According to one source, 90% of all anorexics are females. They lose a few pounds but are still not satisfied. They become obsessed with reaching the “ideal” weight, but it’s a moving target, practically unattainable. Such is the case with the unnamed young woman in Lightness (Déterrer les os in French) by Quebec author Fanie Demeule, which has been translated into English by Anita Anand.*
Written in a short, punchy, narrative/personal-journal style, we progress with this adolescent girl who from a young age has an insatiable appetite for food and anything stimulating (such as her first Merry-Go-Round ride; she stays on for repeated rides until she has to be pulled off by her father). Then, one day, she and a similarly proportioned friend are sitting side-by-side eating from a large bag of Cheetos and she notices how big and ugly their thighs are. The sensory switch has been thrown and now she sees herself as “fat” rather than “solid” or “big-boned”.
A new, uncomfortable feeling settles inside me. I suddenly know that this feeling is there to stay. I’m overwhelmed by a kind of nausea that forces me to push the bag [of Cheetos] far away from me and to cover my thighs. A visceral sort of shame.
From this point on it is a cycle of intense exercising, purging and hiding her weight loss obsession. She also despises her menstrual period and knows if she emulates the body type of Olympic athletes and Cirque de Soliel performers, it just might stop. “In my head, these are the disencumbered, and they are perfect.”She goes through work, relationships and life struggling with anorexia and ultimately she is overcome by panic attacks and the subsequent fear of dying. “I dream of living in the hospital, having a room there, just in case.”
Lightness is a gut-punching novel of untamed veracity as to the depths of infatuation that a misperception of body image can take one. It is a disease that exalts bones over fat, sees food as poison and marginalizes the victim as family and friends withdraw from the walking skeletal remains of one they used to love and enjoy being with. It affects all aspects of life and Ms. Demeule conveys this message clearly and unequivocally in Lightness.
I am putting Lightness on “The Very Best!” Book Awards 2020 longlist for Best First Book (Fiction).
*Lightness will be released March 14th.
About the Author:
Fanie Demeule is finishing a doctorate at the Université du Québec à Montréal, where she is a lecturer in the Département d’études littéraires. The original French version of Lightness (Déterrer les os) won Best First Novel at the Biennale littéraire des Cèdres in 2018 and has been adapted for the. Her second novel, Roux clair naturel, was published in 2019 to much acclaim. Lightness is the first time her work is appearing in English. She lives in Montreal.
About the Translator:
Anita Anand is an author, translator and language teacher from Montreal. She is the winner of the 2015 QWF-Concordia First Book Prize for Swing in the House and Other Stories. Her translation of Nirliit, by Juliana Leveille-Trudel was nominated for the 2018 John Glassco Prize. She is currently working on a novel.
Lightness by Fanie Demeule, translated by Anita Anand
Linda Leith Publishing
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