In 2018, Maryse Andraos won the Prix de la nouvelle Radio-Canada with Without refuge, a text with fragmented, poetic and raw prose. His first novel, of the same title, takes up a revised version of the short story and pushes further, notably by the exploration of new characters, a reflection on youth, where the emancipatory power of freedom comes up against the vicissitudes of identity quests.
It is Naïma who is at the heart of this novel. A “floating woman, half engaged in the moment”, she multiplies the commitments – political, professional, romantic -, seeking in these anchors a way to tie in with the present. Something of life escapes her, starting with herself: “Naïma smokes half a pack a day, kills all her plants, barely cooks – and she would like to sprout alfalfa for her salads.” He wonders how many personalities she has in store; of all, which one comes closest to the truth? “
In its wake, we invite ourselves in the suburbs of our adolescence, on the archipelago of the Magdalen Islands and in the mountains of Iceland, discovering a road strewn with brambles which does not fail to scratch it: “The autumn and winter followed one another behind your window – the leaves were raining down from the trees, dead outside, alive inside -; you waited for it to pass, pots piled up on the counters. “
The narration in the second person induces a cleavage between Naïma and her own aspirations, which she struggles to name. This narrative point of view also makes it possible to offer a word to the characters evolving at his side who, more than simple satellites, reveal themselves in their paradoxes.
Thus, through the trajectories of Ariane and Nathan, passing loves, of Delphine, inspiring childhood friend, and of her friend Simon, the novel embodies various experiences of youth, when she arrives at the tipping point of the so-called adult age. The former pursue their ideals, but Delphine and Simon, now parents, loosen up under the responsibilities: ” [Leur] house, looks like Montreal in summer, with obstacles and frustration everywhere. “
We would have taken even more of their slippage and their intimacy, but it is already a tour de force, in a first novel, to have secondary characters as well embodied. Maryse Andraos’ prose is attentive, broken down into so many fragments which seem to keep only the essential. The result is a poetry of the instant: “You lower your head towards the liquid at the bottom of your cup, your face and the neighboring tree are reflected there: a portrait in black and white, iridescent, like gasoline. mixed with water. “
Shards of life, mythologies of yesterday and conquests to come, this promising first novel remains faithful to the outline of the initiatory journey. Now, like the author’s pen, even the resolution of the story carries a singular wisdom: “But perhaps the real disease lies in the illusion that one day we will be repaired; perhaps it is less necessary to heal from suffering than from the idea of healing. “
Extract from “Without refuge”