Article envoyé par ma maison d'édition britannique, Dedalus.
"And finally from Dedalus we have INK IN THE BLOOD (Dedalus pb, 77pp, £7.99) by French author Stéphanie Hochet and translated by Mike Mitchell. The never named narrator of this novella is an artist who makes designs for gifted tattooist Dimitri, but has never actually had one done for himself. When he finally takes the plunge it is because he sees a Latin phrase that takes his fancy: vulnerant omnes, ultima necat, meaning “all the hours wound, the last one kills”. He has this memento mori in the form of a cross placed on his solar plexus, one of the most painful places on the human body to be tattooed, but afterwards finds that his feelings about himself and his attitude to women are changing. Coincidental with this transformation the first two words of the phrase fade and ultimately disappear from his flesh, leaving only the threat implicit in the second clause.
Hochet gives us a lot of background detail about tattooing, its history and use as a means of self-expression, a badge of status and insignia of achievement, with our hero’s meditations on the subject woven throughout the narrative, but in some ways the matter is only incidental to the real thrust of the story. The narrator is morbidly inclined, as witness his choice of phrase for his tattoo, and it is his mind-set that is the true subject of Hochet’s work. Ultimately what we have is a descent into madness. There is only the narrator’s word that the tattoo is fading; he never seeks independent verification. And coincidental with all this, there are hints of a blood related illness that could prove fatal, so that the fading tattoo might simply be the outward manifestation of an awareness that his own time is fast running out, whether that is true or not.
In other areas the narrator adjusts his attitudes. He starts to develop a kind of paranoia regarding Dimitri, who he no longer regards as a friend and mentor. He develops an unrequited attachment to a technician at the medical centre where his blood is being tested, and he reaches out to a woman in his past with whom he may have had a child. Underlying all this there seems to be an awareness that he has failed to make that most human of all bonds, a lasting relationship, and he is now regretting the mistakes of his past while at the same time doomed to repeat them through his inability to connect with others at any level beyond the superficial. He is not an appealing character, and Hochet demonstrates this with her keen observations and the judicious use of words when the narrator is expressing his inner life, but at the same time she gives him enthusiasms that almost endear the man to us. Ink in the Blood is an intriguing and enigmatic book, one that will probably require more than one reading to get the full benefit. I enjoyed it chiefly as a portrait of a contradictory and often abrasive personality, rather than for the story, with the outré elements simply the embodiment of what’s going on elsewhere in the narrator’s life."
Peter Tennant * in Black Static #58
* Peter Tennant, prolific author of horror, fantasy and speculative fiction and regular reviewe
Ink in the blood : version britannique de Sang d'encre (Les Busclats, 2013), Stéphanie Hochet