Monday, 9 January 2012

"Belle Famille," - "Nice Family," by Arthur Dreyfus - Ch1

"Nice Family," by Arthur Dreyfus

Chapter 1 - Resumé (Original French by Frencheuropean)

Granville is situated in Normandy, north of Mont St Michel. Granville's inhabitants live by trading in fruits de mer but are loathe, perhaps even frightened, for some obscure reason, to eat them.

In the bay, at the beginning of the century, high tides often carried away children who had gone to fish for mussels and since then children have had an obsessive fear of salt water instilled in them.

The mayor would like to tax those who harvest the fruits de mer at low tide, but the fishermen consider that it's the law of the sea that applies. A good many of the inhabitants support the mayor for financial reasons, except when their children bring back shellfish because then they have their doubts.

The dignitaries keep the best houses on the cliff for themselves and the fishermen's children never climb the hill where the residences are like forbidden Monopoly.

"Belle Famille," - "Nice Family," by Arthur Dreyfus

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The Prologue

I don't believe in the truth. Like the human spirit, it has its moods. It has its humour. You think you can grab it by the tail. Then it shies away, forcing us to dream. That is all the writer is doing: dreaming the truth. In his way, he changes it: like the soft caramel produced by the
'white aprons' on the streets of Brittany.

The novelist's basic approach is not rigid. It floats around him. There are tears. There are stories. Some, almost invisible, like those in a provincial newspaper, some over impressive, like a column in a national.

Magritte painted a man looking at an egg, painting a pigeon.

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I am grabbed, cautiously, by this egg. I have emptied it. From inside, I have poured new life.

Like the man with the pigeon, I only succeed with one of the possible ways of reality. Among many thousands. Apart from the rays of the sun and the wind off the sea, a quick calculation of probabilities subsequently induces me to confess that everything is false. Save for my opening of the shell, any resemblance to real people and situations, past or present, can only be attributed to what Louis Aragon called the eternal rights of the imagination.

The writer is never faithful to the truth. He prefers her little sister, possibility. Forgive him this allegiance, because you must agree that a pike, a snake or a seagull lies more comfortably in an egg than three hundred and thirty Bengal tigers.


Thanks to Frencheuropean for sending the original to me.

The book can be purchased here.