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By Thierry Jonquet

Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith  

Serpent’s Tail, July 2011

ISBN 9781846687945


This is the novel that lies at the root of Pedro Almodovar’s new film.

It is a well-constructed work, warped and weird in nature, often hilarious (if you have a dark sense of humour) and ultimately quite moving (if you have a wounded, battered heart).

When Richard Lafargue’s daughter is raped, he hatches an elaborate plan of revenge.  He hunts down her attacker (believing there to be but one) and – by using his skills as a cosmetic surgeon adept in gender reassignment – changes him into a woman.  She (once he) is then pimped out to all and sundry, including an apple-cheeked sadist, as and when the need for revenge takes hold, which is usually after Lafargue has visited his daughter in a sanctuary and come home distraught.

All very fine and dandy, and a perfect outcome in a perverse kind of a way.  For the raper has become the one who is raped.  But what complicates matters is that Lafargue begins to develop feelings for this woman he has created….  And there’s a further complication: a bank robber on the run seeks out Lafargue, believing that as a cosmetic surgeon he can give him a new face and a ticket to freedom.

Thierry Jonquet’s novel owes a little something to David Goodis’ Dark Passage, but it is probably best seen as a neo-noir reworking of a Symbolist tradition best exemplified by Rachilde’s Monsieur Venus or even Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s The Future Eve.  (Lafargue calls his new creation Eve, incidentally.)  As a yarn, it is both crazy and yet somehow psychologically plausible; it has a kind of warped logic.  What starts out as a tale of rape and revenge segues into pity, forgiveness and love.  The secrets that bind lovers together: both have been abusers, both have suffered from abuse.

An extraordinary novel by Jonquet, now what kind of film will Almodovar make of it?