Face à la pente by Cécile Reyboz

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58-year-old Leonore, a single mother is working as a “Professional Mobility Manager” in Paris, where she has raised, alone for the most part, her daughter Violette. After years of loyal service in a job she considers “as honorable as it is useless,” Leonore has just accepted an offer for early retirement. Proving Leonore’s fears wrong, Violette, has a perfect grasp of the latest developments in the job market. A young art history graduate with a master’s degree in cultural communications, Violette has established herself as a creative strategy consultant and visual referent, and her newly opened agency is overwhelmed with contracts both in France and internationally.

While wondering how to make the most of her new-found freedom, Leonore runs into DJ Marlone, the idol of her youth, at a drunken party. Following an unlikely exchange of clothes, she learns that Marlone owns a house in a remote corner of Isère, in the mountains above Grenoble, which he would like to sell as soon as possible.

That’s all it takes to convince Léonore to go there. What awaits her is love at first sight, not for the house – which is hideous – but for the sloping land that surrounds it and, above all, for the view: a void between two mountains, you could call it: “Rectangle of nothing on an empty background.” But the community with which the house is affiliated is under great strain. The mayor plans on buying it and the village is fighting over how to use it: a training field for drones? a space for biodynamic agriculture ? a childcare building? Affordable housing?

Reyboz focuses on body movements, on the effort required to stand upright and move forward in space. What strikes us first when we read her novels is the physical precision of her writing, how it reveals the setting, the movement, and thus the relationship between characters. It is through the description of movement that emotions come alive in the text.
In Reyboz’s novels, life is a contemporary ballet, part mechanical repetition and part improvisation. Her writing could be compared to the art of stepping aside, of leaving the road and watching everything around you attentively, from the insects to the geometry of the landscape. It’s all a matter of angle, of inclination.

The road to freedom is perhaps the question that runs through all Cécile Reyboz’s novels, and Face à la pente is a wildly joyful and tender variation. Cécile Reyboz’s energetic, whimsical adaptation of the classic tale of leaving the city for the country is full of unusual detail, and offers us a wild fable that has the good taste of not delivering a “universal message.” Face à la pente doesn’t pit the “bad people of the city” against the “good, authentic people of the countryside,” no. The world is going to the dogs, and Reyboz isn’t trying to convince us otherwise, she’s just looking for a place to go, a place to put down her suitcases, sheltered from the thousands of injunctions that besiege us everywhere, in the mouths of our neighbors, via the incessant polls that stun us with their conception of existence segmented into %, into meaningless categories.

Along with Leonore, we find ourselves looking for the reset button, desiring nothing but emptiness, eager to reconnect with what matters, with pleasure, with joy, with a certain idea of meaning.

Face à la pente, a novel by Cécile Reyboz, Denoel,
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After almost two decades of working in publishing, and a few round trips between Paris and New York, Miriam has decided to settle down at Albertine to do what she enjoys most: recommending books she loves. Somehow this also includes taking bizarre pictures for Albertine's social media outlets.
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