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Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M [Paperback]

Catherine Millet , Helen Stevenson

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29 Oct 2009
After the pleasure comes the pain. The Sexual Life of Catherine M, Catherine Millet's analysis of the many forms and flavours of sexual pleasure, was internationally admired, and not just for its literary qualities. The audacity of a sex life well lived and thoroughly examined left readers wondering how she managed to pull it off while sustaining her relationship with life partner, writer Jacques Henric. 'I had love at home' she explained. 'I sought only pleasure in the world outside'.Then one day she discovered a letter lying about the apartment, from which it became clear that Jacques was involved elsewhere. Jealousy details the crisis provoked by this discovery and her reaction to it. If The Sexual Life of Catherine M seemed to disregard emotion, Jealousy is its radical complement: the paradoxical confession of a libertine, who succumbs to the 'timeless and universal malady'.

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`Its spellbindingly fluid prose makes this an absorbing tale.' --Yasmin Sulaiman, The List

`For anyone interested in the workings of the human heart, this is an essential text'
--Jane Shilling, Evening Standard

`An honest, brutal piece of confession and self analysis that's also more than a little racy in parts... fascinating' --Viv Groskop, The Observer

`Millet's prose is still beautiful - swirling and elliptical... She describes the animal pangs of jealousy well'
--Camilla Long, The Sunday Times

`Raw counterpart to that first book... Millet succeeds in interweaving psychoanalysis with art, art with sex and sex with writing.' --Hannah Gregory, New Statesman

`Remarkable... This new book is a generous one. It predates her success, and to a certain extent explains it.' --Sheena Joughin, TLS

'Though far less scandalous than her first memoir, Jealousy is in many ways a better book.' --Lisa Appignanesi, Independent

Beautifully translated, shadowed by Proust rather than pornography, it fleshes out an emotional life to confound the bodily one' --Lisa Appignanesi, Independent

'Books of the year: Love's - devastating - answer to the erotic utopia she once relished.'
--Boyd Tonkin, Independent

`A lucid, astute and incredibly accurate analysis of human emotions... a must-read.' --Cherie Federico, Aesthetica

Book Description

From the author of the huge bestseller The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave and Wise 8 Jun 2010
By Bookreporter - Published on
In 2002, Catherine Millet, editor of the French magazine Art Press, created quite a stir with THE SEXUAL LIFE OF CATHERINE M., in which she revealed that for decades she had been having sexual affairs with men other than her long-term partner, writer and photographer Jacques Henric. An honest and freewheeling account of a woman's sexual liberation, it was an important work of feminist literature in that Millet destroyed the double standard that had existed forever: men could have mistresses on the side as long as they stayed emotionally committed to their wives. In effect, she was doing the same thing: carrying on a "sexual nomadism" outside her home but finding love with Henric.

JEALOUSY: The Other Life of Catherine M. explores what happened to Millet when she accidentally discovered photos that seemed to indicate that Henric was doing the same thing. "Whether the notebook had been open or closed, my attention probably would not have been drawn to it if the photos had been of a different nature." This discovery exploded Millet's world. "Equally," she writes, "it never occurred to me that other people might be pursuing their own storylines elsewhere." Millet and Henric started living together when she was 24. They are married now and have been a couple for a total of 37 years. By the time she found the proof of his infidelity in the 1990s, they had been together for decades.

Millet was always honest with Henric, much as she was in her first memoir. She writes, "Just as I loved living between two cities, I loved going from one man to another." She makes her living as an art critic and "...I was not only in contact with artists, but where the avant-garde freedom in life and thought seemed to open up limitless possibilities..." Her world precluded even the idea of such a bourgeois concept as jealousy. She loved Henric and always returned home to him. After finding the photos, she says, "I came back to him empty of all feeling, pregnant with suspense. And it would be true to say that over the next few days this suspense unleashed a cascade of tearful questions, and went on over a period of months and years to asphyxiate our relationship."

JEALOUSY is a powerful story of a woman falling apart. The initial discovery drove Millet to rifle through her partner's things for further proof, and she became suspicious of every woman they knew. Furthermore, she created elaborate sexual scenarios and masturbatory fantasies involving Henric and other women. She says, "I sank deeper into the shifting sands of mutual incomprehension." Her memory began playing tricks on her. She turned to tranquilizers and analysis, but the "crisis," which included periodic physical breakdowns, dragged on for three years. She stopped her "nocturnal expeditions" but was still tortured by the emotional role other women might be playing in Henric's life. After all, when she did it, it was just for the sex. Her most devastating discovery is that "...he had a life, in the margin of which was his life with me."

Millet writes eloquently and intelligently about the most painful of topics. What makes this book exceptional is that she does not venture into cheap sentiment or easy moralizing. Her relationship with Henric ultimately survives, but she does not take the easy way out of repudiating either his past or her own. They are, after all, both human. Nor is this a mea culpa, a plea for forgiveness from the sexually righteous. Instead, Millet and Henric love and support and talk to each other throughout the ordeal. Neither of them went screaming towards the exit or searching for the lawyer's phone number, even when it might have been the easiest and perhaps most justifiable solution at the moment.

