Novels from here: playful dad, overwhelmed son
In a more subtle way, but much more effective than the thunderous declarations of a Prince Harry, Cabala exposes the jealousies that smolder under the surface of family harmony.
With Michael Delisle, a sentence is enough to pick up an anecdote or a state of mind. Whether short stories, novels and poetry, his work is marked by his way of going straight to the point, but revealing a whole play of nuances.
His latest novel, Cabale, although very short, it carries even further this way of telling which hides many eddies under the simplicity of the words.
The story opens with the beginnings of Paul, the narrator, as a college teacher. He who sees himself as a literature smuggler finds himself giving a course in written French. But the agreement of the past participle that he must teach turns into a debate on the very choice of the sentence which serves as an example!
It's funny to read, but painful for the teacher who suddenly understands that teaching is not a career, a profession or a job: “It was a job. Like sliding under the bodywork to repair the car. Or screw doll arms onto an assembly line.”
Hard observation that Paul needs to talk about. Morin, a history teacher, will be his mentor. But what is the limit not to cross when you cling to someone?
“Morin, my beacon, my friend. Obviously, I ruined everything.”
One clumsy gesture and the transmission was over. Where to turn now?
openness and loneliness
Time passes and another opportunity for transmission arises: Wilfrid is back! He is the father of Paul and Louis, the eldest. Above all, he is a little crook accustomed to tricks, more accustomed to stays in prison or Florida than to family life.
Today, he wants to get closer to his guys, especially Louis, to whom he dangles a return to school. In fact, learning that Paul has become a teacher, Wilfrid decided to feed the latent competition between his sons.
Well, it works. To Paul's surprise, the proposal interests his older brother, a manual worker who has never seemed attracted to the intellectual milieu. And that annoys him much more than he would have thought.
And then Paul rejects his father in vain, an unlikely storyteller who is made fun of as soon as his back is turned, he is carried away he too by his assurance, his casualness, his “naturalness”.
In fact, Delisle deconstructs with lucidity and just enough acid humor the disillusions of a man who does not know how to be an actor. His Paul always sees the comedy of life under the show and the appearances.
Because it is theater that must be performed to attract the attention of the students! And more theater to make believe his entourage, as his father does. Otherwise, doesn't frankness refer to loneliness?
This is the observation that haunts us as we close this novel that hits the mark.