux in French, which has an even stronger sexual connotation than in English. Our governess also refers to behaviours which are against nature:

Here at present I felt afresh—for I had felt it again and again—how my equilibrium depended on the success of my rigid will, the will to shut my eyes as tight as possible to the truth that what I had to deal with was, revoltingly, against nature.

All in all, these hints scattered through the text led me into thinking that Miss Jessel and Quint were accomplice and children molesters. I thought that Miles tried to talk about it in school and got expelled for daring to mention such things in school. The children are both described as beautiful and even the governess’s love for her pupil Miles sounded weird and unhealthy. See in the quote here before, she says “MY boy” with my in capital letters when she refers to Miles. How can she be so attached to him in such a short time? It doesn’t sound like maternal love but a feeling as possessive as the one a lover could feel. And when she makes strange comparisons like this…

We continued silent while the maid was with us – as silent, it whimsically occurred to me, as some young couple who, on their wedding journey, at the inn, feel shy in the presence of the waiter.

…it enforces the idea of non-maternal love, doesn’t it?

I can’t help seeing the ghosts as metaphors of the terrible memories of abused children. Is it a final stroke of rationalism? Is it real or does it just means that I can’t accept the idea of a ghost story, that I have to find a rational explanation for it? I don’t have the answer.

Now, why was I so bored when I read it? Clearly, the style was a problem for me. You can’t write gripping ghost stories when you write Proustian sentences. It’s fantastic to describe subtle feelings but it lacks the proper rhythm to build the tension. At least, that’ show I felt. I imagine that in appearance, James was writing for money a story that was fashionable. After all, they were interested in the occult at the time. It wasn’t even creepy, it was just flat and boring compared to Le Horla by Maupassant, for example. However, writing this billet made me think about it and see that there’s more to it than a basic ghost story. And our governess may be an unreliable narrator. Who can attest of her sanity, after all? Perhaps everything happened in her head? She may be mad. And then all my theory about children abuse falls apart…

PS: here’s a fascinating review at The Argumentative Old Git.

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