My Life as a Void
Number of pages
As far back as I can remember, I waited for him sitting, chin on my knees, arms wrapped around my legs, my back leaning against the cupboard door. I counted to twenty, heard the hum of the elevator six floors below, and the clicking sound when he pushed the old black buttons.
—from L’enfant rien
This is the trenchant first-person account of the child Adrien’s lonely housebound excuse of an existence. Adrien’s mother, paralyzed by grief, spends her days watching television in tears, and answering all of Adrien’s questions with the same three words: I don’t know. Her latest husband and the father of Adrien’s half-sister, Isabelle, left when he found out she was expecting Adrien—and he was not the father. Adrien’s own father never recognized him and is listed on his birth certificate as “neant” or “void.”
Into this emotional vacuum, with painful predictability, comes the only person Adrien believes could love him, the only father possible: Isabelle’s father, whom he calls Lucky Luke. Adrien dreams that someday Lucky Luke will take him away for the weekend, too. His dream comes tragically—or miraculously—true after his mother, crossing a street on the way home, is hit and badly injured by a truck. Lucky Luke takes Adrien in, along with his sister, to live in the house with the billowing curtains.
But Adrien doesn’t please Isabelle’s stepmother, who has just had a baby and is already having a hard time accepting the arrival of her stepdaughter. Adrien makes the mistake of declaring his love for the stepmother (and in particular for her breasts) in front of what might have been his new family. She is not amused. Adrien is sent to his room for that lapse; but when his odd intentions toward the newborn are discovered, he is sent back to his mother’s.
Adrien’s mother, now almost completely physically paralyzed, will take his place as the one waiting at home, listening for the elevator buttons six floors below, and dreaming of a son she may have never had.
Nathalie Hug : Nathalie Hug is the author of a number of works co-authored with Jérôme Camut, among them Les Éveillés (Calmann-Lévy 2008), 3 fois plus loin (Calmann-Lévy, 2009), and Les Yeux d’Harry (Calmann-Lévy, 2010). This is her first novel.