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12 Swiss Books – 2015





“As with Swiss Trash and Fille Facile, Dunia Miralles ploughs the same stylish and mordant furrow: an etching chiselled with dark precision.”





DUNIA MIRALLES was born in Neuchâtel, the daughter of Spanish émigrés. She chose a challenging career in the world of journal-ism. In 2000, she published Swiss Trash, which was a bestseller
in French Switzerland and
achieved cult status in certain sections of the French underground. In 2012, she published her collection of short stories Fille Facile. Inertie won the 2015 Bibliomedia Prize. PHOTO © AdS, M.F. Schorro

Béa’s life is one of inertia, a precarious existence brought about by her reliance on welfare payments. In her heavily subsidised council flat, she lives as a recluse, her marginalisation completed by her obsessive brooding, as she watches from the side-lines the dramas played out around her. There’s Chloe, the drug-addicted young mother; Skate and Ninja, punks who maltreat their dogs; the Djamba family, beset by cultural and racial discrimination… But the wall of indifference, which this young woman has erected around herself after a major break-down, crumbles when she meets Prune, a little girl who never speaks, to whom she tries to offer the affection she lacks in her life. This fragile emotion, alongside a burgeoning love affair with Fulvio, a labourer separated from his wife, seems to offer the basis for a stable life-style. But reality inevitably re-asserts itself, dashing their hopes – though failing to prove their futility.

The strength of Dunia Miralles’ writing lies in her intriguing use of neutral language, which sweeps aside pessimism and value judgments in order to convey people’s unspoken fates. Her prose expresses the remorseless order of nature that keeps victims trapped in their past and present, unable to get a grip on their future whilst still powerfully suggesting their capacity for life. Trash, cash, the concepts which
define the author’s language, are drawn from the milieus she describes, with the black and brilliant empathy of someone who has survived them.

TITLE Inertie
PUBLISHER L’âge d’homme, Lausanne
ISBN 978-2-8251-4463-3
TRANSLATION RIGHTS Florence Schluchter, florence.schluchter@agedhomme.com


French original (p. 190-192)

Sur le canapé, juste un drap nous couvre. Les jambes de mon amant s’entremêlent aux miennes. Mon visage repose sur son torse. Entre veille et sommeil, je plane. Un cliquetis lointain se mêle à mes rêveries. «Espèce de salaud ! Avec quoi je vais nourrir les gosses ?!» Sursaut. Les biceps de Fulvio se contractent autour de mon corps. Il râle : «Quelle maison de merde ! Qu’est-ce qui se passe encore ?» Des portes claquent. Des enfants sanglotent. La voix de Jacky gueule un «Lâche-moi !». Fulvio embrasse tendrement mes cheveux, inquiet. Magali crie : «J’en ai marre ! Tu veux quoi ? Que je fasse la pute comme la pétasse d’en haut !?» Jacky ricane. «Tu crois que quelqu’un raquerait pour tes fesses ? T’es même pas bonne à ça !» […] «Salaud ! Salaud ! Salaud !» Une porte claque. Les enfants pleurent avec des stridences angoissées. Je tremble. Fulvio me presse gentiment contre lui. Sa voix virile tente de m’apaiser. N’y parvient pas. J’espérais que mon bonheur éloignerait toutes les misères mais la misère danse derrière mes murs en se répandant sur mon palier.
Son dernier vendredi de vacances, Fulvio nous emmène à Bâle. Il avait invité sa fille à venir avec nous. L’adolescente a refusé. Plus envie de suivre Papa. Elle préfère la compagnie de ses copines. Durant le trajet, Fulvio a passé sa déception en chantant Henri Dès pendant que j’improvisais les chœurs. Sur les genoux de Prune, le lapin sautillait en mesure.


Excerpt translated by Tess Lewis

We lie on the couch, covered only with a sheet. My lover’s legs are entangled with mine, my cheek resting on his chest. I hover between sleep and wakefulness. A distant crash pierces my dreams. “You bastard! How am I going to feed the kids?!” I wake with a start. Fulvio’s arms tighten around my body. He grumbles, “Shit building. What is it now?” Doors slam. Children cry. Jacky bellows, “Let go!” Fulvio tenderly kisses my hair, worried. Magali screams, “I’ve had enough! What d’you want? You want me working the street like the bitch upstairs?” Jacky sniggers. “You think anyone’d pay you to spread your legs? You’re not even up to that!” […] “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!” A door slams. The children cry, anxious and shrill. I’m shaking. Fulvio hugs me sweetly. He tries to calm me down with his deep voice. Doesn’t work. I had hoped my happiness would chase away all my distress, but misery dances behind my walls and spreads over the entire floor.
On the last Friday of his vacation, Fulvio takes us to Basel. He had invited his daughter to come with us. The teen refused. Doesn’t want to tag along with Dad anymore. She’d rather spend time with her friends. During the drive Fulvio gets over his disappointment by singing Henri Dès songs while I improvise the choruses. On Prune’s lap, the toy rabbit hops to the beat.

“The strength of Inertia lies in how – in her ‘trash style’ – she reveals the thin line between a marginal and a normal life.” RTS

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