Olivier Liron, “The Book of Snow” (Gallimard): My mother’s book – Livres Hebdo

The photo albums feed the fiction, we see loved ones there at ages when we didn’t yet exist, we project their lives without us. Photo albums are never so romantic as when the photographs are missing, or the memories silenced. Olivier Liron is not without images from the time when his mother was born and lived in Castile. Some even slipped into snow book, and dot this literary portrait of the maternal figure.

Winter 1957, little Nieves, diminutive of Maria Nieves, name given in honor of Nuestra Senora de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows), is 3 years old, she wears a coat and a woolen cap, and holds an even smaller girl by the hand, we are in Madrid, calle Marqués de Santa Ana, where she lives. At Marcelina’s boarding house, “a roguish and cantankerous old lady”, she sleeps with her parents Carmen and Paco in the common room. In another photo, in November 1962, the one nicknamed the “Beautiful Andalusian” (because of her black eyes and her ebony hair), and who will be 8 years old, poses alongside Carmen. The photo is intended for Paco who left before they worked on the other side of the Pyrenees. At 9 years old, short hair, she looks like a little boy, we are on the eve of her departure for France. And then with mid-length hair and bangs, radiant, such a youthful expression, it’s the day of her wedding to Gabriel, Olivier’s father, she is 22 years old…

Tomorrow will be padded and infinite

The Book of Snow is an odyssey through the ills and the days of a discreet heroine who emigrated from the poverty of Franco’s Spain to an arduous life of exile in the slums of Saint-Denis. No self-pity, even less pathos. And if the author paints his picture in an impressionistic manner, by quick brushstrokes, there is nevertheless a line of force: the fierce determination of Neige. Rebellious as a child when she was forced at school to mumble the incensing catechism of the Caudillo; still undefeated, in France, in her studies where she excels even though she did not know the language when she arrived. There they were poor but like millions of others, here it is “a lousy girl”. “Maria rhymes with pariah. » She fights. The weapons it furnishes are culture. She will be able to read. And later, she will bequeath to her son both the weapons and the spirit of combat. She is major in the Capes of mathematics, will resume while working part-time studies of biology then ecology. Snow loves nothing more than trees and life. The snow too “symbol of purity”, which means to men that everything can start again. “ And the forest will be peopled with love, and tomorrow will be padded and infinite. »

Olivier Liron, who had accustomed us to novels written by turns twirling and jubilant – notably Einstein, sex and me (Alma, 2018, taken from Points) on a fiery boy, normalien and autistic Asperger (himself) – here adopts an intimate tone, but always keeping a smile. The one that blooms on your lips when you close your eyes and naturally turn your face towards the sun.

Olivier Liron
The snow book
Edition: 12,000 copies.
Price: €19; 240p.
ISBN: 9782072876653

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Olivier Liron, “The Book of Snow” (Gallimard): My mother’s book – Livres Hebdo