SERPENT’S TAIL £10.99 (185pp) £9.89 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Jealousy: the other life of Cathérine M. By Cathérine Millet trans Helen Stevenson

After the orgies, the sickness of lost love

In The Sexual Life of Cathérine M., the French art critic Cathérine Millet shocked readers in 40 languages with her explicit revelations of years of sexual adventure.

In cool, clinical prose, she performed and exposed the life of the female body, passively and agreeably adaptable to countless, polymorphous encounters. Anyplace, anytime, anyone – there were no limits, short of violence, on a sex life which ranged from anonymous, night-time orgies in the Bois de Boulogne to couplings in carparks to solitary sex, replete with ever more detailed fantasies.

So it comes as something of a surprise to find that this self-styled "suffragette in the cause of libertarianism", this reveller in bodily pleasure, for three long years also suffered from extremes of jealousy. Jealousy presupposes a life of the emotions, an entanglement with that hoary terrain of love, the one absentee from her earlier memoir. Indeed, Millet who has only lived with two full-time partners, has argued it was only because she had love at home that she was freed from having to find it in her other sexual pursuits.

Soon after her mother's suicide, Cathérine comes upon a photograph of a nude woman in her husband Jacques's study, together with a line in his diary implying desire. She is catapulted into "that timeless and universal malady" of jealousy. She can't breathe, her heart and mind race, she is reduced to a pair of snooping eyes, an ignominous detective. Creeping around on all fours, reading letters and diaries, she becomes "the blind architect of my destiny... a small perverted rodent, collecting poisoned food!" Her imagination is overwhelmed with an obsessive need to know.

The pain is such that she suffers from fainting fits. She finds herself banging her head against the wall. Even those anonymised fantasies which long accompanied her solo sex life provide no relief. These have metamorphosed into ones where in abject humiliation she spies on Jacques and his lovers. The rub is that she has no right to carp about his infidelities. It was she who had initiated the libertine regime and long lived it, though her sexual exploits have diminished.

The exhilaration of Millet's perspective is that, in the midst of abasement, she still refuses any traditional conjugal morality. She describes her breakdown with forensic precision, wielding a scalpel of cold intelligence into visceral matter. Yet nowhere is there a call to fidelity from her husband, nor apportioning of blame, nor a recourse to a sense that love must only and forever have a unique object.

This book is an uncomfortable companion piece to her first, providing a psychological narrative to inform the sexual one. The cataclysm of obsessive jealousy takes her to a therapist. After three years of analysis, captured in only a few scenes, the pain lessens and she begins to write her "secret life", at the prodding of a publisher. There is an underlying suggestion, that focussing on the sexual is therapeutic: it is what, her profession life apart, she does best. The writing is reparative.

Though far less scandalous than her first memoir, Jealousy is in many ways a better book. Beautifully translated by Helen Stevenson, shadowed by Proust rather than pornography, it fleshes out an emotional life to confound the bodily one. To make the writerly circle complete, it remains only for Millet to take us into her childhood, the terrain of that mother-become-suicide, absentee father and dead brother whose presences haunt the narrative. The real secrets may be the ones kept even from oneself.

Lisa Appignanesi's 'Mad, Bad and Sad' is published in paperback by Virago

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?