The Possession
Annie Ernaux
Anna Moschovakis,

(Seven Stories Press)
Well, love has gone --- she dumped him, "as much out of boredom as from an inability to give up my freedom." But then he moves in with another woman. And jealousy is born: "That with all the possibilities available to a man in his thirties he would choose a woman of forty-seven was intolerable to me."

    I saw in this choice the clear proof that he had loved me not as the singular being I'd believed I was.

She's an older woman ... let's call her Annie. She starts spending her days trying to find out the name of the other lady, trying to find out where she works, trying to discover how she lives. She plots confrontations, thinks up vile telephone calls that will build on her imagined competition's fear. She worries about what she is going to say to this guy when they next meet (for he continues to call her, meet with her, give her presents):

    My one source of pleasure was to imagine the other woman finding out he still saw me --- that he'd just, for example, given me bra and g-string for my birthday.

"I bathed in the bliss of truth being revealed. Finally, suffering had switched bodies. I temporarily relieved my own pain by imagining hers."

§     §     §

This love business! We have often suggested that what the Latinos call "la pena de amor" comes to us from outer space. William Burroughs claimed that words were a virus that had infiltrated us from other worlds; he saw too that love, lust, sex, passion are a poison that infects all but the most stout-hearted ... or oblivious. Or dead.

Annie is a professor in Paris; she has Jane Eyre on her bedtable, can quote from Paul Verlaine's "Nuit du Walpurgis classique." She is obviously no boobie. Yet she lets this creepy emotional dwid dandle her like a toy, continually dropping hints about his new life with his new (older) woman. Finally, after a visit with him in a café, she says, "It was every café in my life where I had been sad because of a man."

This love stuff --- at least as we find it in Possession, is from the Blackest Hole of Outer Space. We see Annie driven all too far; but, then, in a moment of sanity, she leaves a message on his machine: "I don't want to see you anymore." She tells the reader, "I no longer have any desire to find out the name of the other woman." But,

    warning: I will decline up-front the solicitude of any potential informers.

Tell me that this is not from the edge of the universe. It's certainly not from Mars, nor, indeed, from Venus.

--- Lolita Lark
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