Year of the Drought by Roland Buti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year of the drought by Roland Buri

Swiss fiction

Original title – Le Milieu de l’horizon

Translator – Charlotte Mandell

Source – personnel copy

I saw a few reviews around the web a few weeks ago of this book.One from Melissa  and another from Grant it sounded like a book I would like.So I went and brought a copy for myself. It won the Swiss literature in 2014. Roland Buti studied history and became a history teacher in his hometown of Lausanne he has written a number of novels .But this is his first book to be translated into English.

Rudy was the son of a distant cousin in Seeland. He had come to live in our house before I was born.For me he had no age, as if he had never been a child  and would never grow old. His ruddy thick skin was a barrier that kept him separate from the outside world and this seemed to me part of a very particular form of bearitude that was his alone.

When I was right, I learned that he had Down’s syndrome,By then I had realised that Rudy’s status in our family was different from mine and my sister’s

Rudy remind me in some ways of Lennie from” of mice and men”

This is a story set in that hot summer of 1976 in a small swiss valley in the french speaking part of Switzerland. We follow this summer through the eyes of Gus the son of the farm that lives in the valley a rural and isolate place he lives there with his Father A big strong farming man , iut one that is trying to rescue the farm out of the hole it is drifting into due to the Summer. Jean the father does this by getting chickens but with the summer heat as the temperature inches up the dead chickens start piling up . The mother a stand offish woman who has led a sheltered life and wants her kids to have more . A sister Lea a musician then we have a cousin a lad with Downs that is struck by every woman he runs into maybe the woman for him. But he ends up in trouble, he remind me in some ways of Steinbeck’s great character Lennie. The summer isn’t going great when Cecile an old friend of the mother appears she sets the young man alight at first when he caught her one night in a night-gown, but then sees her with his own mother. But elsewhere Gus has awakenings with his friend Maddy as his world starts to fall apart and his father Jean starts to collapse as a man in front of his eyes as his farm and marriage implode in Heat and they year of the drought.

The dead hens in the dry grass looked as though they had never been animals. The stunted, twisted , pale bodies  were no longer part of nature; they were different from the assorted rubbish at the municipal dump.The anicent pact has been broken.

The farm is like the dead chickens and the Pact with the land has been broken by this summer.

This was compared to the seethaler novel a whole life . But this is much more a glimpse of that moment when a boy becomes a man. Also in the way Seethaler caught a world dying this is the end of a farm like the dead chickens drying in the sun and smelling out the place its a rotting corpse of a farm. This also follows Gus starting to notice the other sex , but also maybe seeing the cracks in the world around him for the first time. Buti build the tension , I was also reminded of Steinbeck in the way you see Jeans efforts as hopeless trying to get by but failing was a trait in Steinbeck’s books. A perfect summer read this book but as Grant says some of the images in the book will stick in the mind with you.

 

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