PHOTOS of VENICE and FRANCE

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SYNOPSIS  OF  SERGE  BASSENKO'S  WORKS



A collection of thoughts, 19 novels, a tragedy, satirical articles, poems, short stories and a travel narration. Generally, we discover:

a story written in the first person, and taken from everyday life
friends who love each other
fundamental questions about life and what it means to be human
realism, sensitivity, humour and satire
varied and lively dialogue
many counties of France, with their pecularities
simple and fluid style


LE SAGE
English version THE SAGE and Chinese version  智者 之 書
(collection of thoughts – 189 thoughts)

how should one live?


The Sage is the most important work among all the ones I have written: it is the work of my lifetime. It offers no advice, no rules, but reality.

If anyone wants to know how to live, The Sage will give him consciousness, and the ability to decide by himself.

Here are 189 thoughts, each one of few lines, which I wrote in English and in French. Both versions are available here.



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ELLE EST, POUR MOI, UN MYSTÈRE.
English version SHE IS A MYSTERY TO ME.
(novel – 147 pages)

discovering another person


A boy and a girl of about 17 meet during a summer holiday camp by the seaside.
Getting to know each other becomes a process of discovery in which they learn things about the other and about themselves. She is curious, lively and independent, capable of running her own life with authority and discernment. He, independent and possessive, contemplates the mystery of another person capable of living life on her own terms, immune from the power that others seek to wield over her.
Each asks the other to commit, but in different ways. The girl's instincts are to found a family and have children; the boy's instincts are to grab the girl and make her live. They learn that trust means conquering doubt and that living together means overcoming the fear of losing personal freedom.

A moving story, it contains touching incidents in which the characters find themselves facing temptation.

The girl appreciates the intellectual interests of a brilliant archaeologist, a man who has found his place in life. This affinity, and a boat trip with a sailor, cut to the quick the feelings of the boy, who cannot bear the idea of others sniffing around her.
And yet the advances of the camp director's daughter, who manages to get the boy alone in an isolated spot though but not to sway him, leave him with an impression of ignominious failure.
The attraction of a young girl of wild, untamed character excites him to thoroughly masculine dreams and desires of conquest that will not withstand the fragility of a situation that cannot last.
An episode involving a small child who falls ill, causing the girl painful anxiety, clearly indicates where the priorities of a life together lie.

Although the word is never spoken, the two central characters have learnt to love.

The narrative reads like an intimate diary written by the boy, full of sensibility, against a backdrop of everyday reality, in a simple style with flashes of humour. The characters are sympathetic and resemble us to such an extent that it is almost as though we were living in their stead.



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ON ME DEMANDE MA VIE.
English version MY LIFE IS EXPECTED OF ME.
(novel – 132 pages)

society on trial


The hero, from a well-to-do middle-class family, is a perfectly well-integrated high-school student who leads the ordered life of a star pupil. On the threshold of the adult world, he starts to be plagued by fundamental questions and the contradictions of society. Analytically, he examines the assertions and the behaviour of those around him.

People seek to give him a place; his teachers and parents want to fashion him according to the standard model; even his friends cast him out of their group; for them, the individual and friendship come second to social harmony. Ultimately, no-one recognises his right to live as himself.

The young man's conclusions are implacable:
his parents have not shown him the right rules of life and have abandoned him to strangers, his teachers;
his teachers reward only one truth, the official truth, and demand obedience;
his friends, like his parents and teachers, reserve the right to accept only the ideas that suit them.

The young man finds support in the person of Aoide, a gentle soul slightly older than him, but she cannot completely detach herself from society. Only Toffee, his classmate, truly understands him and does her best to surround him with a warm, protective cocoon in which he can find some peace.

The young man's narrative sweeps breathlessly along; the remarks crackle and snap, the thoughts explode, but in the end the hero is left alone, facing the disquieting world of men.



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IL FAISAIT CHAUD. / THE WEATHER WAS HOT.
(novel – 137 pages)

the disturbing power of words


Six friends, three boys and three girls, aged 15 or 16, are on holiday. They meet every day at one or the other’s places, talking in the garden or basking in the heat; they walk in the countryside or the forest, play tennis and go swimming in a nearby pond.
From the pond one of them pulls out an old piece of parchment written in Greek. It will disrupt the numbing quietness of a heatwave summer.

