cover image Incest


Christine Angot, trans. from the French by Tess Lewis. Archipelago (PRH, dist.), $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-914671-87-9

In this difficult work of autofiction—that is, stylized memoir—controversial French writer Angot recalls the “three months and change” during which she (or rather a writer and single mother also called Christine and for all purposes inseparable from the author) pursues a passionate relationship with a woman named Marie-Christine. The book opens in the aftermath of their devastating breakup and is written in a frantic prose that captures the trauma of an affair so painful that it leads to an unspecified nervous ailment over the Christmas holiday. (“Writing is impossible. When you’re not yourself. My sexuality suffered. In the beginning I was dissatisfied. Then. I wasn’t anymore.”) Searching for some foundation for her identity, Christine goes over her life and relationships, developing a taxonomy of human conditions ranging from paranoia and narcissism to suicide and perversion. At the base of all her pain is her father, who had an incestuous relationship with her when she was a teenager. As she struggles to acknowledge her father, everything else—her daughter Marie-Christine, her wild mood swings, and the mental isolation she compares to having “locked-in syndrome,” in which a person cannot speak or move, only blink their eyes—comes into sharp relief. The mind that emerges is vivid, painfully human, and indeed fascinating. That said, this is an untidy book, as Angot’s writing is as erratic as it is cathartic, covering content so personal that it can be difficult to decipher. (Nov.)