Danièle Sallenave: La vie fantôme (Phantom Life)


The latest addition to my website is Danièle Sallenave‘s La vie fantôme (Phantom Life). This is the story of a conventional love affair. He (Pierre) is married, with two children, and works as a school teacher in the school where he himself was taught. She (Laure) is single and a librarian. The affair has been going on for four years when the books starts and despite the fact that it is a small town and several people know – he has told a few friends and his father-in-law has discovered it, while she has told her best friend, Ghislaine – Annie, Pierre’s wife, still knows nothing. Sallenave beautifully dissects the affair. Both are very conventional, liking the easy, straightforward life. He is looking for a bit of sex and passion in his life, while she is looking for a bit of love, romance and passion in hers, but neither seems to want to take it much further, despite the fact that Sallenave cleverly shows their occasional discomfort with the status quo. We see their various ways of accommodating the affair, particularly with Laure having to make most of the adaptation to Pierre’s marriage and job, not always willingly. Sallenave makes sure that we are aware that both are ordinary people but their ordinary affair in an ordinary town becomes interesting as their ordinariness is challenged by the affair. This is the only book by Sallenave to be translated into English and though it is out of print, it is not difficult to obtain second-hand from the usual sources.

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