The narrator is falling out from a torrential relationship with another woman. Delirious with love and yearning, her thoughts grow increasingly cyclical and wild, until exposing the trauma lying behind her pain. With the intimacy offered by a confession, the narrator embarks on a psychoanalysis of herself, giving the reader entry into her tangled experiences with homosexuality, paranoia, and, at the core of it all, incest. In a masterful translation from the French by Tess Lewis, Christine Angot's Incest audaciously confronts its readers with one of our greatest taboos.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 6.40(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
TRANSLATOR: Tess Lewis is a translator from German and French and an Advisory Editor of The Hudson Review. She has been awarded translation grants from PEN America and PEN UK, an NEA Translation Fellowship, and a Max Geilinger Translation Grant for her translation of Philippe Jaccottet.
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No Man's Land
I was homosexual for three months. More precisely, for three months I thought I was condemned to be homosexual. I really had caught it, I wasn't imagining things. The test results were positive. I'd become attached. Not the first few times. It was the looks she gave. I started on a process, one of collapse. In which I couldn't recognize myself. It wasn't my story anymore. It wasn't me. Still, as soon as I saw her, the test results were the same. I was homosexual the moment I saw her. Things turned back into me afterwards. Whenever she was gone. Other times, even in her presence, I was myself again. I missed my daughter so much on trips, when I was away for longer stretches, three or four days. The feeling of betraying the only one I truly love. To whom I'd dedicated all my books. Writing is impossible. When you're not yourself. My sexuality suffered. In the beginning I was dissatisfied. Then. I wasn't anymore. I was less and less. Except for one thing (I'll get to it later), that I never enjoyed doing. Something specific, that involves all the rest. Except for once, I remember. I never did it, so to speak. I had become one hundred percent homosexual apart from that. Apparently. The moment I saw her. But for this detail. Remaining fundamentally and profoundly heterosexual all the while. (But, without theory.) One detail that spared me. Otherwise I was completely homosexual. For a short time, but still, three months. There were no men at all in my fantasies, on the contrary, there were women rivals. I was on the sidelines, they were rivals with each other. I was fascinated by homosexuality. No one is fascinated by themselves, I wasn't homosexual. And yet. I ended up feeling an enormous desire. As soon as I saw her arriving, I was caught. Even now, I still have to. Even at this very moment. Have to stop myself from calling her. Calling her at work, that's my specialty. It amused her at first. All the "quick calls." The secretary knew my voice. Of course. Right away. The secretaries recognize my voice. Right away, they know it's Christine. I keep at it, I'm relentless. I make it clear, I'm not embarrassed. The weapon turns against me sooner or later. I use it. My former editor used to say "she's a serial killer." I want to call him too sometimes. My father has Alzheimer's, typical, I call others. I telephone. Her, I can't count the number of times. I call again. I hang up. I call back to say, "above all, don't call me again." "I don't want to hear from you anymore." I don't get a call. I telephone again. I say "you could have called me back. So you weren't going to call, hunh? You don't have the guts! To do the opposite of what I tell you for once. When you know perfectly well ... it's not what I wanted. You know it's not true, what I say. Not what I want. But the opposite. After three months, you still haven't figured it out. You know that's how it is. And if you don't, well then." Behaving like a baby. I'm perfectly aware. Not at first, though it was normal to call her at work ten times in an hour. She claims she loves me. For a blown light bulb, an empty ink cartridge, a fax that won't go through, to read her what I've just written over the phone, for some anxiety attack coming on. Etc. Dinner, do you love me, and I forgot to tell you, I thought to myself, I'll call her or I'll have forgotten again by this evening. At first, it comes off well, she likes it, it's spontaneous, it's a change. Serial killer, it's part of my charm. I tell her she's a coward. She tells me I'm crazy. A lack of balance doesn't scare me, there are others who can't cope. Like her. People like her. Wo have limits. I have none. Her, she has them. Me, I don't. She can't stand it. When things get so ... neurotic. I get called insane. Several times. Don't take it as an indictment, you've got reasons, it's just an observation. Some people have limits, you have none. But still, I'm suffering. She can't take it anymore. She has her limits. Who could? I hang up. I pass the mirror. Despite my face being all flushed, I think I look pretty good. I say to myself, "I'm worth more than this." I don't call her back. I say to myself "I'm not going to call her." I say to myself "how dare she. ten years older than I am. and not all that attractive." I lie down. Time to move on to something else. There are other things in life than calling Mademoiselle. I decide to read. I like reading. This doesn't interest me. Coeur furieux, my heart is even more furious. I close the book and try to watch The Last Temptation of Christ. After five minutes I stretch out on the sofa and weep. I don't just shed a few tears. Pretty soon it's unbearable. I wonder who to call. Who to talk to about this. What number to dial to start sobbing right after "hello" and then "what's the matter?" How many phone numbers before coming to my senses again? There are always offers. "If things aren't going well, call me." No, her. To see if she loves me to exhaustion, as she claims.
If not, then really! "I'd do anything for you," but not take two hundred phone calls. Right now, this minute! At her place, at work, at the hospital, with a patient in front of her. And then. I don't call her again. I'm relieved, I'm finally free. Phew, I even say it out loud. I say phew. I pick up the phone and put it on my stomach. I tell myself that it doesn't mean anything, there's no reason I can't have it on my stomach. The remote control is on the ground and still I'm not watching television. So there! Just because the telephone is on my stomach, doesn't mean I'm going to call. It's absurd! I'm so much better off without her. I'm not going to go and call her now, just when I'm starting to calm down. Besides, I have nothing to say. Not a thing. Phew. Really, phew. I didn't want to. I was never homosexual. I was never interested in breasts. Mine included. We finally undressed one day. She said "touch me." "Never." I'll never be able to. I told her, I remember, even though it was a long time ago, "your breasts bother me." She said "well just your luck, they're very small." That's just it! as long as I'm at it, I'd have preferred they were bigger. When she said "touch me," that's not what she was talking about. When someone says touch me ... Fine, I put my finger in. You never get a chance to touch something like that otherwise. Léonore has a book about touching called Feely Bugs in the 'Touch and Feel' series. There's nothing like this in it. Not the plush bug, the one with feathers, with lace, or, of course, the leather one, or the lamé one, or the very soft bug, the carpet bug, the sticky bug, the padded bug, the velvet bug or the bug with pleats, or the scratchy one, or the candy wrapper butterflies she collects. When I felt how slimy it was! I pulled back my hand. It's peculiar. Too peculiar. It was the look she gave me. Even now, I have to keep from thinking of her eyes. I'm still vulnerable. Her look is terrible. For me. No one had told her that before. It seems. Sous-au-cun-pré-tex-te. Je-ne-veux. Devanttoi-surex. Poser-mes-yeux. (Under-no-circumstances. Do-I-want. To-over-expose. My-eyes-in-front-of-you.) She sings that sometimes. The phone is in the other room. I'm calm. Right here, right now. It's more dangerous when it's on my stomach. Within reach. I must have really bothered her at work, the number of times I called. Up to a hundred times in a day. I can't count any more. Sobbing or cold as ice, "you're hopeless, you poor thing, you poor, poor thing, but poor thing, your medical license should be revoked for failure to provide assistance to someone at risk. What a sham, not a shred of humanity. For someone who's suffering" ... "OK, you want to be friends, I'm calling as a friend, come over." She didn't come. "In any case, we can never be friends, we're not going to see each other any more, it's perfectly clear, besides sex, did anything ever work between us, more or less - and even then? Take care of yourself, sweetheart, keep an eye on your little savings. When you can't, you can't, isn't that right? We can't. Take care, take good care, get some rest, yes, you're tired, my love, get some rest and keep watch over what little capital you have, so it stays untouched. For your legacy when you die. When you're dead. For your family." An allusion to the will she wrote when she was eight. Pitou to my godmother. My rabbits to Mama as long as they won't be killed. My desk to Papa. My books to my cousins. My toys to poor children. My clothes to Françoise. I want to calm down. Take this damn phone off my stomach. I eject the tape of The Last Temptation of Christ and put in Deleuze's ABC Primer, at least I won't waste my time. Not my time, there's that. Letter B, boisson, drink. I don't call. Deleuze immediately raises the bar. Oh yes, I drank a lot. I stopped. Drinking is a question of quantity. You don't drink just anything, everyone has their favorite drink, the quantity is set. Alcoholics and drug addicts are often ridiculed. Because 'Oh, me, I can stop when I want.' This is the last. The last phone call, the last, the very last. Before becoming completely disgusted with it. With calling. Given the answers. When I want to stop, I do. Next Saturday when I'm back in Paris, this afternoon, I already stopped a long time ago in my head. With her. The only woman I love is Léonore, not her. But I can't dedicate this one to you, sweetheart. Sweetheart, I used to call you. Even if I've stopped now. Calling. I knew I could stop when I wanted to. I stopped a long time ago in my head. And Friday, too bad, I'll go to Nîmes by myself. We were supposed to go together. I'll take the train, I reserved a hotel room. I've stopped. Today, in a half hour, right away, already done, I'm done calling. If she called me, she'd regret it. She won't do it, she wouldn't dare. And if she does, she'll regret it. I know how to destroy people. I'll write her, it's more certain. So that she won't call me anymore. Finally. Phew. Besides, I'll take her the letter myself, right now. In person and put it into her own hands. Unless I send a courier. To show her I didn't come up with this pretext just to see her. Something that might seem like a pretext in her eyes, her beautiful eyes. I'm not going to shell out 200 francs for that girl. I'll take it myself. The letter. Written on stationery from the Gramercy Park Hotel. Where we were so happy, barely three weeks ago. Happy, well, as for me, not always. I missed Léonore so much by the third day, I became myself again.
