A review of My Hand Is Exhausted, by Patricia De Martelaere

I got a copy of 2012 Best European Fiction, and I was delighted to see how many women were honoured in it. The first text selected, by Flemish writer Patricia De Martelaere, who died in 2009, is a tale of unrequited love.

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It mainly centres around a painter’s studio, starting with her feelings of alienation towards the clients she paints: “The only ones she doesn’t despise are the ones who don’t come, because they don’t come.” A strange painter, who cannot stand paint on her skin, yet talks of Gao Qipei (a Chinese painter who painted without a brush) and Yves Klein.

This story is strangely evocative and an interesting portrait of a portrait-maker, between love and loneliness, art and the refusal of sensuality.

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