Translated from English (United States) by Jean Esch
Quai Voltaire, 320 p., €23
Alex is nothing but this acquiescence to the other’s desire. Most often from a man, whom she takes in the net of flattery for a night in a hotel, a meal in a chic restaurant, a vacation on the coast. Alex is a leggy little striker, fresh from New York, almost already faded: “She was twenty-one when she arrived in the big city. Back when she still had enough energy to use a fake name, and still believed that kind of gesture mattered, and meant that the things she was doing weren’t happening in real life. life. »
A summer on Long Island
It is because she is accustomed to all kinds of slip-ups, the pretty Alex: nail strokes on a master painting, untimely swimming with the host of a formal evening, thefts of all kinds… Persona non grata in many places, the young woman with a “borderline” personality, one would say today, addicted to analgesics, is pursued by a former lover from whom she has undoubtedly benefited more than reason. That’s what she is: a limitless brat trying to keep quiet.
Or maybe she is this lost young girl, despised by good American society who holds out an unflattering mirror at arm’s length to her detractors? She is, however, like those “tolerated but not essential, not powerful enough” children. When she meets Simon, older and very wealthy, she thinks she’s seized her chance, follows him to Long Island and, for a summer, sinks into his demands. The misstep so familiar awaits her, however. And the drift.
The Illusion of Happiness
Cutting like a thriller, direct and cold, L’Invitée is a punch in the face of propriety, of frank brutality – “The appearance of calm demanded an incessant campaign of violent interventions. A 34-year-old Californian author of exceptional maturity, Emma Cline has written several novels in which she captures the mechanics of power between men and women (1).
She recounts here with sharpness the illusion of happiness under a blazing sun, the false pretenses of all kinds of relationships and the small daily arrangements with mediocrity where the true and the illusion of the true merge: “People accepted, for the most of them to be targeted in small doses. They even seemed to expect a certain level of deception, and allowed for a tolerable margin of manipulation in their relationships. »
A fight against social disintegration
Faced with her disconcerting heroine, the ocean is there which always guides her, threatens her and soothes her – her fall is to be sought elsewhere. The soon-to-be-fallen animal locates itself in the sun, sleeps in the woods, bathes in the swimming pools of deserted resorts. And meets, from time to time, deer indifferent to his fate. Around her, “almost nothing”, incidents that give the story a disturbing halo: a stamped bumper, a cell phone that no longer lights up, an itchy eye that never goes silent…
Emma Cline does not place the reader in the footsteps of the young woman who is sinking little by little into dereliction, he installs her close to her, in the dampness of her breath. Close, too close to this lost child. No doubt L’Invitée is the furious story of a desperate fight against social disintegration. No doubt Alex is a resistance fighter, head over heels.