Tag Archives: Per Olov Enquist

Per Olov Enquist, Le livre des paraboles (bilingual post! And not just about PO!)


J’ai attendu avec impatience la publication d’une traduction du dernier livre de Per Olov Enquist. Il est sorti en suite en mars 2013. Pour la traduction française il a fallu attendre à l’automne 2014. J’avais même envoyé un mail à Actes Sud, la maison française qui publie PO, mais il était resté sans réponse… Mais là, ironiquement, ça m’a mis plusieurs mois à trouver le temps de le lire… Pourquoi? Peur d’être déçue? Je n’ai pas aimé le design de la page couverture? Allez donc savoir…

Enfin, là, je l’ai lu! Et quel livre! Avec le rythme haletant habituel de PO, une profusion de points d’exclamation! Et on en redemande! PO écrira-t-il encore, passé 80 ans?

Ce court livre se décline en neuf chapitres, neuf “paraboles”, où PO raconte (ou ne raconte pas, par quoi je veux dire qu’il fait plutôt des allusions obscurs aux faits, plutôt que de raconter de façon claire et non-équivoque) des parties de son histoire personnelle… des souvenirs d’enfance et d’adolescence. Il se pose beaucoup de questions sur ces origines, sur le sens de la vie, sur le sens de l’amour…

En fait, il nous dit avoir écrit un roman d’amour avec ce livre, après ne pas avoir pu le faire plus tôt, car que savait-il de l’amour et que pouvait-il en dire? Il y aussi la question de la loyauté aux êtres disparus, comme cette voisine d’un été, avec qui il fait la première expérience de l’amour physique (lors qu’il avait 15 ans et elle, 51; on remarqua la permutation) et qui lui demande de ne jamais en parler à personne. Peut-il en parler maintenant qu’elle est morte? S’agirait-il alors d’une trahison?

D’après son Cahier de travail il ne l’a rencontrée que trois fois.

La première fois, un dimanche après-midi en juillet 1949, c’est là qu’il emploie la désignation énigmatique “la femme sur le plancher sans noeuds”. La deuxième fois, le 22 août 1958 à Södertälje. La troisième fois, c’est en novembre 1977.

Apparemment, il avait promis de ne jamais en parler, à personne.

Mais tant d’années se sont écoulées, maintenant. Alors quelle importance.

PO nous dit aussi ressentir une plus grande liberté d’exprimer ce qu’il veut, comment il le veut, par le fait même d’être maintenant près de la rive du fleuve… c’est à dire près de la mort, près de la fin, et qu’on lui pardonnera bien de se sentir libre de dire ce qu’il veut.  L’expérience de l’approche de la mort le poursuit:

Soudain, en octobre 2011, hémorragie sévère.

Il regarde le plafond de l’ambulance, était-ce sérieux cette fois? Ce sont les boyaux des Enquist qui frappent finalement, à l’âge de soixante-dix-sept ans. Quelle ironie, lui qui fut tant de fois sur la voie. Deux opérations du coeur. L’estomac, ce trou que ces idiots de soignants ne retrouvaient pas. Jusqu’à maintenant! en octobre 2011!

Et tout ce qu’il n’avait pas eu le temps de faire! Comme l’Elof!

Il se remet de se problème de santé et la vie continue… Mais que faire de cette vie? Peut-il faire autre chose qu’écrire? Dans quelle mesure doit-il continuer à écrire, à offrir un témoignage? (Voir la vidéo sur YouTube)  Et en relation avec ce thème de l’écrivain et la mort, j’ai repensé à ce volume de Margaret Atwood, Negotiating with the Dead, que je n’avais pas vraiment aimé au moment de sa publication, mais qui tout d’un coup me semblait plus pertinent. Atwood says:

The title of this chapter is “Negotiating with the Dead,” and its hypothesis is that not just some, but all writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality – by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead.

You may find the subject a little peculiar. It is a little peculiar. Writing itself is a little peculiar.

So maybe PO is also fascinated with mortality, his own mortality, after being so close several times to crossing to the other side. He has said somewhere else that recovering from alcoholism has led him to consider the rest of his life as a sort of bonus (my interpretation, not his own words). Maybe also a bonus where he still has some responsibility to give something back.

