Undercurrents (US) / Breathing Underwater (UK)

Year: 
1999

 Breathing Underwater / Undercurrents, Marie Darrieussecq's third novel, deals with the sudden disappearance of a young mother and her daughter. One day, without any known reason, this mother decides to leave Paris with her young daughter in order to go to the seashore, which turns out to be along the Basque coast in the city of Biarritz. As the author states: "She (the mother) isn't going anywhere. She's just simply fleeing. One could term this a type of depression."
     Her husband, without at all understanding the reasons behind this disappearance, hires a detective to find his daughter. After the girl is brought back to her father, the mother spends the rest of her money in order to buy a ticket to Australia where, along some distant beaches, she hopes to find some relief from her worries, a sanctuary overlooking the sea.
     Standing before the sea she's able to contemplate the nature of her existence. Consequently, the novel isn't just simply about her spontaneous decision to flee, but it also raises some very important metaphysical questions which she must ask herself: i.e. Why does she find herself there? And how does she confront her human condition? As the author describes: "The sea is calming, but it doesn't resolve anything. It's a setting for asking oneself some questions. It's very meditative."
     This is a wonderful novel which makes us consider, or reconsider, our reason for being, or even our reason for fleeing.

James Estes