21 May 2017

Louis Guilloux: Angélina (1934)

Working-class Breton writer Louis Guilloux (1899–1980), born in Saint-Brieuc the son of a shoemaker, used his native Brittany as a framework for all his works. Angélina concerns the struggles of a poor artisanal family.

Angélina  is a socialist exposé, but not a rant: it criticises the faults in the political, the economic, the educational and the social system in general, but does it quite subtly. Poverty is the order of the day, the situation into which the working class are born but which is so difficult to escape from. Esprit, who slaves at his spinning wheel, married later in life and for him technological progress is anathema. He lives with his wife Anne-Marie (who brings in a  little 'pin' money' by sewing), and their children.

Henri is the elder brother who is incidentally receiving radical socialist training at work from a much older work comrade, Charles is some years younger, and Angélina is on the way. Life isn't easy.

Working-class tragedy, crime, ill health (mental as well as physical) are pandemic, and Guilloux makes the most of it in expressing his hatred of the situations in which the impotent find themselves. The cycle of absolute or relative impoverishment continues, but where is the way out? Does Guilloux even suggest one, or is everyone trapped in a Zolaesque, naturalistic bind?

No comments: