Literary back to school 2023: “Western” by Maria Pourchet, fabulous love novel in the post #MeToo era

Literary back to school 2023: “Western” by Maria Pourchet, fabulous love novel in the post #MeToo era

The paths of Aurore and Alexis cross by chance, in a family house on the side of a limestone cliff. For three days, they indulge without shame. Outside, the storm awaits them. Deep reflection on the violence of our time and romantic relationships, the writer’s seventh novel is a literary bomb.

The title is already a promise of adventures. THE Westernaccording to Maria Pourchet, it is this “place of existence where one will stake one’s life on a decision, casually or not, because there is no longer any other meaning to existence than arbitrariness”.Two years after the mighty Feu (2021), the writer vosgienne delivers a vitriolic account of contemporary love relationships and questions the reader: How to love after #MeToo? Whatis not bearable today? Western is the seventh novel by Maria Pourchet, available from Stock editions.

“Aurore is always elsewhere, looking for what she lacks. A man, money, an orgasm, training, all vital things.” At 45, she cracks: finished, the interviews with the headmistress of the school, the meetings with the colleagues; no more timed dates with faceless lovers. She leaves Paris and her job to shut herself up in her mother’s house in Quercy with her young son, Cosma. Cut off from the world, she does not expect to see Alexis Zagner arrive in the middle of the night, “the face of the century”. Headliner of a highly anticipated new adaptation of Dom Juan, the actor has deserted the boards and the capital, “guided by the confused feeling which had been growing for some time that one day he would have to hide, without knowing what”.

Hidden in the limestone cliffs, brought together by a mysterious twist of fate, the two exiles tell their stories to each other. Aurore talks about the men, those she met, who damaged her, the one who raped her. “A man is only occupied with his own growth. If we ignore him, we only wait, wait for him, accompany him, discover a little late that we have no place for ourselves. We just have his.” Alexis listens to him, asks questions. He agrees, willy-nilly, to reveal his abysses: his narcissism, his flaws, the control mechanisms he has abused more than once. But time is running out. The storm, and the law, are at their doorstep: the actor is accused of psychological violence by several women. His latest conquest, a very young actress, committed suicide. In the west, justice must be done…

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In this galloping three-voice novel, carried by a precise writing stripped of all scruples, Maria Pourchet alternates the chapters, like a western, taking place in Quercy (place of exile) and those taking place in Paris. (place deserted by Alexis and Aurore). “In westerns, you start over. You are what you find, not what you made. The whole genre rests on the solid imagination that going west is going zero.” Punctuated with references to the cinematographic genre, Western dynamites the myth of traditional love and the roles assigned to each. In the Far West, Maria Pourchet also questions the notion of influence. “The problem with psychological violence is that you can. The problem with it is that you have given it other names for so long. Like passion, like freedom.”

Because the crime of Alexis is indeed this: to have thrown himself on Chloé, to have placed her under his empire and finally to abandon her brutally. “He took up all my time, even when he wasn’t there.” Difficult to prove the guilt of a “connard innocent” for justice. Only 10,708 text messages remain of their relationship: six months of correspondence between the two lovers. A particularly violent sequence dissects the elements of this “love speech”: “a discourse of expectation studded with injunctions: Don’t be late, stay with me tonight”; “a story of the hunt, with its lexicon of the will with great blows of I want” ; “the I would have liked suppose here a I could have of startling cruelty.”

Far from giving up on love, the novelist calls on the contrary to celebrate “except for a meeting”. “This event is very common, it happens a hundred times an hour. On the side of the road, in bedrooms, in cars, in the open air. Love is endemic, it regrows anywhere.”


WesternMaria Pourchet (Stock editions – 304 pages – 20.90 euros)

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Extract (p. 121) :

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