Laurent Mauvignier is among France’s leading contemporary writers. Readers who take up one of his novels immediately notice that actually there is a quite exceptional narrator at work here. He gets under your skin no matter whether the 49-year-old is writing about the tsunami disaster in Japan (Autour du monde), the Algerian war (Des hommes, The Wound trans. David Ball, Nicole Ball) or the absurd murder of a beer can-thief in Ce que j’appelle oubli. I don’t want to describe a tsunami, I want to be the tsunami, in other words to feel what it means to rip away everything with you. To be able to imagine something so unimaginable you have to allow yourself to be inundated by the fear emitting from this kind of wave, explains Mauvignier who finds most descriptions in novels too matter-of-fact. But precision is not a question of technique, you have to make something visible and tangible, he comments. He began writing when he was a child in hospital and yet really first learned while painting during his studies of visual arts at the École des Beaux-Arts in Tours.
In 1999, aged 32, he published his first novel Loin d’eux with the Editions de Minuit, the famous publisher of Samuel Beckett and Claude Simon, who influenced Mauvignier as much as Faulkner, Thomas Bernhard and Marguerite Duras.
Since then he has added ten novels and three plays many of which have been awarded prizes and were produced and filmed by Patrice Chéreau, Angelin Preljocaj and Denis Podalydès.
Continuer, his last novel about a highly talented mother whose life foundered and embarks with her son on a daring horseback trail across Kirgisistan, has just been published and was highly acclaimed in the reviews. For 17 years, enthuses Télérama, this writer has pursued his path, he takes us with him and has never disappointed us along the way (…) Mauvignier, that means going into detail, discovering, capturing, breathing. And carrying on.
By Katja Petrovic
Translated by Suzanne Kirkbright