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Books

Spaces Between: "Espaces" by Olivia Tapiero

Posted by Caitlin / February 15, 2013

espaces-cover-2013-02-15.jpgEspaces is Olivia Tapiero's second novel. That simple sentence puts all of us writers to shame in that this author was born in 1990. She also won the Robert-Cliche Prize in 2009. I can't speak for anyone else but I know that when I was 20 years old, not only was I not publishing books and winning prizes, but I certainly wasn't writing anything this beautiful and deeply unsettling.

From the opening paragraph, it's clear that the reader is seeing through a skewed lens, through the perspective of a deeply pained young woman named Lola who is moving into her university dorm.

In Lola's world, everything is slowed down and every word on the page is as loaded as an awkward silence. The weight of the world presses down on her point of view and yet the language is crystal clear. This combination made for a read that almost literally took my breath away.

For Lola, the simple act of meeting her roommate sucks the air out of the room. Minute details take on apocalyptic proportions. The first time she steps into their shared bedroom, she sees how it has been occupied "avec une precision géométrique qui aurait put te faire trancher la fenêtre en deux, tu n'avais pas occupé ma moitié de chamber [...] J'ai senti mon évaporation." In her eyes, everything is loaded with significance, as if she lives in a world of symbols.

It is therefore easy to imagine how her roommate's suicide quickly sends her over the edge, inwards into a world of violent loneliness where no one seems able to reach her. This roommate to whom she was arbitrarily assigned is the figure to which the narrator speaks throughout the book.

There is also the ineffable strength of female connections that is evoked without pretence throughout the story. The one masculine perspective comes from Lola's professor who becomes her lover. While he loves her, he clearly misunderstands her pain. In the end, two other female characters are the only ones capable of reaching through her silent white void and bringing her back to life.

Tapiero is able to speak volumes through silences and hint at a world of violent colour living beneath a blank canvas. She infuses blank spaces with meaning and made my attention her captive for as long as she said so.

When this short book came out last fall, it received its due attention in the French media and I feel that it deserves its credit here as well. I urge those who read French to get their hands on a copy of this haunting text that reads like the best kind of nightmare. And if you are learning to read French, my plea remains the same. Although this book is packed with poetic imagery and at times unbearable tension, its vocabulary is quite straightforward.

Book lovers will be pleased to pick up this novel published by Les Éditions XYZ, a small publishing house who clearly understands the importance of the book as object, a thing that reflects the story printed on its pages. This novel is not marked by chapters, but rather by empty white space that recalls the emptiness and silence where Lola loses and finds herself all at once.Olivia-2013-02-15.jpg

Espaces
Published by Les Éditions XYZ
127 pages
$12.99 for a digital copy and $18 for print

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Haha, yeah I think this post might have been spamed... I don't really write regularly anywhere else. You can like Midnight Poutine on Facebook and then you'll get notifications about new posts. Thanks for reading!
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