30 April 2018

Yann Andréa: Cet amour-là (1999)

Yann Lemée was born in Guincamp, Brittany, in 1952, and Marguerite Duras in Gia Định, near Saigon, in 1914: he lived with her during the final sixteen years of her life, and what may sound like an odd couple with thirty-eight years dividing them sounds odder because Lemée (renamed Andréa by Duras) was a practising homosexual. But they had a very profound love. Andréa first wrote of Duras and her second detox in M.D. (1982). As its name suggests, Cet-amour-là is about 'that love', and was published three years after her death, after she left him as her literary executor. It's a kind of personal epitaph, an attempt to come to terms with grief.

Cet-amour-là isn't linear, it hops about all over Andréa's sixteen years with Duras, repeats itself,  loops back on itself, dwelling particularly on Duras's grave in 'Mont-Parnasse' and on the time they spent together in Duras's flat Roches noires in Trouville, or her house in Neauphle-le-Château, or the flat in rue Saint-Benoît in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. He writes to her, speaks to her, and her words come from the page unpunctuated. He is often despairing, with talk of suicide, pages obviously full of loss, existential crisis, lack of will.

Duras left Andréa with a flat, still on rue Saint-Benoît, and close to the Café de Flore, which Andréa takes some time to revisit after his loss. He spends many days just drinking, leaving bottles strewn about the flat, just eating delivered meals, not washing or cleaning his teeth, he stinks. Until he finally calls his mother, and she and her partner come to collect Andréa, and take him to their home in Agen, Lot-et-Garonne.

When he's ready to return to Paris to eventually clean his flat up, on the way he visits Duras's father's grave, which she wanted him to drive her to but he'd feared she'd die at any moment, die in the car. Andréa barely mentions anything about his homosexuality, unless his enthusiasm for barmen in white jackets (only mentioned once), or his solitary walks can be read as euphemisms. And then, in January 1999, his book is finished and he goes off for a two-week holiday to Patmos with unnamed friends.

Yann Andréa died in his flat in 2014 at the age of sixty-one.

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