I cried in secret. When she was in the shower I called Claude to get news. For two days I stopped being homosexual. I kicked her out of my bed. I never talked about it because I knew it was temporary. So now I take the stationery, the envelope and a page. I cross out the letterhead. And I sign it ironically "your little angel!" But she couldn't care less that I'm upset. All she wanted: for me to calm down. I took the letter to her office. I ran. I left Léonore playing, watched by her friend's mother. I'd taken her out of school, I was anxious, I left. I left her with one of her friends' mothers, I don't remember which. One of the ones always sitting on the benches. It was hot out, I arrived covered in sweat, I was dripping. For forty-eight hours, it was only by running that I could keep it more or less together. She laughed and said "see you Saturday," to calm me down. I'd found her in the X-ray room, developing some images. At her practice. But in person. In the little darkroom. Yes, I know, I know I'm all sweaty. And I'd like, if possible, if it's not asking too much, I know there are patients waiting in the next room, for her to read it in front of me. I don't want to give it to the receptionist. I want to see her. Her. I want to be certain she receives it, in her own hands, right away. That she realize this time, it's over, I'm done, finished. I ask her, in addition, to please not try to call me again, there's no point. I don't want her to. I left at a run, I arrived bathed in sweat, I ran everywhere for two days. The phone calls were rushed, the letters urgent. To get to the final letter, the final phone call, as quickly as possible. And to the last kiss, still, you can kiss me. As quickly as possible. The last water lily, the last look. I turn on the answering machine, I filter the calls, I won't answer if it's her, so there! People make fun of alcoholics because they don't understand. They want to get to the last glass, to do whatever it takes, an alcoholic never stops stopping. Getting to the last glass. A little like Péguy's phrase, which is so lovely. I'm giving a source because there should be only one author for each phrase. Péguy, Guibert, a woman. Even if I'm at my last glass, long since drunk. Even if I'm going to Nîmes alone on Friday. I reserved a room near the Jardins de la Fontaine, I'll take the train back the next day. The little writer recounts his little life. Thibaudet. It's true that her look is terrible. A little like Péguy's phrase, which is so lovely. It's not the last water lily that repeats the first, it's the first that repeats all the rest and the last. The first glance, the first water lily, the first phone call, and the first glass, it's the last one that counts. The alcoholic who gets up is intent on the last glass. The first eyes, the very last. The last one: he assesses. What he can hold without collapsing until the last one. Sweetheart, Three fifteen, I've taken Pitou for a walk honey I love you MCA. I haven't yet decided if I'll call her X, anonymous, MCA, or her full name. Sweetheart, three fifteen. Not the last glass, but the next to last, the penultimate one before starting again the next day, "alright, this one's the last," groups of alcoholics in cafés are amusing. The last water lily repeats the first, it never gets boring. You quit if it's dangerous, if it becomes dangerous. But if it doesn't keep you from working, if it's a stimulant, then sacrificing your body is normal. For something that helps. Helps you bear something else. Something you couldn't endure without alcohol. To touch, to stick your finger in, turn it, take it out again, put it in your mouth, make the vagina's wetness go into the anus, what you can't bear isn't that, but what you saw one Sunday, in broad daylight, the light was streaming in through the wide-open bay window, I was looking at her sex, the day before I'd read excerpts from Desert Flower, by an infibulated African woman, you could cut it off, I said to myself, with a razor, with scissors, sew it back up, cut the threads, etc. Not randomly. You could remove the little nub of flesh, slick with a thick rain. What you saw of life in the middle of the afternoon one Sunday or in the desert, remove her flesh where it flows that MCA loves CA. I decided not to think about it anymore. Not to ask her "you know what I was just thinking?" But to calm the wound by licking it gently as long as there was still time. The open water lily also repeats itself on my daughter, I can't calm anyone. Don't think about it anymore. I said "loving someone is horrible." She said "no, what's horrible is when someone is torn away from you." And I answered "exactly." Your own self is torn away. I almost never did it. Covered with this greasy rain, I just felt too strange. I said to myself "if anyone saw me ..." no one saw me. Drinking, to get control, I had to call her two hundred times in those anxious days. It's normal. And at night. You stop, that's it. It happened yesterday. I stopped it all. I don't call anymore, I don't love her anymore. If, at least, it had helped me work, even if there was a physical cost. But the last forty-eight hours, I spent them crying, telephoning, running around, delivering letters, running to get a taxi, the taxi wasn't going fast enough. I stopped, but not on my own: she said stop. She couldn't take it anymore either. I begged her for one last weekend. To do the thing I never do, to lick, I can say it, I hoped to be revolted by it for good. She didn't want to make love at all. She's here, she just got up. We'll be friends. Friends. Platonic love. In the beginning I was the one who wanted this. You get caught up in contradictory things. In my own interest. I pretended. The first time I saw her, I thought she was ugly, a skinny little brunette.
Excerpted from "Incest"
Copyright © 1999 Christine Angot.
Excerpted by permission of archipelago books.
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