Losing Eugenio

Genevieve Brisac, Author, J. A. Underwood, Translator Marion Boyars Publishers $14.95 (157p) ISBN 978-0-7145-3049-9
First published five years ago in France, Brisac's tale of feminine melancholy has now made its way to the States. Set in contemporary Paris, the novel explores the inner life of a single mother, Nouk, who abandons her brief but celebrated career as an artist in fleeing her husband and her settled world. Now determined to lead a life without men, she attempts to anchor her tenuous existence to her reluctant child, Eugenio, a boy of perhaps 10, but she is terrified of failing him. ""Only dead mothers, I sometimes caught myself thinking, do no harm."" She seeks refuge in a dull job at an obscure research library, where her colleagues are all women, absorbed in their own miseries and fantasies. Easily subdued, Nouk suffers at the hands of her co-workers and other women who profess to be her friends but are manipulative harridans. Eventually, her husband appears (summoned by the most awful of Nouk's various awful friends), and even Eugenio abandons her as he flies into his father's arms. Brisac's plot is desultory; the book's strength lies in its lyrical prose, beautifully translated. Nouk narrates her own decline with elegiac beauty and detached awareness of her plight. In a characteristic passage, she sits leafing through an album of old photos: ""Nothing ever happened the way photos tell it, and yet, one day, what we remember is the photos... Photos are the lie that wins without a fight."" Nouk, at least, is no fighter. In our last glimpse of her, she has filled her pockets full of rocks--Brisac's nod to Virginia Woolf--and is headed for deep water. This feminist dystopia is so self-effacing it nearly erases itself, but Brisac is a fine writer and her novel is elegant narrative art. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 07/03/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
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