Book 985 Per Olov Enquist – The Book about Blanche and Marie

The most dominant theme in this book, and is pondered upon by the the author is love. Here love takes on many forms whether one sided, lustful , failed or pure. Enquist examines how it effects the two main protagonists of the novel’s title.

Blanche Wittman was one of the patients of the neurologist J.M. Charcot and ended up as an assistant to Marie Curie. The book details both women’s love affairs including the slight lesbianic one they had with each other. Along in this historical soap opera there are appearances by other famous scientists of the late 1800’s such as Freud, Tourette and Becquerel. Eventually Blanche is amputated and lives in a box (as really happened) and Curie died of over radiation and both transferring their love to their people who adored them the most. In Wittman’s case it was Charcot and in Curie’s case it was Pierre. The whole book takes the form of the author narrating all the details from three notebooks that Wittman left behind.

Historically the book is extremely accurate and the way Enquist manages to make characters interact has to be read. Also the sheer fluidity of the novel’s writing (or at least the translation) is another thing to behold. But, to be honest I found The Book about Blanche and Marie to be rather dull, plus Enquist drives his point home by constant repetition, something which irritated me. By the end I was terribly disappointed as I had high hopes for this novel.