Everyday life by Lydie Salvayre

15647100385400L

Everyday Life by Lydie Salvayre

French fiction

Original title – La Vie commune

Translator Jane Kuntz

Source personnel copy

Another short novella from Dalkey archive and this by a recent Prix Goncourt winner Lydie SlavayreIts been a while since I featured a Goncourt winner. Lydie was born to refugees of the Spanish civil war. She grew up in southern France. Trained as a doctor with a degree in Psychiatry. She has published a number of novels. In 2014 her book Cry mother Spain (English title ) won the Prix Goncourt. That book was published by Maclehose she has also had four books including this one published by Dalkey.

I omitted one detail. She stinks.

The new secretary wears a vetiver scent, and I detest the smell of vetiver. There’s nothing I detest more in the world than the smell of Vetiver (After milk). It makes me listless, it gives me the vapors, migraine headaches. It makes me dizzy, nauseous, It makes me vomit

Every morning when I crack open the door of my office, the obnoxious stench of her perfume smacks me in the face. I stager. I can’t help it, I ve grown allergic to it. Like a police dog , I could sniff out its trail miles away, that’s how allergic I’ve become. It’s crossed my mind that she might soak herself in the stuff just to put me off, to make me go in the opposite direction.

The scent affects her but the reaction seems more than that in a way to me!!

This is a classic slice of an Office drama. It is about two sectaries Suzanne the narrator of the book has been at her job as the secretary of Monsieur Meyer for more than thirty years. so when this younger woman arrives she sees this as a real threat to her position as Meyers favorite. She starts to pick apart this new younger woman as they work together. She dissects her rival bit by bit as she is doing so you see the pent-up anger in this older woman as she sees her rival become more important to Meyer as her grip on her life is starting to slip. This is a woman not only losing her job but there is a sense she is getting old and that is the reason for her replacement not just to learn from her but also to easily slide Suzanne into retirement and also accepting her problems. This is a slice of life in an office the jealousies of office rivals the older member like an old lion marking her territory but like in Lion pack or Gorilla families that Alpha in the head has to succumb sometime and this is the moment caught in the book that breaking of an Alpha.

Because I’ve had a dull ache in my chest for seventeen days, I go to the doctor. He asks me if the pain spreads towards the shoulder and along my left arm. No. It’s just in my chest. As if it were digging a hole that opens and close,opens and cloes. While hes gliding his icy stethoscope over my chest, he asks what happen right before the onset of this pain. Imagine you’re straight path, I tell him, wwhich you can follow with your eyes shut, it’s so familar to you. Then suddenly, you no longer recognize it, even though everything you see is identical to what was there before. Do you know what I mean?

Her we see Suzanne has more wrong than we see an underlying problem !!

This is a fun book and a touching book and to do both at the same time is great it is a Tragicomedy of a woman fall. We see Suzanne ripping into the new girl. I was reminded of the scenes in the Office as the David Brent tries to capture his Job as the new man takes his place and that loss of the Alpha role well this is the same the role of being Meyers main secretary is the prize and the Older woman is describing losing the grip but she is seeing it as thou this younger woman has pushed her out but in between the lines there is the sense she is failing in her job but maybe age has caught up with her. She isn’t as flexible as her younger counterpart having got set in her ways as the world around her has moved on. There was that bittersweet taste in the prose that I find in the work of Bernhard the satire of loathing he wrote so well. Lydie has caught what happens when one’s life falls apart in a simple monologue another nod to Bernhard in a way. I was touch by her fall it was a shame like one of those football stars that shone but has stayed on the pitch far too long!!

 

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Sep 24, 2018 @ 21:48:39

    I remember in my very first full-time job back in the late 1960s, it was the ambition of the other girls in the office to become PA (personal assistant a.k.a. secretary) to the boss. I thought it was pathetic then and even more so now because every one of them was smarter than that sleazebag of a boss and they should have been aspiring to *be* the boss not serve him!
    Times have moved on, thank goodness.

    Reply

  2. MarinaSofia
    Sep 25, 2018 @ 07:36:03

    There are far too few books about closely-observed office life, although so many of us spend so much time at work. I like the sound of this one!

    Reply

  3. 1streading
    Sep 25, 2018 @ 18:33:34

    I really enjoyed this when I read it earlier this year – like you I was drawn to her work by Cry Mother Spain. I’ve also read The Lecture, though I didn’t review it.

    Reply

  4. Trackback: that was the month that was Sept 2018 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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