The friends are overcome by a frantic curiosity to shed light on the mysterious page. Was the page lost or thrown away? Is it interesting or trivial? Is it impenetrable because the young people are unable to understand it? And because they must yield to the explanations given by teachers, critics and tradition? Or because the idea it contains is as yet unknown to men and the words which convey it represent only known things, incapable of rendering something utterly new? To understand it, we would have to change the way we think.

And even if we did actually understand, don’t the words rely on a context, which is lost, and on the intentions of the author, whom we do not know? Furthermore, does everyone understand the words in the same way? In which language must men be spoken to?

When we speak, is it so as to understand another person, or only to take advantage of them? A word is only alive as long as it finds a reader, and if the reader makes it his.

Most of the time words are deceitful, in the same way that books and school and people lie. Yet words still exert power over people's lives and have consequences. Not only are they trusted, but because of them people sacrifice their lives to what they claim as good and kill men who are evil. So can we not think for ourselves?

At the end of the day, why try to know, learn and think? Animals know instinctively what they need and that is enough for them. Our feelings do not need words. But man fears loneliness and stays close to home.

Working in secret, nature devours life and gives it back, indefinitely. We are born of the unknown. If we must trust in something, why not trust in life?

This novel about the value of words is deeply poetical, a thing of mystery, mist and wind. A strange bird comes to perch and looks straight at the story's narrator. The computer which searches for answers on the internet is none other than Pegasus, the winged messenger. In the end, the six characters harmoniously tune their subtly different voices to make this story a model philosophical tale.



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NOUS ÉTIONS JOYEUX.
English version WE WERE GLAD.
(novel – 138 pages)

the discovery of love


Two adolescents, barely out of puberty, discover love.

They go to the same school and the boy comes to help the girl with her homework. Her mother takes kindly to him and invites him to spend a few days with the girl at her grand-parents' house. The stage is set: the countryside, snow, charming grand-parents, a slightly older cousin and his younger sister.

In love, the two young people are eager to get to know each other, directly and not through other people's opinions, and eager to live together.
They realise two things. First, that lying is a right not reserved for adults alone and that it helps them to protect their personal life. Second, that their life belongs to them and that they will decide for themselves what they do with it. It is not for others to tell them what is right and wrong where their feelings are concerned.

In a well-mannered environment, the two young people glide smoothly along, never encountering any problems with those around them. No-one tells them what not to do or threatens them in any way. And yet those around them worry about the pair a great deal, thinking that they are not yet old enough to love, that they should be prudent and wait like everybody else.

The young people, troubled by the murky thoughts they can sense around them, find out that what people think bad is not the risk of having children but the desire to have children, a desire stronger than the self, stronger indeed than anything, and fearful because it is uncontrollable. Children are the fruit of desire and not expediency.

Fully aware of what they are doing, the two young lovers therefore decide to consummate their life.

This beautiful story is illuminated by the character of the girl. The hero is right to call her Aphrodite, and the name speaks on her behalf. Although young, she is a person in her own right. Vibrant with feelings and questions, attentive to living creatures and to what really matters, she decides for herself, using her own judgment, at once attractive and soothing. The hero, circumspect and shy, learns a great deal from being around her and is capable of showing energy and authority if necessary. In counterpoint, the older male cousin represents conventional reaction and the spontaneous younger girl cousin the enthusiastic endorsement of youth. The story, told by the hero, is full of emotion and suspense, doubtless the way one would have wished to have experienced it oneself.



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IL FAUT QUE JE SOIS UN HOMME. / I MUST BE A MAN.
(novel – 171 pages)

the end of country life


Forty years ago, the unstoppable advance of technological progress threatens country life.
The novel is set at a crossroads. Does choosing to live in the countryside or the town mean choosing between Nature and Progress, work and contemplation, life in the wild and civilisation?
School, science and technology have the power to make our lives easier and protect us but they do not teach us everything: neither how to live our everyday lives nor how to decide what things deserve to live. Above all, they shape our lives, transforming them beyond our control, surreptitiously influencing the way we think. What is the meaning of what we do and what sort of a world do we want to make? Is there any room left for feelings and friendship? What does being a man mean?

These crucial questions trouble the young hero, son of the local notary, and his country friends, now old enough to enter adult life.