In the preface to Negotiating with the Dead, Atwood explores this in more detail:

These are the three questions most often posed to writers, both by readers and by themselves: Who are you writing for? Why do you do it? Where does it come from?

While I was writing these pages, I began compiling a list of answers to one of these questions – the question about motive. Some of these answers may appear to you to be more serious than others, but they are all real, and there is nothing to prevent a writer from being propelled by several of them at once, or indeed by all. They are taken from the words of writers themselves – retrieved from such dubious sources as newspaper interviews and autobiographies, but also recorded live from conversations in the backs of bookstores before the dreaded group signing, or between bites in cut-rate hamburger joints and tapas bars and other such writerly haunts, or in the obscure corners of receptions given to honor other, more prominent writers; but also from the words of fictional writers – all written of course by writers – though these are sometimes disguised in works of fiction as painters or composers or other artistic folk. Here then is the list:

To record the world as it is. To set down the past before it is all forgotten. To excavate the past because it has been forgotten. To satisfy my desire for revenge. Because I knew I had to keep writing or else I would die. Because to write is to take risks, and it is only by taking risks that we know we are alive. To produce order out of chaos. To delight and instruct (not often found after the early twentieth century, or not in that form). To please myself. To express myself. To express myself beautifully. To create a perfect work of art.  To reward the virtuous and punish the guilty; or – the Marquis de Sade defense, used by ironists – vice versa. To hold a mirror up to Nature. To hold a mirror up to the reader. To paint a portrait of society and its ills. To express the unexpressed life of the masses. To name the hitherto unnamed. To defend the human spirit, and human integrity and honor. To thumb my nose at Death. To make money so my children could have shoes. To make money so I could sneer at those who formerly sneered at me. To show the bastards. Because to create is human. Because to create is Godlike. Because I hated the idea of having a job. To say a new word. To  make a new thing. To create a national consciousness, or a national conscience. To justify my failures in school. To justify my own view of myself and my life, because I couldn’t be “a writer” unless I actually did some writing. To make myself appear more interesting than I actually was. To attract the love of a beautiful woman. To attract the love of any woman at all. To attract the love of a beautiful man. To rectify the imperfections of my miserable childhood. To thwart my parents. To spin a fascinating tale. To amuse and please the reader. To amuse and please myself. To pass the time, even though it would have passed anyway. Graphomania. Compulsive logorrhea. Because I was driven to it by some force outside my control. Because I was possessed. Because an angel dictated it to me. Because I fell into the embrace of the Muse. Because I got pregnant by the Muse and needed to give birth to a book (an interesting piece of cross-dressing, indulged in by male writers of the seventeenth century). Because I had books instead of children (several twentieth-century women). To serve Art. To serve the Collective Unconscious. To serve History. To justify the ways of God toward man. To act out antisocial behavior for which I would have been punished in real life. To master a craft so I could generate texts (a recent entry). To subvert the establishment. To demonstrate that whatever is, is right. To experiment with new forms of perception. To create a recreational boudoir so the reader could go into it and have fun (translated from a Czech newspaper). Because the story took hold of me and wouldn’t let go (the Ancient Mariner defense). To search for understanding of the reader and myself. To cope with my depression. For my children. To make a name that would survive death. To defend a minority group or oppressed class. To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To expose appalling wrongs or atrocities. To record the times throught which I have lived. To bear witness to horrifying events that I have survived. To speak for the dead. To celebrate life in all its complexity. To praise the universe. To allow for the possibility of hope and redemption. To give back something of what has been given to me.

Oomph… That was one long paragraph of sentence fragments.

P.O. Enquist ends his book with an ironic incident: While he attends the funeral of the woman who took his virginity, he gets a parking ticket! A parking ticket! Near the chapel!

While this book makes sense on its own, it probably makes even more sense after reading the previous memoir where PO talks a lot about his father (l’Elof!) and what saved him in the end (writing!).

Alors que PO semble particulièrement affectionner les points d’exclamations, moi c’est les points de suspension et les parenthèses (au cas où vous n’auriez jamais remarqué), quoiqu’il m’arrive souvent de réécrire une phrase pour éliminer les parenthèses (des fois, il y en a vraiment trop que je me perds moi-même dans la hiérarchie des propositions).


Enquist, Per Olov. Le livre des paraboles. Actes Sud, 2014.

