Mademoiselle Cœur Solitaire (Miss Lonely Hearts)

Mademoiselle Cœur Solitaire
[Miss Lonely Hearts]

Fiction

Gallimard, collection blanche,
 146 pages,
 2005

« New York, Greenwich Village, beginning of the 1950’s. Having taken unconsidered risks to get a sensational picture, press photographer L. B. Jefferies (James Stewart), is stuck in a wheel chair with a leg in plaster. The scorching heat which strikes Manhattan forces everyone to live with open windows. Therefore, Jefferies can easily spy on his neighbours from the windows of his apartment overlooking a courtyard. His assiduous observation leads him to suspect that one of his neighbours has murdered his wife. His suspicions are soon shared by his mistress, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly), and his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter).
Such is the plot of Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock, certainly one of the most efficient metaphor of this voyeurism which stands at the heart of the cinematographic – and literary – process. Among all the intimacies the movie gives us an insight into, one has always had a special place to me eyes and touched my more than the others. I am talking about poor Miss Lonely Hearts, who compensates by dreaming the life which is refused to her. Her magnificent and desperate struggle to break her absolute solitude moves me so much that I wished I could spend with her far more than the mere seven minutes Hitchcock gives us to share her tiny destiny. The current text aims precisely at redressing this injustice. »

Sébastien Ortiz.

  What the press wrote about the book

« The construction of this book is clever: the narration is inspired by Hitchcock’s Rear Window and is lead by “the fourth blind side of the courtyard”. This new point of view makes it possible for the author to slip some judicious remarks on the concept of sight, all the more penetrating since it remains invisible, like a spectator in a movie theatre. But, after a few pages, the reader can forget winks and references. His attention focuses on the captivating Miss Lonely Hearts, so much a second-hand character that her name remains unknown. This young woman wants to escape solitude, and the account of this Friday night when she tries to apply the recipes she found in the women magazines to find an ideal man is particularly right and moving. This post-modern interpretation of a masterpiece of cinema is indeed a beautiful success. »
Aliette Armel, Le Monde des livres.

« Tense, mysterious, this « Miss Lonely Hearts » is also a reference to Edward Hopper and Miles Davis. Ortiz, who paints the portrait of a woman full of distress, was very right to pick up a fleeting shadow met at Hitchcock’s. »
Alexandre Fillon, Madame Figaro. 

« A modest and clever tribute to a masterpiece by Hitchcock and to its comedians, the novel is very well run and its developments are carefully combined »
Jacques Ferraton, Le Bulletin des lettres.

« From this furtive heroine, we discover all the little secrets, all the desires, while in the background the story imagined by Hitchcock develops. Sébastien Ortiz uses a meticulous, precise and detailed style to describe this minuscule life. This elegant novel uses the second person, a “you” which accentuates the intimacy with the characters and closes the huis-clos where the action takes place. A great and beautiful book on solitude. »
Jean-Luc Aubarbier, L’Essor sarladais.

« The anonymous narrator watches the lonely spinster in the movie Rear Window, whose daily routine is organized like paper music, but hollow and boring. Miss Lonely Hearts suffers also from a disease called Manless Melancholia, the melancholy of having no man. This observer, slightly in love, watches his beloved one dreaming, suffering and determined to seduce a man. He is hidden behind his barricades and describes the life of this woman. His observations are pernickety. He seems to slip into his neighbour’s skin; he is inside her body, her head, her heart. He feels the void inside her and her suffering. He thinks about her future and dreams about her past. He understands her bruises, recalls a secrete wound. He is at the same time a voyeur and a sighted. This is honestly a clever reading which makes us want to watch the movie again and zoom in on Judith Evelyn, the actress who played Miss Lonely Hearts. The author shows an incredible talent to describe the female psyche, the emptiness, the void and the melancholy of love. He understands the loneliness of this woman, he finds the right words to describe her feelings, he makes her engaging and likeable. He managed to pass on the feelings he had for this character and the reader feels the same. This novel full of fantasy is a remake of Hitchcock’s movie and the film-maker himself would have appreciated this boldness. As for me, this book is definitely one of my favourite! »
Chez Clarabel

