10 September 2016

Marie Darrieussecq: Tom est mort | Tom Is Dead (2007)

Marie Darrieussecq's Tom est mort is another mourning book, although it was beset by controversy: Camille Laurens claimed in La Revue littéraire that Tom est mort is a 'psychic plagiarism' of her auto-fictional Philippe, on which I commented here, Marie NDiaye strongly agreed with Laurens,* although Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens removed Laurens from the P.O.L. stable as a result of the article, and Laurens later published (via her new publisher Gallimard) Romance nerveuse (2010), a kind of auto-fictional stab back.

Tom est mort was written ten years after Tom's death. And 'Tom est mort' is a much-repeated expression throughout the novel, which has no clear continuous narrative, but is rather a long lament from an apparently half-demented (or at least severely disturbed) mother ten years after the death of her son Tom. She re-visits his life through photographs and recordings, but above all through memories, to preserve his existence.

Tom was the product of a marriage of a French mother and an English-speaking father and the family travel the globe according to the father Stuart's professional obligations. Tom came before Vince (now seventeen), and after Stella, who was eighteen months at the time of his death. And still, ten years after his death, the obsessive voice of the mother can't accept the fact, talks of still mourning, never ends lamenting. This novel is a taxonomy of mourning, and it's very clever, very well done, although perhaps a bit too repetitive, a bit too seamless.

*Marie NDiaye had previously criticised Marie Darrieussecq of 'singerie' maining relating to her novel La Sorcière (1996) in Darrieussecq's Naissance des fantômes (1998).

My other Marie Darrieussecq posts:
Marie Darrieussecq: Naissance des fantômes | My Phantom Husband
Marie Darrieussecq: Truismes | Pig Tales

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