The Wound by Laurent Mauvignier
English | 2015|General Fiction/Classics > Cultural > France > War & Military| ePUB | 2.9 MB
“Where is your wound?” asks Jean Genet in the lines Laurent Mauvignier uses as an epigraph to The Wound. By the time we have finished this four-part novel, we realize that for many the wound lies four decades back in “the Events” that people have tried to not talk about ever since: the Algerian War.
Chronicling the lives of two cousins—Bernard and Rabut—both in the present and at the time of the Algerian War of Independence in the 1960s, we get a full picture of the lasting effects this event had on the men who were involved. Through the fragments of their stories we see the whole history of the war: its atrocities, its horrors, and its hatreds. Mauvignier shows readers how the Algerian War, always present yet always repressed, has sickened the emotional and moral life of everyone it touched—and France itself, perhaps. The epigraph, like the novel, suggests that wounded men may even become the wound itself.
And Solange had smiled, talked, laughed in her turn, and then we had almost forgotten she was there as she went from one group to another, for groups had formed according to affinities and relationships, some slipping from one group to another and others, on the contrary, avoiding them altogether.
I don’t know if she avoided going up to him, knowing she couldn’t get out of that invitation, because I know how much she dreaded it even more than she dreaded the presence of the Owl and her husband, and the presence of Jean-Jacques, Micheline, and Evelyne and a few others, too. But his presence. His. Woodsmoke. Bernard. It wasn’t the first time I’d had the feeling she was uncomfortable because of the guilt she felt when she would hide out in her kitchen so as not to open the door to him; when he’d go down to La Bassée, and after a prolonged stop at Patou’s would show up in front of her gate yelling he loved his sister, he wanted to see his sister, she had to talk to him, she had to, she had to, he would say, howling so loud he became threatening sometimes because nobody would come and all the new houses around would only echo back silence and emptiness. Silence and houses hollow as caves in which his voice seemed to get lost, dwindle, and fade away until he finally gave up, grumbling all the way down the road to his moped. Which would take him back home or else back to Patou’s, where he’d probably end up drowning his disappointment in another drink, the last one, for the road, until he’d let Patou convince him that Solange had to work, people have to work, you know, a single woman with kids.
And he would end up saying yeah, sure, I understand, my sister who’s all alone, my sister and her kids. He would lower his eyes and blush at all the unfairness, at that whole mess, he’d say to the customers, whoever was willing to hear, or rather to the ones who had nothing better to do than hear him—rather than listen to him—despite Jean-Marc’s voice lecturing him nicely, or Patou’s,
Yes, Woodsmoke, we know, yes, Woodsmoke, your sister, yes, that’s right, Woodsmoke.
And on his way out he’d always end up spitting near the door, always in the same spot, always staggering, near collapse but never collapsing, standing solid even in that way he had of being pathetic, weak, and dying all the way into his heart.
But there was his impatience. His way of smiling. A kind of hostility in his presence, or distrust, already, like always, or even, yes, a kind of condescension.
That’s what I’ve always told myself.
Even when I saw him like that, scrubbed rather than clean, when all his cleanliness suggested the strain, the work, the determination he had put into making himself presentable.