“Like animals”, by Violaine Bérot: the world of the Bear

Like beasts

by Violaine Bérot

Buchet-Chastel, 160 p., € 14

This little book belongs to that delicate category of novels which we would like to keep quiet for fear of revealing too much of their spells. However, it is out of the question to pass it over in silence as it seduces by its singularity and its strength, like its central character, the Bear. A young man received this nickname in childhood because of his imposing size, his silence and his fear of other schoolchildren which led him to growl when approaching. In this small valley of the Pyrenees, he also drew this nickname from an unknown paternity: from a child without a father, it is said that he is “The son of the bear”.

→ READ. The bedside book of the writer Violaine Bérot

When the teacher had mentioned the placement in an institution, Mariette, her mother, had withdrawn it from school. From the inaccessible heights where they live apart, she descends into the main village of the valley once a week to exchange her cheese for other foodstuffs. She raised her son alone, whom hardly anyone has seen since he left school. The years have passed, and it is this invisible, this voicelessness that lies at the heart of Violaine Bérot’s incandescent story.

Slippage of a society obsessed with standardization

The rumor swells in the valley: the Bear has been arrested by the police. In a cave, very close to his home and his mother, a tourist found a little girl. Who is she ? How long has she lived in the mountains? Who manages ? Questioned by the investigators, each one goes there with his theories. A former classmate, the man who sold his barn to Mariette, the postman, neighbors kept at a safe distance or who know this astonishing mother-son duo, all shed a different light on the Bear, fantasized or real. By delivering only verbatim responses to investigators, Violaine Bérot delicately recreates the personalities and sensibilities that emerge from the voices of these witnesses.

→ READ. Souls in the Bare by Violaine Bérot

As in its magnificent Fallen from the clouds, on denial of pregnancy, she tiptoes near the epicenter. Here, well-kept secrets, kept away from scrutiny. It is in Ariège where she settled to raise goats that the writer locates this story rocked by the choir of fairies who, according to legend, watch over stolen children. Violaine Bérot’s unadorned poetry evokes with the same limpid simplicity the marvelous, the tangible world of life in the mountains with animals and the slippages of a society obsessed with standardization.


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