24 February 2017

Violaine Bérot: Nue, sous la lune (2017)

There's a little of Auguste Rodin's relationship with Camille Claudel in Violaine Bérot's Nue, sous la lune (lit. 'Naked, under the moon'), if only in that both were sculptors in a tumultuous relationship with one another, and that Claudel became psychologically disturbed.

But there are no names in the book, the events of which take place in a contemporary setting. We learn much of her relationship with her lover, who is violent, possessive, unpredictable, manipulative, dismissive of her work, uses women as playthings, and finds any pretext for an argument.

The effect the man has on her is devastating: she feels frightened, insecure to the point of hopelessness, and dreams of a lobotomy to purge herself of him. The reader knows that she has left him before, although this time there seems to be a sense of finality to the relationship as she puts her foot down on the accelerator and believes she could drive endlessly. In fact she stops in a small unknown place and goes to sleep on a bench, only to be taken in by a speechless, kindly, elderly woman. The reader feels that this is perhaps a new beginning, a therapy in which she is in urgent need.

Unfortunately this is not to be and like a magnet she seems drawn back towards her torturer. But the sense of finality is correct though, and her tormentor's indifference leads her to a place where he can no longer harm her, as she walks away naked, abandoning herself to the total oblivion of a lake.

 Nue, sous la lune is an extremely powerful read, narrated in the first person and addressed to her lover/torturer.

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