This year, jurors and jurors had the choice of four very different texts, but which restore the whole fictional-weak point of the French novel, whose tendency to deliberately mislead self-portraits, is increasingly spasmodic. Four texts unequal but written with application, all clear, unprepared, in a word "goncourables", ie "bankables".
Last year, the jury had rewarded Agenda, a historically-literary narrative without great taste, politely consensual and having nothing from a novel. Once you read, you soon forgot.
On Nov. 7, 2018, with the reward of Nicolas Mathieu, the Goncourt Academy revives the story of novels, the public fresco, which gives a lesson in history, leaving short forms, these vaguely imposing novels full of phrases little-by-eye, not too much, as long as you read, you feel flattered by the style.
The selection of the jury sets Goncourt as the model of solid, fat, sought-after novels, of which one can say, offering them: "You see, I did not like your mouth, there are more than 400 pages, we have for its dough," and receiving: "Unfortunately, but because I, I will never read this thing, it seems very boring."
But this vote also resembles a selection by default, as if the jury was aware that Goncourt is basically just viagra for the booksellers and that it would be absurd to hope for a masterpiece.
Four finalists, historians and fiction writers
In many ways, the three ambitious finalists had the assets to gain the coronation of the red belt and, in particular, the historic moorings, allowing nothing to be given in the air for a small lesson of general culture, even morality.
The social approach prevails in Their children after them and Winter of dissatisfactionwhich use the deindustrial framework. Brother of the soul as Teachers and slaves are based on a solid historical reality to paint characters crushed by the mechanics of the events that overcome them.
The journalist's favorite, David Diop, is only 4.589e a novelist interested in 14-18 – it must be said that the vein of the Nazis is running out a bit. All in all, we need to create a specific literary return, a literary trench, with a Verdun prize, leave room for other wars.
At least Paul Greveillac was interested in painting Mao's China, from whom we know almost nothing about what Maoism really was and he is on the side of the victims, in which Sollers's French literature bearing in mind, we are not always accustomed to it. This young 35-year-old writer answers interviews with a Mao collar, which shows that he has a taste or a sense of irony.
"The winter of dissatisfaction" **
Describing the Pre-Thatcher of the United Kingdom, Thomas B. Reverdy loses a good chance to make a good novel with a good subject, and that's a shame. The story is documented, we believe the writer has overwhelmed his subject and has spent time in the library.
1979 is as beautiful as the Wikipedia, reminding of the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR or its crisis boat people Vietnamese at war with China. The popularization of OECD reports is almost sexy.
"Petrol, the bread had doubled in price since the beginning of the decade, and we could no longer stay elsewhere than in the slums." The social welfare itself proposed the relocation of people to legal occupations, mostly abandoned hospitals. […]. The United Kingdom was rescued in an inaccuracy from the IMF, like every country in the Third World, with a loan and a recovery plan, a road map. "
This conscientious reading of the files is skillfully camouflaged at the end of the book, under the absence of a playlist, sorry for "The" soundtrack "of the novel" –even with quotes, is very skilful – from Bowie to Sex Pistols, Marianne Faithfull and the Joy Division.
Not surprisingly, good guys get lost (Candice, runner and aspiring actor, Jones, an unemployed jazzman) and the arrival of Tories looks like Halloween. Like Richard III, the bad candidate hates weakness ("There was a deep contempt in the look of Margaret Thatcher").
Thomas B. Reverdy is pleased with some lines about the funniest joke of his book when the future tenant of Downing Street gets correction courses to correct "The strong emphasis of the grocer's daughter", is considered vulgar.
The novelist also authorizes the tautology – power exists only if it is practiced in another – to slip a point Godwin. "It's very easy to make Richard a monster, it's said that Richard is a tragedy of power, he's crazy, he's drunk with power, we're sorry about the problem, but it's very easy." Hitler is a dangerous patient – and if the Europeans vote again, then we say that there is no relationship?
In a good thirty chapters, decorated with so many excursions that come from songs of the time, the writer is lost in a complex construction, very flamboyant to convincing. Success in the feat to make Shakespeare hate and Margarita Thatcher friendly.
"Brother of the Soul" ***
"There is very little fiction that depicts Senegal's"explains David Diop, who pays tribute to a very written, rhythmic song inspired by his hair readings and the substantial absence of these same letters in Senegal, "Psycho-narrative, which is the narration of the thoughts of character".
This psycho-narrative is the strength and weakness of the text. In the way of a fairy tale, a deception, a chant, the character mixes, goes backwards, continues the course of its history, as "With the truth of God", expression repeat at will, to saturation.
"So, yes, I know, Captain Armand did not want me anymore on the battlefield." Behind the words of the greatest chocolate war Ibrahima Seck, I knew I realized we had enough of my seven cut hands to bring home Yes, I understood from the truth of God that we want only a temporary madness on the battlefield. "
What initially fascinates quickly becomes a process. We know, we understand. Often, poetry wins to be short. We conclude by saying that these 180 pages would hold easily at 18 or 14, it depends.
"Their children after them" ****
The topic of Their children after them does not shine from its originality. Literature or cinema have explored the vein of inactive adolescents, Passion of the young Werther The Beautiful children by Riad Sattouf, via The Beach Hotel and The Great Great.
In this long book (420 pages, well packed), we find the typical scenes that are expected: the pimple that rubs the girls' chests at night when we take them, but they have to drink, the delineated parents, the chestnuts, the chestnuts mopeds and shit scenes.
