Every month, Sétois Alain Rollat offers a literary meeting Marque-Page. This distinguished journalist, who was the deputy director of Le Monde, introduces us to books by regional authors from Occitania publishing houses. It was the turn of Pierre Dabern from Toulouse, Philippe Castello from Montpellier and Gauthier Wiley from Perpignan.
A good thriller
The first rule of literary craft recommends that, when you want to build a compelling story, frame your work around a singular protagonist enough to immediately grab your attention. There is no good thriller, for example, without a good cop or a good killer. If they coexist, we are approaching the ideal. This is what Toulouse-based Pierre Dabernat, who has become a benchmark in this field, managed to do in L’Assassin de la Retirada, his new production. Her constant hero, Commissar Visconti, is the main prototype of a literary cop. He even accumulates, mocking himself, all the clichés of the genre: he smokes; he drinks he lives in a van; he is divorced, his sentimental life is complicated; he works solo because he’s too crazy to work in a team. Its uniqueness is due to the specificity of its deputy.
Sherlock needs Watson, San Antonio needs Berurier…
Knowing the classics of crime fiction and the tricks of the trade, Pierre Daberna knew that a good investigator always needs a second wise or savvy partner to progress in his investigation. Sherlock needs Watson, San Antonio needs Berurier… Dabernath cracked the codes by giving his protagonist a much less traditional sidekick: he offered him… a hallucinatory sidekick! His curator, Visconti, who has undergone psychiatric treatment, is assisted by an imaginary bird, sometimes a sparrow, sometimes a magpie, sometimes a falcon or a parrot, with whom he communicates in order to talk to himself… The find is wonderful; she entertains; she brings humor to the text.
A scenario throughout Occitania
As for the assassin in the story, in L’Assassin de la Retirada, set in the darkest periods of the Spanish Civil War, he is one of the most unconventional: a hermaphrodite, transformative assassin in the midst of a mid-life crisis who watches with jealous care by his autistic brother and drags with him the memory of his rapist father like a millstone… His ambiguous profile is worth a detour in itself.
Pierre Dabernat weaves around this triple framework, relying on a solid documentary base. He sets his script across Occitania and his writing talent does the rest. He takes great pleasure – you can feel it, you can see it – in guiding his readers through the maze of his wild imagination. We love it and want more. It’s a good job.
- The Assassin of Retirad, Pierre Dabernat, Cairn Editions, 435 pages, €13.
Making a trip seems easier than making a thriller. But this impression is misleading. It is not enough to put yourself in the place of a traveler and carefully keep a journal of your adventures to make friends in literature with Henry Miller or Jack Kerouac. You also need breath to go the distance, well-honed senses so you don’t get lost or go in circles, and above all, enough self-awareness to have even a small idea of what you’re looking for on the side of the road, or what we are running from The rest is work.
“He immediately puts his bags there, checks into a Valparaiso motel, and, haunted by this vision, searches for this woman…”
Montpellier resident Philippe Castello, who already has several professional tourists, decided to try his hand at road trips for his first novel. He put himself in the place of a journalist who suffers from the fact that he is not a great writer, goes to the Far West after a breakup and wonders for many miles about the meaning of his existence. Until, in the Sonoran desert, as his bus crosses an unknown city burdened by heat, he sees, or doesn’t think he sees, a woman in the window who seems to be sending him a sign. He immediately puts his suitcases there, settles in the Valparaiso motel and, haunted by this vision, looks for this woman. The main character is ordinary, the script is classic, we believe in an ordinary journey.
Writing, clear, sober, direct, says the essential without embellishments
Big mistake! Because when it comes to travel, style is often what makes the difference between overly formatted stories and beautiful discoveries. Style and ability to make the silence between words speak. Philip Castelno lacks neither. His letter, clear, sober, direct, without embellishments, says the essentials. His characters are sophisticated, dialogues are economical. The desert does not tolerate trifles. The atmosphere is dreamy, almost mystical; a minimum of intrigue, a maximum of magic.
“A novel is no longer adventure writing, but adventure writing…”
Since this place has an Italian name – Chevola – the desert of the Tartars of Dino Buzzati is mentioned… This definition of what was once called a new novel also comes to mind: “A novel is no longer adventure writing, but adventure writing…” You put your bag next to the author’s bag in this city that appears out of nowhere, sucks you in the middle of the dunes and doesn’t let go. Is this a ghost town? A witch town haunted by the local Circe? A dream catcher? Does not matter. We would like to leave, but everything brings us back to this.
And, in addition to what the silence between the words says, Philip Castello, who in a past life was a record store, sprinkles his story with musical notes, we’re happy to lie down on the sand to listen to The Righteous Brothers, Bob Dylan or the Eagles… Freed from your own mood, you don’t want to move anymore, because there’s nothing more refreshing to the soul in hot weather than a road trip alternating between soul and rock ‘n’ roll.
- Motel Valparaiso, Philippe Castelneau, Asphalt, 120 pages, €15
Literary craft also has its students who are able to produce original works composed of all kinds of trifles. Gauthier Wiley is one of those geniuses. This Perpignan is a man of his word. He always liked to tell stories to children and jokes to friends. Books, reading, this is not his business. But he loves music with words and music without words. Sometimes he throws down the lyrics of songs for which he dreams of finding a translator someday.
A few years ago, his favorite singer even sent him a signed photo to thank him for sending him a text: Bravo Gauthier! Then it occurred to him to combine his passion for words and his passion for music. This yields Riton, a lively cocktail book that tells a story when we improvise, in the evening, in a bistro, among friends, when we have eternity ahead of us and the desire to give free rein to our imagination until the end of the night.
“A monument to French song, who fled from Paris and show business to Perpignan to drown in alcohol his sadness and disgust for the present world”
Ryton, it was already “a monument of French song who fled from Paris and show business to Perpignan to drown in alcohol his sadness and disgust for the present world”. It was there, in Perpignan, in a downtown bistro – Le Petit Pastis – that one day he was recognized by François and Gabin, two brothers. “who were his fans from childhood”. And that “Then I’ll try to pull the singer out of that bad place to get him back to the front of the stage”.
Spontaneous, unusual, joyful literary object
The three main characters are nature; Le Petit Pastis is a bistro where you chat behind the counter in the manner of Audiard or Pagnol; the plot is fun; Mediterranean dialogues, that is, inexhaustible; all this is a spontaneous, unusual, joyful literary object. It’s more theater than novel, but why not? Gauthier Wiley writes as he speaks, and when he speaks loudly – as we do in the South – we listen with amusement because he is a natural storyteller. His written words will be drunk without moderation in Perpignan and Coustuja, the small Catalan village of his childhood. “I wish you a wonderful time” he tells readers in the preface. His wish will be fulfilled!
- Riton, Gautier Wailly, Publishroom Factory, 242 pages, €18
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