The Watcher: Based on a True Story

With The one who watches, writer Louise Erdrich won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction last year in the United States. It’s our turn to find out why.

Since the publication of love medicine, in the mid-1980s, the American writer Louise Erdrich did not hesitate to take up her pen again to offer us a work as singular as necessary. Associated with the Amerindian Renaissance movement, she now has nearly twenty novels to her credit, including In the silence of the windwhich won the prestigious National Book Award in 2012.

But until now, she had never slipped a member of her entourage into her books. With The one who watcheswhich has just been published in French, so she experienced something totally new, because to build the character of Thomas Wazhashk, she was inspired by the life and long political fight of Patrick Gourneau, her grandfather maternal.

“I couldn’t have told this story without first having spent 30 years with my grandfather’s letters,” Louise Erdrich explains by email. Perhaps because, preoccupied with other books and with my children, I didn’t have time. Maybe also because I didn’t have the level of maturity required to write it. I am now older than my grandfather when he embarked on this adventure. So I can imagine how difficult it must have been for him and how arduous his task was. »

Thomas versus Goliath

1er August 1953, the Congress of the United States adopted resolution 108 without warning. Advocating the imminent emancipation of certain native clans, this resolution in fact posed the principle of termination: to assimilate these Indians in order to finally be able to make them American citizens full share. This would allow the federal government to end many of its commitments to them, to dispossess them of their lands and, for that matter, to abrogate the nation-to-nation treaties concluded with their tribes… even whether these treaties should in principle be honored “as long as the grass grows and the waters of the rivers flow”.

It is by reading the Minot Daily News that Thomas Wazhashk will discover with amazement the existence of resolution 108. And immediately, he will understand that if no one does anything to prevent the implementation of the related legislative measures, it could soon have terrible consequences on the Band of Indians Chippewas of Turtle Mountain. Night watchman in a watchmaking stone factory in the depths of North Dakota, Thomas will therefore ensure above all to protect the rights of his people and for that, he will even be ready to go as far as Washington.

A second quest

Telling through Thomas a journey as atypical as that of his grandfather has not always been easy, concedes Louise Erdrich.

“As far as I know, my grandfather was a really good person,” she says. He must have been involved in some conflicts, but since I didn’t know which ones, I didn’t want to invent any. So to my great surprise, it was Patrice that I invented, and with her, I was served on the conflict side! When I wrote that she did things perfectly when she was angry, I knew that I had a character and that I would enjoy directing her. »

Patrice, who is often nicknamed Pixie (the elf) because of her almond-shaped eyes, is 19 years old and like Thomas, she works at the Turtle Mountain clockwork stone factory. But if she too has a battle horse, it is totally different: without news of her sister, Vera, for months, she has promised herself to try to find her. And to do this, she will have to go as soon as possible to Minneapolis, the city where Vera would have settled.

“I also wanted to write about the way Aboriginal women are treated, because it’s been going on for hundreds of years,” adds Louise Erdrich. Just type the words “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women” into a search bar to get a contemporary perspective. »

Where to read The one who watcheswhich is literally heartbreaking.

We would like to say thanks to the writer of this write-up for this outstanding content

The Watcher: Based on a True Story