Enquist, Per Olov. Une autre vie. Actes Sud, 2010.

Atwood, Margaret. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2002.

Other things:




Friday Night Ramblings: Can’t go to the gym so I might as well write something


I had minor surgery on Wednesday and I have to take it easy for a couple of days, so the usually Friday night at the gym is out. So let me tell you about what I’ve currently got in process and what I’m thinking of reading next (mind you keep in mind that I am easily distracted by new ideas and what is to be read next keeps changing quite rapidly but I still like thinking about it).

I made a commitment to myself to read some Dickens this year. I had taken a stab at book such as Hard Times and A Tale of Two Cities when I was younger and my English was not so good, and I found I had little patience to wade through the dialogues. In general, my knowledge of English is quite good now and my tolerance for dialogue written in the vernacular has certainly gone up. So I am about one-fifth into Great Expectations and I am quite enjoying it. I am looking forward to the way in which Pip is going to evolve as he grows up. At the point where I am in the book, he is living with his sister and her husband who took him in as he was an orphan. He was invited to “play” at the home of an eccentric woman, Miss Havisham, and I wonder where this is going. There are all sorts of ways in which this could turn really weird…

In parallel, I am reading the third and latest novel by Ildefonso Falcones, La reina descalza, published in 2013. Falcones made his name with is first book, La cathedral del mar (The Cathedral of the Sea), which was quite a bestseller in Spain when it came out in 2006. I had picked up that book while browsing in a bookstore in Madrid on the tail end of a business trip. Falcones is a Barcelona-based lawyer with four children who writes big, thick historical novels in his spare time. La reina descalza focuses on the lives of gypsies in 18th century Spain. One of the main characters, Caridad, is a freed African slave that somehow came from Cuba to Sevilla and comes under the protection of an old gypsy man. The storytelling is quite smooth and this is an easy, fun read, not too challenging, although I do need to resort to the dictionary once in a while.

I have another stack of books I have been reading and put aside and I am just waiting for inspiration to get back into them. And then there are the stack of books on the living room window sill.

  • Mort-terrain by Biz: Biz is the rap singer who leads the band Loco Locass, who are quite well-known in Québec. The story is set in a mining town. Of course, I definitely have to read that.
  • Sous l’arche du temps by Hélène Dorion : this is a series of essays and interviews with my favorite Québec poet. I read it in small chunks. I am also reading through the large volume of her collected works from 1983 to 2000 and I have never written about that. Her poetry is just gut-wrenching.
  • Un été avec Montaigne d’Antoine Compagnon: I love Antoine Compagnon, the no-nonsense literature professor from the Collège de France. His inaugural lecture at the Collège de France was about why we should read… Un été avec Montaigne is a series of commentary about Montaigne’s Essays that were originally written for a summer radio series for France Inter. I am not sure I would have the patience to read Montaigne but which such an introduction to his work, who knows?
  • Le départ des musiciens by P.O. Enquist: I have to get into the next one, don’t I?
  • I still have some Giller Prize-related reading to do: The 2013 Giller Prize winner, Hell Going, by Lynn Coady, and well as the Dan Vyleta novel who was on the short list. Officially, I bought them as a present for my husband, so he gets to read them first. So he read the Coady and he quite liked it although, like me, he is not much of a short story reader. He preferred her novel The Antagonist, and I seem to remember it was about hockey, which would be timely given we are in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • I also have a volume of the complete tales and poems of Edgar Allan Poe sitting on my desk. It is an old musty-smelling book. It has an inscription on the first page, “To Alex, Best Wishes, from Tsia, Xmas 1944”. From one of my husband’s aunts to her sister… Both dead now, but I was lucky enough to know them in their last years. They never married, remained independent, lived together their whole lives, loved travelling, and of course, loved reading.

Per Olov Enquist, Hess


What a struggle it has been to finish this book. I have to admit that I cheated a little. I could not conceive of just dropping the book fawgedaboudit, so I read some of the final parts by reading the first sentence of paragraphs to get a sense of where it was going, and when the first sentence grabbed by attention, I did read on a little. I tried to flip back and forth to make links between different sections of the book… Anything to try to make it make sense… From the title, some of the content and some information found on the web, it seemed to be obvious that the book was about Rudolf Hess. It is not at all obvious in a lot of the content.

