3 March 2011

Linda Lê: Voix: une crise (1998)

Linda Lê was born in Dalat, Saigon in 1963, and had a French mother and a Vietnamese father. In 1968 her family was forced to move house during the war, and on their horrific journey they saw many dead bodies, often with severed heads. The family – without the father – left for France when Linda was 14. She continued writing to her beloved father for many years, but he died in 1995 before she could see him again, and she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital shortly after.

Voix: une crise (literally 'Voices: A Crisis') is a short book with no apparently logical sequence of events, and begins in a psychiatric hospital. It depicts a world – in which Paris is frequently identifiable – run by an omnipresent 'Organization', which no doubt only exists in the imagination of the narrator: this is a surreal nightmare world of horror, madness, severed heads, blood, and constant paranoia.

This is one paragraph:

'I'm stretched out on my bed. The anguish has taken the shape of dogs with three heads, poking their snouts into my belly, tearing it up and devouring my guts. My father stands at the side of the bed. He plunges his hand into my open belly and brings out letters written in blue ink and soaked in blood. I yell, but my father isn't listening. He's reading the letters, his white hair shaking.'

There isn't a great deal of information about her online, but there is a beautiful interview from 1999 with Catherine Argand, in French, which largely concerns Lê's work in general. She speaks of her (then) latest book, Lettre Morte (1999), which she says was inspired by Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann, who haunts her. She calls her father her ideal reader, and she was devastated to learn of his death. Tramps and drunks were the only people she saw with an unsuspicious eye, everyone else seemed artificial. She went entire weeks without talking.

Finally, she says she'd like to die in a cinema, watching Fritz Lang's Moonfleet: the cinema is where she feels most strongly the magic of paradise lost. The interview is here.

My other posts on Linda Lê:

Linda Lê: Les Évangiles du crime
Linda Lê: A l'enfant que je n'aurai pas
Linda Lê: Lame de fond
Linda Lê: Lettre morte
Linda Lê: Personne

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