julian barnes on valloton


One of my writing students handed in a story based around a mysterious lie, and so I found myself describing the Vallotton to my class. A man and a woman sit in a late 19th-century interior: yellow and pink striped wallpaper in the background, blocky furniture in shades of dark red in the foreground. The couple are entwined on a sofa, her rich scarlet curves bedded between the black legs of his trousers. She is whispering in his ear; he has his eyes closed. Clearly, the woman is the liar, a fact confirmed by the smiling complacency of the man’s expression and the way his left foot is cocked with the jauntiness of the unaware. All we might wonder is which lie he is being told. The old deceiver, “I love you”? Or does the swell of the woman’s dress invite that other favourite, “Of course the child is yours”?

more from The Guardian here.