Friday, 6 August 2010

white [marie darrieussecq]

Although I cannot remember the details of Medem's Lovers of the Arctic Circle, I'm sure it had a fair amount in common with White. Even if White is set in the Antarctic, it's still a tale of pre-determined love coming to pass under the influence of snow and ice. Darriussecq's novel is short and filled with intimate detail: the loos which incinerate shit, the effects of the cold on human perception, the depth of the ice and the height of the ice-cap over the Antarctic soil. The two imminent lovers, Edmee and Peter, both make their own way to the ice-station, their back stories elliptically filled in, little hints of fractured histories and suggestions of lost trauma. All of which is overseen by a chorus of ghosts. Whose ghosts remains unclear: whilst details of Scott and Admundsen's missions are frequently referred to, their destiny has no impact of the protagonists, who bide their time on the base waiting for the union which the ghosts know is coming to pass.

White is poetic, romantic, pretentious in the finest of French traditions, and somewhat slight. It discloses what might be termed 'a voice': of the books I have read of late it perhaps has something in common with Pelevin's Omon Ra. It's an exploration of human behaviour under extreme conditions, and succeeds in doing this convincingly, even if the futuristic narrative already feels faintly absurd. As such, with its holophones and voyage to Mars, it might one day belong to that tradition of books which postulate a future which never came to pass.

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