With his gravity, the pleasant pleasure of analyzing the intercourse ("Anthony's tongue had found the velvet of her pussy, followed by an aspect, went up to the groin, tasted his sweat, juice and interior"), the painting of inertia, this book is in accordance with feud, a novel by David Lopez who called on some television commentators to steal him because he was in an unknown place and so mythical, what Guilluy calls regional France. Nicolas Mathieu puts his characters near Thionvile, in Heillange, light years away from Flore's café. Everyone worked at Metalor, but blast furnaces are more than that.
They are called Anthony, Hacine, Stéphanie … and we follow them from 1992 to 1998. Their embarrassment is worth funny moments for us ("As often as she was uncomfortable, she felt like running").
Clever, the novelist is ironic. "However, since a particular Melody had installed his living room almost the opposite, the trade was not that thriving, offering a fidelity card, cuts to 50 francs for children, and a remarkable decoration: it bordered on unfair competition. repeat the paintings and replace the old transistor, but these modernization aspirations were lost to the bistro, like the others, with the hairdresser being totally bald and safe in the RPR, he liked the meetings, the cold, the his country and Charles Pasqua. "
It's annoying, however, a copy pretty well written, smooth trying to find the phrase or the type that flies: "In this semi-dead city, strange stitching, built on a hill and under a bridge, Antonios revolves, shivers, young man to die."
In addition, here and there, heavy formalities, such as this false dialogue,
Eliott asked him what the problem was.
"Nothing, do not break my balls."
Still, with the risk of finding the pure detail that distorts everything:
"Stefos was not there.
– On the other hand, I left with speed, I paid for my helmet.
– Oh, super bah. "
We're sorry, but when we start fast, we say "against".
There is the inability of this book, which gives too much to read it as a perfect subject, where everything seems to be flattered to flatter the readership with what is needed from a distance, a sense of sourness, a sign of politics, tenderness. ..
Their children after them is very smooth, very predictable, to be true. The fact remains that Nicolas Mathieu is as sociologist as a historian, describing with slight touches France of the 1990s, which was not yet known as black-and-white butter, and where he spoke of unscrupulous "burgers."
"Teachers and slaves" ****
Smooth or school? This is a small rebuke that could appeal to Paul Greveillac, whose impressive novel is based on rich and detailed documentation, because the daily lives of Chinese farmers at the foot of the Himalayas, "In Sichuan Shady Trails"at the time of the great leap forward and the Cultural Revolution is not exactly the kind of theme suggested in the baccalaureate.
Let's be honest: almost no one knows this story, which has, however, been sacrificed to tens of millions, enough to fuel many novels – such as Dominique Paggner, who saw in his Stasi records "The greatest literary business of all time".
Carefully, Paul Greveillac weaves the thread of destructive maoism, among humble, self-critic, beatings, beatings, summary executions and without excuse ("He had to make a quota, he'll do it."), hunger that led to cannibalism and mass graves. This everyday life has become a nightmare where we spot "Feudal Thoughts" and "The middle class of wealthy farmers".
It leaves nothing to be ignored by the mental and physical milling that becomes, the absurd, when it is necessary to melt – among other things – "Great Incense Burners" to make blast furnaces and hardness when the working time of sick and depleted farmers is halved while maintaining "The same production quota per group Those who will not work with all their power during these five hours should be strictly punished There are no excuses They are right-handers." Not to mention the filling of the skull that ignores friendships and families.
"Colonel Ming called Kewei to sit down, encouraged her to drink tea, made him speak, from his childhood, Sichuan, from his parents, his wife, Kewei was silent, and denied his father again. to be destroyed, not to lie when he spoke of his faith in Mao. "
The novelist proceeds with broken steps, allowing the regime to install the crescendo insanity and horror. The fate of Kewei, born in 1950, is paradoxically played in these massacres where the author makes strange apprenticeship and finishes his style which will later make him an official painter and recognized.
"The more people died, the more Kewei went on." He struggled with the plan, shattered with ashes, burnt pieces of wood from the kang, and drew elsewhere ordinary horror scenes, and Goya had never met Saturn. devours one of his sons. "Kewei rubbed his shoulders with him every day, and Li Fang threw his eyes wide with the view of those crows that seemed ready to escape the sheet.
This position of a farmer-born, award-winning farmer, allows the novelist to move from "little" to "great" story, from the pick-picker to Jian Qing. An impassioned excursion, documented. Sometimes too when it comes to dragging a report, at risk of adding weight: "Kewei gets bored with the boredom, they think back to one of the first big hits of Chinese cinema in color, The basketball player n° C5. The game finally ended. "
The fantastic plot does not obey logic, history sometimes loses its power. In many ways, Kewei remains a fleshy character, unresponsive to the need, but cold on his return. There is no doubt that the demonstration is political, it is not its minimal value: it is time to give flesh to these torn lives, which are not at all statistical. The monumental work, Wang Bing's films testify, just begins. That's what, despite its limitations, you have to read this novel.
To reward Nicolas Mathieu, Goncourt's jury was not wrong, but it did not. Perhaps he might be interested piece Philippe Lançon (Fémina Award); "This novel is not a fantasy work, it is a testimony […]. It is a very good book, perhaps one of the most beautiful of the time, but it does not respond to what Goncourt expects to crown a fiction novel "Bernard Pivot, the president of Goncourt, said last night.
Nevertheless, none of the four novels in the final will enter the history of literature. It is true that Goncourt's goal has not been here for a long time.