Genesis opens with the provocative claim, “Every woman he dares sleep with bears his child.” Felix “Lix” Dern, a popular actor, age about forty-seven, is fixated on the idea of his fertility. He calls it a curse. The reality is less interesting: He does have five children with a sixth on the way, but they have been born over a period of twenty-six years. During that time he has had affairs with five women, two of whom he married.
Lix, in fact, is not particularly sexually active, except in his nearly continuous fantasies. Two seven-year periods of celibacy seem to suit him quite well, though he quickly skips over these years, as though only sex is relevant. He is timid rather than “daring” in getting lovers (at least four of the five women initiate the relationship), and he is definitely not good at keeping them. Two of them leave him before he even knows they are pregnant.
Lix seldom is in a situation to act as a father, and when he is he has virtually no interaction with his children. On the occasion when one—George, now a young man with a distinctive facial birthmark like his father—shows up to introduce himself, Lix has almost nothing to say to him. Possibly there is a connection between his lack of interest in his actual children and his seemingly great satisfaction in seeing himself as “a teeming alpha male” following his basic animal instinct. An even more likely reason is simply that Lix prefers to see himself as a lover rather than as an essentially lonely loser.
The story is not told in chronological order. The first chapter is labeled “6,” followed by 1 through 5, then another chapter 6. (The novel was published in Great Britain as Six, presumably a reference to his six progeny.) At the beginning of the novel, Lix and his wife Mouetta are sitting in an art cinema watching a matinee. She wishes Lix would speak to her. Lix is wondering when it was that Mouetta became pregnant.
A couple of months earlier Lix had gone to meet Mouetta to celebrate their second wedding anniversary at his favorite restaurant, the Habit Bar, so upscale and expensive that it is nicknamed the Debit Bar. Mouetta is not alone. She is with her cousin Freda. Lix and Freda share an awkward history which includes a son, George, whom Lix has barely met.
Freda has always been a bit of an anarchist rebel. On this evening, she is hiding a student in her office, a young man who is wanted by the police and soldiers who control the city. Freda knows the authorities are looking for her, too, and she wants Lix and Mouetta to keep the student in their apartment. Lix does not want to risk the displeasure of the authorities but agrees to try. The city, unnamed except for its slogan “the City of Kisses,” in a similarly unnamed country, presumably in Eastern Europe, is under some menacing totalitarian control at the time of the novel. Rather than use his recognition as a celebrity to move around the city with enough freedom to get to the young man, Lix deliberately makes sure that does not happen. Bridges and streets are closed, and Lix and Mouetta spend the night in their illegally parked car. That night, after some uncomfortable and not particularly loving or satisfying sex, Mouetta became pregnant.
The following chapter, “1,” is set in 1979. Lix is nearly twenty-one and a virgin. He spends considerable time in his apartment with his binoculars, spying on an older woman who comes regularly to a nearby sidewalk café to meet a man. Lix does not realize that she is aware of his watching her. On a day the man does not appear, the woman goes to a nearby restaurant. She recognizes the boy of the binoculars when Lix happens to walk in. She invites him to her table and then invites herself to his apartment. She does not give Lix her name, nor does he ask. Lix, embarrassed and nervous, has his first sexual encounter, clothes on, followed immediately by his second, clothes off. His first child is conceived, a girl whose mother will call her...
(The entire section is 1,781 words.)