15 October 2014

Régis Jauffret: Lacrimosa (2008)

A woman friend of Régis Jauffret's strangled herself on 21 March 2007, coincidentally exactly two years after he had met her at the Salon du livre in Paris on 21 March 2005. Lacrimosa is a novel based around those bare facts, although I'm unaware of the truth of any others in this work.

The book has a kind of epistolary form with letters from the unnamed male narrator beginning 'Chère Charlotte' interspersed with imagined letters from his rather younger dead lover from the grave – but which of course are also written by the narrator, and all of which begin 'Mon pauvre amour'.

As its title suggests, this is indeed a requiem, although the male narrator frequently indulges in flights of fancy, causing Charlotte to insult him, say he's wasting his time, accuse him of re-inventing her at the expense of truth, and certainly more than once the male narrator admits he's invented something, such as the pair of them being threatened with deportation by the Tunisian police if they again swam naked at Djerba during their Club Med holiday.

This in fact is a far less bizarre invention than, for example, Dr Hippocampus Dupré living (and sleeping) with a panda. I'm not too sure why this section was included, but then there are a few other puzzling things, such as the male narrator addressing Charlotte by the formal 'vous' throughout, whereas Charlotte uses the expected 'tu' to her (former) lover. Is the 'vous' form intended to indicate the distance (living versus dead) he now sees between them, but if so surely that negates the need to write letters to the dead person in the first place: the death has already been accepted.

Finally, we can perhaps view the whole exercise as a kind of therapy, although the resolution in the last sentence (written by 'Charlotte') – 'Je suis fiére de toi' ('I'm proud of you') – sounds far too much like self-praise: but is this the narrator praising the narrator, or the author praising himself? Although I've only read this novel by Jauffret, I don't think it's one of his best, and other people – who have read others – seem to agree.

My other posts on Régis Jauffret:

Régis Jauffret: Claustria
Régis Jauffret: Sévère

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