Title: Panics (original title: Viens

Writer: Barbara Molinard (translated by Emma Ramadan)

Publishing House: The Feminist Press

Date of Publication:  August 9th 2022 (first published 1969)

Rating: 5 stars


 The texts that follow were also torn to shreds. They were put back together, torn up again, put back together again. How many times? Even she doesn’t know. As many times as necessary, which is to say until she was in agony, until meaning was plunged back into the absolute night of its source, the mother of suffering.’’

   Marguerite Duras

The Plane From Santa Rosa: A woman desperately tries to escape her claustrophobic apartment. She visits shops and tries on clothes, waiting for the plane from Santa Rosa…A lament of loneliness, estrangement and make-believe.

The Severed Hand: A nightmarish story of sheer violence with a protagonist and imagery that brings the finest moments of Kafka’s work to mind. 

The Headless Man: A woman sits and watches passers-by as they turn into obscure animals and monsters. A headless man draws her attention and she decides to follow him…The closure of this story will leave you silent…

Come: A woman receives a message from B. She is about to set off to a country that ‘’must be’’ beautiful, to a hotel that seems unique. But her train hasn’t come yet and B. is nowhere to be found…

‘’The sun had not strained its silence and the sound answered the call of the flowers. A fire-red bird let out a harrowing cry; the woods vibrated in a long shiver and then silence settled in. A woman, a scarf on her head and a purse on her arm, leaned down and scooped up a dead bird in the middle of a bed of iron-grey ferns. She caressed the still-warm body, and the flame of her gaze brusquely crossed the attentive gaze of an owl.’’

Untitled: Fragmentary passages full of darkness, despair, violence, isolation. They grip your soul and refuse to let you go…

‘’The bus, full of travellers, was moving at breakneck speed. The night, abruptly fallen, was so black that it was impossible for X to distinguish even the presence of his close neighbours, whom he had seen only a moment before in the light of day. With no star or moon, the night suddenly seemed full of threats.’’

The Meeting: A man finds himself on the bus heading towards a meeting with the Stranger. But soon he finds himself stranded in a town empty of people, with houses without doors.

‘’I don’t know where I am. The sun is gone. I’m walking along a path I can’t see. The silence is absolute.’’

The Father’s Apartment: An extraordinary story! A son implores a man to stay in the last apartment of a skyscraper surrounded by a forest, for the sake of his father. But the father beats his son. He humiliates him and the son accepts the blows without opening his mouth. Like a lamb to the slaughter. All that matters to him is that their tenant helps them finish the work. The Son suffers. Always in the Name of the Father. The religious allegory of this story is phenomenal and heartbreaking.

‘’But she, she didn’t really notice the colour of the sky. Only when the women went out in the streets in dresses, the men without overcoats, and the terraces were filled with people, then she felt a bit more alone, a bit sadder, too. It wasn’t until the rain, the wind, and the frost dismayed the passerby, who walked quickly without looking around, their heads tucked behind their coat collars, that she felt a certain harmony between the world, the weather, and herself: a harmony of grayness, a harmony of sadness.’’

The Cage: A woman braves the city crowds, spending time in the company of her solitude. She meets a man. They fall in love. They spend their days in bliss. Until a visit to the zoo changes everything…A nightmarish story that will leave you in tears.

The Bed: Oh, it makes your heart bleed…The despair, the nightmare, the humiliation…

Taxi: You get in the taxi. There is no destination. Everything is blank. A void. Madness.

The Sponge: Some of us are imprisoned since the day we are born…

Happiness: All Clarisse wanted was a house of her own. A house by the sea and happiness would be hers.

I’m Alone and It’s Night: A man narrates his nightly ordeal in a psychiatric hospital. It was physically painful to read this story. The sorrow emanating from each sentence was unbearable.

The Vault (A conversation between Barbara Mollinard and Marguerite Duras): I am not worthy to refer to this conversation between two exceptional writers. All I can tell you is ‘’read this book.’’ Savour its sorrow…

Exquisite, powerful translation by Emma Ramadan.

‘’The night is ink; the sky shadow. The birds have stopped singing. A blackbird on a branch dies. The black angels are no longer violent. The demon has entered during sleep. Tomorrow the sun will not rise.’’

Many thanks to The Feminist Press and Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.