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"A fish on the moon" by David Vann

The American David Vann revives his father by reconstructing his last days before his suicide, when the writer was only 13 years old.

• A fish on the moon, by David Vann, Translated from English (United States) by Laura Derajinski, Gallmeister, 288 p., € 22.50

Jim Vann, 39, a debt-ridden and divorced couple living alone in Alaska, is back in his native California. Jim is depressed, "He does not want to be held in the ground anymore" and for this reason carries a Magnum in his brown leather suitcase, ammunition in a separate bag, on the advice of his psychiatrist. As he gets off the plane, Doug, his younger brother, is now forced to look after his eldest, waiting for him.

Difficult to approach the novels of David Vann without knowing some biographical elements about it. Born in 1966, he is 13 years old when his father kills himself. The teenager, who lives in California with his mother and sister, had just refused to spend a year with his father in Alaska. Since Sukkwan Island, closed session between a father and his son on an isolated island of the great North American, who made him known in France and won the Medici Foreign Prize in 2010, David Vann has steadily stepped aside around this disaster . Six books later, it was believed the author eager to explore other literary paths. But how to stop writing on such dramatic rips?

"Aquarium" by David Vann, the abyss of the human soul

A criticism in good standing of America's small towns

For a few days, Jim and his chaperone will roll through California, meeting his doctor and his relatives. Ex-women, friends, parents try each in their own way to dissuade him from his disastrous project. But this passionate hunter and fisherman, who compares his depression to the hollows of the waves that one crosses at sea ("As everything rises around you, the pressure is only increasing"), do not listen to them anymore. In periods of profound unhappiness, euphoria passes through, just as trying, and his words spare no one. And then there are his children, David, 13, and Cheryl, 8, who look at their father with childish carelessness while perceiving the imminent danger.

David Vann, who in this French edition took great care to thank his translator, his publisher and his French readers, offers himself a criticism in good standing of the America of small towns, where creeps insignificant lives furnished with "Routines planned to avoid a face-to-face encounter with a self that does not exist". Jim likes guns (he wears the same as inspector Harry), enjoys big cars and would have been a dentist in a western, tearing teeth in a saloon by administering whiskey as an analgesic. But he can no longer pretend, watch TV, eat and play card games, in other words, keep "The reassuring feeling that nothing happens".

David Vann, writing for an outlet

Give back to his father

This book that brings to life a father in his deepest darkness, obviously disturbing, A fish on the moon is oppressive and panting. It leaves the reader no choice but to cling to short chapters, gasping for breath while waiting for the inevitable outcome, the finger that presses on the trigger, a passage that always obsesses the writer. However, neither regret nor judgment in the writing of David Vann.

As if, at the age of 50, and by dint of exploring this mourning, the former teenager had put aside his guilt to give the floor back to his father. And to signify that everything was, if not accepted, at least recorded. "Jim's problem is that he can not get into his own life, and he will leave this problem as a legacy. " By building his fictional work, David Vann ended up lying to his father.

Marie de Cazanove



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