cover image My Phantom Husband

My Phantom Husband

Marie Darrieussecq. New Press, $19.95 (154pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-538-1

It was physics, the physics of the moment, and also the physics that describes the laws of memory, absence, and disappearances, explains the narrator of this small gem of a novel. Darrieussecq (Pig Tales) follows a French woman as she falls into a surrealistic gap after her realtor husband goes out for a loaf of bread and doesnt come home. At first she expects his imminent return. Then, in growing alarm, she calls the police, then her mother-in-law, her mother and her friend Jacqueline. The police are polite but evasive: runaway men, they suggest, frequently fail to return, or else return washed up on a beach, devoured by little sea animals. Darrieusecqs narrator (never named) goes through the motions of her daily life, muses on her failure to be a caring and fruitful wife, and enters a suspended animation born of waiting. Like rising waters, her unconscious floods her life with vivid sea images and life simplified almost to cells breaking: from now on anything was possible, eclipses, poltergeists, the projection of black holes even into private domiciles. She returns to a sort of sanity through the strong, healing touch of a Youangui masseuse. After more enticingly fluid digressions on the nature of consciousness, and on the unavoidable distance between any two people (even lovers), the husband returns: what will she do now? Tender, extraordinarily nuanced and very French, this novel looks at the world of love like a drop of rainwater under a microscope. Allens translation produces sinuous, intricate sentences, fitting for the shifting dimensions of erotic phenomenology and gentle tragedy that this intense, essayistic novel inhabits. (May)