Absence within Presence

I have just finished reading Marie Darrieussecq’s ‘My Phanton Husband’ (Faber 1999). An exceptionally rich and absorbing short novel about a woman emotional turmoil resulting from the unexplained disappearance of her husband. It brought me back to the themes that ran through my MA thesis entitled “Framing an Absence: An exploration into how artists and practices work with absence to create a presence.”

Had I come across this novel then I am sure I would have referenced Darrieussecq also. Below is an extract that reiterates the notion of how the presence of objects can illuminate an absence.

“The emptiness around me was starting to settle like a paving slab, like cement stiffening and becoming firm, with a certain quality to the air, to the shadows, to the silence, the way the walls stood still, the way the doors stood up straight and the windows. The lampshade we had chosen, a fake tortoiseshell lampshade that went with the wicker furniture and the yucca plant, hung from the ceiling like a drop about to fall, pure concentrate of catastrophe hanging over my head…… It wasn’t a question of my husbands taste or my own, but the angles of furniture, the reflection of the bulb, the hollow walls, the sheen of the television, the smoothness of the skirting boards, the tortoiseshell, the carpet: the simple presence of these things, the empty space they defined. I am not talking about shared memories, or about the connotations of certain objects; I’m talking about the solidification of empty space.” (Darrieusecq p76)

Somehow her words take me to the still life’s of Giorgio Morandi. The way she uses the description of tangible objects to create a gaping absence. With her word Darrieussecq paints the negative space that surrounds the material world and draws us in to see the void.


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