We are snowed in today on my little mountain so instead of visiting the region with my sister and brother-in-law, we’re all snuggled down in various corners of the house with mugs of tea and books. Lovely to have bookworms for visitors.
And I thought I’d take a few moments to spend some time on this somewhat neglected (of late) blog…
Last spring I read a difficult, very emotional book called Ou on va, Papa? by the French writer Jean-Louis Fournier. The book is a memoir, dealing with Fournier’s life with his two disabled sons. My reactions to the book are here and here. As I mentioned when I first discussed the book, it was a controversial piece of literature when it came out (although it was selected to win the Prix Femina) because of the way it dealt with its subject. Fournier is a comedian and his book uses humor (quite dark) to approach his feelings of frustration and rage with respect to his difficult experiences. Despite the challenging nature of the emotional tone, I enjoyed the book and Fournier’s writing. Mainly because it was exceedingly honest about the conflicting emotions a parent must encounter when raising a child who will always be different, about the disappointments and anger which must have been an integral part of his day to day relationship with his sons.
I mention the book again for two reasons. First, it has finally come out in English and is called Where are we going, Daddy? I expect there will be some continued controversy as the book reaches a broader audience. And I am very curious to see the American reaction to the book since it doesn’t ever attempt to locate a positive aspect of Fournier’s experience. It isn’t depressing, at least I didn’t think so, and it was profoundly moving.
The second reason I bring this book up again is that when I originally discussed it, there was some question about what this same story would look like from the perspective of Fournier’s ex-wife, Agnès Brunet, the mother of Matthieu and Thomas. A thoughtful commenter pointed me in the direction of her blog (which is in French) and is very interesting. She has a clearly different perspective than Fournier on the lives of their sons….or perhaps she simply has a very different manner of expressing her emotional response to their shared experience. I am not interested in deciding which version is the truth, or even more compelling – they are both powerful narratives and both undoubtedly true.
What is interesting to me as a reader is how Fournier found the words to express, or attempt to express, what must have been a devastating, heartbreaking, exhausting long-term reality. He expresses his dismay and sorrow with great eloquence; even the parts that made me uncomfortable were compelling in a literary sense. As a reader and a writer, I can’t help admire that literary journey.