cover image No Touching

No Touching

Ketty Rouf, trans. from the French by Tina Kover. Europa, $17 trade paper (172p) ISBN 978-1-60945-691-7

Rouf’s fresh debut follows a woman pushing her boundaries in order to gain a sense of agency. Joséphine, a depressed, unfulfilled 30-year-old philosophy teacher in a subpar high school in the Parisian suburban of Drancy, finds her requests for a transfer eternally ignored. “Every year I feel like I’m acting in the same movie—or perhaps I should say the same scene is playing me,” she thinks. She copes by taking Xanax, and when she can’t sleep, she routinely goes to a strip club to drink a bottle of champagne. Then, after taking a pole-dancing course, she begins dancing at one of the clubs as Rose Lee, and her dreams of dancing in high-heeled stilettos, making lots of money, and exploring her newfound sense of power animate her dreary days spent teaching. She becomes close with Fleur, another dancer, and their relationship lingers on the edges of intimacy. After her Rose Lee persona and her identity as a teacher collide, she’s forced to consider her next move. While the story is a bit wispy, the direct and infectious prose convincingly delves into Joséphine’s inner life as she seeks self-reliance on her own terms. It’s a rich character study, but don’t come looking for plot. (Aug.)