11 March 2017

Patrick Varetz: Petite vie (2015)

Petite vie has the same principal characters as the first part of this trilogy, Bas monde: the narrator Pascal, the violent husband Daniel, the half-mad mother Violette, the sinister doctor Caudron, and the dominant nurse grandmother. Violence is still a part of everyday life, although ten years have passed.

Pascal is now ten years old and witnesses his mother nearly overdosing on prescription medicine, and his father sent to hospital. The family now live in a much bigger house provided by the grandmother, the radio (a symbol of consumer society) has been replaced by the television, which displays images of the events of May 1968, one effect of which means that Pascal doesn't have to go to school.

This is also a story of education, with Pascal's barely literate father pushing his son to high achievement at school; his mother giving him a (slightly) transgressive sexual education; and Pascal and his peers beginning their first (sometimes reluctant) sexual discoveries of their own.

Part of Varetz's inspiration came from Nicholas Ray's movie Bigger than Life (1950), starring James Mason as a schoolteacher with arterial problems who is experimented on by a doctor who gives him cortisone, resulting in his abuse of it, which makes him violent.

Not enough readers are aware of Varetz's unusual work, although the current literary review Le Matricule des anges prominently features his now heavily bearded face on the front page with a sizeable article on him inside.

My other posts on Patrick Varetz:

Patrick Varetz: Bas monde

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