Mensonges au Paradis by Colombe Schneck
In a string of thin and hard-hitting books, Colombe Schneck revisits tragedies from her
past, ones that her parents had tried to hide from her – leaving her with many gaps and
silences in her family history. Her desire to move away from her dark past motivated the
novelist to write a book full of happy memories from summer camp in Switzerland, where
she vacationed as a young girl from the age of 7 to 20. She is determined to write a memoir
in which she won’t betray anyone, that will just comfort every reader with its nostalgic
evocation of a joyful past. But in the end, Mensonges au Paradis turns out quite differently.
Each school vacation, Christmas included, offspring of the international financial elite are
sent off to a large chalet called the Home, a chalet typical of its region in Switzerland. Under
the watch of the Home’s founders and tenants — Karl and Anne-Marie and their children,
Vava and Patou — Colombe transforms from a weak child into an athletic girl, sure of herself,
a real fighter. As she began writing, she discovered that Patou and Vava are both in their
own ways locked up. Patou, after excelling in his studies, is imprisoned for embezzlement.
As for Vava, she lives at home as a recluse, where she obsessively rewrites the New
Digging through memories, Colombe seeks to trace the source of their collapse. In order to
understand what happened to her childhood friends, though, she has to confront and undo
the thread of lies that fabricated her very own story. This work of deconstruction – which she
carries out with the same rigor as Emmanuel Carrère in Roman Russe – allows her to
understand her own fault lines. And it is in large part thanks to these fault lines that she
gains access to those of Karl, Anne-Marie, Patou and Vava. Mensonges au paradis is a
novel in the form of a nesting doll, where the wounds of each character are intertwined, like
waves on the surface of the water. If Colombe Schneck fails to save anyone, she manages
to reconstruct her past, the way it was, in a most enthralling narrative.
Mensonges au Paradis, Colombe Schneck, Editions Grasset.
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