The story takes place in the Burgundy countryside, in the midst of hills and fields, familiar to the author, and of cows and other farm animals; blessed places where we can still smell the scent of hay and enjoy tranquil and enchanting scenery. We take pleasure in following the young people through the jobs which fill their daily lives: picking wild blackberries off the hedges to make jam, collecting vegetables from the garden or fruit from the orchard or mushrooms from the forest, catching crawfish in the stream, beginning ploughing, helping with the delivery of a calf, repairing the tractor, feeding hens and pigs...
We can feel the young people’s fondness for their world: the farm dog who is their faithful companion, Meadowgrass talking to her cows, Simpleheart lavishing care on her hens, Robur torn between modern agriculture and the farming of olden days.
The character of Simpleheart gradually assumes particular importance. An ordinary young country girl, not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, she ends up symbolising the quiet and age-old strength of the land, a world undermined and already almost submerged by modernism.

Although painful, the vision is not wholly pessimistic: we cannot stop the world changing, and it is from the reconciliation of opposites that the hope of a new life emerges, a life that will unite the notary’s son and the endearing young farm girl Meadowgrass.



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LA VALLÉE EST LOIN. / THE VALLEY IS A LONG WAY OFF.
(novel – 135 pages)

meditations on thought


A young man, Eagle, invites a schoolfriend to spend the holidays with him at his grand-parents'. They go hiking in the mountains with two girls, Gentian and Bluesky. Amid the laughter and the joking, in the serene and majestic calm of the mountains, ideas come easily and the four friends have heated discussions about thought, feelings, morality and nature.

The first humans, they imagine, must have been frightened by the appearance of thought because thought disturbs the peaceable contentment of the daily round. They must have eliminated those who thought badly and delegated thinking to the one among them who thought best, making him responsible for everything and authorising him to kill in their stead.

They declare that thought is incapable of knowing feeling and that feeling needs others in order to exist. But a friend is not really another person, so cannot destroy his or her being by loving.

Morality teaches people how to live. But it seeks to replace our own thought with that of others, changeable and deceptive. How can we remain ourselves under those conditions?

Nature is perfect and offers us the fulfilment of our instincts, for ever. So is humankind made only to repeat nature? No, because thought is creative, it has freed humankind from the chains of nature and made us master of our fate. Humankind yes, but not humans; because many people refuse to think for themselves and destroy those who do.

The known world is boring, says a strange young man who has come to visit. Should we agree with him that the only way to forget that boredom is to flee oneself?

Ultimately the young people, after all their searching, find that nobody can teach how to think or tell if someone is thinking right, or what it is for. Confronted with the failure of their thought, the young people conclude that all that is left for them is to put their trust in life, since that is what makes them live.



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IL PLEUT. - Venise 1973 / IT'S RAINING. - Venice 1973
(roman – 177 pages)

Venice, or the other side of the coin


Who has never wanted to live in Venice and to be a real Venetian? To be part of the everyday life of a city of dreams and to explore its wild and secret lagoon?

You could take byways unknown to tourists, live with the ebb and flow of the tide, take a boat to go and see friends, get to know the fabulous palaces from the inside, picnic in all simplicity at the Cà d'Oro on the Grand Canal. You could learn how to row a gondola or steer the ferry that goes around the lagoon, see how to repair a boat or a violin. You could visit an uncle on an island in the lagoon, fish for eel and crab, then go with him to the market in Venice to sell his onions and beans. You could learn how to make typical Venetian food, then enjoy it with family and friends. You could roam at night in the warm cocoon of a city fully delivered up to its mysteries.

But this delicate and sophisticated world, which prefers its friends to books and book-learning, though heavy with a past in which sailor and aristocrat spoke the same language and suffered together, is slowly crumbling under the twin pressures of tourism and modern life.

What is there to do in Venice? Nothing for young people. Getting around is slow and difficult; shops are few and far between; the houses lack modern conveniences. Palaces are ruinously expensive to maintain and rents are rising steadily. The craftsmen are disappearing, the shopkeepers no longer work for Venetians but for the tourists, selling fast food, T-shirts and plastic gondolas.

Venetians are leaving their home en masse because they feel hounded. No more community life, no more children's games, no more washing festooned in streets and courtyards. Venice is slowly turning into a magnificent museum and those inhabitants still left wonder fearfully what the future holds for them.

That is the plight of three of the young characters in this novel – Brasa, daughter of a boat mender, la Zermana, whose father transports fruit and vegetables on his barge, and Zo, Zermana's cousin and the son of a scientist at the research institute –, all native Venetians. Brasa and Zo are in love. The fourth character comes from elsewhere. Through his friends, he discovers the city's unsuspected life with amazement, becoming increasingly attached to their world and to la Zermana, who in the end he no longer wants to leave.

