‘George’s Wife’ by Véronique Bizot, translated by Youna Kwak

Besides being a linear or actually quite curly narrative, this story feels like a sort of diorama of a particular insulated interior, namely a cluster of affluent condos. What counts most decisively as ‘action’ is extreme inaction. What passes, leaving aside flashbacks, for a ‘plot’ is the acquisition of guests and their arrangement in a condo for a dinner party. Which character comes forward as the ‘protagonist’ is unclear. Although neither the narrator nor anybody at the dinner party is George, this George is on the barbed tip of every tongue and thought. So if this is George’s story, we’re getting it obliquely and at second hand. George himself appears nowhere except in memories, ill-timed references, and a distant, unacknowledged glance. If this is the narrator’s story, it’s given to us incomplete and from the side: we see its disembodied George-infested edges and no more. Scattered through the story like abstract portraits are other characters’ untold stories and unanswered questions, hints at which add nothing to the plot but much to the diorama. I read in an interview that Bizot trained as an interior decorator. Reading ‘George’s Wife’, I feel as if I’m wandering a painstakingly eccentric dining room. ‘Why put that detail there?’ I wonder, and ‘Why is such an obvious thing missing?’

“On that side, fairly tall and dense trees block the view I might have of George’s patio, a hideously tiled slab of flambé flagstone, overhung by a striped orange awning trimmed with grayish fringe, underneath which I imagine him seated and, like me, motionless.”

Collected in Gardeners, Diálogos, 2017; published here in Brooklyn Rail and here in The Short Story Project