I see this book as a work of art, it is not something that I enjoyed reading. Yet, I feel that books like this HAVE to be written to keep the landscape of modern literature fresh, live and moving forward.
Angot here handles the taboo of incest in shocking prose and there were times when I did feel physically sick. This is the first time I have come across “autofiction”, which I gather is very popular in French literature and I find it hard to understand.
The book itself starts off with the narrator just coming out of a tumultuous relationship with a woman. She describes herself as “homosexual for three months”. We first enter the narrators mind as she is deep in a period of self-claimed insanity. Her writing reflects this absolutely. There are times when the sentences make no sense, she repeats words at random and flits between certain characters, such as her ex-lover, her daughter, her husband and her friends so quickly you can’t tell who is who. While this was very difficult to read, I thought it an effective tool for understanding the mental and emotional turmoil she was going through.
You eventually reach a clearing in her writing where things start to make a little more sense, she recognises that she has been or is insane or experienced periods of insanity and as she reflects on what has made her like this you delve deeper and deeper into her psyche. Until finally you reach the centre and start of everything – an incestuous relationship with her father from ages fourteen to sixteen.
Now this was not incest, this was sexual abuse by her father. The scenes described are shocking, sickening and heart-breaking. The worst thing is that the narrator has actually managed to convince herself that what happened WAS incest – that she is some way seduced her father, that she was an equal part of what happened. Which just isn’t true. It can’t be true. My interpretation of the novel is that this belief has shaped the rest of her life and relationships.
Now, when I think of “autofiction” in these terms. If what happened with her father is actually true, I don’t know what or how things hadn’t been dealt with differently. The narrator tells all her sexual partners what happened with her father and somehow they manage to be OK with this, some even talk to and have their own relationships with her father. There was even one scene where she actually gives a hand job to her boyfriend and her father in the cinema at the same time!
While I appreciate the raw awfulness in this art form, I just don’t think I can stomach it enough to say I liked it. Although, maybe this says more about me than the book itself.
Kudos to the translator who was able to convert this into English.
About the Author
Christine Angot is one of the most controversial authors writing today in France. Born in 1958 in Châteauroux, Angot studied law at the University of Reims and began writing at the age of 25. After six years of rejections, Angot published her first novel, Vu du ciel, the story of woman named Christine told from the perspective of an angel who died after being raped as a little girl. Her subsequent novels have dealt with a variety of taboo topics, including homosexuality, incest, and sexual violence, and have continually blurred the line between autobiography and fiction. Ever since gaining widespread notoriety with the 1999 publication of Incest, Angot has remained at the centre of public debate and has continued to push the boundaries of what society allows an author to express.
Incest is released by Archipelago Books on 9th November 2017.
Thanks for reading.