Some of the confusion has to do with the changes in viewpoint; one is a narrator who is a researcher also commenting on his own work, some might be text coming supposedly written by Hess, biographical or fictional, maybe, sometimes… This novel has been described as experimental… if we mean by experimental that it does not followed an expected “flight path” through a rationally developed plot with a recognizable beginning, end and understandable plot twists…

Enquist uses a method that I have seen in other novels by him that I have read which I call the pseudo-documentary method. A narrator claims to take some of information from some existing documentation, is doing research to find such documentation or is trying to validate its content. So the book has at least two basic subplots, one being the “main” story and the other being the story of the “historian” as you might want to call the narrator. In Hess, I sometimes got confused between the two, as the text is quite “chunky” and the chunks are not always clearly attributable to a specific subplot. And that is for the main body of the novel. The novel proper is followed by a second “document” of over 30 pages called “Sommaire”, in a much smaller font, who is much more “Commentaire” than “Sommaire” and either reflects on the content of the main part of the book or seems to include notes about how the text should be further edited. For example:

Chap. 6. Nous ne discuterons pas cette partie ici.

Chap. 15. Hors du sujet, supprimer ou développer.

Be that as it may, I would rather put myself through this kind of experience than to read another Harlequin romance novel.

To return to the content of the book, the narrator states his purpose at the beginning of the book, in section 3 of Part I: “… cet essai sur la vie de Hess, sa jeunesse, sa vie d’homme et sa production littéraire pendant sa période d’emprisonnement, cet essai se propose avant tout de donner une image nette des trois gros romans dont il a laissé les manuscrits. Tout le reste est parenthèses… » However, the boundaries between the parentheses and the rest look rather blurred to me. Note to self: Read this book again some day.

I was reading the 1971 French translation by Marc de Gouvenain, reprinted in the Oeuvres Romanesques, volume 1 in the Thesaurus collection at Actes Sud.

For an excerpt in English:


Monday Night Ramblings: Sometimes, trying to hard to read a lot gets me nowhere


In spite of the constant exhaustion of the past few months, I manage to get quite a bit of reading done, but it seems I have a lot less patience for obscure prose, colloquial language from other places, and textbook materials.

The book I read the most from this weekend is a 1991 Australian novel by Tim Winton, called Cloudstreet, that was recommended by an Australian colleague as a good place to start to sample Australian literature. So far, it’s a really fun read, basically the intertwined histories of two families living in Perth, with their ups and downs, small successes and tragedies, set mostly in post-war years. By post-war, I mean post-Second-World-War, as there may be others… I think that the Australian words and expression I don’t know don’t get in the way of enjoying the story. Honestly, if Kobo dictionaries don’t find the word, I look no further and keep reading. The story does move along at a good clip.

I am also started reading Cultural Amnesia, a series of essays on a variety of cultural figures, by Clive James, an Australian writer living in England. His comments are organized alphabetically and so far I am on “A”. Gotta keep reading.

And even though I still love Per Olov Enquist, I find myself struggling through Hess, so far the most difficult and obscure book I have read from this author. I regularly get lost in the story, lose track of who is talking, of whether the narrator is telling the story or just commenting on the research process to write the story. Seriously, I love PO, I just don’t love this book.

And I have a pile of human resources textbook to get through my professional credential in HR: general human resources, talent acquisition, labour relations, remuneration, health and safety. And I have little patience for reading textbooks these days. Once the workday is done, there is not much time available before I have to work on the 8-9 hours of sleep I need everyday.





Sunday Night Ramblings: After a binge of Giller Prize short-listed books, what next?


The past two weeks featured reading focused in the Giller Prize short list. I managed to read Lisa Moore’s Caught and Dennis Bock’s Going Home Again because the final gala and I finished Craig Davidson’s Cataract City the week after. I did buy the rest of the short list, but it is actually my husband’s Christmas present so I will have to be a bit patient and give him a chance to read Lynn Coady and Dan Vyleta before I can get my hands on those books. And don’t worry, he does not read my blog so it’s unlikely he will find out.

