“Campaign”, by Raymonde Vincent: nature that gives and takes

The writer Raymonde Vincent, in 1978.

“Campaign”, followed by “Remembering my mother” (unpublished), by Raymonde Vincent, preface by Renan Prévot, Le Passeur, “Les pagesoubliees”, 360 p., €19.

First sparkling work by Raymonde Vincent (1908-1985), Campaign (Stock, 1937) is a paradoxical nugget. Republished by Le Passeur, this enchantingly graceful novel won the Prix Femina under the nose and beard of Robert Brasillach and Henri Bosco, before being hailed by Colette, Paul Claudel and many others. With the intensity of entries in literature, it combines the virtuosity of masterstrokes, with a brilliance all the more unprecedented because it is due to a Berrichonne who had received, for all education, only the catechism. She will write eight other books before falling into oblivion.

Is it the fact of not having gone to school? Landed in Paris at the age of 17, posing for artists, including Giacometti, and becoming the wife of the critic and translator Albert Béguin, she makes peasant life flow in her pages of crystalline writing, which springs in a staggering appearance. Embracing the twists of fate, it describes, in a “remote corner of Berry”the daily life of farmers who « printed(e) on the screen of the seasons » : “first pre-spring twilights”, “post-autumn”, and also the First World War, whose explosion caught up with this mosaic of reapers and shepherds. The narration expands and tightens in a flamboyant vibrato, throbbing in tune with Marie, a 16-year-old girl taken in with her grandmother by cousins, sharecroppers on a vast estate.

Ecstasies and tears of the characters unfold with an astonishing emotional power. Their relief gives this succession of paintings the verve of expressionist miniatures which bring the reader into the page. Marie’s new world is a nesting doll: nestled in a lilac wood, the farmers’ house borders fields in a row, in the park of a castle. Inhabited, sacred nature is the main character, a pantheistic order that connects beings and seasons, earth and plants – “countryside” without an article in the title, the ardent heart of the novel. It is also the one we beat, place of retreat and interior battlefield.

The forest, a refuge where to go through sorrows and joys

A witness to events, a mirror in which what overflows is reflected, she takes part in the action: on the death of his wife, the master of the farm wanders for two months in the woods. When she is too worried, their neighbor needs to come in; Marie and her grandmother shed their tears there; his cousin, he pretends to walk there. THE “submarine depths” of the forest offer a refuge where to cross pains and joys, to make them real. Like that of Grand Meaulnesby Alain-Fournier (1913), the domain is a space of revelation, a place of splitting and transformation where reason and unreason fight a duel.

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