Extract from Mike Mitchell's translation

Sylvie Germain's Hidden Lives

Since the age of seven Marie has had one foot in the grave. That isn't a metaphor, she really does have one foot firmly in the ground, the right foot, which was cut off above the ankle. The right foot, the one that always sets off first, takes the lead, the one on which you stand on tiptoe to reach something high up, the one you put your weight on to kick a ball, or anything else, the one you jump with when playing hopscotch. It's gone, separated from the leg for which it provided a solid base, mobility, suppleness and impetus.

Thus it was that Marie entered the so-called age of reason on one leg, unbalanced, and once there she's lopsided. Trying to regain her equilibrium, she looks to her imagination for support, sometimes going too far. She stitches up reality, which she considers seriously torn, with all sorts of bits of invisible thread. Thus she imagines that her uninjured foot is going to grow all by itself and later on will get harder, thicker and then wither, whilst the other is going to stay for ever in the land of childhood, graceful, its heel round and smooth, its toes plump, like little white flowers. She is sure that from now on her missing foot, liberated from its body and from time, is living a roving life, romping about in its own way and dancing when it feels like it. She has lost the use but not the sight of it, hobbling along in her thoughts, hopping with her, around her, both by day and by night. But sometimes it seems moody and lags behind, as if it were sulking or exhausted, or simply disappears, as if to show that it is free to go where it pleases. Unable to carry her on the surface of the Earth, this phantom foot opens the way to the world beneath, to the entrails of mud, stone and darkness — where her father's body went, because of her. For it's partly her fault that the accident happened. When her father got into the Simca, she was dozing on the back seat; he slammed the door and drove off so abruptly that she woke with a start. By the time she was fully aware of what was happening, the car was speeding along the road. She hadn't dared show that she was there because he was talking and she didn't know to whom. He was talking very loudly, in short bursts, in angry tones, punctuating his disjointed utterances with interjections and rude words. She remembers very well some of these words, which were absolutely forbidden to her and her brothers: ‘Fuck off!’ — ‘Shit, shit, shit!’ — ‘Stupid bitch!’… But which woman was he talking to like that? Surely not her mother! Anyway, she wasn't there. And that was what was odd, Marie couldn't see anyone sitting next to the driver, the seat was empty, or the person in it was tiny as well as dumb. Eventually she thought, ‘Well, perhaps he too has a Zoé of his own, but listen to the way he's biting her head off, she can't be a friend. I'd never shout words like that at my Zoé.’ He had gradually calmed down, but he was driving very fast, taking the bends very sharply, and she started to feel queasy. She did try to concentrate on the trees she could see out of the window going past at high speed — a real procession of tousled giants — but the feeling of sickness just got worse. So she suddenly sat up on the seat and, close to vomiting, said, ‘Papa, I feel sick.’ He hardly had time for an astounded ‘What?’ before the car made an odd movement, reeling like some lumbering, drunk animal and swerving violently. Then the Aronde stopped, once and for all, with a deafening crash.