Jealousy by Catherine Millet
22nd Apr 2010
Fast-forward several years, and Millet’s next book, Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M, has received similar mixed reviews. In it, Millet documents her discovery that her long-term partner, poet and novelist Jacques Henric, also had numerous other lovers. The resulting text is an uncomfortably dense, richly-textured tapestry documenting her systematic estrangement from Jacques and their previous daily routines.
By ruthlessly detailing her own emotional reactions, Jealousy becomes a commentary on the relationship between sex and sentimentality, societal stereotypes of adultery, romance and monogamy. She dissects the cultural and behavioural conventions associated with sexuality, and continuously returns to themes such as memory, disease, voyeurism, masturbation and the impact on identity of intimate relationships and secrecy within them.
As with with The Sexual Life…, Catherine’s writing style is analytical; she is acutely conscious of her emotional and physical responses to situations, and describes them with mechanical lucidity, even when the responses themselves are far from rational. She describes the anxiety, panic and insecurity provoked by her discovery of Jacques’ affairs (episodes she and Jacques collectively nickname ‘the crises’) in blank reportage, evoking a strange disconnection between the cold and clinical narrative tone and the accusations, paranoia and paralysis she recounts.
Although at times Jealousy smacks of tedious self-indulgence, overall it’s an engrossing (if occasionally irritating) insight into the mindset of one of France’s most intriguing female authors. Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M was published towards the end of 2009 by Serpent’s Tail. It’s £5.56, from Amazon.
Post by Jane Bradley