The Island Above

Original title: L’île haute

Author: Valentine Goby

Publication Date:

August 2022

Pages:

288

Original language and publisher

French | Actes Sud

Territories Handled

Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia

Genre

Literary Fiction

The Island Above

Original title: L’île haute

Author: Valentine Goby

Synopsis

Arriving somewhere far from home by train. Meeting a stranger who has come to fetch you on foot, an avalanche having cut off the roads further up. An avalanche? What can this mean for whom snow is something that brings some fun for a day on a Parisian pavement? What does it mean when for the first time at the age of twelve you walk in the footsteps of this man, in this singular white expanse and strange acoustic deadness, towards a new house and home which is completely alien to you? You are there to treat the illness that is holding your lungs in a vice – a condition amplified by anxiety and multiple dangers that the doctor calls asthma.

Sinking in up to your knees, sliding, pulling yourself back up, coming back out into the light at the far end of a tunnel, and advancing towards this village where nothing will be as before and everyone from now on will call you Vincent. A hamlet completely covered by a layer of white, and houses that you enter through the roof, so deep is the snow.

The dwellings are snowed in and you have to dig around them to free the doors and windows to gain entry, or create an exit. This is the incredibly forceful first impression made on the boy who until now had been called Vadim. Such was the unplanned and unimaginable décor that rose up before him, with its peaks and glaciers fleetingly piercing the thick mist. For him, it was an inconceivable and overwhelming initiation, which nothing could have prepared him for and whose emotional impact he doesn’t have the words to express.

L’île haute is a whole landscape that fills the gaze and imbues it with humility. The images and perceptions transport us to these deeply moving parallel spaces that change a person, especially if you are a child. For in this isolated valley high in the mountains, a short distance from Mont Blanc, nature reigns supreme to the rhythm of the seasons, those immutable cycles during which a group of men, women and children leading modest lives but with a humanity enhanced by the necessity of their daily tasks share their world with this dumbfounded city-dweller. For the child it is also an encounter with dazzling, shimmering, shifting colours, running the gamut of all the unfamiliar and arresting shades in between. They are also the nuances that Vincent has always used in his drawing books when reinventing his universe, erecting his fortress and exploring his own sensory aesthetic to distance himself from the real world.

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