By Thierry Jonquet
Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith
Serpent’s Tail, July 2011
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?