In the Swiss Alps, two adolescent boys are fascinated by Zsuzsa, a village girl: she is strange, seems to live in a parallel world, and speaks a mix of German, French and what seems to be Yiddish. The three of them often go into the glacier, a terrible place, magnificent and alive, in search of bones which they must bring back to the preacher. Years later, when he comes back to his childhood haunts, the narrator learns Zsuzsa’s story, her traumatizing past, and then what became of her.
A modest novel, quite gentle and deliciously written, along the lines of the German romanticists.
“ Zsuzsa, hair a mess, knees bloodied, trembling as if feverish, strives to prove her tenacity and pride, and I notice in her eyes a part of a world that is rightfully hers. She shows no trace of revolt, no exclamation cursing our expedition, she acquiesces to this distress and I’m not surprised to see her pray. Which doesn’t stop her, with each jump between two crevasse lips or blocks of ice, from punctuating her feats with cheerful laughter and shouts of joy. Not so for me. On the verge of nausea, I hurl a pack of insults at Andrew, who every time drags me on his adventures and every time I’m the first to blindly follow. My obsession is to not give off to Zsuzsa the image of a coward, especially after having explained and invented that my ancestors were « conquistadores », a meaningless word to her, but it was the best I could find to shine in her eyes.
We agree to let Zsuzsa accompany us on the condition that she keep the secret of the « bone hunt ». During the summer and autumn months, every two weeks in the early afternoon, having class only in the morning, we return to the glacier where, thanks to the melting of the snow, water covers the moraines and surrounding meadows, hoping to unearth, liberated from their gangue, jaws, femurs, skulls, pelvises, all those missing hikers, fallen into crevasses, lost, driven to madness, returned to the world of the living after many years, sometimes a hundred years. We had the following agreement with the pastor: for every recovered bone, whatever its condition and no matter which body part, he would give us in exchange a bag of sweets. And in this way, eyes riveted on the ground, we went all over the ice monster. And the triumphant returns home, blaring obscenities about our finds, we would descend into the village with the feeling of a mission accomplished, waiting for our sweets and the Christian burial of our loot. ”
NB: this novel opens with a very visual and living description of the glacier.
« His writting shows as much as a painting. The words superimpose like colors, with brush strokes. »
Le Matricule des anges
« The landscape is rebellious, favorable to all sorts of wonders, as to all sorts of uncertainty. It is to be heard more than seen. »