13 December 2015

Régis Jauffret: Sévère (2010)

Regis Jauffret's Sévère clearly states that it is a novel, and it even has a Prologue (or Préambule) which is a disclaimer: Jauffret is a novelist, therefore a liar, no one in a novel has ever existed, its characters are puppets full of words, spaces, commas, with syntax for skin, they are imaginary, the author has invented them, people who recognise anyone should run the bath, stick their head in the water and hear their hearts beat. The book mentions no names, apart from the insignificant obese plane flight companion of the female narrator's, who in return gives him the false name of Betty.

And yet the Stern family attacked the book: the story of the sado-masochist in it, murdered by his friend while he was in a latex suit, was too close for comfort to the real-life Édouard Stern (1954–2005), who was murdered by his friend Cécile Brossard. Many noted French authors signed a petition against the family's actions, and these are just a sample: Virginie Despentes, Christine Angot, Pierre Guyotat, Philippe Djian, Jonathan Littell, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Philippe Sollers, Michel Houellebecq, Sophie Calle, Eric Reinhardt, Marie Darrieussecq, Emmanuel Carrère, Atiq Rahimi, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Catherine Millet, Matthias Enard, Annette Messager, Claude Lévêque, Nicolas Fargues, Yannick Haenel, Elisabeth Roudinesco, Frédéric Beigbeder.

The novel weaves in and out of past and present time, near beginning with the female murderer briefly going to her place and leaving her nonplussed 'husband' – they had a 'wedding' in LA which wasn't a real one – as she gets in a taxi to leave for Milan, and then catches flights to Sidney, from where she quickly flies back, taking champagne and pills throughout the journeys to steady herself before she sort of gives herself up, is found guilty and imprisoned for murder.

In between the bare bones of this plot we learn small and large snippets about the man she's murdered, of his love of women and men, his great wealth, his love of killing animals, his various fetichisms (such as gaining sexual satisfaction from making people suffer), and his conviction that he will be killed shortly, so hiding weapons everywhere. It might not – in fact it certainly isn't – be Jauffret's best book, but it's a relatively short and powerful read.

My other posts on Régis Jauffret:

Régis Jauffret: Claustria
Régis Jauffret: Lacrimosa

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