This novel is an outstanding testimony to the hidden intimacy of the world's most famous city, drawing on the author's own knowledge and experience.



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UNE NEIGE FINE VENAIT DE TOMBER. /
LIGHT SNOW HAD FALLEN.
(novel – 271 pages)

Paris in 1948


It is the winter of 1948, in Paris. We follow a group of friends, arts and science students in their first year at university.

The first thing the novel does is to paint an enticing picture of the Latin Quarter and the Sorbonne at the time. The students, rowdy and boisterous, with their hunger for knowledge and their friendships, full of questions, jokes and pranks, seek refuge in the warmth of cafés, in the midst of cigarette smoke and the aromas of espresso coffee.

But the Latin Quarter is only the starting point for the discovery of Paris, the novel's real theme.
Every neighbourhood had its own life, each one existing next to the others like villages in which everyone could feel at home, part of the family, sheltered from the outside world. Everyone knew everyone else, people greeted each other, talked to each other, helped each other. People had jobs that have now gone. They spoke a slang that has disappeared with them.

Those neighbourhoods have the capacity to surprise. Of course, Paris is a byword for street life, for crowds, for rows of impressive buildings, for magnificent monuments, for luxury stores, for tourist attractions, museums, cinemas, theatres, the Eiffel Tower. But it is more than just that: it is also parks and gardens where you can walk around in relative peace, hidden corners of an erstwhile countryside, street parties, artists' studios, the funicular.

It is amazing to find that places now so dull and ordinary used to be full of intense, richly textured life. People really used to jump off the back of moving buses and talk about art and literature on subway platforms. They used to give running commentaries during films, taking the mickey out of the characters and the actors. They used to set up their easels in the Louvre to copy Old Masters. They used to stroll the streets at night, always with a couple of minutes and a kind word to spare for the tramps on the Seine embankments. They would hunt for treasures – or at least a bargain – at the flea market. They would do their shopping with affable and alert shopkeepers.

While Paris life was brilliant and full of history, life elsewhere seemed poor and dull in comparison. At least that is what Parisians thought, scornfully looking down on backwaters not fortunate enough to be the City of Light.

Dryad, who comes from Annecy, in Savoy, is accepted with benevolence by her friends at the Sorbonne. The hero, a Parisian on sufferance, shows her around the city. They embark on an idyll and Dryad invites him to spend the holidays with her and her family in Savoy. The young man finds himself questioning everything that has conditioned his life so far.

He realises that there is more to life than Paris, that there are things and wonders of which Parisians are utterly ignorant. He realises that Paris, like a monarch exacting tribute, strips other parts of the country of their wealth, even going so far as to stop them speaking their own language. Savoy has been French for barely a century and the inhabitants of Annecy look much more towards neighbouring Geneva than towards Paris.

Of course, life in Savoy is not like life in Paris. Modern conveniences are lacking, the food is simple and plain, the rhythms of life are those of cattle and nature. It has made the people who live there hard-working, careful and attached to things that are hard earned. And yet… the countryside is beautiful, magnificent. Simple things bring peace and harmony. The people of Savoy are solid and substantial. Dryad's friends extend a warm welcome to the foreigner who doesn't despise their country-cousin airs and dialect. What fun to chat together and go on bike rides through the hills around Annecy.

At the end of the story, the two friends go out into the countryside around Geneva with its rearing mountains and verdant pastures, its vegetable gardens and clear spring water. That is where Dryad's grandmother lives and, more interestingly, Dryad's cousin, a downtrodden young girl, stuck up in the mountains, ploughing her way through snow to get to school, avid for life and experience, so short-sighted but so acute. And her question becomes ours: is there something over the crest of the hill, where the sky stops?

The two central characters will leave their hearts in Savoy, but their heads will take them back to Paris.



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JE LA VOYAIS DANS LE MIROIR.
English version I COULD SEE HER IN THE MIRROR.
(novel – 219 pages)

the unknown is everywhere


Five friends finish their school year with flying colours and spend the summer holidays together in the small town where they live. Time passes and they do nothing much: prepare a concert, talk, write poems, play chess, go for bike rides in the surrounding countryside; they visit farms, a fairground, markets, graveyards, funfairs, take walks along old railway lines; make a trip to seaside cliffs and to the land of coal mines and steelworks.

