28 April 2019

Marie-Hélène Lafon: L'Annonce (2009)

Marie-Hélène Lafon's previous novel, Les Derniers indiens (2008) dealt, of course, with the peasant mountain farmers of Cantal, as does L'Annonce. But the conflict here isn't between the older farmers and the modern-minded neighbours, but between the older generation in the Cantal and a mother and child from Bailleul in the Nord joining the community in the Cantal.

The word L'Annonce has a religious ring to it, the announcement of birth, although the announcement here is a simple man-seeks-woman note in a paper, probably Le Chasseur Français, which the forty-six-year-old peasant farmer Paul from Fridières writes, and to which the thirty-seven-year-old Annette in the Nord replies. There follow a couple of meetings in a halfway, neutral place: Nevers, in the centre of France, where they exchange photos and (tentatively) body fluids.

Again, as in Les Derniers indiens, the language circles constantly, dropping a few pieces of information here and there like a sower sowing, weaves between the past and present casually, adding to the tapestry of time. Annette was the wife of a violent drunken husband, Éric the son, and she wants to begin a new life far from her previous urban background.

Paul has set up a new living area next to his elderly austere uncles, Éric turns out to have hidden rural gifts, and the ready-made family, with Annette working in the nearest supermarket to help them get by, a loving relationship (mercifully without sentimentality) establishing itself. Lafon is my best discovery so far this year.

Links to my Marie-Hélène Lafon posts:
Marie-Hélène Lafon: Le Pays d'en haut : entretiens avec Fabrice Lardreau
Marie-Hélène Lafon: Sur la photo
Marie-Hélène Lafon: Les Derniers indiens
Marie-Hélène Lafon: L'Annonce

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