4 December 2017

Bernard-Marie Koltès: La Fuite à cheval très loin dans la ville (1984)

La Fuite à cheval très loin dans la ville (lit. 'The Flight on Horseback Far into the Town') is Bernard-Marie Koltès's only novel: novels don't have the constraints that Koltès finds so productively useful, and he says in an interview in Une part de ma vie that it would probably take him ten years to write one. (Koltès was obviously unaware that at the time of speaking he only had six more years to live.) The novel was written in 1977, seven years before it was published in 1984, and was in fact Koltès's first published book. All of his books are published by Minuit.

Although obviously not too proud of this first published work, Koltès nevertheless doesn't 'disown' it, and the novel (formally unusual in its narrative that sometimes resembles a play, sometimes a film scenario) bears many of the marks of his later work.

The back cover – presumably written by the author himself – describes the four main characters, the young sisters Barba and Félice and the two young men Cassius and Chabanne (young people are a strong feature in Koltès's plays) as 'fragile heroes of a kind of mythology for our time' who are 'metaphors of everyday day life' playing out the 'cruel, silent ballet of impossible loves'.

Koltès finds love banal and false and seeks out truth. As might be expected, his characters are mainly rootless, alienated, and often violent in a menacing, violent and dark world. Félice is from a psychiatric hospital and spends some time with a knife 'haunting' a cemetery where there are threatening cats; Cassius is a constant sponger who can only live by cadging from people, and who kills a cat who just happens in on a bedroom scene, and then guts it; Chabanne is an Arab who knows his way around cars and is disliked by the police; and Barba, Chabanne's mistress, worked at the Griffe Rouge ('Red Claw') until she got the sack.

Or was some of that above a dream? The whole novel is suffused with a hallucinatory, surreal atmosphere in which reality sometimes seems just a bit player in a twilight world of psychotropic drugs, which, being no doubt so much a part of the story, are barely mentioned.

My other Bernard-Marie Koltès posts:
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Une part de ma vie
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Quai ouest
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Sallinger

Bernard-Marie Koltès: La Nuit juste avant les forêts
Bernard-Marie Koltès: Dans la solitude des champs de coton | In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

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