In fifteen years of existence, the Nancy-Le Point Booksellers' Prize has crowned some great names in French literature: Pierre Lemaître, Alice Zeniter, Lydie Salvayre, Mathias Énard, Santiago Amigorena, Marie-Hélène Lafon and Yves Ravey... This year, the winner of this prize awarded by the Point culture department and the Read in Nancy association, represented by the Nancy booksellers Emma Navarro, Frédéric Jaffrennou, Marc Didier, Astrid Canada and Géraldine Pétry, is the novelist Dominique Barbéris, who has just published A way of loving with Gallimard editions. The prize was awarded to the Festival du Livre sur la place, a major back-to-school literary event, of which Le Point is a partner.
A Way of Loving, the eleventh novel by Dominique Barbéris, tells the story of Madeleine, a discreet and melancholy beauty from the 1950s, possessing the blondeness, bearing and distinction of Michèle Morgan. Leaving Nantes, where she grew up in a modest environment, she followed her husband, transferred to Cameroon – the country of birth of the novelist Dominique Barbéris. This foreign, violent and magnificent world, obviously the antipodes of her French province, subjugates her.
In Douala, during a Delegation ball in 1958, she met Yves Prigent, civil administrator in Yaoundé. " You dance ? She apologized: No, I dance very little, I don't dance well..." Here she is, however, a few moments later, waltzing on the arm of this slightly adventurous man, breaking with this "microsociety where people go around in circles and observe each other.” And she accepts long walks in the streets of the city. But decolonization is underway, and revolt is brewing.
Madeleine, the provincial, the well-bred, the very proper, will she have had the courage for a clandestine fever? Dominique Barbéris offers us, in small, delicate, impressionistic touches, the magnificent portrait of an era, that of the 1950s, of the French bourgeois province of the post-war period and of colonial Africa, of a small community of Europeans who withdraw into themselves, aware that they are only on borrowed time in this country. Beyond this captivating journey through places and times, A Way of Loving captures and translates, with immense subtlety, the eloquent silences that sometimes shatter the hearts of women.
A way of loving by Dominique Barbéris (Gallimard, 208 p., €19.50)