Myriam Anderson On:
George’s Wife by Véronique Bizot
Quick and glittering as a spun coin, George’s Wife turns on a mystery, an absence. It’s about a vertiginous view of what was either a tragedy or the perfect crime. The case is one of failing to aid at the scene of an accident – the legalese for the neglect of the duty to rescue those in peril. The essential human metaphor at the heart of this mock detective story. Casually sly, the story is full of sharp satire, so lightly and blamelessly done that Veronique Bizot almost seems to do it by accident, while talking of something else entirely. It’s a clever feint (against whom? the format? the reader? herself?). Prose like a card-trick, absorbing, deflecting and distracting.
And with Bizot, it’s all about that distraction, one that, paradoxically illuminates and explains.
Through the strange, watchful gaze of his wheelchair-bound neighbour, we watch a man constantly and obsessively clean the pool in which he never swims. The pool in which his wife died. A tragic mishap. All is calm and slow in the sleepy but threatening sunshine. Bizot’s prose lightly walks a tightrope of tone and mood, delicately balanced but swiftly turning, speeding and slowing, defying the possibility of a stumble. Even her punctuation brims with acrobatic archness, pointed, humorous – a flickering, teetering balance between dance and battle. In a story that is written like a sparring match. In a universe where darkness can bring light, a light that can be simultaneously merciless but comforting. It tastes like a poolside drink, a chaser of transparency to follow a slug of hard liquor (French has no word for that most necessary drink, the chaser, the drink that lubricates and justifies the previous one). Despite being French, it’s a drink that Bizot pours very well. L’chaim.