The Femina 2021 prize goes to Clara Dupont-Monod for her novel “To adapt”

[Critique parue dans La Croix du 21 octobre 2021.]


by Clara Dupont-Monod

Stock, 172 p., € 18.50

The sun, the plants and the trees, the river, the minerality of nature – from the Cévennes mountains to the pebbles and stones of the buildings – populate, support, flood this bewitching, dazzling novel, one of the most beautiful that we have ever seen. has been able to read in recent years about difference, disability, the triumph of life, sometimes despite death.

In a happy family of the Cévennes arrives a third child, to the happiness of his parents and his elders – a protective big brother and a mischievous sister. But the baby does not babble, react, communicate. “The child’s eyes caressed the landscapes and the people. They didn’t linger. “ Faced with the emergence of injustice, everyone must adapt, welcome, accept. Or, like the younger, believing not to do it, rejecting the situation and the cumbersome little brother.

Learning path

The eldest opens up to mad, unreasonable, overwhelming love. Going back to the contemporary race for performance and personal achievement, the boy chooses companionship with the child, self-giving, patient and slow knowledge, very embodied, as if everything had to be done. reinvent with him. Adapting will also mean surviving the announced death of the child, for everyone, including for “the last”, the son born later, who will grow up in this unknown shadow, and whose childhood and then adolescence. also offer magnificent pages to the powerful novel by Clara Dupont-Monod.

The story of this family, told with poetry in a tutelary nature, full of life and sharing, sobs and joys, is also the very concrete one of a contemporary journey between administration, schools, work and socialization. And it is that, for each of the characters, of a path of learning and of a personal conversion, groping, wild and beautiful at the same time: five hearts entered by force into a new world.

Whisper of stones

Little by little, their eyes open up, like those of the oldest child when he discovers the vocation of nuns welcoming severely disabled children all year round: “These women, too, had reached an incredible level of infraanguage, capable of exchanging without words or gestures. They had understood, for a long time, this love so special. The finest, the most mysterious, volatile love, based on the sharp instinct of an animal which presses, gives, which recognizes the smile of gratitude towards the present moment without even the idea of ​​a return, a smile of peaceful stone, indifferent to tomorrow.

→ READ. “Catholics facing disability” by Olivier and Cédric Landron: the weighty commitment of the Church

“People are first born from a place, and often this place is worth kinship“, murmur the ocher stones of the courtyard of the family estate. It is they, the unchanging stones, the only ones to know all the secrets of the place and its inhabitants, who take you far with this story. “Set in the wall, we overlook their lives. For millennia, we have been witnesses. Children are always forgotten in a story. We bring them in like little sheep, we push them aside more than we protect them. But children are the only ones to take stones for toys. They name us, paint us a lot, cover us with drawings and writings (…) throw us to ricochet. Adults use us, children hijack us. That is why we are deeply attached to them. It’s a matter of gratitude. “


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