In a number of ways this novel comes across as a continuation of Nobécourt's first novel, La Démangeaision: the narrator is still called Irène, and she has violently harmed – although apparently not, as may have been suggested in her earlier novel, killed – a young lover. This novel is also disturbing, and appears to be narrated by a woman who is on the verge of, if not exactly possessed by, madness. Again, the narrator is perhaps not always reliable.
Nobécourt published the sixty-page L'Équarrissage in 1997, but this is her second novel. And it's a rather odd title for what is essentially a monologue, Irène's 'interlocutor' (if in fact she is present) not saying a word: the only other words come from completely digressive asides eavesdropped from other diners and drinkers in the café where Irène is delivering her monologue.
Which may well not be spoken but just thought: perhaps Irène is just imagining a one-sided conversation with Anna, her lawyer to whom she is supposed to be speaking as she drinks more and more on the night before her trial for seriously wounding her young friend (called Rodolphe in La Démangeaison but unnamed here).
Digressive this book certainly is, although its concern with the body isn't with the itching of the psoriasis as in La Démangeaison, but mainly with sexuality, and the sex act, lust, a sexual attack on a woman, masturbation, a threesome, an abortion, etc, all thrown into the melting pot of Irène's alcoholic, bitter, obsessed mind. The people under attack are the dead, those destroyed by capitalism whose purpose is self-perpetuation by absorbing everyone else into their deadness, razing everyone to the level of a zombie.
Lorette Nobécourt has produced a terrifying novel of modern alienation, but also a profound insight into the outsider, the nay-sayer. Riddled with apparent paradox, this is a work of considerable beauty and shows a tremendous love of life. Even at this early stage of her literary career – like Irène, Nobécourt was twenty-eight – La Conversation is strong evidence of an important talent.
My other Lorette Nobécourt posts:
Lorette Nobécourt: La Démangeaison
Lorette Nobécourt: En nous la vie des morts