17 March 2017

Patrick Varetz: Sous vide (2017)

Patrick Varetz's Sous vide (lit. 'In a Vacuum') is the third novel, after Bas monde (2012) and Petite vie (2015), to include the psychologically wounded narrator Pascal, although there is a major difference here: whereas Bas monde concerned Pascal as a baby and Petite vie concerned Pascal as a ten-year-old child, Sous vide sees him in his early thirties at the beginning of the 1990s, thus skipping him during adolescence.

And Pascal's parents Daniel and Violette exist here as memories, although their influence on the narrator is great, frequently intruding on his perception of the world: he is incapable of preventing them from colonizing, or cannibalizing, his thoughts.

Not that this perception is a mature one: the narrator has no personality, indeed is unable to construct himself. The principal positive aspect is that he rejects the violence of his father, although his counteraction is to opt for self-derision, cynicism and disillusionment, to take nothing seriously, including life and death and love. He is in a kind of interstitial life.

Varetz refers to an occasion in which, in a bus shelter in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, he found an abandoned bag of books, which as a bibliophile he had to search, and discovered Stefan Zweig's Ungeduld des Herzens (1939) translated into French as La Pitié dangereuse (and incidentally into English as Beware of Pity). This novel involves a relationship between a soldier and a handicapped young woman.

Both the narrator of Sous vide and his partner Claire are handicapped in different ways, although Claire is much more disadvantaged than the narrator. The narrator is employed by Blanc (an interesting name) as a freelance writer, and is invited to join social functions with him, in spite of the narrator being well aware of the emptiness of people getting together and drinking to hide their emptiness. Claire has a more profound psychiatric problem, clearly revealed in the final sentence of the novel, when – the couple being evicted after the narrator hasn't opened his mail for some time – she grabs a tube of benzodiazepines and succeeds in taking some capsules into her mouth, and putting others between her legs.

Patrick Varetz writes with power, and is a hugely compelling and original writer.

My other posts on Patrick Varetz:

Patrick Varetz: Petite vie

1 comment:

Adam Schürf said...

Dear Tony,
Un grand merci pour l'attention que vous portez à mon travail.
Best regards,
Patrick Varetz