We had to wait a year to discover the new book by Nicole Caligaris, which returns to fiction after the, which returned to a crime whose author and victim were two of his college friends. Without speaking of rupture, one can nevertheless note, with Carnival, an evolution. The story, more fragmented, ramified like the delta of a river, is also more concrete, more colorful, as if multiple scenes represented different moments, shards each having its internal coherence, but echoing each other, illuminating each other. to compose a baroque and sophisticated opera. The novel begins when a prospector in debt buyback contracts, himself enslaved to his boss, finds himself suspended in a vacuum behind the wheel of an old damaged DS. How did it come to this? The stories are linked, proliferate. Nicole Caligaris returns to the place of this book and its composition.
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How do you see this book compared to previous novels?
Nicole caligaris I don’t see much difference from what I’ve done before. I have the impression of advancing my pawn from book to book, I continue this work. What interests me, in fact, is to tell, but it is also to tell at a second level, to compose stories between them. In Okostenia (1), I was perhaps laying the groundwork for this research on this mode of narration. What has always interested me from the start, at least since Barnum of Shadows (2), it is a composition with motifs which are transformed during the story but which make precisely this braiding between my different stories.
The voice that supports the narration is faded and unstable …
Nicole caligaris It is always in the way, in suspense, in imbalance, and it is this imbalance which creates the movement. These are his last minutes. We must not try to reconstruct the succession of events. What is interesting are the intervals between them. But the scenes themselves have a consistency. We can locate them in time, if we stick to it, it is not difficult at all. It’s like a score with narrative lines. There’s the prospector’s line, the first line, the baseline. Inside it is the line of three teenage musicians on mopeds. Still inside, there are each of the stories told, which are those of the characters they meet.
I think of it like a Calder mobile.
Some sort of tree structure?
Nicole caligaris Not exactly. An image that accompanied me during the writing comes from a letter from Boulez to Stockhausen about a film on Calder’s mobiles. He wrote to her, in essence: we just see shards, and each time these are kinds of fixations of movements. He adds that this is what he is looking for for his third piano sonata. I think of it like a Calder mobile. A structure that holds the whole, the whole always in motion, and each part always in motion. The idea of the delta where the action is located can also give, if not a key, at least a possible approach to the book, with these rivers which wander, these lands which are isolated, where images and actions can be seen.
This book is visually very powerful.
Nicole caligaris Abstraction interests me, but it can only be embodied, very close to matter. I am not trying to locate my book in a place and a time. In Carnival, there are these very important images of the delta, of the fun fair, and also the road, which is at the root of the whole book. It is also the fruit of the work with my editors, who pushed me, by their questions, to give these concrete elements, whereas I often work not to write them. They work in echo of what has already been read, signaling a relationship between two scenes. The Iveco truck, for example, plays at different levels of depth. It is present on a narrative thread that we follow in time, and we see it in others, whose proximity it signals. It is the logic of the myth, which is not based on coherence but on metamorphosis. And yet, each time it’s the same story.
The female characters are more supports than actors …
Nicole caligaris There are no “real” characters, really. They are shadows, silhouettes. The female figures give their name to the large sections of the book and draw an arc, the symbolic curve of the story. It starts with Ipanema, then we move on to Polly, who comes from Dostoyevsky, Faustine from Bioy Casares and Raymond Roussel. And the last figure, Aurélia, comes from Nerval. These are literary borrowings, which I indicate at the end of the book, and which have no other purpose than to say to the reader: “The world you have just passed through is made up of living elements that come from the library. “ But they say something about our world. Various facts, scams, exploitation of young musicians, pollution stories, things we know. And others, more astonishing, such as the price of limbs or albino skins.
It’s a book that’s been on my bench for fifteen years.
We have the impression that the sections are getting shorter and shorter.
Nicole caligaris It is not an intention. It comes from the concern to stem the profusion that was emerging. But I also wanted it to become denser, to tighten like in a funnel. Hence the presence at the end of the ravine where the narrator is at the beginning. But the very end shows an incompleteness. It’s a book that’s been on my bench for fifteen years. It was called Thousand e be, like the catalog of Don Giovanni, an infinite suite. The last little story is there to show that we are never done.
What is important is that the main thread is that of a commercial prospector who places debt buyback contracts, to buy back his own.
Nicole caligaris We understand that it goes beyond financial debt, and that it is caught in a sort of pact with the devil. It’s part of my literary universe, Faust, the Skin of Sorrow, the Devil in the bottle, and especially Peter Schlemihl, the man who sold his shadow to the devil. The name of Faustina is clear, like that of Tchitchikov, who came from Dead souls, by Gogol. What interests me in these hells is the interval. Hermès, who places his caduceus on the eyes of the dead, and embarks them in the Iveco van, the vehicle of this last trip. My three teenagers, who are the true masters of the story, are the minor gods who remove the dead from the battlefield. These are Hypnos and Thanatos, Sleep and Death, and I added a third, Coma, the interval. The devil is in the gaps.