Do you know what Alzheimer’s says to you?


The writer Emmanuelle Pirotte, in 2017. LEONARDO CENDAMO/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

“Flamboyant twilight of an old conformist”, by Emmanuelle Pirotte, Cherche Midi, 160 p., €18.50, digital €12.

The narrator of the new novel by Belgian historian, screenwriter and writer Emmanuelle Pirotte is doing housework, but not the one you think. What she bricks, scrapes and destroys is her own existence, in order to scour away the cowardice, the lies, which were “the udders of [s]we destiny ». To face Alzheimer’s disease, diagnosed six months earlier, she throws it in our faces: she will look elsewhere if she is there. Fold her umbrella, close up shop, whatever costume she will wear for her suicide – she has not yet made her choice – the deadline is final. The novel flows in this narrow channel, between Monday and Wednesday: the day after tomorrow, at 8 p.m., the voice which engulfs us in its gall will self-destruct.

Before leaving this cesspool that is the world, “old town” of 81 years old speaks to him. It is to a self-cleaning household that she delivers herself, conveying, in the ebbs of her vociferation, an indictment of which she is the first target. The quarrel is wildly arrested to investigate the trial of the woman she was, she who lived with a man “died before even being born”. Two of his three children, according to him, are superfluous: “Catherine and John might not have been born. » In addition to the reader, the old lady takes a passing cat as her confidant. He will be his “ultimate companion”.

When it’s time to bow out, the boundaries between her and the world become porous. She speaks to herself in the second person: a slow exit from her body, to go to the world, to better contemplate her rottenness. “disgusting old woman” who turned his back on the truth, “lied to those who were dear to him”. More, perhaps, than through the content of these belchings, the novel moves by putting into words a progressive erasure. The contours of his person become blurred. As the illness gains ground, the soliloquy breaks down, and lays bare the gaps: the ” old nanny-goat “ repeats things that she forgot she had already told us; she throws away her things, “ignoble relics” who remind him of what they, the old people of the West, have inflicted on the planet, but forgets his action. Will she go so far as to forget to kill herself?

The narrative is torn apart before our eyes. What gives this monologue its verve, its negating verve, its rogue and desperate drollery, is at the same time the sign of the woman who spits it getting off the road. The heroine hits the mark, but we witness the collapse of her conscience. If his surly lucidity carries far, trampling on the respectability and indifference that governed his bourgeois life, we also know that the lifting of inhibitions is a stigma of the disease. The juice of the novel therefore echoes, for the one who makes it her outlet, at the beginning of the end, the foot that she already has in the grave. It is at the bottom of this pit that reading is lost. Until the narrator admits to being “evil by nature”that ” It is [s]stupidity that makes [d’elle] a ringworm”… We are reassured.



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