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Jean-Baptiste Maudet’s Tropical Sorrow, book-mirror Tristes tropiques haunted by Claude Lévi-Strauss

Jean-Baptiste Maudet’s Tropical Sorrow, book-mirror Tristes tropiques haunted by Claude Lévi-Strauss

Jean-Baptiste Maudet publishes his third novel, Tropical sadness. JOEL SAGET/AFP

CRITIQUE – The novelist-geographer tells the story of the Amazonian adventures of a funny girl, Jeanne Beaulieu, who went in search of an Indian seen on television.

Huge Julien Gracq he had a question posed by his own journey. “Sometimes I wonder what the world is like for people who don’t have a geography education,” he confided. He wouldn’t worry about Jean-Baptiste Maudet. The writer certainly draws from “geographic sense”. This is his academic education and he knows how to deal with landscapes and literature.

The author The banks of the Syrtes loved “undecided regions”, where man is not constrained by borders, and intermediate zones. The action of Jean-Baptiste Maudet’s new novel takes place in uncertain lands, capable of feeding the imagination. Amazon, big rivers, endless forests. An unusual girl, Jeanne Beaulieu, goes there in search of an Indian whom they saw on television one day. An absurd whim, a necessary departure. “I tell myself that I will go to the end of this quest, no matter how futile it may be. It would be the same if she had a goal. she says. This anti-heroine sets off on a journey, sad tropics, by Claude Lévi-Straussin your bag.

This novel is both a portrait of a woman and a book-mirror, haunted by the presence of an anthropologist who wanted to write an Amazonian novel before giving another twist to his famous work. Jeanne travels in books as much as on rough water. His irrational and insane hunt takes on the appearance of an existential quest. Leaving with heavy internal luggage, the traveler will be transformed. The meeting contributes to that. “I’m no longer afraid of falling off this narrow ridge line that allows me to somehow cross the loneliness and resentment that my contemporaries face, two steep slopes that make your head spin,” she confides. This initiation is carried out in the slow rhythm of the river, even if some pages are carried away like a canoe in rapids.

With this third novel, for which he stopped teaching for a while, Jean-Baptiste Maudet continues his unique, joyful and energetic work. Known for his first novel, Matador Yankee (Orange Book Prize 2019), brilliantly renews the adventure novel, the nimbus of poetry and the pavement of humor. The writer likes cracked beings and capricious destinies. And those who nurture an almost primitive relationship with planet Earth. The geographer is sensitive to mythological spaces, whether it is the Great Siberian North of his second novel, People on a white backgroundwhere is such a literary Amazon of tropical sadness.

Maudet prefers the literature of doubt to theses novels. Undoubtedly a matter of temperament, but also a guarantee of efficiency. Instead of striking, he sows seeds. While asking questions often has more impact than trying to convince the reader what to think. With his poetic soul, the novelist-geographer is not satisfied with the world as it is. However, without trying to impose your own.

tropical sadness, Jean-Baptiste Maudet, Le Passage, 312 pp., 19 euros.

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