Onto this backdrop of utterly ordinary holidays is pinned a curious story about a mirror.

From time to time, the hero takes a mirror from his wardrobe. In it, he sees a troubling world that vanishes whenever anyone approaches him.

In the mirror he sees a room, turned towards him, unstable and vague, in which the furniture moves and objects change shape. Time there does not flow in the same way as here. The person who lives there, a girl of his own age, studies geography, does her maths or physics homework, reads novels. And yet she seems to have unusual powers: she seems to see him and seems always to know what he is doing; changes the look of her room according to his feelings; hears perfectly the music he plays and learns it in a trice. Although she seems not to understand the hero's words, written or spoken, or his thoughts, it is as though she can instantly sense what he is feeling. She is quick to react, not always favourably.

Although nothing is said between them, a relationship seems to form. They help each other with their homework, he in science, she in literature. She starts to communicate with him through her behaviour and gestures, the expressions on her face, the choice of her clothes, the constant metamorphoses of her room according to mood, and above all through music. Both of them are musicians and each plays and feels the other's music with the same emotion. Although the mirror is mute, the hero deciphers what she is playing by following her hands on the piano; and he is utterly certain he knows what she feels.

Is it all a figment of the hero's imagination, thoughts, dreams? Should he believe only in the usual, familiar reality? And what is truly real in the so-called normal world? What you can see and touch, like things? The impalpable meaning of those things, like words that speak or music that arouses emotion?
Does the shifting and elusive reality of our world change with our thoughts, our feelings, with what is invisible, like the force that raises wheat out of bare earth? Or like the past, invisible, which influences the future, that has not yet come into existence?

Might not life be like a train carrying passengers who are incapable of knowing either where they are going or why? Is it possible to know what does not exist? And does what the hero sees in the mirror exist or not?



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DERNIÈRES VACANCES AVANT L'ANNÉE DES EXAMENS. /
LAST SUMMER HOLIDAYS BEFORE EXAM YEAR.
(novel – 185 pages)

fulfilment of everyday lifee


A young man of 17 comes back to the countryside, in the Jura mountains, to spend his summer holidays with his uncle, who is a watchmaker. The visit will open up the doors to another life, very different from that of the city where he lives. Where the city-dweller only encountered boredom, he now finds himself enjoying the peaceful scenery of the mountains, with their familiar cows and their serious, attentive inhabitants. A few escapades to neighbouring villages and towns, strolls or bicycle rides though fields and hills to see an old ruined castle, an abandoned railway line, a river or mills are an opportunity for muted and melancholy meditations. He gradually learns to find the true value of his surroundings, to feel the absorbing poetry which nature and other simple things offer.

Dawn, his young neighbour, knows him and has been waiting for him all her life. She guides him towards this new world, which will also be that of a shared, intimate love. Bound up in a world of everyday practicality, the two central characters learn to know and love each other. Favourite places feed on shared thoughts, feelings and memories, like the little railway bridge where they sit, legs dangling, or the secret spring.

Dawn’s three friends surround them with affection and all five meet to carry out ordinary but deeply satisfying tasks. The girls sew and embroider their future school uniforms while the hero endeavours to knit a jumper for his heart’s favourite. But the holidays draw to a close and separation draws ever nearer. Fortunately, a cousin finds an ingenious plan to allow the hero to come back for week-ends.

Written as a diary, it is a thoroughly original and paradoxical novel. It teaches us that happiness is to be found in human ties, in the ordinariness of life, and does not have to be sought elsewhere, in the unfamiliar, the stupendous or the esoteric. Happiness is within everyone's reach and on the same scale as our hearts. The disturbing intimacy and sincerity of the story, stripped of all that does not partake of the ordinary or personal life, and its poetry and gentle touch make this a marvellous work that resists classification.



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LES ORGES VENAIENT DE FRISSONNER. /
THE BARLEY HAD JUST SHIVERED.
(novel – 228 pages)

wondering old path


A strange book.

A simple, almost ordinary story that recounts, day by day, the holidays of a few young people who have come to spend the summer with family in the country.

Set in Burgundy with its peaceful fields, green meadows and fortified houses, its guiding thread is a play the young people want to put on for fun.

The narrative draws its texture from atmospheres, from character, from everyday feelings, as if someone had opened a window and through it we had seen a slice of life.

