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.