the beauty of damned souls

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There are men who will always get lost

by Rebecca Lighieri

P.O.L, 374 p., € 21

This book is a punch. It was to be expected – we could hope so, coming from Rebecca Lighieri, the pseudonym by which the novelist Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam (1) signs her black novels. Anyone who remembers Gsummer pommels, perfectly mastered thriller and bookstore success, will not be surprised. While the author recounted the process of blasting the family unit, there is no question here of a domestic unit to deconstruct, even if it is apparent. Here is written the destiny, broken in advance, of a family in the northern districts of Marseille, from the 1990s to the 2000s, devastated by paternal madness.

→ READ. The northern districts of Marseille far from the clichés

An uppercut, therefore, that this social tragedy which combines death, passion and hatred. And violence. Beatings and insults, the narrator Karel Claeys received them, a young man of incredible beauty, the first child of Kabyle Loubna and of Belgian Karl – “My mother is kind, but sad. As for my father, he is as dark as he is cruel. “ Her younger sister suffered as well. His little brother, especially. “Hendricka and Mohand: she, with her amazing beauty, her clear eyes, her teeth of happiness; he, with his strange face, his stitched lip, his mop of black ink. “ Mohand, a martyred child born with several deformities and subject to the pathological love of his mother – “It took me a long time to admit it but it is clear that she prefers him sick, suffering, weakened” – and his father’s destructive rage, which nothing and no one opposes.

It is believed, it is cruel and, far from all pathos

“The only thing that always lasts is childhood, when it went wrong” : throughout this interminable night that was until then the existence of three young adults, fear fades and remains hatred, inextinguishable bond of blood which binds siblings. Five letters, JVTMP – “I want to kill my father” -, children’s pact written on the back of a poster of their children’s room, the “Secret of [leur] ten years “, take their place of terrible collusion.

The much-desired violent death of this shabby living father of “Little messy deals” yet opens the novel: “Who killed my father? “asks Karel straight away. And the author leads the reader on a false track to clarify, over the pages, the real issue, psychoanalytic in many ways: who did not kill him? Karel is one of them, who has never raised his hand on his torturer and therefore fosters a hatred of himself, and the deadly guilt of abused children. It is also that of siblings who will remain grappling with the dark legacy of paternal destructive impulses. Is “Karel” “Karl” and, in this fight of will and determinism, killing filial atavism is simply changing the name?

It is believed, it is cruel and, far from all pathos, Rebecca Lighieri’s carnal writing exudes body language. Their beauty, their stigma, their suffering and their shortcomings. We throb with them, reflections of bruised souls, as close to their gestures and thoughts of Karel with, in our ears, the rapd’IAM, the soul of Marvin Gay and the words of love of “Khaled, of Cheb Hasni, of Mike Brant, of Céline Dion, of Johnny – these songs that we all listened to in the city, without knowing anything about it and without understanding anything there, love having never been within our means”.

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