Naissance d’un pont by Maylis de Kerangal Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Naissance d'un pont

« À l’aube du second jour, quand soudain les buildings de Coca montent, perpendiculaires à la surface du fleuve, c’est un autre homme qui sort des bois, c’est un homme hors de lui, c’est un meurtrier en puissance. Le soleil se lève, il ricoche contre les façades de verre et d’acier, irise les nappes d’hydrocarbures moirées arc-en-ciel qui auréolent les eaux, et les plaques
Mason

Jan 09, 2018

rated it
it was amazing

 · 
review of another edition

Shelves:
around-the-world

Blew me away. Had no idea a story could be told quite like this. An array of narrative threads bound together like a suspension cable, and at the core of it all, an account of the building of a bridge, which brings all of these disparate stories into connection with one another. Kerangal manages to make construction work compelling on a linguistic level (owing in English also to the translation efforts of Jessica Moore). Thematically, her characters all having a unique impetus that animates them

…more

Roger Brunyate

A Poet of Everything

I am just about to start reading Maylis de Kerangal’s latest novel, The Heart, in the translation by Sam Taylor. After hearing about it from the review of a friend, I wanted to try her first in French, and this was what my university library had. It was not easy, and I certainly did not understand every glowing word. But at the same time, I was glad to experience the author’s verbal prodigality in her native language. For Kerangal is a poet of everything. No matter what her s

I am just about to start reading Maylis de Kerangal’s latest novel, The Heart, in the translation by Sam Taylor. After hearing about it from the review of a friend, I wanted to try her first in French, and this was what my university library had. It was not easy, and I certainly did not understand every glowing word. But at the same time, I was glad to experience the author’s verbal prodigality in her native language. For Kerangal is a poet of everything. No matter what her subject, she wants to write about every part of it, everything and everybody that touches it, painting them with every epithet, every adjective she can find. Her words jostle each other on the page, chiming, clashing, sparkling with color and with light. It is dizzying, bewildering, but boy is it impressive!

[I want to quote, quote, quote—but in which language? From the original, of course, but I offer my own translations after each as a spoiler, lest my lame English degrade her lambent French.]

Kerangal’s subject is the building of an enormous road bridge, one of the largest in the world. It is clear that she was inspired by the red towers of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, but her project takes place in a California that exists only in her mind. The city is Coca, situated on the banks of a large river and cut off from the sea. After visiting Dubai, her newly-elected mayor, known by his nickname The Boa, decides to commission a bridge that will put Coca on the map and give it a major port. The river is too long and the land too wild for this to be the real California; the presence of Indians in the forests of the surrounding hills even suggests South rather than North America. But the culture is clearly that of the United States: the words of English spicing the text like pepper, the pop songs, the clothes (le jean and les baskets), and the trip from the airport:

Puis elles ont pris une piaule dans un des motels qui abondent sur Colfax, leurs enseignes rivales déroulant dans la nuit d’epais rubans rose fluo ou jaune d’or entre les K-Mart, les Safeways, les Trader Joes, les Wallgreen, les parkings de voitures d’occase et tous les hangars de fringues démarquées de la planète, tous les outlets.

(view spoiler)

The project is annouced and sent out for bids. It is won by Ponteverde, a consortium of companies from France, America, and India. Immediately, people descend on Coca from all over the world, not only the engineers and skilled workers, but camp followers of all kinds. Kerangal’s description is typical of her tumbling, helter-skelter style:

Une multitude s’avance donc vers Coca, tandis qu’une multitude l’escorte, flux sonore, épais où se mélangent rôtisseurs de poulets, dentistes, psychologues, coiffeurs, pizzaiolos, prêteurs sur gages, prostitués, plastifieurs de documents officiels, réparateurs de télévision de d’appareils multimédias, écrivains publics, vendeurs de tee-shirts au poids, fabricants d’onguent au laurier pour soigner les cors au pieds et de lotion pur détruire les poux, prêtres et agents d’opérateur en téléphonie mobile, tous s’infiltrent dans la place, drainés par le flot qu’engendre un tel chantier, pariant sur les retombées éeconomiques de l’ouvrage, et s’apprêtant à recueillir ces mannes collatérales comme la première pluie après la sécheresse, dans des casseroles en fer-blanc.

(view spoiler)

Kerangal describes every stage of the process, from the digging of the first hole to the cutting of the ceremonial ribbon. She also describes the setbacks: a three-week halt to allow birds to nest, the threat of a strike, sabotage, a personal attack. She describes the landscape, tells of the foundation of the city by black-coated priests with a Bible in one hand and a musket in the other, looks at the relations between Coca on one bank and Edgefront on the other. She flies over the city by night and goes into its bars and diners. And whatever she touches becomes a riot of words, fascinating, scintillating, and frankly a little exhausting.

Nobody could call this a character-driven novel, or even a plot-driven one. Yet Kerangal peoples it with characters large and small, who will interact with each other in friendship, rivalry, or love before the book is over. There is the boss, Georges Diderot, who has put in one-or-two-year stints in Casablanca, Chengdu, Baku, Mumbai, Beirut, Lagos, and Reykjavik, scarcely touching down in his native France. There is the intensely driven concrete manager, Summer Diamantis who rejected all the conventional expectations placed on a girl to train instead as a civil engineer. There is Sanche Alphonse Cameron, fleeing a difficult childhood, now secure in his own dominion in the cab of a crane hundreds of feet above ground. There is Katherine Thoreau, working to support her two children after her husband has been incapacitated in an accident. Soren Cry, fugitive from an encounter with a bear in Alaska. Mo Yun, a miner from China who keeps himself to himself. Shakira Ourga, a tall Amazon of a woman. The high wire men Duane Fisher and Buddy Loo. And too many more to mention.

I do have to say, though, that Kerangal’s determination to include individuals from all levels of the operation makes some of their extracurricular connections seem rather random. Why should Diderot the boss fall for Kate Thoreau, a mere crewperson on Anchorage Three? Why should Sanche Cameron, surely only one of many crane operators, strike up such an intimately challenging friendship with the standoffish Summer Diamantis?

The first half of the novel is mainly about the project and its setting. But as the bridge rises, the construction details take second place to the development and interaction of the characters. The goal, however, is never forgotten; it is the envelope that holds this novel-of-everything together. So the foundations are laid, the giant towers go up, and finally the high-wire men Duane and Buddy ascend to string the cable. It is a marvelous section, as the two plunge and pendulum through the clear blue sky, but I can only quote the start of it:

La première fois qu’ils se retrouvèrent au sommet de la tour Coca, ils se firent surprendre par le gigantisme du ciel, se reçoivent une claque violente, l’air était irisé, rapide, des milliards de goutelettes microscopiques diffractaient le mouvement et la lumière, euphorisaient l’espace qui soudain se dilatait à toute vitesse, et ils rirent, saoulés.

(view spoiler)


…more