THE MORNING LIST
This week, Laurent Joly, in a masterful study on the Vel d’Hiv roundup, restores in all its magnitude the horror of French collaboration with Nazism. In the field of fiction, the marginalized find a central place with Barlen Pyamootoo, who delivers the apprenticeship story of Nick, a sheet metal worker whose life goes wrong. Similarly, Guadalupe Nettel leads a reflection on extraordinary parenthood, while Gayl Jones’ first novel deals with the traumas transmitted between generations of women.
STORY. “The Roundup of the Vel d’Hiv”, by Laurent Joly
A decisive step in the Nazi plan to destroy the Jews of France, the climax of the Vichy regime’s policy of collaboration with the occupier, “the Vel d’Hiv roundup is the most important operation implemented in Western Europe in as part of the “Final Solution”. The impressive mass of unpublished documents exploited by Laurent Joly suffices to show the extent of what we still have to learn, eighty years later. The assessment itself, if it has long been known for these two days of July 16 and 17, is here the subject of a major reassessment. This is, moreover, one of the decisive contributions of the book, which shows that there was a “roundup after the roundup” for weeks.
Beyond the facts, finally restored with rigor, the vision of the events acquires an unequaled finesse. The administrative and police archives allow us to observe more closely the mixture of anti-Semitism, cowardice and opportunism which presided over the decisions of the French authorities. Delivering the maximum number of victims to the Germans was to give the Vichy regime room for negotiation, and thereby increased power, in a political game whose cruelty and cynicism Laurent Joly shows, more acutely than ever.
His book, however, would not have this breadth if it had not, to the extent that it does, given voice to the victims. Newspapers, letters, retrospective testimonies form a constant counterpoint to the political horror. The Rafle du Vel d’Hiv is a masterful development. But it is also, at a time when the last witnesses are disappearing, a memorial, an intimate record of what the Shoah was in France, as the French implemented it. Florent Georgesco
ROMAN. “Corregidora” by Gayl Jones
Everything is mixed up in Corregidora. Eras, stories, forms of violence, feelings – love and hate go hand in hand, indistinguishable from each other. The stories of the women in her family became those of Ursa, invaded her head, colonized her memory.
And when her jealous husband pushes this blues singer down a flight of stairs, resulting in the loss of the child she was carrying and then a hysterectomy, she is devastated by the impossibility of sharing the memory with a new generation. of the fates of those who were, in the Brazilian plantation of Corregidora, the slaves of this monstrous man and his appointed mistresses, in a bewildering incestuous circle.
Forty-seven years after its original publication, Gayl Jones’s first novel strikes as much by the freedom of its form, its way of sliding from a scene on one level to a conversation, from a dream to a reminiscence, as by the heady orality of his language (more impressive in the narrative passages than in the dialogues).
Above all, it amazes by the frontality with which it evokes the transmission of trauma and the way in which it continues to mark bodies and contaminate souls, to influence the relationship between parents and children, between men and women, between individuals. . The brutal and painful beauty of Corregidora engraves this book in the memory of the reader. Raphaelle Leyris
ROMAN. “Monterey”, de Barlen Pyamootoo
Monterey is the story of premeditated grief. That of childhood, of an intense perception of places, of a future that awaits us. Leaving his village of Monterey (whose location is unknown) to become a sheet metal worker in the neighboring town, Nick feels the weight of this loss with great clarity.
Three years after his sublime Whitman (L’Olivier, 2019), dedicated to the American poet (1819-1892), the Mauritian novelist and filmmaker continues to capture with his hypnotic style the inner journey that all life represents.
Employed in a garage, Nick repairs bodies with speed and talent. He begins to moonlight for thugs and drug traffickers. The money flows in, allowing him to buy new dresses for his lover, Linda, to imagine getting her out of her shack blackened by the fumes of the nearby steel mill to offer her a dignified life in Monterey. It would be so easy to earn even more by reselling weed in your hometown! His success as a sheet metal worker paradoxically marks the beginning of a derailment that ends in prison.
Then comes back the sermon of his grandfather, who had made him swear this: “No matter what happens in your life, never have to deal with the police, nor with politics, nor with the skin of your ass. The hero didn’t listen to what sounded like old person ramblings, but he’s not being punished for it. Pyamootoo is neither writing a moral tale nor an essay on social determination. He never abandons Nick, nor condemns him. There is in the constancy of Pyamootoo’s love for his characters a great lesson in humanity and literature. Gladys Marivat
NOVEL. “The Rare Bird”, by Guadalupe Nettel
Since her debut as a writer in 2002, with the short story Fossil Days (L’Eclose), Guadalupe Nettel has asserted her taste for extraordinary individuals. The Rare Bird confirms this inclination. The narrator, Laura, a Mexican doctoral student who has lived in Paris, learns with disappointment of the pregnancy of her best friend, Alina. Hadn’t the two of them made a pact that they promised never to have children? However, not only did Alina become pregnant, but she did everything to be, by multiplying the treatments, while Laura had her tubes tied.
The oddity here lies in Alina’s transformation into a “maternal care robot”, at least as the narrator fears. But Guadalupe Nettel focuses most of her story on the strangeness of the unborn baby: as in a logbook, the novelist follows the pregnancy step by step, then Alina’s delivery – and their share of surprises. Because, thwarting all the prognoses of the medical profession, the child will survive, although affected by a severe handicap.
Guadalupe Nettel invites a more global reflection on the different types of unconventional parenting. How do you adapt when the child that is born is so different from the one you dreamed of, that you have already grieved it? The parallels between what the two friends are going through allow the novelist to point out the different expressions of violence in a Western society. Being a mother, biological or surrogate, requires armor and a shield, the novelist seems to suggest. She wears them here with a certain charm. Ariane Singer