8 October 2016

Julia Deck: Le Triangle d'hiver (2014)

This is Julia Deck's second novel, again (as with Viviane Élizabeth Fauville (2012)) concerned with identity, madness and lies in a woman. There's much play here on names, such as the title Le Triangle d'hiver, or 'The Winter Triangle', which is the title of three stars, one being Sirius. Sirius is also the name of a ship skippered by the man the protagonist Mademoiselle (whose real name we don't know) gets drunk and sleeps with and robs of three hundred euros. She then takes the train to Saint-Lazare, métro to Montparnasse, and continues by train to Saint-Nazaire, one of a triangle of ports (the next being Marseille) she visits, all associated with the boat Sirius.

Well, she had to leave, having got the sack after menacing the head of the kitchenware department with an electric blender: she's single and therefore can't take the summer holidays as the married staff can. Plus, she's up to her pretty neck in debt. (I don't use 'pretty' as a sexist term: her prettiness is what she uses to scoop men into her web.) Whatever her real name is, she's decided that she going to re-construct herself (as Le Havre, for instance, re-constructed itself after the war), call herself Bérénice Beaurivage, after the rather obscure Rohmer film L'Arbre, le Maire et la Médiathèque (1993), in which Arielle Dombasle (with whom Mademoiselle shares much more than a passing resemblance) plays the fictional author Beaurivage.

So when the newly-named Bérénice Beaurivage meets Inspecteur (of ships) in Saint-Nazaire, has sex with him and lives and sponges off him, he's of course not aware of her past. Although he begins to have a number of suspicions, enquires if the local library has hear of her, is surprised that Bérénice doesn't use a computer or ever contact anyone, and she never seems to pay for anything. While he's working though, Bérénice is stealing money from people's wallets, stealing clothes to give a semblance of respectability, etc. But the journalist Blandine Lenoir is friends with him too, she also suspects Bérénice isn't who she says she is, and so we have another triangle. And of course there's another fictional triangle: that in Racine's Bérénice, the play Mademoiselle stole from the train station in Montparnasse and mentions several times.

Mademoiselle learns that the boat Sirius is going to Marseille, and so is Inspecteur, who claims he's surprised that she too wants to go there. But the relationship is falling apart, too many things don't gel for Inspecteur, who takes time off to search for his mysterious lover (who has said nothing of her past) on the internet, and finds nothing. She's obviously been lying to him. He moves on to Paris and to new accommodation, having Mademoiselle sleep on the couch and keeps hoping she'll go away. In the end he manages to get rid of her by giving her two thousand euros and a one-way ticket back to Le Havre.

And so we come full circle, or maybe just begin again, endlessly recycling. Sirius went down off the coast of Marseille, but there's a sister ship Procyon in Le Havre, named after another point of the celestial triangle: interestingly, Betelgeuse is the third major star, and Beetlejuice is of course the title of the Tim Burton film. And although Mademoiselle's going through the job routine, she's thinking of a new identity: she is very taken by the name Blanche Lenoir, the name of another character (played by Clémentine Amouroux) in L'Arbre, le Maire et la Médiathèque. She thinks that name would suit her perfectly.

Link to my other Julia Deck post:

Julia Deck: Vivian Élizabeth Fauville

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