On the dance floor, Daniel opens his eyes wide, frantically trying to attract my attention. he must have noticed Maureen’s hand dissapearing into the front of my jacket.
-Do you know him?
-yeah we live together.
-He’s your flatmate?
How can I explain things to Maureen in between Sean Paul and Drake? That Daniel isn’t a flatmate, or a brother, not even really a friend?
-He’s your botfriend?
He could have been. If I’d followed Arcady’s insistence, we would have slept together, Nellie and I. Alone at first and then together with Arcady afterwards. That was the idea. Anyway, one of the ideas that sprouted from the fertile brain of my mentor.***
Bayamack-Tan’s story of a sect seen from the inside as completely normal by Farah who arrived at Liberty house at the age of six with her parents and her grandmother, fleeing modernity and its electro-magnetic waves which left her mother in a permanent state of weakness and were welcomed by Arcady. On top of this story of a free love community living in the hills in south eastern France and comprising weakened people from the margins of society and rich old ladies who basically subsidised the community, is grafted the story of Farah’s adolescence as she discovers and comes to live with her own story, discovering her MRKH syndrome “This condition causes the vagina and uterus to be underdeveloped or absent, although external genitalia are normal”
We follow Farah as she discovers sex with Arcady at the age of fifteen for one summer before the events which cause her to leave Liberty house. Life in Liberty house is built around the community with ideals of sharing, until a migrant hides in their grounds and steels some of their food, when Farah discovers the limits of their ideals. This is the event which pushes Farah and her friend Daniel to leave the community, there are no young adults in the community, they all choose to leave when the reach the age of about sixteen.
Farah, ill prepared for the outside world meets Maureen who comes to terms with her sexuality, but as the opening quote shows explaining Liberty house to the outside world would be no easy thing. How does life at Liberty House then develop? Do things end well? Well you would need to read the book but expect no surprises.
The book was well received, but I found it a hard read.
First Published in French as “Arcadie” in 2018 by P.O.L.
*** my translation
The quotes as read in French before translation
Sur la piste, Daniel ouvre des yeux ronds et m’adresse des signaux frénétiques. Il a dû remarquer que la main de Maureen a disparu dans l’échancrure de mon smoking
-Tu le connais?
-ouais. On habite ensemble.
-C’est ton coloc?
Comment expliquer ça à Maureen entre Sean Paul et Drake? Que Daniel n’est ni un coloc, ni un frère, ni même à proprement parler un ami?
-c’est ton mec?
Il aurait pu l’être. Si J’avais suivi les objurgations d’Arcady, nous aurions couché ensemble, Nellie et moi. Seuls d’abord et avec Arcady ensuite. C’était ça l’idée. Enfin, l’une des idées qui jaillissent du cerveau fertile de mon mentor.