When the past makes sense

Marc Lambron, Grasset, 2023, 96 p.

A small town in the department of Nievre in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, silent factories and metallurgical blast furnaces, a rural atmosphere, an old country air that smells of “a few pedal strokes”. take the cyclist quickly to the shade of the woods, to the willows of the river.’

Lost between its industrial past and pleasant nature, this French landscape is Marc Lambro’s childhood. There, in Imphi, he saw his grandfather Pierre working in the garden and his grandmother Léonie singing songs by Berthe Silva during the long holidays. Like any child of the 60s, the child plays with toy soldiers in a jungle-turned-land and is indefinitely fed photographs of Paris Match. It could be shots of astronomers in weightlessness, like Mylène Demongeot’s plunging necklines. How hairy is history at that age, seen from a small village in France.

First of all, there are residents in Imfi. Every small town is a theater. Little Mark, meanwhile, learns to look at people while taking over the books in the library – books that “contain all the secrets of the world.” He remembers everyone. The stories she was told and experienced were Sister Francine, who “submitted to the will of the farmer who hired her,” little Monique, who died at fifteen months of toxicosis, the “plague of childhood.” and pray in church; these are stories of worker pride and acts of resistance during the war: “One of them, Pierre, pretended to work overtime at the factory and hid the nature of his night walks from his wife”; She was a lady who got the nickname “black donkey” because she compromised herself with the invader. All this little world is a French village.

Little Mark found time to meet Father Diot, the newsboy who was said to beat his wife on Saturday evenings; he remembers Jean Mathe, “the boy who killed time in the guise of a scout,” and other Homeric characters, such as the gardener from Imphi, the nature painter, the Russian Shcherbakov, whom the whole village respected for his talent, and even “la Vava.” She gave birth to twenty-three children with her husband Charlotte, who had never worked in his life. “As in a Marseilles comedy or an Italian film, Imfi offered a picturesque, eccentric gallery of characters capable of capturing the imagination of children called original. »

Marc Lambron’s beautiful story drives memories through chip jumps. Patois words go back to him and ancient customs. Fears, too, like “the legend of the white women who are said to appear at the edge of the forest at nightfall.” Then years pass and beings go. Mark notes that in the early 70s, linoleum invaded the space and was even glued to old thick wood. This is modernity. It covers everything.

In this space, which he observes and cherishes at this time, Marc Lambron treats beings and objects with infinite respect. He can face them and tell where he came from. From Imphy, near Nevers. And it’s a blessing. “I write here as a passer-by in the groves, anxious not to obey the past of others, not to appropriate their story of bravery,” he says, and thus, in his own way, humble and precise, he respects what is on earth. Pierre thinks of Michon’s Little Lives and a Vialatte poetry.

Le Monde d’avant is a tribute to ordinary people, an ode to the anonymous people who created the century in their time. It is a sung song that breathes life into the places, revives the mood, tells what has been said or reminds the prohibited and permitted, reminds the old days and youth.

Le Monde d’avant by Marc Lambron, Grasset, 2023, 96 p. , “open country air that can be smelled in just a few pedal strokes that takes the cyclist fairly quickly into the shade of the woods…

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