Despite the subject matter, there is little here that is salacious. Those who come expecting either gossip or soft porn will be deeply disappointed. Hardly grist for the ubiquitous American gossip mill, this is a French intellectual documenting her intimate life and seeking her truth. Millet concludes, "We become the reader of a novel which we were once the unconscious author, and before embarking on the final chapter, the skillful author may hand us a key which suddenly allows us to link together all the clues scattered throughout the story, giving meaning where once there appeared to be none."

That is what a memoir is supposed to do: discover the truth about a human being in crisis and shine a light into the darkness of a soul. In that light we just might find some truth and salvation in our own lives. Millet has done that once again in JEALOUSY, a brave and wise little book.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars changing places 27 Feb 2010
By Case Quarter - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
how do we meet the persons who become important to us? this is the question millet first answers in `Jealousy', her circuitous memoir of a period in her life of her relationship with jacque henric, her lover and, later, husband. catherine millet, art critic and editor of the magazine, `Art News', admits to having an excellent visual memory and being comfortably adept in the world of visual images. her first impression of jacques pertains, anomalously, not to the eye but to the ear; she hears his voice on a tape machine played over the telephone. soon they are living together.

jacques is a writer of the kind of texts dear to the french critical and philosophical intelligentsia. gracing the cover of `Perpetual Adoration', his best known novel, is a photo of gustave courbet's hirsute nude `The Origin of the World', the original painting once owned by jacques lacan. it is another explicit photo, one taken by henric of a naked pregnant woman to which he, possibly not so innocently, directs catherine, which begins her jealousy.

catherine always enjoyed her sexual freedom as an innate faculty until she moved in with jacques, and then she began registering images of herself. she always was a daydreamer, but when she becomes jealous, a `paranoid archeologist', she ceases being heroine of her own daydreams and sexual fantasies, her former space in her dreams filled by the women with whom she believes jacques to be sleeping.

millet undertakes her obsessional spying with such critical and analytical fervor that the reader suspects something darker lurking than jealousy. true, she does not want to see herself as susceptible to a fault as conventional as jealousy. would not jealousy appear to be a foreign emotion for a woman who engaged in orgies and what used to be called `free love'? but there it is, along with the sense of her sinking, slipping away from her life line, jacques. jealousy is what alerts her to the deeps pulling her away from him. she lacks emotion, she tells us, with her other sexual partners, but not with jacques, her primary partner. the women with jacques in her sexual fantasies are younger women, `very young girls', is how she describes them. millet is jealous of the women in her lover's life, she fears no longer being his primary lover. but it is not just the other women, she is also jealous of jacques' spaces and occupations which provide him equanimity, which he used to share with her. when she feels rejected by Jacques, when he becomes silent, and she's gripped in her own silence, her fantasies of jacques' sex life, she writes that she was destroyed.

the middle aged millet does not compete with jacques' very young girls, instead she becomes more like jacques, adapting his silences, his note taking of her own sexual life, his analytical skills and returns to an analyst she visited earlier in her life, a decision possibly suggested by letters of henric she reads containing remarks by lacan.

this is catherine millet's confession, her psychological memoir, of deep personal issues awakened by jealousy, and the therapy that `pointed' her to writing and becoming the chosen photographed nude subject in jacques' visual space. the reader may in fairness want to question the role jealousy played for jacques henric in all of this.
2.0 out of 5 stars So this is where Lars van Trier found inspiration 8 Jun 2014
By john - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I got this because it was cheap and I had read the review of NYMPHOMANIAC in The New Yorker and was curious. This is the dullest pornography I've ever read, and I've read a lot of pornography. But I did like the movie...
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating 28 Jun 2013
By N. Peritore - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Catherine is a tremendously honest self-analyst who gives deep insight into women.
Interesting pair with the The Sexual Life of CM....
4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A work that elicits interesting reactions... 31 Jan 2011
By John Gueriguian - Published on
In 2002, I was in front of my TV in Paris when Catherine Millet and her husband appeared to publicize her first book--she talking and he supplying the photos of her sexual activities. The French, who are not known to frown on public sex, were not kind to her book. On the site, one reviewer called her "a nymphomaniac exhibitionist;" another considered her a throwback to the 1980s and obsolete given "the present sexual freedoms;" a third found her "tiresome;" a fourth cried out "help;" and so on. Only a few comments were more positive. Her second book elicited in 2009 even more severe criticisms, one of them describing as, "the boring life of Catherine M;" and another calling her book "the confidences of a proctologist."
In America, the first book elicited in 2003 the same criticism as in France--" boring, repetitive, badly written, translated poorly; "Minor earthquake;" said a second; a third pondered, if this book "is as bad as negative reviews suggest, why then did it sell over 300,000 copies when it was first published in France?" to which a fourth responded, "I have a counter question, how many of of the 300,000 returned it back?" In all, few reviewers liked the book. In contract, and so far, two unusually prolix American reviewers waxed lyrical about the merits of this second book. Those are facts.
When in 2002 I observed on TV the brash Millet and her timid looking husband, I found them too artificial to be true. That's an opinion, for whatever it is worth. The fact is, however, that I didn't buy the book then, and I don't intend to buy it now. I have decided that it is not the kind of erotic work that I would like. And, not having read the book, I shall therefore not venture too rate it neither too kindly nor too severely.
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