GENRE Novel, LANGUAGE French
Awarded the 2015 Prix Michel-Dentan
ANTOINETTE RYCHNER, born in 1979, worked as a theatre technician and scene-painter. Following her studies at the Swiss Institute of Literature, she devoted herself to writing drama and fiction. In 2013, she received the Prix SACD de la dramaturgie francophone for her play Intimité Data Storage. Le Prix is her first novel. PHOTO © AdS, M.F. Schorro
Husband of S. and father of Mouflet, the narrator “Me” tries to reconcile his family life with his artistic vocation. At first sight, Me appears to be the archetype of the egoitistical and self-regarding artist, obsessed with creating The Work that will reveal his true greatness. This sculptor-cum-procreator locks himself away in his ‘inner sanctum’ and hatches his Ropfs, organic creatures extracted from his navel and shaped in a ferocious struggle that subsumes the artist both physically and morally. As he does every year, Me withdraws and agonizes over creating an exceptional Ropf he can submit to the jury of The Prize, a Ropf that will sing its own special song. In vain. Shackled by material and familial circumstances, which his practical and unselfish wife cannot completely control, the intemperate and illtempered Me struggles against the odds, behaving unreasonably towards those around him, who improbably indulge his excesses. But then the birth of Remouflet forces Me to re-assess this fragile equilibrium and to face his responsibilities as a father. This is incompatible with his artistic obsession, and his tentative re-entry into normal social life, which is subtly orchestrated by S. and which requires him to work in a gallery and care for their children, heightening the drama before it subsides, as both Me and his art are swept away in its wake.
In tackling the conflicts between an artist, his work and his world, Antoinette Rychner brings a note of farce to her exploration of the tension that divides sanity from madness. With both clarity and detachment she depicts creative obsession in its most essential and ridiculous forms with a powerful, joyful and liberating intensity.
TITLE Le Prix
PUBLISHER Buchet Chastel, Paris
PUBLICATION DATE January 2015
TRANSLATION RIGHTS Christine Bonnard Legrand,
LE PRIX, ANTOINETTE RYCHNER
French original (p. 69-70)
Aujourd’hui même, j’en fais le serment devant ma cafetière, je terminerai l’extraction de ce Ropf. Oui je m’en occuperai quoi qu’il arrive. De toute façon l’expulsion est si avancée qu’il n’est plus besoin maintenant que de trois, peut-être deux heures seulement pour y arriver,
je porte à mes lèvres la tasse brûlante, me glisse sans bruit dans la chambre consacrée où je m’assieds et pose les mains sur mon Ropf qui tressaute de joie. Et je n’ai plus qu’à le suivre, à me jeter tout entier dans le mouvement du Ropf qui pousse, se dégage, s’extorque – l’arrière du crâne ne va plus tarder à se détacher, je me coule dans l’allégresse et la félicité de ce Ropf qui ne demande qu’à être délivré, c’est bon, meilleur que tout ce que j’ai connu jusqu’ici en matière de sculpture, c’est puissamment juste et je m’oublie vraiment Moi et mon époque, mes pensées d’existence et les aiguilles de l’horloge qui tournent dans la cuisine,
en dehors du plaisir m’éclaboussant à fond le Ropf je ne pense plus à rien quand la voix de Mouflet brusquement me fait atterrir. Le perfide ! qui demande où je suis, sachant pertinemment que son père travaille dans la chambre consacrée et que quand il s’y trouve il s’agit de le laisser tranquille. J’ai sursauté et quelque chose dans l’élan du Ropf s’est brisé net. Il semble tout à coup affaissé, replié comme un escargot au fond de lui-même, alors qu’il débordait de vie quelques instants plus tôt. Me croyant capable de ramener ultérieurement mon Ropf à l’amour je m’interromps, enfile mon T-shirt. Soutenant du mieux que je le peux ma protubérance à travers l’étoffe, je vais ouvrir à Mouflet qui gratte la serrure.
THE PRIZE, ANTOINETTE RYCHNER
Excerpt translated by Tess Lewis
Today without fail, I swear before my coffee pot, I will finish the extraction of this Ropf. Yes, I’ll take care of it no matter what. In any case, the expulsion is far enough along that it will take only three, maybe just two, hours to finish,
I lift the burning-hot cup to my lips, slip noiselessly into the inner sanctum where I sit down and place my hands on the Ropf, which wriggles with joy. Now all I need to do is follow it, to throw myself completely into the Ropf’s movement as it strains, comes into being, wrests itself free — the back of its skull will soon detach itself, I let myself slide into the joy and delight of a Ropf asking only to be delivered, it’s good, better than anything I’ve known until now in matters of sculpture, it’s powerfully right and I forget myself completely, Me and my era, my thoughts of existence and the hands of the clock turning in the kitchen,
I am thinking of nothing beyond the pleasure this Ropf is drenching me with, when Mouflet’s voice suddenly brings me back to earth. The impudence! He wants to know where I am although he’s perfectly aware that his father is working in the inner sanctum and when he’s in there, he is to be left in peace. I flinched and something in the Ropf’s momentum stopped short. It suddenly seems to sag, to fold in on itself like a snail in its shell, although it had been bursting with life a moment earlier. Confident that I will be able to return my Ropf to love, I stop and pull on my T-shirt. Supporting my protuberance under the fabric as best I can, I open the door for Mouflet, who is scratching at the keyhole.
“Antoinette Rychner has taken a risk in tackling the well-worn theme of artistic creation. She revitalizes it with brio in a fable that unites fantasy, realism and ridicule.” LE TEMPS