Le Havre is a place of memory, memory of arrivals and departures. For an English child, the first and last sensations of France were gathered there: the mysteries of space and identity stood at this threshold, unresolved. Crossing the English Channel on the ferry, the concept of travel was experienced in its most primitive form. There was something magical about the fact that the invisible “here” through the water could be reached by a simple combination of time and space. Suddenly everything was different, and the experience of that difference was still not being able to put words to it. We said ‘England’ and ‘France’, but how could these words explain not only the alteration of language, road signs and architectural style, but also of light and landscape, those things that belonged to the earth and should not have fallen within the framework of the nation? To go from England to France and back during those childhood summers was to trace and retrace the mystery.
Memory, it seems, is not immune to change: it alters as new light falls on it from the future. I realize, recalling those boat trips, that it wasn’t entirely clear to me that I was traveling from an island to a continent, rather than the other way around. Now, the isolation of this island has once again become a chasm, filling with darkness. The mystery has deepened again – the difference that used to define itself as national identity turns out to be something colder, a deep estrangement. A port is an old, old chronicler, an impassive and sagacious witness. It embodies both the spirit of adventure and the pain of transition, the simultaneous loss and gain of a space. In its dual nature can be found the very tension of life, the cycles and contradictions in which we constantly find ourselves, trying to make sense of and trying to forget, to ground ourselves and to be free, to leave and stay.
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Latest book published: The work of a life: becoming a mother, the olive tree, 224 p., 20 euros.The Taste of Others Festival will be held in Le Havre from January 20 to 23. This 10th edition is placed under the sign of “secret”. We can notably meet Deborah Levy, Karine Tuil, Gaspard Koenig, François Vallejo, Christine Angot, Leïla Slimani, Anne Berest, Clara Dupont-Monod, Mazarine Pingeot, Javier Cercas, Rachel Cusk and many others.
Rachel Cusk, organic express
Born in 1967 in Canada of English parents, Rachel Cusk has lived in England since 1974. Her first novel, “Saving Agnes”, published in 1993, won the Whitbread Prize while “Egypt Farm” earned her a place among the finalists of the Booker Prize in 2005. She is also the author from “Arlington Park” (Olivier, 2007), “Transit” (2016) or “Kudos” (2018). Her latest book, “Life’s Work: Becoming a Mother”, was published in October 2021.
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“Memory is not immune to change”, by Rachel Cusk