Tranquil love is not love. The tranquillity of a bear at rest is not true tranquillity. Everything is the bear in motion, dialectical, and every has consequences. Indeed.
– Qiu Miaojin (Last Words from Montmartre, p. 94)
The novel is made up of a series of the sort of letters it is generally not prudent to send. Break-up letters: familiar, contradictory, unpleasant. I need you. I detest you. Thank you. How could you? Desire is this. Desire is also that. You are this. I am that. You cheated on me. Other people desire me even if you do not: here’s a list. I am a collection of traits that I am pretending are negative but are really positive evidence of my genius and sensitivity. What about our pet rabbit that died? Wasn’t that sad?
The overall picture is of a muddled personality, inconsistent, angry, confused – the newly born woman lingering on the threshold between choosing to live and choosing to die. One sees hints of how the narrator appears to her community, and it doesn’t match the anguished well of feeling presented to the various recipients of the letters. The sequence of letters – aleatoric – reveal a powerful, uneasy vision of belonging and alienation, in personal relationships, in communities, and within one’s own self.1
- In short, I did not like it.