And yet there is something constantly unsettling about it.
It raises questions, about our reason that often tosses and turns in the void, about our actions that do not always seek to be useful, about the role of dreams or lies, about the power of rules or knowledge. Will it be our future to act a part for ever? What is real life?

An indefinable atmosphere suffuses the whole story.
There is the marvellous and obsessive presence of nature, of the earth, that prepares and nourishes. There is the mysterious presence of an old path, witness to a past that threads through the present, with the certainty of fate. There is the aching return of the same words and phrases, as in a fairy tale, or like an obsession.

It is a story to be read with a tender heart.



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VITE, NOUS ALLONS RATER LE PETIT TRAIN !
English version COME ON, WE'RE GOING TO MISS THE TRAIN!
(novel – 261 pages)

holidays in the country


A breath of fresh air from the gentle France of 1959 and a curious consideration of a provincial and peaceful way of life.

A countryside whose many rivers flow lazily by, crossed by the train that took the heroes to school, and full of surprises: hideaways where fish can be caught and grilled, a polishing stone in the depths of the forest, unusual châteaux and bridges, a cattle market, work in the fields, a sawmill, a fabric wholesaler's, cities, a cathedral and a whole gallery of thumbnail sketches of people and professions, creating a densely-textured and brightly-coloured canvas.

The heroes are eight schoolfriends in their mid-teens who, having taken their exams, spend the summer holidays in their small home town with its mixture of farming and craftwork. Sensible and practical but also cheerful and impetuous, they are nevertheless still prey to anxieties and doubts about their future and the adult world that awaits them.

Walks and bike rides, trips to see cousins, visits to craftsmen: everything is a pretext for meeting up to josh and joke, to picnic, but also to observe, reflect and prepare. To give just two examples, the little group, convinced that a story without a baddy is quite capable of being appreciated, go to great pains to put on a puppet show for young children that an aunt is looking after. They also show their concern about the education of one of their friends who, though highly gifted, refuses to stay at school in order to preserve her personal life.

In the process we encounter a wide variety of secondary characters, sketched in a few strokes, and not all of them sweetness and light.

The relations are orchestrated by "the twins", a boy and a girl of almost the same age, who have spent all their time with each other since early childhood and are already building their life together. They are the narrator and Squirrel, the narrator more contemplative, Squirrel more lively. A gentle poetry envelops the hut they have built themselves near the river, the little green frog that comes to visit them and the wonderful railway wagon in which they set off on their most marvellous travels.

Here is the sort of life people usually live without realising it, and which suddenly turns out to be real and full. Acute realism, pulsating humanity, amused freshness and, ultimately, faith in people are the mainsprings of the story.



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ELLE VENAIT D'APPARAÎTRE HORS DU BOIS. /
SHE HAD JUST EMERGED FROM THE WOOD.
(novel – 292 pages)

life is possible


In 1964, the hero and heroine have each come from the city to spend the holidays with their respective grandparents, who live in "the fortress", a region of steeply sloping hills. Serious, intelligent, quick and deep, the two central characters resemble the rugged terrain. They meet, get engaged and decide to marry.

A group of friends forms around the two young people and bonds are forged amid the jokes and witticisms that fly back and forth. Within the group, "Wideawake" stands out for his quick mind and keen tongue. But their conversations also range across subjects that reflect the paths they have each chosen for themselves. Ancient history invites reflection on the past; the sciences, on nature; school, on the authorities and thought.

The many secondary characters paint a realistic portrait of manners and character, in the countryside and the city alike.

Mental journeys into the past, an escapade in the vineyards, a few days spent in the green hills where the heroine's aunt lives, walks through the granite landscapes of the heroine's friend, an excursion into the villages and fields: they all arouse the reader's curiosity and show how varied the world can be.

A world full of life, it draws us irresistibly into its movement, with its emotions, its humour and its dreams.

In a nutshell, here is a story in which life is taken seriously.



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AUTOUR DE MOI, LES OISEAUX CHANTAIENT.
English version AROUND ME THE BIRDS WERE SINGING.
(novel – 358 pages)

Milady and Sire


In 1950, in the countryside not far from Paris, two young people, who give each other the nicknames Milady and Sire, meet and become friends. She lives in a city but has come to spend the holidays in the village where her uncle has a farm. Sire, who lives in the same village, comes to fetch milk from the farm every morning; and it is Milady who gives it to him. Their friendship deepens as they make music and go on walks together. The novel ends with a concert at which she sings and he accompanies her on the piano.