As I was travelling last week and had to endure some business-travel-related boredom and need to escape, I bought the lastest Robin Cook novel, Nano. I thought that might worth a read, an exciting mystery featuring cutting-edge technology… except I have read way too much of that genre in my life and I really did not find anything new in this book. In fact, much of the plot and characters seemed like a transposition of Coma, the book that contributed to putting Robin Cook on the map. While I added some words to my vocabulary, such as microbivores and respirocytes, the weak plot and even weaker characters (the womanizing boss!) were really disappointing. This does not mean I will never ever buy another Robin Cook every again… but it might take a while.

One author I have not read much is Tom Clancy. Given he died recently, his name has come back to my attention. I did love The Hunt for Red October and I remember reading some of it on a quiet day when I was temping for an air-conditioning company back when I was eighteen. I do have a question though: Do you have to read the Jack Ryan novels in order and can one start with the lastest novel published in 2012? The nerd in me says “better read in the right order”…

In any case, I did go back this weekend to the novel I was reading before the Giller called for my attention. So my head is back in Estonia with Sofi Oksanen and Lorsque les colombes disparurent. The question that comes to me right now, as I am writing, is why the title talks about doves (“colombes” means doves) when the German officers keep eating pigeons in fancy restaurants in Tallin. Maybe it’s because the doves have all gone… literally as birds and source of food, as well as symbols of peace. This book is certainly fascinating, with its exploration of the intricacies of life under successive totalitarian regimes and the struggles to survive of ordinary citizens, resistance fighters and collaborators.

I was also in the middle of P.O. Enquist’s Hess, about Rudolf Hess, which fits in nicely thematically with the Sofi Oksanen book. But there are some many more interesting books awaiting me on the shelves, in addition to work-related books about learning, leadership, change management and diversity… My, oh my, so much choice…

And the Montreal book fair will be on this week and I plan to go at least on Friday, but who knows… I might end up spending some of next weekend there as well.

Monday Night Ramblings: Novels and Journals


I finally started Sofi Oksanen’s Quand les colombres disparurent, her fourth novel and the third one translated in French. Similarly to the other two, it is in part set in Estonia and chronicles the lives of ordinary people dealing with extraordinarily difficult life circumstances.

I have also started Hess by Per Olov Enquist which is so far rather a difficult read. It is based on the life of the Nazi Rudolf Hess. So both novels are somewhat political.

I am finally at the half-way mark in Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, after over 15 hours of reading. That is quite a large book… The heroine, Emilie St. Aubert, is still in the clutches of her uncle, Mr. Montoni, a virtual prisoner at Castle Udolpho in the Appenines. The mystery is quite thick at this point. We don’t know what Montoni is up to, besides trying to scare his wife, Emily’s aunt, into letting all her wealth come into his possession. We have seen earlier that he squandered his whole fortune gambling, but at Castle Udolpho, he seems to be up to something rather more sinister, given the company he keeps. Emily also feels threatened by his behavior and fears for her life. The castle also scares her: mysterious passageways, strange guests, unexplainable noises in the night… Many things are causing to freeze in place or collapse  completely. The author describes Emilie’s state of mind and its many variations in quite a lot of detail.

One of the most fascinating reads I got into lately is the special summer issue of the French magazine Books about journals (http://www.books.fr/archives/numero-45/). It features reviews of a number of journals by people who were not necessarily famous yet no less interesting observers of life around them. The journals reviewed vary in terms of historical period (Antiquity to our times) and locations (England, Germany, Japan, China, Russia, United States, etc.). Some people only wrote a journal at critical times in their lives, while for others it was a life-long endeavour. I was surprised by the extent to which some people tried to ensure the privacy of their writings by encoding some of it. Why would someone feel compelled to write down details of their lives and opinions only to conceal them? Given that the act of writing can very well assist in clarifying one’s thoughts, it may be how these people made sense of their own actions and of the events in their lives and may still not have wanted to have others read them. Certainly some have had journals discovered and seized and were punished for their contents.

Many novels feature fictional journal extracts or are themselves journal. This is the case with the Sofi Oksanen novel. A journal was a significant part of Lars Gustafson’s Death of the Beekeeper. What other novels do you know of where that is the case?


