Cathy Borie tells this story so that all that remains is “Dust and Wind”

Cathy Borie tells this story so that all that remains is “Dust and Wind”

Marceline Bodier, bookstagrammer and contributor to the 20 Minutes Books reader group, recommends the book From Dust and Wind by Cathy Borie, published on December 2, 2022 by Éditions d’Avallon.

His favorite quote:

She was sobbing now, she was so beside herself with her happiness.

Why this book?

  • Because the book, based on real facts, describes the process of transgenerational transmission and resistance: the great-grandfather, resistant, politically deported, suffered in the depth of his body; the grandmother, her daughter, faced an unusual depression that would not speak its name; the mother, the author’s doppelgänger, writes this story so that only dust and wind remain of it; and a girl of only twenty bears it all and has to live, like all of us, with the echoes of the crash of the 20th century that reverberate in a surprisingly intimate way.
  • Because it’s also a book about depression, what was she like in the years when she “wasn’t in fashion yet” and when she wasn’t named: “She was in pain, and she didn’t know where or why”. Placed again in this generational story, it goes far beyond the individual dimension: we see its roots in the wind of history, in this case the passage of an ancestor in the death camps. Because yes, today we know very well that growing up in the unsaid is harmful; but what else can you do when you were raised by a horror survivor?
  • Because it is the emotional counterpart The origin of violence, by Fabrice Humbert. This book, also magnificent, embodies and intellectualizes the processes of psychogenealogy: it connects the indomitable violence that the narrator feels with the story of his biological grandfather, who died in deportation, whose existence he discovers by chance. Cathy Borie’s book returns the full range of emotions they generate to these same mechanisms of trauma transmission and refers us to Elie Wiesel’s phrase: “Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness.”
  • Because it is also a book about family secrets and that it is a matter of real awareness: a family secret is never just an isolated more or less hidden fact, but it is a whole thread from which different family branches do not pull in the same way. In Emilien’s family, not all branches integrate this patriarch in the same way in their imagination depending on what they know, depending on how he indirectly made them hear his story or not. Identity derives not so much from shared genes as from a shared underlying narrative…
  • Since reading Cathy Borie is always an aesthetic pleasure, the one you feel when you cry at the moment of Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem, even for the thousandth time, even knowing in advance that you will cry, just because it is beautiful and makes the little string vibrate very deeply sensitively. I would like to choose the last paragraph of the chapter on the end of Emilien’s life as an illustration for this chronicle, but that would be to diminish the strength of the tears that spring from the reader who arrives there after the pages that took him to the throat. Read them!

The most important in 2 minutes

Action. The death of the mother… old photographs, the found deported bracelet… and the need to follow the thread of history, “as if the echoes of those old lives never stopped echoing in the following lives, and leaving small but indelible imprints on him”.

Characters. Louis, Juliette, Margot; Lorette, Jean, Mina, Gaspard; Clarisse, Maryline and Nathalie; Léa… four generations burdened by the fragile shadow of one man: Émilien, born in 1899, deported in 1942, died in 1990, the “mythical figure of the family”. But is the myth the same for everyone?

Places. Festivals are celebrated in Corsica, destinies are built in the Dordogne, but family stories are being destroyed elsewhere: in Paris, in a light way; and in Nazi Germany, in the Neuengamme camp, in a monstrous way.

Time. What is the era, what is the time, when we realize that the extent of the suffering suffered by the deported generation of the 1940s did not end with those who lived in their bodies, but was passed on to their descendants?

Author. In her very rich work, Cathy Borie explores emotions that are difficult to face to allow us to look at them within. Dust and Wind does it on the autobiographical side, as In the flesh of angels, Ana or A Thousand Wild Days did on the fictional side.

This book was read with a whirlwind of strong emotions that brought me to tears that I wish for everyone. It is the story of Cathy Borie’s family, but also the story of a cruel century and therefore necessarily ours, here and today, as we must all live with its legacy.

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