The Story Of Blanche And Marie
Per Olov Enquist
In 1878, Blanche Wittman was committed to Salpetriere Hospital as an hysteric and placed in the care of the famous M. Charcot, who regularly displayed her, in a cataleptic state, before a public audience. Over time, the nature of her participation in these demonstrations changed; she graduated from patient to assistant and on leaving the hospital, was hired by Marie Curie to work in her Paris laboratory.
On 17 February 1898, radium was discovered and Blanche’s exposure to it necessitated the amputation of all her limbs, save one. As for Marie, her husband and collaborator Pierre was weakened by illness and subsequently killed having wandered in front of an oncoming horse and cart.
Following this, she embarked on an ill-fated love affair, which, in 1911, almost cost her the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Using Blanche’s notebooks – ‘The Book of Questions’ – Enquist deftly weaves fact and fiction in a powerful tale of scientific discovery, death, art love and the extraordinary relationship of two remarkable women at the dawn of a century of tremendous change.
The Story of Blanche and Marie was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
Dizzy with associations and questions, full of interest and appetite and the satisfactions of a good mind...often funny -- Anne Enright * Guardian * Anyone who read Per Olov Enquists dazzling novel...The Visit of the Royal Physician...will not be surprised to hear that he has written another fascinating, highly charged miracle of compression...Fiction rarely gets more interesting than this -- John de Falbe * Spectator * Enquist brings out the sad sorority of two women who suffered grotesquely for love and work -- Brenda Maddox * The Times * The glimpsed idea of a wider, more poetic sensibility linking art, death, reading and love -- James Urquhart * Mail on Sunday * He is one of the contemporary novel's greatest human investigators -- Paul Binding * Independent on Sunday *
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