13 December 2017

Céline Minard: Le Grand Jeu (2016)

Céline Minard is generally considered as one of the strangest, most individual writers in French today. This, the latest that she has published at the time of writing, is the first work of hers that I've read. It concerns survival, both physical and existential.

The unnamed female narrator has had a high-tech home built into a mountainside in an attempt to discover how to live. She spends a great deal of time climbing the mountain, descends to the bottom, grows her own food, and even tries building a much more primitive second home, where she feels more in tune with her primitive ancestors.

Solitude is evidently one of the problems she has to learn to cope with, although this is to a certain extent compensated for by the existence of the wildlife community: a curious jay, the isards (or Pyrrenean chamois), and a troublesome marmoset in what initially appears to be a deserted cabin are just some of the encounters she makes.

The narrator has set herself a test, or rather a number of tests, although the greatest test of all comes when she is faced with a female hermit, almost toothless and anarchically shunning any socially accepted formalities in the conventional world. The narrator cannot not accept the woman into her existence and is soon getting drunk with Dongbin. Reading passing remarks in the novel, it's not only alcoholic or primitive alternative states of mind that are of interest, but also the effects of cannabis and LSD. Um, yes this novel is quite a trip.

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