Agnès Desarthe’s great new novel: a woman explores her life by going back in time, guided by her passion for music.
In the wedding hall, a declaration of love is exchanged and a lifelong bond is formed. The lovers are a four-year-old boy and girl who have come with their class to listen to music to celebrate Christmas.
Years later, in college, they meet again. She, the narrator, recognizes him. He, Étienne, has forgotten her. Yet she keeps deep inside her the promise she made herself to love him forever.
They live, each on their own side, sentimental meetings, artistic fervors. The music inhabits her, when he has a passion for a young girl, Antonia, which carries him towards creation. She is family, people out of the ordinary, music lovers; we separate, we shout, but we remain united. He is a drama: Antonia dies while giving birth to their daughter. Life brings them back to each other at the strongest moments of their lives. And, always, the narrator listens to Etienne, who never remembers her first name. But that doesn’t matter... One day, they will meet again in an orchestra, and perhaps, on that day, the smuggler, the eternal lover, will be able to resume the course of her destiny. She will have been faithful to this man desired by all women.
The narrator, who recounts lives—hers and those of others—is as upsetting as she questions the passage of time, the crumbling of memory, and the painful necessity of living.
With L’éternel fiancé, Agnès Desarthe has written a masterful text that is both open to the world and deeply intimate.