“I received an email telling me it was over.
I didn’t know how to respond.
It was almost as if it hadn’t been meant for me.
It ended with the words, “Take care of yourself”.
And so I did.”
It is on the emotional incongruity of a sentence that has the appearance of a thoughtfulness – one cannot reject the invitation to take care of oneself, but one cannot accept it if attached to the pain of farewell – that Sophie Calle builds her work of art, obtaining with it the entire French pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007.
In this work there are all the questions, and all the answers: there is a formidable irony shared with other 107 women, a melancholic wise irony tinged with bitterness, medicine for all evil.
Calle asks all of these women what it means to “Take care of yourself,” how you cope and overcome the frightening emptiness of absence.
Each one responded in its own way, drawing on the repertoire of creative tools that each of us possesses, and which often saves us: in the hands of a cartoonist the email becomes a comic strip, the judge makes a sentence out of it, the sexologist responds with a prescription on letterhead, the lawyer suggests two years in prison and a thirty-seven euro fine for the subject, guilty of fraud and forgery.
Two-thirds of the way through the book, it gets better: a lot of laughing, a lot of listening to the noise of the world. The time comes to sit back and enjoy the show.
Of the four attached CDs (the family counselor session, the conversation with the radio speaker, the film made by director Letitia Masson), the last one contains images of those who responded with voice and gestures.
At the end there is Brenda, a majestic white parrot with a golden crest (therefore, female): with her beak she tears the letter to pieces, she tastes it, but she doesn’t like it.
The author concludes, in small print, “This is all about the letter. Not about the man who wrote it.” Of course, the book is dedicated to him.