“La Palourde”, by Sigolène Vinson: joy despite everything

The banks of the Etang de Berre (Bouches-du-Rhône), in February 2022.

“La Clam”, by Sigolène Vinson, Le Tripode, 176 p., €19, digital €12.

Her previous novel, George’s Canine (L’Observatoire, 2021), seemed to be born from taking LSD. As an outlet for pain and grief, Sigolène Vinson, survivor of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, in January 2015, explored the virtues of a slightly delirious writing. A few months before the trial (September-December 2020), where she was going to have to testify, the writer wanted to flee reality to better face it. She entrusted to a fiction, of which she claimed the “foolishness”the task of getting his flabbergasted mind moving again.

At first glance, the tone of his new work seems wiser. Not that the writing of The Clam be appeased. The grief is still there. For those who know how to look at them, the heroine’s eyes do indeed wear a ” scar “. But the paths taken by the novelist, in this fiction that she places on the banks of the Etang de Berre (Bouches-du-Rhône), seem chosen to respond to a new desire for lightness. We quickly hear, moreover, behind the name of the mollusc with which the character identifies, his dream of becoming “not heavy”. How, however, decently express one’s joy of living when death, everywhere, threatens and reminds one?

In the brackish water of the lagoon, under the effect of repeated heat waves and the massive discharge of fresh water by a hydroelectric power station, which modify its ecological balance, the most common animal species are threatened with extinction. The fishermen raise nets of dead fish, the clams are asphyxiated. Insect colonies are collapsing. Around the pond, life goes on. Faced with disaster, everyone invents solutions that allow them to face it. The narrator, she relies on fiction. “We can break away from reality, she says, and be convinced to find it better by taking the stories we tell ourselves to be true. »

The modest pen of Sigolène Vinson

The Clam thus becomes the sum of the stories that the protagonist invents to feel alive, and of the investigations that she leads to find the desire to continue living. Does it matter if one version contradicts the other? Elucidating the mystery of a peacock whose cry is no longer “Léon”, like any self-respecting peacock, but “Raoul”, is well worth an investigation into the origin of the disappearance of the clams… Under the modest pen of Sigolène Vinson, the main thing seems to be to approach these questions with as much seriousness as innocence. “Before dying, she writes, I will remember that all my life I chased after harmless dreams, placid as a clam asking for nothing but a bit of mud in which to bury itself. » From sketches to candid dialogues, the writer declines all the facets of what could be a light and joyful relationship with the world, which is not unaware of dramas and threats.

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