16 March 2018

Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt: La Femme au miroir (2011)

This is a novel in three stories, although the stories continuously alternate, making forty-two sections, or fourteen for each story. The reader knows there must be a number of links between the stories, and struggles until near the end to find the main ones. To begin with, all three main female characters have similar names. although live in different places at very different times:

Anne is from the 16th century and is about to marry when a vital mirror breaks and she knows she must flee. She never marries, never has sex, and is destined for a religious life. But her murderous, arsonist cousin Ida, a survivor of a self-made fire and a failed suicide attempt, will ensure that Anne is tried and burned at the stake for witchcraft and poisoning.

Hanna's story is epistolary, mainly her writing to Gretchen about the lack of real spark in her marriage to the nevertheless worthy Franz. Why can't she have an orgasm? Until, that is, she has anonymous sexual relationships with total strangers, and she realises she can no longer live with Franz.

Anny, though, is an LA movie star who sleeps with anyone she likes, or virtually anyone who would like to sleep with her. She is also a drug addict whose nurse Ethan is too, and although he loves her he holds off the moment until towards the end.

So how does this all fit together with three so very different attitudes to sex and/or love? Ah, well, Hanna finds out about Anne ('the virgin of Bruges') and sees her love of God as the unconscious in another (more Freudian) word, and she decides to write a book about Anne called Le Miroir de l'invisible. Anny decides to go for apparent professional suicide by accepting a screenplay written by a European director: this is to be La Fille aux lunettes rouges, an adaptation of a work written by Hanna von Waldberg, which was sent to the director's father's grandmother Gretchen. And so the three threads come together: quite the best Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt I've so far read, and at 453 pages much longer than his usual stuff.

My other Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt posts:
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Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt: Milarepa
Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt: La Tectonique des sentiments

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