Yasmina Reza’s new novel Happy Are the Happy consists of twenty interlinked portraits of characters struggling with the vicissitudes and paradoxes of love. Start reading below, and I bet you won’t be able to stop–you may see something of yourself in Odile or Robert.
Everything gets on his nerves. Opinions, things, people. Everything. We can’t go out anymore without the evening ending badly. I find myself persuading him to go out, yet on the whole I almost always regret it. We exchange idiotic jokes with our hosts, we laugh on the landing, and once we’re in the elevator, the cold front moves in. Someday someone should make a study of the silence that falls inside a car when you’re returning home after having flaunted your well-being, partly to edify the company, partly to deceive yourself. It’s a silence that tolerates no sound, not even the radio, for who in that mute war of opposition would dare to turn it on? This evening’s over, we’re home now, and while I undress, Robert, as usual, is dawdling in the children’s room. I know what he’s doing. He’s checking their breathing. He bends over them and takes the time to verify unequivocally that they aren’t dead. Afterward, we’re in the bathroom, both of us. No communication. He brushes his teeth, I remove my makeup. He goes to the toilet room. A little later, I find him sitting on the bed in our bedroom; he checks the e-mails on his BlackBerry and sets his alarm. Then he slips under the covers and immediately switches off the light on his side of the bed. For my part, I go and sit on the other side, I set my alarm, I rub cream into my hands, I swallow a Stilnox, I place my earplugs and my water glass within reach on the night table. I arrange my pillows, put on my glasses, and settle down comfortably to read. I’ve hardly begun when Robert, in a tone that’s supposed to be neutral, says, please turn out the light. These are the first words he’s spoken since we were on Rémi Grobe’s landing. I don’t answer. After a few seconds pass, he raises himself and leans across me, half-lying on me, in an effort to reach my bedside lamp. He manages to switch it off. In the darkness, I hit him on the arm and the back – actually I hit him several times – and then I turn the light on again. Robert says, I haven’t slept for three nights, do you want me dead? Without raising my eyes from my book, I say, take a Stilnox. —I don’t take fucking sleeping pills. —Then don’t complain. —Odile, I’m tired…turn off the light. Turn it off, dammit. He curls up under the covers again. I try to read. I wonder whether the word tired in Robert’s mouth hasn’t contributed more than anything else to our drifting apart. I refuse to give the word any existential significance. If a literary hero withdraws to the region of shadows, you accept it, but the same doesn’t go for a husband with whom you share a domestic life. Robert switches on his lamp again, extricates himself from the bedclothes with uncalled-for abruptness, and sits on the edge of the bed. Without turning around, he says, I’m going to a hotel. I remain silent. He doesn’t move. For the seventh time, I read, “By the light filtering through the dilapidated shutters, Gaylor could see the dog lying under the toilet chair, the chipped enamel washbasin. On the opposite wall, a man looked at him sadly. Gaylor approached the mirror…” Now who exactly is Gaylor?