“The heart does not yield” by Grégoire Bouillier: a death, instructions for use

The heart does not give in

by Gregoire Bouillier

Flammarion, 912 pages, €26

In 1987, Grégoire Bouillier heard on the radio about a news item that had occurred two years earlier: a woman starved herself to death at home, in the heart of Paris, and her body was found only ten months before. later, accompanied by the diary detailing the evolution of his agony. Thirty years later, in 2018, this woman, whom he has never forgotten, resurfaces randomly during discussions at a social dinner. Marcelle Pichon (that’s her name) then becomes an obsession for Bouillier, who will endeavor to understand this unthinkable suicide and to retrace the life of this former model.

The heart does not give in (excerpt from Marcelle’s diary) is first of all the report of this investigation, not only of its results, but of its progress, its trial and error, the multiple leads followed by Grégoire Bouillier who plays the role of detective, at the head of Bmore investigations, flanked by his eccentric and jovial secretary, Penny. This investigation and its rigorous/wacky protocol are however not the only material of the book but its backbone, around which form a multitude of disparate elements, stories, comments, reflections more or less close to the central fact.

Narrative Bulimia

The writer has made it a point of honor not to exclude anything, no development, no hypothesis, to include all the associations of ideas, the cock-a-donkeys, daydreams and even jokes that come to him during his research. We follow him in the reconstruction of Marcelle’s youth or in his meditations on the great famines of history; he shares with us his reflections on the Covid, politics and contemporary society, as well as his discoveries on the distant ancestors of Marcelle, undoubtedly victims of the epidemic of corky angina which struck Berry in the 1850s. And then the author of report on me leans on Marcelle’s own story, her doubts about her origins, her holidays with her grandparents or even her grandfather’s captivity notebook during the Second World War.

We are in turn fascinated, stunned, perplexed and enchanted by this flood of sentences which mimics orality with delight, full of onomatopoeia, exclamations, but also countless references, especially in the whimsical exergues of the 99 chapters – 99, or as much as life manualby Georges Perec, whose The heart does not give in rediscovers narrative bulimia, the vertigo of exhaustiveness, and joy tinged with melancholy.

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