Against the background of the sale of a house on the outskirts of Lyon, Brigitte Giraud narrates in ‘Living fast‘ ‘The story of a duel. Far from spending the melodramatic tone that might be expected given the subject, the novel, Goncourt Prize 2022, explore the causes that trigger the motorcycle accident in which the protagonist’s partner dies and father of her son, Claude.
The author deploys in an original structure a litany of short chapters headed with an “if” through which Giraud tries to rewind time to analyze all the factors that triggered the fateful accident. “If I hadn’t wanted to sell the apartment”, “If I had had a cell phone”, “If my brother hadn’t suddenly taken a week’s vacation”, “If grandfather hadn’t committed suicide”, etc. In this sense, Giraud seems to want to read the book where everything is written “up there” or, in the Muslim tradition, the ‘maktoub’. If an accident is an unforeseeable event, Giraud try to find out if it really was that unpredictable as it seems from the start, or if it was actually destiny.
On the other hand, the author does not hide the autobiographical component of the story that she writes 20 years after the facts, so that the emotional part is cushioned by this need to buyto understand and find meaning in an apparently random event. In fact, this novel responds to a first one that Giraud wrote in 1999, ‘À present’ (‘Now’), about the same event, but with a more tragic record.
The fact that this Goncourt prize is not having the expected sales is surprising, according to recent reports in the French press. Surprising because we are before a short book that cannot be left until the end. Fluent reading and absorbing subject, without being any ‘thriller’. To begin with, there is no ostentatious stylistic work, but decisive prose and effective editing. It is basically supported by the author’s gaze, who narrates this sad story in the first person while she knows how to find the right tone to make it universal. She is capable of portraying a generational experience, that of finding a house to live in —of course, each time more beautiful and bigger— to found a family and fulfill the Western capitalist dream.
Perhaps the fact of pivoting the entire plot around the search for a house to buy and own, as a symbol of vital triumph, gives it a very current point, while allowing a reflection on what is important in life. Apart from often addressing the reader, creating a complicity effect, Giraud’s spark of humor stands out, as she paints herself in full real estate euphoria, visiting apartments in ecstasy and projecting all her dreams on the house that she finally acquires despite the difficulties. It is an old house with a garden where she was arrested during World War II the resistant Jean Moulin which at first is not for sale. Indirectly, because of the house, his partner ends up dying in a motorcycle accident, which is, on the other hand, the result of a desire to live fast, for the rush that blinds us to seeceased, for wanting to run too much in every way and that Giraud reels off with the lucidity that a retrospective look brings.
‘Living quickly’ serves, on the other hand, to publicize an author who has decisive prose and a shrewd gaze, and who has other works translated into Spanish, such as ‘Now’ or ‘Having a body’ .
‘Viure ràpid / ‘Live quickly’
Author: Brigitte Giraud
Translation: Maria Teresa Gallego Urrutia / Imma Falco
Editorial: Password / Amsterdam
176 / 192 pages. 19 / 19.05 euros