“Seyvoz”: a novel at the frontiers of reality


by Maylis de Kerangal and Joy Sorman

Uneducated, 108 p., €12.90

A novel written with the four hands of Maylis de Kerangal and Joy Sorman, around an immense alpine dam: one sensed a dive into a swarming construction site, like Birth of a Bridge (Kerangal), a precise report of the political aspects of space, way Big work (Sorman). But the alliance of writings is not an addition, it is a fusion, from which is born a work of intriguing charm.

→ CRITICAL. “Canoes”, by Maylis de Kerangal: in the thickness of our voices

Two lines alternate: one follows, over four days, the engineer Tomi Motz, whose control mission at the Seyvoz dam turns into a nightmarish dizziness; the other recounts the last days of the (imaginary) village of Seyvoz, in the 1950s, before its disappearance under the waters of the dam – a fate which was that of Tignes, in 1952.

This second line sketches the expected novel, cut from technical lexicons, closer to the bodies, dam workers or inhabitants: but the fresco is fragmented, all in dazzling snippets, striking portraits, poignant situations, against a backdrop of inevitable catastrophe.

Obsessive fixation

It is the contemporary narrative that serves as a framework for the novel: it envelops it in a diffuse anguish, nourished by old images, of the Hôtel de shining with the mountainous scenery of Twin Peaksthrough the terrifying forays into the Fourth dimension, without forgetting, above all, the Ghosts, very beautiful and spectral French series of which the Tignes dam is precisely the setting. As in these gems of the fantastic, the discomfort does not arise from a distance from reality, but on the contrary from an obsessive fixation, to the point of vertigo.

→ CRITICAL. “A world at your fingertips” by Maylis de Kerangal

Sorman and Kerangal have not turned their backs on the examination of the contemporary world carried out in their books, they have bent it, engaged in the territories of the strange up to the complete immersion, represented by the unreal scene of the Tomi bath in the waters of the dam and the remains of the ancient village, where the two lines join.


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