Per Olov Enquist, Le cinquième hiver du magnétiseur


De retour à mon obsession, la littérature suédoise et en particulier les romans de Per Olov Enquist. J’ai acheté le méga-tome Œuvres romanesque, volume 1, dans la collection Thésaurus chez Actes Sud qui contient six romans de la première moitié de la carrière d’Enquist. Il s’agit donc les romans des années 60, 70 et 80, avec deux omissions notoires, le roman sur Strindberg et L’extradition des Baltes. Le roman le plus récent de la collection est La bibliothèque du capitaine Nemo, celui qu’il a écrit après avoir surmonté sa dépendance à l’alcool et qui a été publié en 1991 en suédois. Les 5 autres romans de la collection publiée chez Actes sud sont : Le cinquième hiver du magnétiseur, Hess, Le départ des musiciens, Le Second, et L’ange déchu.

Donc, je viens de terminer Le cinquième hiver du magnétiseur et ce roman rejoint certainement mon intérêt pour la pratique de la médicine avant l’ère moderne, où la médecine est encore plus un art qu’une science, quoiqu’on peut se demander si ça ne serait pas toujours le cas aujourd’hui. Le docteur Meisner est un magnétiseur qui prétend pouvoir guérir des malades à l’aide d’aimants, d’hypnose et du contrôle des flux magnétiques. Il tente d’imposer sa méthode en plusieurs endroits, dont Vienne et Paris, mais s’en fait chasser avec parfois grand fracas comme à l’issue d’un procès tenu à Vienne.

Il s’amène donc dans la ville de Seefond (j’ai conclu que celle-ci était en Allemagne, mais je ne crois pas que ça soit spécifié dans le livre). Il y rencontre le docteur Selinger et guérit sa fille d’une cécité qui s’était déclaré à la suite d’un viol dans son enfance. Le docteur Selinger devient son assistant et joue le rôle d’observateur/vérificateur. À titre de narrateur, il décrit les traitements donnés à différents patients, avec plus ou moins de succès, ainsi que les séances de groupe animées par Meisner. Il s’interroge constamment sur les activités de Meisner. La méthode est-elle vraiment curative ou s’agit-il d’une supercherie. Dans le cas d’une patiente en particulier, il conclut à la tricherie de la part de la patiente mais sans nécessairement impliqué Meisner. Toutefois, suite à certains évènements, Meisner est arrêté, battu presqu’à mort et jugé. Il meurt peut de temps après.

On reconnait dans ce livre le style d’Enquist, son souci du détail, son scepticisme et son pessimisme quant à la bonté de l’être humain. Par contre, les manières qui m’ont tant frappées dans les romans plus récents, tel le rythme haletant, les répétitions, les exclamations trébuchantes, en sont absentes.

Il a recourt au même stratagème que j’ai vu dans les romans récents, de s’appuyer dans la narration sur de soi-disant documents historiques, ce qui pourrait amener le lecteur à se demander s’il s’agit d’un roman historique avec une forte base véridique ou simplement d’une fiction qui se prétend documentaire.

Les jeux de langage ont probablement une grande place dans l’écriture d’Enquist et on ne peut qu’espérer que les traducteurs lui font justice (dans ce cas-ci Marc de Gouvenain et Lena Grumbach). Comme je ne lis pas le suédois, je dois me contenter de traductions. À peu près à la moitié du roman, il se met à discourir sur la signification du « grotesque ». Le mot grotte étant à son origine, le grotesque est sombre et on en perçoit que les contours; il est reflet de la vérité mais avec des distorsions importantes et est toujours présent au fond de nous. On peut en conclure que l’humain contient toujours le mal ou la maladie et doit être traité. L’image de la grotte, d’un vide intérieur menaçant, est très forte.

L’utilisation de certains mots connote aussi un doute sur la légitimité du docteur Meisner, tel que dans cette description d’une malade :

Cette femme souffre depuis dix ans de douleurs intolérables dans la partie gauche de l’hypocondre, accompagnées d’élancements, de chaleurs, ainsi que de palpitations à l’endroit malade. Plusieurs fois un sentiment d’angoisse est venu s’ajouter à ces symptômes.

À la lecture de ce passage, je me suis dit : « Mais que diantre est un hypocondre? » Nous connaissons tous le mot « hypocondriaque » qui décrit l’affectation qui consiste à se croire malade sans l’être. Le lien est donc intéressant. Donc la patiente à mal à l’hypocondre, qui est une partie de l’abdomen. Étant donné la structure de l’innervation de l’abdomen, quand on a mal au ventre, on sait rarement précisément où on a mal. Alors, une douleur abdominale est localisée sans être complètement localisable. Ça amène à la charlatanerie, non? Mes remarques pourraient aussi vous amener dans un sommeil profond et je ne vous ennuierez pas plus avec mes jeux de mots et mes associations d’idées.

