“The Back Heart”, by Arnaud Dudek: the leap into the unknown

The back heart

by Arnaud Dudek

Les Avrils, 218 p., €19

Eighth novel by a discreet writer, The back heart depicts an equally discreet hero, whose ambition is matched only by his timidity. Arnaud Dudek likes these characters caught up in their everyday life casually and who, step by step, get stuck in ruts dug since childhood: a politician thrown off balance by the suicide of a citizen (Leave traces), a man looking for his biological father (Sometimes we make waves), another who recognizes the rapist of his childhood (As best they could)…

The moroseness of existences

Victor is of the caliber of those solitary beings who take side roads to escape the gloom of their existence. His family is shaky, he is the only son. Saddened and a drinker of bad wine, his father has been toiling at the factory since he was 15 and “only pursues his career as a human being because he has a mouth to feed, a child to grow nearly straight”. His mother is an absentee whom he sees from time to time and who invents her life as she meets, specifying in her CV “single childless”…

For Victor, spotted from his beginnings in an athletics club for his “enormous potential”, the triple jump will be his lifeline. “It’s wonderful to run, it’s wonderful to jump because it’s unthinkable. And he already guesses it, that’s it and nothing else, it will be his whole life. » Very quickly the club becomes too narrow for him. He joined an Institute for promising athletes, led with an iron fist by a characterful coach, Serge Cousu, “dad, jesus, the weirdo” according to the nicknames given to him by his students.

A neat pen

Thus begins for Victor a life of sacrifices, the way of the cross of a future champion: training at dawn, races until exhaustion, dietetic diets, first records broken, first medals, first injuries too… Victor hang on, for the adrenaline, the atmosphere, the competitions, for Maël too, his only friend, Calypso, his lover, Danuta, javelin champion, who silences her anxieties on Instagram.

With his neat, precise pen, without any artifice, Arnaud Dudek dissects Victor’s balanced life to the rhythm of his heart – the one who knocks at the front under the effort, the one who suffers at the back when he fails. We feel with each leap, with each pitfall, with each small happiness the empathy of the author for his hero in his frantic race against time, against the uncertain future, he who repeats himself like an antiphon: “Dreaming is already not so bad. »

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