The Truth About Marie

By Jean-Phillippe Toussaint (Dalkey Archive)

That The Truth About Marie is beautifully written is no surprise. Toussaint is known as a writer with a gift for drawn-out, visceral scene-setting. This offering has three of them: one in which eroticism is shattered into panic and whitewashed by clinicians; a middle act in which a frightened horse transforms Japanese airport efficiency into a confused mosaic; and the final act, wherein an awkward reunion is literally engulfed by flames. The seemingly disparate events are tied together by Marie and her lovestruck narrator’s imaginative and voyeuristic tendencies. We learn little of these characters, other than that one is insouciant and the other has a subtle, even dull, charm. The scenes are dramatic and powerful, but it’s hard to sympathize or feel attached to the characters (with the possible exception of the horses). In the end the experience is an enjoyable lesson in descriptive writing.

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