En bref, je recommande ce livre.


Référence :

Enquist, Per Olov. Le cinquième hiver du magnétiseur. Dans Œuvres romanesques, volume 1, Collection « Thesaurus », Actes Sud, 2010. (originalement publié en suédois en 1964)

Per Olov Enquist, Une autre vie (Ett annat liv)


What a great way to start the New Year with another book by Per Olov Enquist. This one is autobiographical, although there has been some commentary on the web about where is the line between novel and biography… The author writes in the third person, but uses this to share very private thoughts and impressions. As a biography, it is short on precision of chronology and rather relies on perceptions of events and of the links between them to give an overview of his life. The author concentrates on elements of his life history that influenced his writing and his career: his childhood in the north of Sweden, his studies, his athletic career, health issues, failed marriages, professional successes and failures. There is relatively little information beyond the childhood years about his family life; his children make only brief appearances. At the same time there are incredibly detailed descriptions of certain things, in particular the practices of creation of Broadway hits and of the social environment in which this takes place.

The narration ends around 1990 when his manages to stop drinking and writes a new novel after years of low production linked to depression and alcoholism. The title refers to the fact that he has been given a second chance to continue living and writing and doing all the things he enjoys; a redemption of sorts.

Little is said of the following years besides the fact that he had not had a drop in 18 years (2008 at the time of publication of the Swedish-language edition). Given his productivity since then (The Visit of the Royal Physician, Book of Blanche and Mary, Lewi’s Journey, as far as novels are concerned, and certainly of lot more in other types of literary production), we may be permitted to expect a “biography volume 2” that really tells the rest of the story. Based on some quick searches on the web, I have found that his divorced his second wife (the one who supported him through the difficult mid-life years) in 1994.

A new book by P.O. Enquist is coming out in Sweden in March 2013, titled Liknelseboken, which according to Google translates as “Parable book”. I could not find any information about eventual translation in English or French. I’ve e-mail his usual French publisher to ask if there was any news on whether they would publish.



Enquist, Per Olov, Une autre vie. Actes Sud, 2010. (Swedish original published in 2008)

Jours de sable, d’Hélène Dorion


English Comment :

Hélène Dorion has recently become my favorite French-language poet and writer. The fluidity of the langage she uses, the images she creates keep me in a state of wonder I hadn’t felt in a long time. This book is one of her few publications in prose and it is to be found in the biography section of bookstores. It is a memoir of sorts but not of the kind that lines up a series of facts about one’s life. Rather, it presents impressions and blurry memories of a life filled with good moments and more difficult moments, and moments that were not necessarily understood at the time. In this sense, writing helps recreate meaning and illuminates the past. This book is somewhat similar to Per Olov Enquist’s memoirs although that produced a much larger book. In the parts about their childhood at least, there is a similar feeling of partial understanding and slow learning, leading eventually to the ability to make sense of what to a child was a mystery.

French Comment :

Hélène Dorion nous raconte, dans cette petite autobiographique, des moments de son enfance et d’autres de sa vie d’adulte, doucement, sans heurts, nous entraînant dans un monde d’impressions et d’émotions tout en nuance. Elle y raconte aussi la découverte de l’écriture, de la liberté qu’elle amène.

Sur le sable, la marée monte, la marée redescend. Les pas s’y enfoncent et s’y perdent, creusent le dedans, creusent le dehors, révèlent le passé qui les forme. Je laisse entrer les heures en moi. Puis ce sont les mots qui entrent. Bientôt les carcans, les habitudes, les rampes que deviennent parfois les choses, tout ce qui m’enserrait s’ouvre, – le lac immense, les arbres, la rue, la lumière, mon corps même, me voici avec, plus encore, je suis à l’intérieur, enfin, je suis ici. L’écriture rend au temps sa liberté, à l’espace ses ailleurs. (p. 8)

Elle y raconte ses peurs d’enfants, les déchirures qu’elle a vécues, la séparation des parents, le déménagement, la perte d’amitié, la maladie et la découverte de la précarité de la vie.

