The Case of Lisandra P.: A Novel

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9780143126584: The Case of Lisandra P.: A Novel

“A cunningly plotted tale that is by turns cerebral, suspenseful—and ultimately shocking.” –Publishers Weekly

A gripping psychological thriller for fans of The Girl on the Train and The Silent Wife about a wife’s secrets, a husband accused of murder, and a marriage gone terribly wrong

 
Buenos Aires, 1987. When a beautiful young woman named Lisandra is found dead at the foot of a six-story building, her husband, a psychoanalyst, is immediately arrested for her murder. Convinced of Vittorio’s innocence, one of his patients, Eva Maria, is drawn into the investigation seemingly by chance. As she combs through secret recordings of Vittorio’s therapy sessions in search of the killer—could it be the powerful government figure? the jealous woman? the musician who’s lost his reason to live?—Eva Maria must confront her most painful memories, and some of the darkest moments in Argentinian history.

In breathless prose that captures the desperate spinning of a frantic mind, Hélène Grémillon blurs the lines of past and present, personal and political, reality and paranoia in this daring and compulsively readable novel.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Hélène Grémillon was born in France in 1977. After obtaining degrees in literature and history, she worked as a journalist at the French newspaper Le Figaro before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Paris with her partner, singer and songwriter Julien Clerc, and their child.

Alison Anderson
is an American writer and translator based in Switzerland. Her translations include J. M. G. Le Clézio’s Onitsha, Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Hélène Grémillon’s first novel, The Confidant.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

Note

The Case of Lisandra P.

ALICIA

FELIPE

MIGUEL

Acknowledgments

Lisandra came into the room, her eyes red, puffy with tears. She walked unsteadily, and all she said was, “He doesn’t love me anymore.” She said it over and over, relentlessly, as if her brain had stopped working, as if her mouth could not utter anything else—“He doesn’t love me anymore.” “Lisandra, I don’t love you anymore,” she said suddenly, as if his words were coming from her own mouth; and thus having learned her first name, I seized the opportunity to interrupt her outburst:

“Lisandra. Who doesn’t love you anymore?”

Those were the first words I said to her, because “stop crying” and “tell me about it” were not commands she would have heard, and she stopped short, as if she had only just now seen me, and yet she didn’t move. She stayed there with her back slumped in sorrow, her head sunk between her shoulders, her hands wedged between her crossed legs, but as my words had had the desired effect, I ventured to repeat them, more gently, looking into her eyes, and this time, her eyes were looking at me.

“Who doesn’t love you anymore?”

I had been afraid that my words might have the opposite effect, plunging her back into the torpor of her tears, but this was not the case. Lisandra nodded her head and murmured, “Ignacio. Ignacio doesn’t love me anymore.” She had stopped crying. She didn’t apologize, and generally everyone apologizes after they’ve been crying, or even while they’re crying, a remnant of pride in spite of sorrow, but she had no such pride, or no longer had any. Now she was somewhat calmer, in her blue sweater. She spoke to me about him, this man who no longer loved her. That was how I met Lisandra; it was seven years ago.

Lisandra was beautiful, strangely beautiful, and her beauty had nothing to do with the color of her eyes or her hair, nothing to do with her skin. She had such a feminine shape but a childlike beauty, and I knew immediately through her gaze, her gestures, her expressions so hounded by sorrow, that the child in this woman was not dead. I was stunned that she could love like this. She loved to love. I listened to her. He seemed so wonderful, this man she loved so much.

“Stop talking about him, Lisandra. Tell me about yourself.”

I knew my words might rush her. I had hesitated at first, but I couldn’t help myself; already stupidly jealous, I could not stand to hear her talk about that man. She replied that she had nothing to say about herself, and before I could find any words to fill the silence and undo the damage I had just caused, she got to her feet, asked me where the restroom was, and didn’t come back, either that day or in the days that followed.

Every evening I take a half hour break, half an hour of solitude to emerge from the tunnel of dissatisfaction, frustration, and despair into which everything I’ve heard during the day has plunged me. Forgive me for telling you this, Eva Maria, I shouldn’t, but we’ve gotten this far, I may as well share what goes on behind the scenes. I pour myself a glass of brandy and I wait to feel a very slight numbing, which, paradoxically, restores me to my reality, the reality of my life. I’ve always done this, but on that particular day, that half hour lasted all evening. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, about Lisandra, her eyes terrified by the reality of the love she had just lost. I’ve often seen people devastated by their sorrow in love, but I have never sensed such a degree of suffering in any of them, and it wasn’t some sort of romantic or habitual despair, or posturing, but a despair that was truly part of her character, organic and visceral. There are individuals who will never know such despair, those feelings we all call by the same name, which we can all experience, and know. They vary in intensity with each individual, but because we want them to be universal, all too often we forget this, but my profession reminds me of it every day: suffering does not mean the same thing to everyone.