Nothing much happens to disturb the easy flow of their lives. They pick blackberries to make jam, run races in the gravel pit, go for walks or bike rides in the fields and on the aerodrome.

The scene also shifts to other places. We see the idle life of a seaside resort with its beach and racecourse, and we explore the countryside where the grandparents live and Milady's home city with its river, its ferries and its port.

The author paints a host of occasionally fleeting portraits of a landscape on a human scale.

In intensely poetic and symbolic images, standing outside time, the same scenes return. Milady appears as a lady from the Middle Ages; the two central characters sit on an old bench by a dreamy pond; a mysterious road comes from and goes to no-one knows where.

It is a changeless world underpinned by strong ties of friendship and affection. Music offers the opportunity for tender conversation between the two heroes and Schumann; Button's accordion regales the happy band at their parties and dances. We feel the care and concern of Curls, whose initiatives drive the narrative and whose insatiable curiosity contrives to bring the heroes together; and we meet the extraordinary character, straight from a fairy tale, of the talking cat with its uncompromising and profound comments.

The reader closes the book as one would close a window, with a twinge of regret at leaving the friends who will go on living their lives in the pages between its covers.



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JE PARS AU LOIN. / I HAVE A LONG JOURNEY AHEAD OF ME.
(novel – 321 pages)

with what at the end of it?


This novel describes three sorts of journey: tourism at the seaside, tourism in the country and real life.

A boy and a girl meet while on holiday at their respective grandparents'. With a handful of friends, they share the idle leisure of holidaymakers on the Côte d'Azur, visiting the arid and picturesque back country and the grandiose heights of the Alps.

The Ségala shows them the life of the countryside with its parched and barren hillsides and lush, green riverbanks.

Visits like these provide an opportunity for comparing Paris and tourist haunts, the ease and facility of modern living and the poverty and anachronism of traditional ways of life, cutting-edge science and the past, the futility of holidaymakers and the seriousness of country-dwellers. Life as it used to be may no longer be possible, but does that mean having to accept modernity's stranglehold on conscience?

These contradictions find their resolution in Auvergne.

The girl's uncle and great-aunt warmly welcome the young pair into the family home. The library full of old books, the watchmaker's workshop, the family atmosphere, solicitous and joyful, show that home is where the heart is. The story ends in the deeply human fastnesses of a countryside marked by the serene and captivating presence of long-dormant volcanoes. The two young people who make their way back to Paris now know how they intend to lead their lives.



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UN SOUFFLE D'AIR CHAUD VENAIT DE ME RÉVEILLER. /
A HOT AIR BREATH WOKE ME.
(novel – 223 pages)

Master Duckling leads summer lessons


Among fields and woods, there is a very small valley where a small brook runs, where a small pond sleeps, with children fishing tadpoles, with hens, cows, and an erudite duck performing maths and physics. There lives Saphir, the maid with the beautiful blue dress and the eyes which want to know, the hero fell in love with.

She wishes to be in the same class as him the next year, and asks him to help her to skip the two classes which separate them. Never mind! The hero becomes his appointed teacher during Summer holidays.

Both families affectionately support the sweethearts; and the hero's father, an engineer, also gives them active assistance.

Both teenagers thirst for understanding, and not for learning formulas by heart; according to them, study does not consist in the obedience to a Master or in the following of agreed models. Thanks to the hero's explanations, trained by some kind of an unconventional teacher, Saphir abandons the arid abstractions of maths and physics, and opens her mind to nature, life, and the poetry of the world.

The enterprise is difficult, even for gifted pupils; and both teenagers hang on with courage.

But the most stirring/outstanding lesson to be learnt from the novel concerns the feelings. From now on, the two teenagers are joined. Because, as Saphir says, "When strength comes from heart, it cannot fail."



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LA RIVIÈRE DORT À L'OMBRE DES GRANDS VERGNES. /
THE RIVER SLEEPS IN THE SHADE OF THE LARGE ALDERS.
(novel – 403 pages)

thought strolls


Abounding novel, steeped in meditations, dreams, love and poetry. Charente and its soft and nonchalant countryside are its cradle. The actors, six boarding school classmates, boys and girls, from craftsmen and small middle-class men background, gathered together for the holidays. And the subject, a fervent quest for the True Life.