La maladie déverse sur la vie une énorme boue, déroule un corridor d’obscurité. Le temps s’arrête, suspendu comme les jours, les nuits, ne tien plus qu’à un fil, comme le corps à l’âme. (p. 22-23)

Elle décrit aussi ce qu’elle sait de l’histoire de ses parents, des bribes de l’histoire de sa grand-mère, écossaise, irlandaise ou peut-être bien anglaise, se questionne sur ses origines, sur les amours qui l’ont amené ici.

Des traces s’accumulent, forment bientôt une ligne fine, un chemin, tout une vue avec des rêves comme des barques qui la traversent, vont d’une rive à l’autre porter leurs bagages d’espérance, et rentrent au port pour y trouver le seul visage qui importe, l’amour, – ciel et terre enfin rassemblés en deux bras, deux yeux, un seul corps chargé de tous les mondes. (p.100-101)

Elle cherche dans les jours ordinaires de sa vie le sens de celle-ci, le sens qui la porte. Ce faisant, elle nous emporte avec elle dans ce monde et nous fait partager à la fois la tristesse des pertes qu’il comporte et l’émerveillement de choses à découvrir.

Ce livre est un bijou et une inspiration pour qui ne verrait dans la rédaction de mémoires qu’une suite de faits en ordre chronologique… Les mémoires ici sont faites des plus ténues impressions et de légères fumées de souvenirs presqu’oubliés.

Références :

Dorion, Hélène, Jours de sable, Collection « ici l’ailleurs », Leméac, 2002.

Enquist, Per Olov, Une autre vie, Actes Sud, 2010.

Blanche et Marie, de Per Olov Enquist


Quick English Comment

Oh my, how to describe this book? Virtuosity, ambiguity, swirl of impressions, constantly folding back on itself and retelling from different angles, Enquist is the antistoryteller… To a much greater extent than Lewi’s Journey and The Visit of the Royal Physician, this book steps out of chronology to follow the narrator’s thought patterns, sometimes random, sometimes organized, always emotional. Based on elements of the real life story of Marie Curie but also wildly imaginative. IMHO, a masterpiece.

Longer French Comment

Blanche et Marie, est un récit basé sur la vie de Marie Curie et Blanche Wittman, une patiente du docteur Jean-Martin Charcot à l’hôpital de La Salpêtrière à Paris, hôpital célèbre pour avoir été un asile de femmes. Enquist fait également de Wittman une assistance de Marie Curie (aucune preuve historique à l’appui selon sources consultées sur Internet).

Le récit est structuré en trois sections qui correspondent à trois livrets rédigés par Blanche Wittman, le jaune, le rouge et le noir, des journaux intimes dont la plupart des entrées commencent par une question qu’essaie d’élucider Blanche. Elle essaie, bizarrement d’y relier la signification de l’amour avec la radioactivité. Les chassés-croisés du récit incluent l’histoire du docteur Charcot et ses recherches sur l’hystérie et l’hypnose, la progression des recherches de Marie Curie, la mort accidentelle de Pierre Curie, et la relation scandaleuse de Marie Curie avec un autre physicien après la mort de son mari.

Ce roman n’est de toute évidence pas un documentaire et le narrateur en fait état à la page 45 : « Voilà toute l’histoire, en un résumé bref et mensonger. » Quelle donc la part du mensonge dans cette histoire? Est-ce les personnages mentent, ou bien est-ce le narrateur? Est-ce que la source supposée du point de vue de Blanche, les trois carnets, un tissus de mensonges? Quand on considère qu’ils sont un journal intime, un document dans lequel en principe on ne ment pas sinon pour mentir à soi-même, où est le mensonge?

Le style particulier d’Enquist, avec les multiples retours au même moment, les phrase tronquées aux multiples points d’exclamation qui donnent un rythme frénétique au texte, est le même qu’on retrouve dans les deux autres livres que j’ai lu. Absolument fascinant!  Je viens de commander le premier volume des œuvres romanesques d’Enquist et une autobiographie, que j’ai vraiment hâte de lire.


Enquist, Per Olov, Blanche et Marie, Babel, 2006. (publié en suédois en 2004)

Autres ressources :