I learned about this novel from a Catholic literature series that published “Catholic novels”. I am not Catholic, but I live in the world, and the world is deeply influenced by Catholicism. And I am not French either, but here we are. The author here also won the Nobel Prize, and I am interested in those writers as well.
So the “Viper’s Tangle” of the title (sometimes translated as Knot of Vipers) both of which are great titles, refers to the twisted heart of the narrator of this novel. This novel is structured in two parts. We have the first half as a first person letter (which the writer–of the letter–often confuses for a journal, his words) of a husband in his sixties to his longtime wife, whom he hates passionately and treats abysmally. This hatred is ostensibly for an early momentof infidelity, for which he punishes her for decades, hypocritically in part through his own affairs. So the opening section lays out the case for his hatred.
In part two, they are separate (but not divorced) and he has alienated his kids and his wife and worse, he sees the lessons of hatred imparted on his children. They not only hate him, they hate every thing. Slowly he starts to look for some kind of path to redemption.
This novel is a kind of OG divorced dad novel, but worse for everyone, especially the wife, there’s no divorce available. It’s also a novel about forgiveness (but not really redemption). This man is horrible, and he’s not treated as a hero, so that’s good.