"Voice Over" by Celene Curiol: A Review
A young woman works in Paris at the Gare du Nord. She spends every day talking into a microphone, announcing platform numbers and timetables, essentially invisible to the world. She falls in love with a man who, in turn, is in love with another. Our heroine considers her rival to be physically stunning, as beautiful as an angel. She decides not to pursue the man. Rather, she is prepared to wait, alone – that is, until one night a male friend of the ‘angel’ asks her what she does for a living and she answers, ‘Prostitute.’ Céline Curiol’s debut novel is a remarkable vision of love and relationships in all their ambiguities, shot through with the poignancy of urban existence. ‘With this strange, sinister and compelling novel, Céline Curiol gives us one of the first, but surely not the last, tale of two cities of the Eurostar age.
The title references both the voice-over that every person uses, that inner dialogue with which we narrate our lives to ourselves, examining and explaining our own actions and intentions and interpreting the responses and intentions of others, and which the main character reveals throughout the book; and the character's job as a train announcer, where she is the "voice over" announcing the trains' comings and goings. The job is very much like her life: carried out in private, yet entirely public as her disembodied voice guides travellers to destinations she's never seen.
This is a fascinating and unique novel and the translation by Sam Richard is impeccable - the book reads very naturally in English. This is a compelling read, and I look forward to more of Curiol's work.