“Towards violence”, by Blandine Rinkel: portrait of a monster of virility

“Towards violence”, by Blandine Rinkel, Fayard, 378 p., €20, digital €15.

Blandine Rinkel had dedicated her first novel, Abandonment of pretensions (Fayard, 2017), “To the Stones”. No doubt the address had a secret meaning, but it could appear as a warning: the writer – born in 1991 –, singer and dancer in the Catastrophe collective, has nothing against anything that can cut or hurt. The hardness is not foreign to the one who, for this very noticed inaugural book, nevertheless put a lot of softness in the portrait of a woman modeled on her own mother.

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It is of a father – borrowing or not from hers, we do not know – that she draws the portrait today in a very impressive third novel. This indicates from the title the path followed: Towards violence. This direction, Gérard never stopped showing it to his daughter, Lou, the narrator (“Lou for the elsewhere, the forest and the mammals “), encouraging her to become like him, without fear, convincing her that “Pain was not an obstacle” and death was ” a detail “. Gérard didn’t raise Lou, he seasoned her. Was this for the young woman a chance or a curse? She will be careful not to decide. Both forever distant from this man and forever loyal to the “Miniature DGSI” that they were together by dint of shared secrets, she would probably hate to have it done for her. She will also end up being faithful to her parent and to what he passed on to her by refusing to provide her with vital help.

The man is crazy and distracting

But let’s not go too fast. Who is Gerard? A police officer allergic to the police, installed in Vendée, which his proudly sported mustache could sum up: it seems that of a “amusing psychopath”. The man is crazy and entertaining. The book observes this duality in the same way that it studies violence in different lights, without making it a monolithic object deserving only condemnation. It’s as if almost every sentence, let’s say every situation described, flips the same coin and sees which way it lands. Battery: brutality. Face: vitality. Battery: cruelty. Face: humor. Tail: anger. Face: desire. Battery: unconsciousness. Face: courage.

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At any time, Gérard can go from one disposition to his reverse, and this permanent reversibility of the states, of the atmosphere, has made Lou’s childhood hang over a threat that is anything but deaf. Especially since, she underlines it from the first pages of her story, “Tenderness does not protect you from anything” : it is not because he loves her, takes care of her, is her best (and long only) playmate that he will spare her, defend her against anything. Even: he exposes her to the edge of the world and its dangers, like when he makes her cross a bridge on foot, very small, in the middle of a storm.

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“Towards violence”, by Blandine Rinkel: portrait of a monster of virility