Totalement inconnu by Gaëlle Obiégly
When it comes to Gaëlle Obiégly’s novels, it’s always a fine balancing act. It’s not a matter of plot in the classic sense, and even less so a message, or a position. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a story, though. Totalement Inconnu, her latest novel, throws us into the psyche of a writer and part-time receptionist who has been hearing, for some time now, a voice dictating her actions. This narrator is preparing a lecture on knowledge.
Yet, this conference, which we know little about, offers us the opportunity to dive into the heroine’s thought process. What is knowledge? What defines knowledge? Are they defined by their method of acquisition? No one can slip into the mind of their characters like Obiégly does. We’ve seen this since her novel, Mon prochain. Not only does she capture her characters’ immediate thoughts but also the series of thoughts and how they flow: may they be fluid, or brupt or destabilizing. “What’s at the core of being human?” wonder her narrator. Reading Totalement Inconnu may well give us a clue. We’ve found it quite impossible to resists the grace that exudes from its pages.
As we follow the narrator’s flow of thoughts, we discover a portrait of a woman in remarkable accuracy. Her mysterious lecture gives us a chance to wonder about the characters who have marked her life, from her grandmother Yvette, to an unknown soldier. Full of literary invention, humor, grace and emotion – Totalement Inconnu cleverly shows that you don’t have to follow the beaten path of fiction to make great literature!
Totalement inconnu by Gaëlle Obiégly, Christian Bourgois, août 2022.
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