(Belfond, 224 pages, 2019)
*** LONG-LISTED FOR THE 2019 PRIX FEMINA ***
Three minutes is all it takes to kidnap a child. Eight-year-old twin brothers Benjamin and Julian vacation in Venice with their single mother, the extravagant and effusive Clarice. One day, right under the arches of Piazza San Marco, Benjamin vanishes. Forty years later, it is Benjamin rather than his kidnapper who stands in front of a jury in an Italian courtroom. Has he himself committed the unforgivable? ImPure retraces the unfathomable ordeal of a boy wrenched from his family, and the life of the man he has become.
At eight years old, Benjamin does not yet know that his childhood is over. In the house of his abductor with a silent, watchful woman, hell awaits him. For five long years, Benjamin is abused, raped, and subjected to the whims of a repulsive and manipulative pedophile, and even made accomplice to his crimes. For he is not the first, nor the last, to fall into the hands of this monster. Defiled and broken, he eventually manages to escape.
Benjamin narrates the novel in the form of a long confession addressed to his estranged twin brother. He tells Julian of the many years he spent running away from himself in Mexico; his cohabitation with a “blond widow,” his young daughter Mary, and eventually his time spent with a Mayan family on the Yucatan coast. There, amid the natural beauty of the limestone cenotes and the Caribbean Sea, he finds a niche where he can keep on living. But can he ever really escape what his tormentor has made of him—a man struggling against vile impulses and morbid thoughts?
In this dark and harrowing novel, Desesquelles bravely dredges the depths of the human soul and the obscure workings of trauma and desire. Her hauntingly beautiful and mesmerizing prose makes her novel luminous, lyrical, and absolutely heart-wrenching. She describes the unspeakable, begging the question: How do you survive life when your innocence is irrevocably stolen from you?
Isabelle Desesquelles is the author of eight novels, two works of nonfiction, and three children’s books. Her most recent three novels—Les hommes meurent, les femmes vieillissent (2014), Un jour on fera l’amour (2017), and Let the Night Take Me (2018) – were published by Belfond. Let the Night Take Me was listed for the 2018 Prix Femina, and won the 2018 Femina Prix des Lycéens.