cover image Viviane


Julia Deck, trans. from the French by Linda Coverdale. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $19.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-59558-964-4

On the surface, Viviane Élisabeth Fauville appears unassuming: she is 42 years old, recently separated from her husband, and on maternity leave from her PR job at a Paris concrete company. In Deck’s debut, originally published by France’s prestigious Les ditions de Minuit (which seldom publishes first novels), Deck presents a protagonist who, although she blends into the commuter-clogged Metro cars and sidewalks of contemporary Paris, is struggling to make sense of her implication in her psychoanalyst’s murder. The novel filters this gruesome event through Viviane, an unreliable narrator who thinks she sees her deceased mother on sidewalks and in taxis. Meanwhile, the novel shifts from second-, to third-, to first-person, to first-person-plural narration (“There’s this child on our hands and we wonder how it happened”), suggesting that Viviane suffers from a split personality disorder. All this seems proof enough that Viviane is as guilty as she is unstable. But Deck resists closing the case, and this ambiguity, along with certain narrative techniques, like opening two consecutive chapters with almost identical sentences, create uncertainty in the reader. Deck’s novel, which was widely lauded in France, complimented by Coverdale’s unobtrusive translation, burrows deftly and unrelentingly into a troubled mind. (Apr.)