“The gold of the rivers” by Françoise Chandernagor, by Christophe Henning

“The gold of the rivers” by Françoise Chandernagor, by Christophe Henning
“The gold of the rivers” by Françoise Chandernagor, by Christophe Henning

“That’s also what choosing Creuse is. It is choosing slowness, silence, depth, perhaps serenity, certainly not ease. » Françoise Chandernagor, great lady of literature, distinguished senior civil servant, member of the Académie Goncourt, returns in a moving story about her childhood and her land of origin, Creuse. Of this country, she praises the identity and does not hide the fragilities: “The only fruits that will be given to you are the dried fruits of which you were disgusted, acorns, nuts, chestnuts, and to charm the palate of your children , you will only have bramble berries. » Botanical guide, it is also a history book when the author tells of the mason workers from Creuse who built 19th century Paris. It is still a geography book when she draws the route of the two Creuse, sub-tributaries of the Loire. “By celebrating this impenetrable and ignored country, I take the risk of exposing it when, in truth, I would like to keep it secret,” confesses the one who keeps the nostalgia of childhood and cultivates the wonder of today.

And the blank page is a place to work. If she handles letters today, Françoise Chandernagor does not forget her roots: “I belong to the race of masons-ploughmen: I need, like them, earth and stones. And build, plant, restore, clear, enlarge and work, work…” Isn’t its Creuse horizon the ideal setting for writing? “To write, I need the protection of a familiar beauty and a familiar place, a closed place where no one sees me and where nothing happens. I need the Creuse to envelop me, surround me, seal me off, stifle the noise of the waves and screen the light of the flashes. » And every day, the astonishment is renewed: “Every morning, when I push the shutters, beauty jumps in my face. » A harsh beauty. Land of secrets and retreats, the Creuse cultivates this abrupt side which protects it, this nature which endures and which the author wants to transmit: “I taught our eighteen grandchildren to caress the bark of the trees – the rough skin of oak, the crumbly skin of birch, or the softer and smoother skin of beech. » She defends these trees and worries about the extreme heat and drought of recent years. “As a lover of the past, how could I not defend biodiversity? », remembers the child who fished for crayfish in the streams.

Childhood memories, better still, landscapes of yesteryear, which remain vivid in the memory: “In Creuse, I am twelve years old. Eternally. » She shows us around her country, adds unverifiable family anecdotes, which tell the story of life as it is told, because “legends are lies which sometimes tell the truth. » Of course, there is life in Paris, “the concrete, the crowds, the strikes, the intrigues, the dinners and this rushed, choppy rhythm of the city man. » Those who are lucky enough to have a piece of land, roots planted somewhere, do not forget their luck: “Beauty not only makes you happy but makes you good: the heart fills, expands, overflows, we feels the need to share. So that this heart does not burst, it must be opened to others. This form of generosity was familiar to the Creusois of yesteryear, who otherwise had so little to give! » And yet, the Creuse, what a treasure!

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