I tried to determine how old Lisandra was: twenty-five, perhaps, with her brown hair and her dark rosy skin—and her eyes? I hadn’t even noticed the color of her eyes, because the only thing I had seen was her suffering, and her eyes, red and puffy. She had not even reached for the box of tissues I had placed between us, but nervously wiped her eyes and nose with the sleeve of her blue sweater; yes, I remembered the color of her sweater. The thought that I might never see her again made me pour a second glass of brandy, then a third, and then I went out to throw a different light on things, but the light was no different. All it takes is a thousandth of a second for an obsession to take hold. Time has nothing to do with it. I went down the street knowing full well that I hadn’t a clue where I was headed, and not realizing that I had just set out to look for her . . .

There is a knock at the door. Eva Maria is sitting at her desk. She doesn’t hear it. She is lost in reflection.

. . . Lisandra. I was overwhelmed by her sudden disappearance; I couldn’t sleep; I cursed myself for causing her to flee. This had never happened before and yes, God knows how many individuals I’ve seen traipsing through my office, but no one has ever given me the slip like that. Of course there have been patients who don’t come back to their second appointment, but to disappear like that, in the middle of a session, never; her resistance was immediate. I hunted for a clue in those few moments I had spent with her, a clue that might enable me to find her again; her first name, her blue sweater, that wouldn’t get me far—I knew nothing about her. I mentally reviewed the image she had left behind, an image so precise it might have been etched with a painstaking scalpel: Lisandra, sprawled sideways on the sofa, drying first one eye then the other with the sleeve of her blue sweater. My selective, obsessive memory enabled me to recall the elements I had not grasped at the time, hanging as I was on her words and on her face. She was wearing slacks made of a light fabric, a sort of black cotton, and—how had I failed to notice at the time?—a fine pair of shoes, also black, astonishingly elegant in comparison to the rest of her outfit, high heels with a strap, and beneath her feet there were white spots on the carpet. I had to get to the bottom of it, and while I hesitated to congratulate myself too soon, I did not hesitate to go around to all the tango places and milongas in the vicinity—she must have just come from one of them, and it couldn’t be far, otherwise the talcum powder would have had time to disappear altogether. So she still had the courage to dance despite her sorrow. This reassured me, but what reassured me more than anything was that now I had a lead, and I could find her again.

Don’t look at me like that, Eva Maria; I know what you’re thinking, yes, yes, I can see it in your eyes, don’t pretend otherwise. You’re angry with me, I know you, but let me make one thing clear: the reason Lisandra’s resistance was immediate was because I did everything I could to make it immediate, and when I want to reassure myself, I like to think that if I rushed her on the day we met I did it unconsciously, to make her leave, so I’d prevent us from starting to behave in that particular way that would have made any other form of intimacy impossible; you know there are ethical reasons. So let me make one thing clear, when I went looking for Lisandra, I was looking for a woman, not a patient, I insist on that fact, and I never felt guilty of any lapse with regard to my profession. I had found Lisandra weeping outside the door to my office, she had seen the sign as she walked down the street, she had no appointment, we didn’t finish the session, no money changed hands, but it was the most shattering moment of my life. Don’t you believe in that instant of immediate recognition between two individuals, Eva Maria? That’s strange, I would have sworn that you did.

I wondered what Lisandra would look like as a dancer, with her long brown hair pulled up into a chignon. Would I recognize her from behind? No, I wouldn’t recognize her. I had not yet acquired the familiarity that enables one to recognize someone from behind, so I waited for the dancing figures to turn around, or let me see their profiles, and then I asked, “Do you know a certain Lisandra?” “Is Lisandra here?” “Does Lisandra come here to dance?”

I might not have recognized her, the young woman who had sat across from me three days earlier, her head scrunched down between her shoulders—that young woman had disappeared behind this arched, vivid body, moving freely, with authority, and above all liberated. This was no longer the same young woman moving there before me: she had the fine neck of a dancer, all her wariness and hesitancy had disappeared, and even her sorrow—she was so sure of herself when she danced, the extreme freedom she radiated was striking in comparison to the brutal, lovesick self-abasement she had shown me, the servitude I had seen her struggling with a few days earlier. She wasn’t dancing for the others, she was dancing only for herself. She was the “soul of the tango.” I know that’s a cheesy thing to say, but that’s what I thought about Lisandra the moment she turned to face me.

“What are you doing here?”

Lisandra always believed it was “chance” that caused us to meet again, and she found this so “meaningful” that I never put her right; she wouldn’t have found it so “marvelous” if she had known it was the product of my own eagerness. That’s the way she was, Lisandra, she preferred the surreal to reality, and every time she remarked on how marvelous it was that we had met again, I let her say it. She never questioned what fortune had sent her way; fortune acted as a guide, as a guarantee, the sad emblem of those who lack self-confidence. We had dinner together and then we saw each other again and then we decided to be together, and very quickly, on December 8, 1980, we got married. I loved that woman, I would never have thought anyone could wish to harm her; she was not cut out to be involved in anything sordid. Tragic, perhaps, but not sordid. She was so fragile, Lisandra. I could never have imagined I might speak of her one day in the past tense . . .

