27 August 2015

Laurent Mauvignier: Tout mon amour (2012)

I believe I've said it before, but it needs repeating: Laurent Mauvignier is a major French writer, although I'll extend that claim to major writer tout court. Tout mon amour, his first play, confirms this fact. Theatre, with its multiple voices, seems to fit with Mauvignier's area of vision, as the novels of his that went before were polyvocal.

To Mauvignier the reality of anything is plural, or to express it another way reality is unpindownable. His principal preoccupations continue to be death (in all its facets), the psychology of relationships (often familial, particularly parental), the repressed or the concealed (intentionally or subconsciously), the unspoken (or that which is hidden from anything but subjective knowledge), and the nature of truths, half-truths and plain lies and hypocrisies. There is a deeply rich furrow to plough, and Mauvignier makes the most of it.

In the title Tout mon amour (literally 'All My Love') we have an expression casually used on countless greetings cards, emails, letters, and of course wreathes or funeral announcements. And they so often register pyschologically as completely insincere, totally mindless. Laurent Mauvignier – whose father, incidentally, killed himself when his son was an adolescent – couldn't write a mindless sentence if he tried.

Father P (for père) and mother M (for mère) return after ten years to the home of P's father GP (for grand-père), and the play – which consists of fourteen 'sequences' – begins after GP's funeral. GP comes back to life (at least to P), although his comments on his own funeral, which include his being impressed about the village's strong attendance but also his  caustic remarks on only having seen P once in ten years and his disappointment about the non-attendance of P's unnamed brother (who is in Japan) perhaps suggest that this 'ghost' is only in P's head, especially as P makes a point of 're-killing' his father.

But the main point is that P and M haven't been back from the south of France to see GP because their daughter Élisa (a palindrome of 'asile', or (mental) asylum) disappeared from the place at the age of six and has not been heard of since. She's the other 'ghost' who makes an appearance, although at the age of sixteen, the same age as she would be now after the ten missing years. M refuses to see her, believing that she's a crazy; P, on the other hand, is convinced that this is their daughter, as she has a box of her former clothes, a cuddly toy she had before, a bracelet, and she remembers a trick with a match.

P is so convinced of the truthfulness of Élisa's words that he calls back the couple's son from studying for his Bac, and the long tale that Élisa tells him of being kidnapped by a man and frightened into believing in the evil of the police convinces F (for fils, or son) of the authenticity of her story. But M still refuses to believe and calls the cops, which of course means that Élisa has to go. Powerful stuff, but then nothing else could be expected of Mauvignier.

My other Mauvignier posts:

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Laurent Mauvignier: Loin d'eux
Laurent Mauvignier: Ceux d'à côté
Laurent Mauvignier: Continuer
Laurent Mauvignier: Ce que j'appelle oubli
Laurent Mauvignier: Autour du monde

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