24 November 2017

Andrée Chedid: Les Quatre Morts de Jean de Dieu (2010)

Andrée Chedid (1920–2011) was born in Cairo to a Syrian mother and a Lebanese father. Les Quatres Morts de Jean de Dieu is about the life (and death) at the age of seventy-seven of Jean de Dieu, born in Spain into a solidly bourgeois Catholic Spanish family. This novel (not her last published) was published shortly before her death at the age of ninety.

Jean's first 'death' was that of his Catholic faith: his friend Miguel's father José introduced him to the readings of thinkers such as the Russian anarchist Kropotkin. At a very young age, both Jean and Miguel were forced to flee from Spain with the coming of the fascist Franco, and emigrated permanently to France.

Jean married Isabelita in France, and was for years a man of communist persuasion, although even on the fall of the Berlin wall, Isabelita wonders if his second death, his lack of belief in communism, didn't come some time before, such as on the death of Stalin and Khrushchev's denunciation of him in 1956.
The third death of Jean came on his illnesses, his cardiovascular problems and more, but essentially his onset of Alzheimer's disease.

The final death of Jean is in carrying out his final wishes, to have his ashes scattered from a high point in Cerbère (Pyrénées-Orientales), where Miguel and family members used to go to view the Catalonia that they remembered, but where Isabella stumbles.

Andrée Chedid is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse. The quotation at the front of the book is by Chrétien de Troyes, and engraved on the tomb: 'Lil cors s'an vet, il cuers séjourne': 'The body leaves, the heart remains':

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