If evil is there, just a hair's breadth away…


By John

Happy and unhappy in their own way are Étienne and Vive, a Parisian couple, “solid” and “quiet” like many, with years of tested coexistence, with consolidated habits and rituals. They are the protagonists of «The thickness of a hair» (Neri Pozza Bloom, translation by Roberto Boi), by the Parisian writer and essayist Claire Berestgreat-granddaughter of the musician and talent discoverer Gabriële Buffet Picabia (wife of Picabia, lover of Duchamp, friend, among others, of Apollinaire) who played an important role in the history of art of the first twenty years of the 20th century and to whom Berest with sister Anne dedicated the book «Gabriële».

Berest enters the life of Étienne and Vive, recording the minimal movements, the small upheavals of habits in the organization of spaces of freedom shared up to a certain point. Étienne is a methodical proofreader, a job he faces with a certain frustration every day in a publishing house where everything is modernised: his work is appreciated but his sometimes heavy incursions on the texts he works on are sometimes excessive. Surely her great project would be to write a novel, in the meantime he is content to enjoy classical music concerts with Vive and to share with her a three-room Parisian apartment bequeathed by her mother. She is a freelance photographer with small creative projects: she is cheerful and full of interests, she meets Étienne who she knew as a child and they end up falling in love with her, or, at least, believing so.

But after a few years those “consolidated” habits, the concert on Tuesday evening, the holidays always in Italy, the repeated gestures cause intolerance in Vive. For him, however, who is the type of person who doesn't even seem to be the protagonist of his own little story and seems to always be waiting for something bigger, it is painful to discover that Vive is capable of different choices: in his fixed idea of ​​a pact of love, «Étienne had the impression that the two of them had been fabricated together, so that each would fall into the other's abyss». And so it is that together with his secret sadnesses a dull resentment broods day by day while Vive's small freedoms, his affirmation of protest towards certain constraints of everyday life become unbearable for Étienne, until one day that man “in love” and “don't worry” kills his wife with 37 stab wounds.

What triggers the transition to the criminal act, as reported in the exergue of the novel by Berest, is often “the thickness of a hair”, according to the famous definition of Étienne de Greef, recalled by the psychoanalyst Daniel Zagury. And then, because of that misunderstood love, one falls into the abyss of evil.