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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Régis Jauffret

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To purchase Lacrimosa

Title: Lacrimosa
Author: Régis Jauffret
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 222 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Lacrimosa - US
Lacrimosa - UK
Lacrimosa - Canada
Lacrimosa - Canada (French)
Lacrimosa - India
Lacrimosa - France
  • French title: Lacrimosa
  • Translated by Vineet Lal

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Our Assessment:

B : self-absorbed but reasonably compelling

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Magazine Littéraire . 28/8/2008 Minh Tran Huy

  From the Reviews:
  • "La réussite du livre de Régis Jauffret vient aussi de là: la moquerie incessante et la distance affichée, loin d’anéantir l’hommage rendu, lui donnent un extraordinaire éclat, car elles ne peuvent que s’incliner sous le coup d’une douleur et d’une émotion qu’elles épurent et magnifient dans le même temps." - Minh Tran Huy, Le Magazine Littéraire

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Lacrimosa is, like much of Jauffret's fiction, closely based on real events, but in this case the events are relatively personal, rather than sensationally public. The entire story revolves around Charlotte, a woman Jauffret knew and had a relationship with who, at age thirty-four, committed suicide. The novel takes the form of an epistolary exchange of sorts: Jauffret (the simplest way of referring to the letter-writer of the novel, obviously closely modeled on the author) writing to dear (dead) Charlotte -- and Charlotte writing back to her 'poor darling'.
       Jauffret addresses the basic problem with such an approach -- an author putting words in a dead person's mouth, so to speak -- head on, and acknowledges the artifice (and unfairness) of what he is doing. His Charlotte takes a pretty sharp tone and reminds him of the absurdity of what he is doing, a necessary tonic preventing the novel from sinking into the completely maudlin.
       Jauffret toys a bit with the 'fictionality' of his undertaking beyond its premise, too: while he begins the novel describing Charlotte's last day and her final act on 7 June 2007, he later admits: "I've been exaggerating quite a bit." Significantly, too, he reveals:

     You know as well as I do that you didn't die on 7 June but on Wednesday 21 March 2007 at seven-thirty in the morning
       This suggests he originally wanted to fictionalize the story to a greater degree, but kept being pulled back to the truth. Whether that is 'true' or not, it's an effective technique, allowing Jauffret to convince, or at least suggest more strongly to the reader that this story is 'authentic'.
       Jauffret describes and reflects upon his time together with Charlotte -- dominated by a Club Med vacation -- as well as her final act. He suggests a wayward, damaged soul, but isn't able to -- and doesn't really seem to want to -- dig too deep and understand her, and what might have led her to take her own life; a few suggestions of mental illness (including previous suicide attempts, institutionalization, and medication) ultimately seem all the explanation he can be bothered with.
       What makes the novel work, to the extent that it does, is Jauffret's style -- audacious and all over the place (if not always successful), but helpfully never sinking too deep (or for too long) in reflection and instead jumping quickly from one thing to the next -- and, ironically, his self-awareness. An approach that Marc Lévy would turn into hopelessly maudlin mush here almost never loses its edge because Jauffret is keenly aware of -- and feels a bit guilty about -- what he's doing to this poor, dead girl who can no longer speak for herself. He knows that his giving her a voice is not a tribute but a violation.
       As he has 'her' write:
     I'm not me any more. I've turned into you: a parody of myself embedded in that voice of yours, taking me out for a stroll, pushing me along like a frozen baby in a pram.
       There are weaknesses to the writing. For one, it would help if Jauffret were a more careful writer: he tends to gush -- especially when imagining Charlotte's writing -- and although the liveliness of her complaints is engaging, he too often loses the logic in his efforts to outdo himself. He also tends to get carried away by the sound of the tripping of words off his own tongue. So, for example:
     Seeing as I've only got tiny worms where my optic nerves should be, how do you expect me to consult your pile of prattle without any light ? You prattle-snake, always kipping on your keyboard, chattering, nattering with your liquid crystals that arouse you like pussies !
       Surely the absence of optic nerves precludes 'seeing' -- and hence the need for light of any sort -- in any case ..... And fun though word-play can be -- and despite translator Lal's best efforts -- it's hard not to get a sense of Jauffret often just trying too hard.
       Jauffret's writing is, in a sense, 'stylish' but certainly not to everyone's taste; to call it overblown would be putting it mildly -- yet it's an appropriate style for this kind of novel, presented in this kind of way, conversing with the dead. On some level, of course, Jauffret's treatment of the dead (and her family) is even rather offensive, but his presumptuousness, so entirely self-absorbed, makes for an oddly compelling work.
       Even Jauffret does lose it a bit in the end, getting a bit sappy -- "I chose to write because I'm no composer. A concerto would have been less vulgar, and much more elegant. A requiem would have been fitting" -- but for the most part this very odd novel is properly, weirdly balanced, and somehow works.
       Ostensibly, about his dead lover, Lacrimosa is of course entirely about Jauffret (and him-as-writer); Charlotte is a mere shade. Putting words in Charlotte's mouth does nothing to bring her to life, in either real or fictional form, but Jauffret's exercise is an intriguing one in self-reflection.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 February 2013

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Lacrimosa: Reviews: Other books by Régis Jauffret under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Régis Jauffret was born in 1955.

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© 2013 the complete review

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