5 January 2018

Jocelyne François: Joue-nous « España » (1980)

Another vintage gem from Jocelyne François, found in one of my favourite Paris bookshops for all of one euro. The back cover says Joue-nous « España » (lit. 'Play Us 'Spain'') is an autobiographical account of a woman from Lorraine, concerning her childhood and adolescence. Yes, this has some very vivid descriptions of the area of Nancy where François was born, including her visits to both of her grandparents in nearby Rosière-aux-Salines and Combasle-sur-Meurthe. The reader is treated to a lyrical description of the flowers*, orchards, and vines of the region, including some expressions of the area, such as mettre à parer, meaning to spread grapes on a rack until they ripen. And then World War II spreads its poison over France.

The real interest is when after the war the narrator is sent to a religious school in Mattaincourt, where she physically and mentally develops for seven years. The narrator expresses her love for Marie-Claire, or Sarah as she also calls her, a love which is extremely strong and physically expressed; when she tells a religious man she believes is sympathetic, he tells her to forget such matters: for him, there is no such thing as homosexual love, which is against nature.

The narrator's mother is of a similar opinion as the religious man, only she believes that the narrator would have been better as a sexually promiscuous woman, even as a prostitute. The title takes on a symbolic significance, and in the final paragraph the narrator rejects both her father and her mother: they used to enjoy her playing 'España' on the piano, although she didn't, but when she says 'Non, mon père, non, ma mère, je ne jouerai jamais España' on the piano they gave her, she means that she will never play the game, never play the heterosexual farce (again). She did play the game initially by marrying and had three children, and her lover 'Sarah' (in reality Marie-Claire Pichaud) had an affair with a married man. But truth (as opposed to pretense, or hypocrisy) won in the end, and the couple lived together in Provence (Saumane-de-Vaucluse) for twenty-five years before moving to Paris due to poor health.

*One flower mentioned several times is the nielle, or corn cockle, which is virtually extinct in England.

My other Jocelyne François post:
Jocelyne François: Les Bonheurs

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