“Happy People Read and Drink Coffee” by Agnès Martin-Lugand

I don’t think I will ever be able to forget reading the first couple of pages of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnès Martin-Lugand. I must confess I took quite a long break from this book after reading the first chapter. I had to close it and I only opened it again a few weeks later. I felt as if I had been thrown into a bottomless tub filled with ice cubes. At first the cold is almost reassuring; it seems to highlight your senses, reminding you that you are utterly alive. Then arrives the pain, the striking pain, burning, making it hard to breathe. Afterwards… numbness. What an incredible experience.

That said, my feelings couldn’t be more mixed about what followed that chapter. I can’t quite explain, can’t put my finger on what exactly happened, but my first guess would be that something must have gotten lost in translation*1. The language feels… stiff. Then again, it does match Diane’s emotional state. Could it be that we are supposed to relearn how to feel, even when our surroundings seem to hold absolutely no space for anything other than… cold? Even if that’s the case, there’s still something… strange going on.

I would say that reading this novel is like going down a memory lane that you share with someone that can no longer revisit it with you. Even though you could navigate it with your eyes closed, you keep bumping against odd things. I would say that the writing feels intrusive, almost as if it were a character itself, Diane’s past trying to convince her to stay. Perhaps that’s the whole point.

All in all, even though I found the middle to be a bit cliché, I quite enjoyed the ending.

*1 The edition read was in Portuguese.


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