Our Life in the Forest, by Marie Darrieussecq, is an experimental future dystopian novel for those who loved The End We Start From. A future where the lucky ones have a ‘half’, an identical body lying in storage from which they can harvest spare body parts as needed. Less fortunate humans have a ‘jar’, just a heart and lungs as a back up. The poor have nothing.
Marie is the name of both the author and the central character. Marie the character tells the narrative as a stream of consciousness and is clearly a very confused individual. Marie has woken and rescued her half – also named Marie – and escaped to the forest.
Her story will make sense for a while, then jump, then regroup, then wander off on another tangent. The style is very dry, there’s very little emotion guiding her thoughts. Empathy is not encouraged in Marie’s world, process is king.
From a personal perspective I found my own emotional reaction to Our Life in the Forest quite disturbing. It says a lot about the state of the world today that I found myself mostly just shrugging.
Mega wealthy exploiting the poor for their own gain, largely through digital means? Meh. Yeah that sounds about right.
Disturbing methods of persuading the masses to be complicit in their own oppression? That’s just western capitalism isn’t it?
But a group of individuals who have broken through all the rhetoric to come together and try to destroy the system? Even though there’s very little hope they’ll succeed. Even though they’ll probably just die out there in the forest and nothing will actually change.
Well that’s a bit different.
It’s easy to oppose an injustice if you don’t benefit from it. Easier still if you suffer as a result of it. But if the injustice makes your life easier and you’ve been told all your life that it’s just the way of the world and nobody is really hurt by it? It’s so much harder to step outside of your known world and take action to end the injustice. What motivation do you have other than empathy with the oppressed?
Our Life in the Forest is a short read at just 192 pages. Translated from French, on first reading I was a little baffled. The concept doesn’t seem particularly original and the writing, while solid, is nothing particularly astonishing. It’s only on reflection that you realise what a horrifying future the book describes, more so because it feels like a very close future.
Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. This post contains affiliate links.