Born Happy in Oraibi

Original title: Née Contente à Oraibi

Author: Cournut, Bérengère

Publication Date:

January 2017



Original language and publisher

French | Le Tripode

Territories Handled

Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia


Literary Fiction

Born Happy in Oraibi

Original title: Née Contente à Oraibi

Author: Cournut, Bérengère

  • Rights sold: Italy (Neri Pozza, two-book deal), the Netherlands (Prometheus Bert Bakker, in a pre-empt, two-book deal)
  • Over 7,000 copies sold.

I have just read Bérengère Cournut’s book in a single sitting and I’m very enthused. I admire the poetry of her writing a great deal (…). I could of course highlight all the research that has gone into it, but that’s not really what strikes me the most. I find that the tone of this ‘Hopi novel’ just rings so true and is so in harmony with the Hopi’s serene (but lucid) vision of the world. — Bertrand Hell, ethnologist

Born Happy in Oraibi is an astonishing coming-of-age novel that flirts with the tale and manages to give a glimpse of the psychology of the heroine through the landscapes that she crosses. — Macha Séry, Le Monde, Histoire d’un livre

An exotic and soothing tale. — Libération

A wonder. — Elisabeth Quin, 28 minutes, Arte

Born happy in Oraibi confirms a singular, generous and solar writing. — Sophie Joubert, L’Humanité

The style of Bérengère Cournut is simple and luminous, as are the landscapes she describes. The narrative always remains at the height of a child, which makes it captivating, disorienting at will, soft as a calm river. — Liliane Roudière, Causette

Cosmogony, witchcraft … What a journey! — Christine Sallès, Psychologies magazine

How does Bérengère Cournut manage to write so justly? (…) The time of a book, in the fine space drawn, the reader lets himself be carried away on a journey almost immobile: halfway between the tale and the ethnographic narrative. — Thibault Boixière, Unidivers

Tayatitaawa undertakes a journey to the land of her ancestors which will prove to be a formidable inner odyssey. Following the footsteps of Ulysses or Orpheus, the young orphan descends into the Underworld to face her fears, or perhaps fear, which is inherent in the human nature, that of death. Her own death and that of the cherished beings. A painful but liberating experience. The novel, borne by a poetic and luminous prose, echoes our own resilience. Like so many parables of mourning. To let the loved ones go, her childhood. To grow, to free oneself from its hindrances and to live its life, finally. — Antoine,

An immense joy which is going to stay with me for a long time. This is a fabulous book. — Jérémie, Gibert Joseph bookshop in Paris

Human feelings are explored with such grace in this initiatory novel. The narration, simple and beautiful, manages to create a feeling of familiarity with this distant people: no exoticism, but poetry, a realism full of supernatural. — Alexia Kalantzis, for La Petite revue

28-page photo insert

A story about emancipation whose starting point is the prodigious symbolic riches of the Amerindian Hopi people, which prompt Tayatitaawa to leave behind her clan and her village and to head out in search of a troubled family past.

Née contente à Oraibi recounts the destiny of a young Amerindian woman from Arizona. For centuries, the Hopi people have been living on an arid plateau in extreme poverty. Subject to the constraints of a desert region, they have developed an extraordinary cosmogony and a system of beliefs in which there is communion between life and death, light and dark, and spirits, animals and humans. Through the quest of this young orphan who salutes the Sun with laughter, it is the beauty of this world, so different to our own, which reveals itself and lingers in our mind.

In between a tale and a coming-of-age story, this novel is above all an uplifting and intriguing journey in the cosmogony and the spirituality of the Hopis. The force, and the generous and kind outlook on the world’s beauty in the novel brings the character Stands With A Fist, from Michael Blake’s DANCES WITH WOLVES, to mind.

‘What fascinated me about the universe of the Hopi is the contrast between their material poverty and the aridity of the landscape and the symbolic richness of their rites and the strength and complexity of their family ties.’

In her previous books, Bérengère Cournut has focused on exploring dreamlike lands where water and earth merge (L’Écorcobaliseur, Attila, 2008), where the plain gives birth to sea-lions and foxes (Nanoushkaïa, L’Oie de Cravan, 2009) and where ice is nipped by the heat of the desert (Wendy Ratherfight, L’Oie de Cravan, 2013). This time, she immerses herself in the arid plateaux of Arizona, where the vibrant Hopi people whisper a strange story in her ear.

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