Walks, visits in close areas, multiple and astonishing encounters, yet even the humblest daily tasks, intelligently contrast normal life, which too often tends to dehumanize men, with personal life, which only allows you to be yourself, guarantying warm friendship and love.

Hilarious reasoning ab absurdio, dialogues full of keen psychological subtleties, intense poetry about nature, and life mysteries take you under a linking charm.



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LE PAYSAGE ME REGARDAIT. / THE LANDSCAPE WAS LOOKING AT ME.
(novel – 193 pages)

a corner of the heart


The landscape was looking at me.

Yes, another world is appearing from past, a forgotten life, where human beings did however live, think, and love. It takes place in Lorraine; a charming image of a small village, among hills covered with fields, meadows, and numerous brooks; in the days of the horses and the first tractors, at the time when one cannot carry on as a blacksmith.

The blacksmith's three sons start to live other than their parents: the oldest will study, the daughter is in love with a banker's son of the town, and the youngest will be a farmer or a breeder, or both.

Touching, nostalgic, marvelling or tender, the story passes by like time: it doesn't matter where you are, if you love each other, you live.



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L'AUBE COMMENÇAIT À PERCER LA NUIT. /
DAWN WAS JUST COMING THROUGH THE NIGHT.
(novel – 409 pages)

My love


The story takes place in Versailles and its area. The characters are mates of junior and final school year, the hero and the heroin fall in love with one another. The action? school time and some trips here and there in France. The narration is sprinkled with teens thoughts upon life, and light, joking chats.

But what is astonishing and fascinating, every time, is a perceptible, daily vision, so true that you sometimes get moved by such an intimacy.

For a quick moment when reading this book, you lived and were nourished with another life than your own.



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ANTIGONE
English version ANTIGONE
(tragedy in one act)

individual rights


Everyone knows the myth of Antigone. Oedipus' daughter and cursed like all his family, she defies the laws of Thebes which forbid her from burying her brother Polynices, a traitor to his country; her defiance will cost her her life.

This new play has the merit of highlighting the truth about the two brothers, Polynices and Eteocles, both also traitors to their father Oedipus and to the city.

Taken from Greek mythology, the character of Antigone acquires a surprising depth and power.

Immediately striking is the thrust and parry of the dialogue, in speeches as concise as maxims and as heavy as life. This short, one-act tragedy goes straight to the point, without flourish, without superfluity.

On closer inspection, we can see that each character is justified by substantive reasons, all legitimate and estimable. There is no minor character, there are three ways of seeing life and none is superior to the other.
Ismene, Antigone's sister, claims the rights of the living.
Creon, regent of Thebes, demands obedience to the city's laws.
Antigone defends the laws of the gods and of the individual.

In an original take on the Greek myth, this new Antigone intends to be faithful to her inner self rather than to men and the gods; driven by the imperious laws she feels in the depths of her being, she does not know what makes her act as she does or why. An entire and sincere character, she dwelt with the author for over fifty years before coming into existence.



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LA VIE / THE LIFE
(short stories - 131 pages)

looking for love and life


Moving or tender stories, telling about first feelings, attempted conquests and impossible love. The other are chats about the paths of life, or else the veracity of characters. Old remembrances give to the text strength and sincerity.



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RÊVES ET FLÂNERIES / DREAMS AND WANDERS
(77 poems)

dreams and wanders


Sonnets mainly, melodious and nostalgic, marvelling on countryside, plain life and affection. Not excepting, however, realism and irony.



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PRAECOR
English version PRAECOR
(satirical short articles)

social satire


A collection of hilarious short articles that pointedly mock the oddities and faults of our contemporaries.

Their impact comes from the acerbic wit of the author, who spies out and shines a spotlight on the contradictions and absurdities of our habits and customs.

They also draw their strength from the ordinariness of the situations and the conversations of everyday life: work, sport, newspapers, feelings, women's lib, economics, sexuality, creation, art, play, money, the highway code, developing countries, etc.

An amusing way of taking a sideways look at oneself!



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SOUVENIRS DU FRIUL / FRIUL REMEMBRANCES
Italian version SOUVENIRS DU FRIUL
(travel story - 46 pages)

strolling


Some short chapters written together with my girlfriend, when strolling among her mountains, North of Venice, Italy, and heading along for remembrances and discovery of the ancient life.



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