26 August 2014

Marie-Sissi Labrèche: Borderline (2000)

Marie-Sissi Labrèche's first novel, Borderline, is a work of Québécois autofiction and a paragraph on the back cover clarifies the title a little:

'Je suis borderline. J’ai un problème de limites. Je ne fais pas de différence entre l’extérieur et l’intérieur. C’est à cause de ma peau qui est à l’envers. C’est à cause de mes nerfs qui sont à fleur de peau. Tout le monde peut voir à l’intérieur de moi, j’ai l’impression. Je suis transparente. D’ailleurs, tellement transparente qu’il faut que je crie pour qu’on me voie.'

'I am borderline. I have a problem with boundaries. I make no distinction between exterior and interior. It's because my skin is inside out. It's because I'm a bundle of nerves. I'm under the impression that everyone can see inside me. I'm transparent, so transparent that I have to shout out so people can see me.' (My translation.)

Sissi is largely brought up by her grandmother as her mother is schizophrenic, and kills herself by taking an overdose when her daughter is eleven. But her grandmother is a very poor mother substitute:  when she misbehaves when she is four years old, there are no threats of the bogeyman but of the serial killer.

Her grandmother has come out with so many idiocies that have 'completely fucked my head in [m'ont complètement fucké l'esprit] to such an extent that I feel like an asshole. That's why I'm frightened of everything now: others; public places; enclosed spaces [...]' and the list of fears, which gets crazier as it goes along, continues for almost a page.

Unsurprisingly, Sissi grows up with no sense of identity, no markers, no framework, nothing and no one to cling to. The essential borderline is between her sanity and her madness.

Chapters alternate between Sissi the child and Sissi the young adult. At school she is almost friendless, the other children being aware of her situation and making fun of the way she speaks. As a young adult she screws virtually everyone in her circle, experiments with lesbianism, and in her mid-twenties gets hopelessly drunk at her own birthday party, where she strips naked and starts masturbating on the floor. Câlice, she's an awful mess.

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