« Who does remember this forlorn neighbour, often out of shot, nicknamed Miss Lonely Hearts by James Stewart in Rear Window? This fascinating old-fashioned novel, steeped in the atmosphere of the 50’s, contained in the frame of the movie, recounts the comings and goings of this eternal sweet heart who lacks the beauty of a Grace Kelly to seduce men and whose sterile existence comes down to empty days spent between the office and the ground-floor apartment overlooking the famous courtyard serving as scenic space. An incorporeal presence, in a voice off, is staring at her from the “fourth blind side of the courtyard”, right under the apartment of the immobilized photographer. The voice talks to her and commiserates silently with her grief. This woman exists by the shameful fictions she creates for herself, to a point where she doubts her own reality, seeing herself as an “extra”, a “being of fiction created by the imagination of a scriptwriter”… A subtle game takes place, from the novel to the movie and the intimate theatre of the character, where our landmarks disappear, where the frame sometimes narrows, sometimes broadens along with a voyeurism which connects the novel to the soul of Hitchcock’s movie. Hitchcock, this obese gentleman met furtively…»
B.L., Sitartmag

Extract

« I have been waiting for you the whole afternoon and now my eyes are painful. I have been watching the corridor, crippled by the wait of you and finally you appear at the end of my viewpoint. You are walking slowly, heavily. You are coming back from the office in a state of depression I have never seen before. Not that any incident occurred today that would have undermined you. Your day followed its predictable course like any other day – one more day that you lived without noticing, which is already forgotten, one day in your life which will not be more noticeable than the flame of a candle snuffed out by a draught. Where does this feeling of suffocation come from?
In the street, a moment ago, you were about to faint. Everything was dizziness around you: the swarming crowds in the street, the deafening sound of the horns, the rough light of the street lamps and the aggressive flickering of the neon signs, a whirl of colours which gave birth to monstrous shapes under your eyelids. An unending line of peddlers were pushing their carryall on the saturated pavement: sellers of ice-creams, of watermelon from Georgia (their sky-red slides were lying on a bed of crushed ice), of lemonade (the glasses lined up in a furrow carved in the translucent block melting by the minute and leaking out into the gutter), of hot-dogs, of frankfurter et many more… That made your head spin and only the urgency to get back home made you overcome your ill-being.

Now you are seated on your bed. You did not find the energy to get undressed or to switch on the light. Your room is slightly sinking into a thicker and thicker darkness. An unconquerable feeling of lassitude bends your back. You cannot see it from where you are, but from the sparkles it throws off into the courtyard you guess that a blood red sun is dying above the roofs, that the city is nothing more that a single agonizing vibration, wild and absurd.
You hear some singing exercises accompanied by some piano chords coming from an indefinite zone of the courtyard (indefinite for you since I know the music is coming from the loft of the lady singer, the former studio of a painter at the ground-level of my apartment building which looks onto a patio accessible by some small damp steps). Those are a few sad notes floating in the hot and stagnant air, resonating like the echo of your stifling soul. You are seated on your white batiste coverlet, everything is dark around you, and you are tired because you are alone.

Everything speaks of love but you are alone. The magazines, the radio, the songs only speak of love. From the beginning, the whole universe is tight like a marquee towards this only goal, towards the fulfilment of this only wait and you are alone.
You only think of one thing: to find someone to break at least the martyrdom of existing for no one, of returning home after a work day and find nobody to greet you, nobody to care about you, nobody to even pretend to find an interest in the banality of a day equal to all others, nobody to give a meaning to what otherwise slips your mind.
You only dream of one thing: to progress in life on somebody’s arm and see all the obstacles disappear, to say to yourself that you live and do not only pretend to live, to cross the existence in trust and pleasure at least, to be bankrupted from your illusions but to consume this bankruptcy being two, to find someone to talk to.
To meet someone: such is the obsession dwelling in you day and night, which steals your sleep, which embitters you, which desperates you. And you are alone.

You wonder how the other women manage to find a partner so easily, so naturally, as if they were not really seeking this happiness of being two that you are dying for, as if they were granted a wish the did not even have to express. You do not understand why the easiest things to get for other people are the hardest for you. During your whole life, you had to struggle to accomplish with pain what others obtain without even asking. And today you are left behind on the shelf like your cheap pieces of earthenware which have no other function than to get dusty in waiting.

This injustice would make you scream but you are voiceless. For now, you are still seated on your threadbare coverlet which is your most faithful companion in this lonely room. You feel cold, you shiver despite the 90°F. You feel a cold which seems to well up from your very bones, to take its substance from your very marrow.
They call it: Manless melancholia, the melancholy of having no man »
© Gallimard, 2005.

Covers of the translations into foreign languages: Polish

To be read: I am especially proud that my book is mentioned in the movie database Imdb on Judith Evelyn’s page. Judith Evelyn is the actress who played Miss Lonely Hearts in Hitchcock’s feature. Strange phenomenon where the biography of a forgotten actress is enriched with the fiction written by a French writer! If only she knew it!