Celia Levi: culture broth

Some novels start quietly. Text without special effects. Beginning of a hackneyed intrigue: a young Breton woman “goes up” to Paris. The capital object of desire for the provincials has a XIX flavore century. It is the pledge of a heroic saga, spurred on by social relations and disheveled loves, which ends at the top of society or in the most degrading mire. It is often the story of a denial, the learning of existence with its blows and deceptions. The character XXIe century of the Tannery has a white goose side. After studying in Rennes, Jeanne found an internship in a bookstore and then even a precarious position in a cultural institution, the famous Tannerie of the title. It is a job of “welcoming”, in other words of vase to inform visitors in the meanders of the place. She doesn’t see it like that of course, it’s a chance to have a foot somewhere. Especially since his experience starts with a fiesta watered after an inauguration with oils. Parisian life seems to stretch out its arms to him with promises of intense friendships, even if there are sometimes white people. “She wanted to be part of that youth who was having fun on the terraces of cafes, or in apartments from which music and loud voices escaped. She wondered if she had made the right decision, cherished the idea of ​​returning to Brittany. ”

This naive and sincere heroine actually serves Celia Levi as a tool to approach and distance herself from her subject: the operation of the Tannery, a former industrial wasteland of 60,000 m2 at the edge of the canal in Pantin, rehabilitated as a cultural factory. An enormous architectural block in which you get lost between the GA (large hall), the east hall, the west hall, the vats … It is also a company of more than a hundred employees, with various trades, technicians , artists, administrators, reception staff… Any resemblance to an existing one would be fortuitous: the Tannerie can make one think of many places. The director, on the left, gives fine speeches on opening days, quoting Nietzsche (but has the accents of a boss when discontent rumbles). The works can be machines with deafening sounds… which frighten children and drive the staff mad who get their earplugs molded a week before the end of the show. In this so-called progressive cauldron, human relations are poisoned by rivalries, pettiness, personal interests. An expansion in sight, with the prospect of new positions? The precarious have stars in their eyes. “They were all downgraded, paid with a slingshot, holding jobs that did not correspond to their level of education or their skills.” When protests start against the labor law, many of them take part. “The Tannery had a hundred intermittents, the director felt obliged to put up a banner in support of the intermittents, he was united.” The installation of a migrant camp on the outskirts is the occasion for passionate debates on unbridled liberalism, and then on the police when the CRS disembark on the area to avoid an occupation. A small band descends every evening on Place de la République to join thousands of people at Nuit Debout. A ritual of circumstance, without real incarnation. “They were exchanging news of the movement. They left happy with this great consensus, not to have to justify their presence, it went without saying. ”

As for Jeanne, she thinks of going up in rank and in price when she is entrusted with the training of young people from the neighborhood as part of an integration plan with the collaboration of a local mission. They are the ones who will feel the CDI, not she who did everything to integrate, even flee the unloved, the black sheep, the fallen like the beautiful Nadia who collapsed. She has made friends and has a crush on Julien, a “welcoming chef”, a handsome blond with a melodious voice, an intellectual bodybuilder who gives him the flâneur of the 19th century.e century to wander in Paris at night until dawn and advises him to read Sebald. For him, she immerses herself in Rohmer. “She captured, thanks to the films, the subtleties of Parisian marivaudage. This way of analyzing everything with wit, of contradicting yourself from one sentence to another. ” Striking portrait of an era, on the emptiness of commitments, the hypocrisy of relationships, the false good conscience of the cultural environment, the Tannery leads a quiet train without forcing the line under the gaze of Jeanne, herself undecided and swayed, insane who ignored herself.


Frederique Roussel

Celia Levi The Tannery Tristram, 376 pp., 21,90 €.

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