18 October 2014

Julia Deck: Viviane Élisabeth Fauville (2012)

Julia Deck's Viviane Élisabeth Fauville* comes from the highly esteemed Minuit and 2012 was the first time it had published a first novel in a long time. It's perhaps needless to say that it's an experimental one.

Viviane is in charge of communications at an important concrete company, although her husband has very recently left her and she now has to care for a three-month old baby on her own. But far worse: she's just stabbed Dr Sergent – her psychoanalyst – to death.

Several personal pronouns – 'je', 'tu', 'elle', 'nous' and 'vous' – are used from a narrative point of view, all to describe Viviane's story: this is an indication of the multiple layers of personality the protagonist is thrown into as the story becomes more crazy and the reader wonders where the truth lies because everything seems unreliable.

The police interview Viviane a few times and know that she's lied, for instance about using her mother as an alibi because she in fact died eight years before. But they still don't arrest her and she reads Le Parisien to find out who's being questioned so that she can stalk them and question them: the doctor's girlfriend, his wife and his patients, including Tony Boujon, who has a criminal record for menacing sexual behaviour, using one of the knives he has a collection of. But then Viviane sexually assaults Tony, who complains to the police, who are surprised by how both Tony's and Viviane's versions of the story seem to match.

Surely the woman's howling mad? Well, yes, and she goes into hospital for it, although while she's there a nurse wishes her 'Happy Christmas' and leaves her with a copy of Le Parisien detailing the arrest of a certain Pascal Blanche, another (formerly unmentioned) patient of Sergent's, who has no alibi at all. By the second week in January Viviane is free to leave the hospital and return home.

And by mid-April she is still working for the same company, but in Normandy in a nice apartment overlooking the channel: Pascal Planche is in prison because the police irrefutably discovered that the real murder weapon was the shrinks's paper knife found in Blanche's possession.

Therefore the much-travelled kitchen knife – the one Viviane's mother gave as part of a wedding present – turns out to have mainly been used on red herrings.

A kind of noir, a kind of detective story à la Minuit with suggestions of Duras, Beckett, etc, thrown in, and this short novel seems to herald a very interesting new talent. And the reader shouldn't give up in exasperation before section 18, because he or she will be very impressed.

*This is translated into English under the simple title Viviane, which perhaps renders it less 'foreign' for better consumption but also misses out on the multiple personality issue.

Link to my other Julia Deck post:
Julia Deck: Le Triangle d'hiver

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