Translated by Marion Duvert and Lorin Stein
A short introductory disclaimer.
“The characters in this novel have never existed other than in the pages of this book.
If, however, the reader feels that in certain ways they resemble real persons whom he or she knows, or knows of, that is simply because other persons or characters would behave no differently under similar conditions.”
The first four chapters of this book introduce us to the main protagonists, who are Willie, Doumé, Leibo and Liz
The story is told by Liz – Elizabeth Levallois - a thirty three year old cultural journalist, who is a friend of Willie, Doume’s colleague and Leibo’s mistress. It is through her that we learn how these three characters paths cross.
We are first introduced to William Miller (Willie), born in Amiens, at nineteen he moved to Paris where, at the start of the book, he is living on the streets & in the squats of the Gare Du Nord region with the idea of being an artist, although his idea of artist is mixed up with the idea of being an outlaw.
“He’d call himself an artist, meaning an outlaw. He’d say he was writing some piece, he’d say he had works in progress, shit going on. A kind of installation, like the performance artists he came across in squats. My guess is he wanted to shout words while some rockers did their thing. But there were no rockers anymore. He was living out a mythology he never quite got the hang of. He wanted tattoos, a band, a look like those pictures of James Dean or Tupac..”
This is how Liz first meets Willie, as she is there to profile him. The time is the 1980’s and she’s at the start of her career, working for an underground arts magazine. Through her Willie meets Doumé (Dominique Rossi), who Liz describes as “handsome in a mature way, responsible and lightly chiselled by time. The trouble was, when he was twenty it didn’t suit him. He had to wait to look his age.” Originally from Corsica he was a journalist and a founding member of a gay activist group called Stand Up, he was also one of the generation of homosexuals to experience sexual relations free of the worry of HIV/AIDS. Willie and Doumé become lovers and Liz starts an affair with Jean-Michel Leibowitz (Leibo), her old professor and a friend of Doumé.
Both Willie and Doume contract H.I.V and this destroys any love that existed between them.The story of Hate: A Romance, is an old tale of love turned bad, or in this case vicious, through the guise of politics, with the now ex-lovers taking different corners in the political fighting that arose around the problems with the rise of AIDS. Doumé advocates safe sex, protection, whilst Willie celebrates the virus as though it were a badge of honour stating that “AIDS belonged to us queers, it was our treasure,” and that those like Doumé were sucking up to the establishment, joining the forces of repression because “AIDS Saves, Condoms Kill.”
I used the word “corners” above because this is a fight, although the idea of Queensbury rules has no application here, this fight is down and dirty, and what was a passionate love has slowly corroded to become an equally passionate hate, with everything fair game, everything used no matter how personal it may once have been - it all gets bought out and displayed in public.
As the divide between these two characters becomes more extreme, so does the stance they take. Willie advocates the sharing of the virus as though a gift between two consenting couples & Doumé censures his ex lover for "crimes against humanity" for deliberately infecting people with HIV virus. Whilst this is going on we also follow Liz’s affair with Leibo and the path he takes from a leftish Jewish Intellectual to a member of the Government.
This is one of those books where there is so much going on, whether this on a political & cultural level or whether it is dealing with the personal impact of the virus and its destruction on all that was good in the characters lives. To record it all here would become tedious for all concerned and be detrimental to what is after all the politics and cultural nuances, just the old, old tale of love turned bad, this is in spite of it all a tale of humanity, with all it’s associated dirt and dreams. This was a book that I chose because of the title – wasn’t sure if I'd like the book itself – now love the book.
Tristan Garcia was born in 1981 in Toulouse and attended the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he specialized in philosophy. He is the author of a book of philosophy, The Image, published in 2007. Hate: A Romance is his first novel.
picture by Agnès Gayraud