Survive the father



The son of the man

by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

Gallimard, 240 p., € 19

A mythological, archetypal, anthropological violence rolls from age to age and cascades from generation to generation. We cannot escape it: we suffer it, then we reproduce it, in a form of mental contamination, both insidious and brutal. Such is the secret breeding ground for the previous novels of Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, a contemporary writer, a mysterious insurgent, a stylist of a high sensual and sacred writing. After A libertine education (read The cross of September 4, 2008), Salt (read The cross of November 7, 2010), or Animal Kingdom (read The cross of 25 August 2016), the fury of filiations no longer constitutes a backdrop in The son of the man. It is the keystone of a text that bends and bends under the weight of genealogical stains, with inspired, even testamentary and even biblical accents.

The action is not one: a couple goes up with their son to a hovel in some middle mountain in Ariège, to escape the city and the world. But up there is replayed the inextricable curse peculiar to patriarchal power, in the process of expropriation while not being able to bear it. Man wants to do so much and so well, to redeem his faults and those of his own father, to offer refuge to his family, to guarantee a physical and symbolic roof, in short to save more than reason, which he falls and destroys, terrorizes and humiliates . Litle by litle. He thinks he is giving in to simple moments of tension, experiencing some generally benign slippages; but such sequences are experienced as a traumatic continuum by the woman and the child. “I just want you to get rid of this anger, this shadow that hangs over you all the time”, implores the first. She has a feeling that she will leave her skin there. The offspring realizes that it will be necessary to treat the problem at the root, savagely, crudely: as in nature.

This serves as a setting for the final act, which is prepared and oscillates like the ancient fatum: a kid licks its wounds, “The air smells of sticky earth, clover and grass heavy with juice”, the bear prowls and life stretches out, filled with enigmatic cruelties: “Days overwhelmed with sunshine, unreal dawns, nebulae, soon cut sharply by the blade of the day, twilights of a forge red collapsing the next moment in crimson shadows, charcoal blacks. “

In this atmosphere saturated with scents, colors and sensations, tragedy sets in as the adults roast their cigarettes, omnipresent like so many intersigns of death. The articulated word, which connects, desert the country where three beings try to survive: “The silence of the father is in truth full of words, inhabited by a voice coming from his depths and which the whole mountain would echo, or else from outside him; an ageless, monotonous, disembodied voice, dispersed in the ether where it would continue to exist. “

The ascendancy had to end; in a way as singular as it is universal, in pessimistic beauty and a dark light. With an economy of means that contrasts with the abounding horrific ferocity of previous novels, Jean Baptiste Del Amo climbs to the top of his art: he no longer describes without … filters the smoking ruins of mankind, which are consumed before our eyes excruciatingly charmed.

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