Again someone knocks on the door. Eva Maria doesn’t react. The door opens. Estéban is standing on the threshold.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Mama, are you having supper?”

Eva Maria doesn’t turn around.

“I’m not hungry.”

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing. I’m working.”

“You’re bringing work home now?”

Eva Maria doesn’t answer. Estéban doesn’t move.

“Well, okay then, shall I have dinner?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

Estéban runs his fingers through his hair. He leaves the room. He closes the door behind him. Eva Maria takes a sip of wine.

. . . When I came home the door to the apartment was unlocked. I immediately noticed a terrible draft; very loud music was coming from the living room; everything was in a mess as if there had been a fight; chairs were overturned; the lamp was on the floor; it was so cold; the window was wide open. I knew at once something had happened. Lisandra easily got cold; even on terribly hot nights she would always sleep with a sheet over her, she said that only the weight of the material enabled her to fall asleep, as did my body, pressed up against her; she couldn’t bear to feel the air on her skin, even when there was no breeze. I closed the window and looked for her everywhere. I ran into the kitchen, into the bedroom, the bathroom, and it was only then, when I saw she was nowhere to be found, that I retraced my steps and understood, was afraid that I had understood. I stepped over the shattered vase on the floor, with a puddle of water all around it, and at that moment I heard a shrill cry in the street, and I opened the window again. I didn’t dare lean out. Lisandra, her body down there, she was lying on the ground, on her back, her head to one side. I couldn’t see whether she was still breathing. Two young lovers were leaning over her, they were holding hands; I screamed to them not to touch her, not to move her, and I ran down the stairs. The two young lovers had stepped back, they weren’t holding hands anymore—had they touched her? Her forehead was icy; a trickle of blood was coming from her mouth; her eyes were open, her eyelids swollen. I didn’t kill Lisandra, I could never have killed her, you have to believe me, Eva Maria.

Eva Maria is curled up in her chair. She pours another glass of wine. Vittorio told her everything. Down to the smallest detail. He’d had no time to react. The police had come very quickly—someone must have called them, surely a neighbor; every light in the building was on. He’d gone back up into the apartment with the policemen and they’d asked him to go with them to the station while others stayed behind to seal off the crime scene and begin their investigation. They wanted to get his deposition; they had to act quickly because it was often the speed of an investigation that enabled them to find the murderer; it wouldn’t take long: that’s what they told him. He should have had the presence of mind to ask for a lawyer, but you don’t go from a state of terrible shock to extreme vigilance just like that, or at least he doesn’t, and besides he had nothing to reproach himself with, so it never occurred to him to imagine what lay in store. At the police station they took his ID papers and led him into a little room to take his deposition, and then they made him wait in another room that was even smaller, for him to sign the document before leaving. They brought him a cup of coffee to keep him happy, but he had time to drink three cups, he was exhausted, and the bright white light in the room was dazzling; but the clock had stopped, he had no idea what time it was, and had such a terrible headache, it seemed to him that it was taking a long time, but then, he wasn’t used to this sort of thing, and anyway he couldn’t think straight so he didn’t even try. Finally they came back, but there were more of them this time, they had a few more questions to ask him. That’s when everything really took a turn for the worse.

“Where did you spend the evening, Dr. Puig?”

“At the movies, I already told you.”

“Alone?”

“But I already told you. I don’t understand. What is the point of this new interrogation?”

“Dr. Puig, we ask the questions here. We’re not in your office, do you understand? So, to sum up: your wife didn’t feel like going to the movies, and when you came home, she was dead, is that correct?”

“Yes, the door to the apartment was unlocked, there were signs of a struggle in the living room, the window was—”

“Yes, yes, we know all that, you already told us all that.”

“But I already told you everything.”

“No, you didn’t tell us whe...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. A cunningly plotted tale that is by turns cerebral, suspenseful--and ultimately shocking. -Publishers Weekly A gripping psychological thriller for fans of The Girl on the Train and The Silent Wife about a wife s secrets, a husband accused of murder, and a marriage gone terribly wrong Buenos Aires, 1987. When a beautiful young woman named Lisandra is found dead at the foot of a six-story building, her husband, a psychoanalyst, is immediately arrested for her murder. Convinced of Vittorio s innocence, one of his patients, Eva Maria, is drawn into the investigation seemingly by chance. As she combs through secret recordings of Vittorio s therapy sessions in search of the killer--could it be the powerful government figure? the jealous woman? the musician who s lost his reason to live?--Eva Maria must confront her most painful memories, and some of the darkest moments in Argentinian history. In breathless prose that captures the desperate spinning of a frantic mind, Helene Gremillon blurs the lines of past and present, personal and political, reality and paranoia in this daring and compulsively readable novel. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780143126584

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