Philippe Jaenada ‘Manaccora Beach 16h30’

Three woman about fifty years old, friends on holiday (“like it used to be”), passed in front of me and headed into the bushes on the path marked by the Virgin (icy, silent). 7EC49A5E-0453-48DB-B942-FDD46E1901DBIt made no sense rushing into the forest, they’d never make it out alive, but was it better to stay here and no longer be able to breathe? How many people out of ten, trapped in a room on fire on the fifth floor, jump through the window?***

Earlier this year I had tried to read ‘La Serpe’ by Jaenada, 500 pages where I had first come across his writing style, in telling his story he regularly goes of at a tangent talking about different events in his life outside of the scope of the story at hand and after 120 pages the actual subject of the book had not really been broached and, unusually, I just gave up on the book. After talking with my librarian, I went back to this earlier book, with as many digressions but only 250 pages long for which the style seems to work.

The story which really happened to Jaenada in Italy on holiday is of a forest fire that traps hundreds of people on Manacora beach. Jaenada and his family  fled on foot from their rental apartment ahead of the fire to this beach from which there was no way out from more than 30 kilometers of forest along the beach that was being burnt to a cinder, there was one footpath leading into the burning forest ahead of the fire which some people took, nothing was heard from them again as illustrated in the opening quote.

Jaenada’s digressions about his life work well here as we follow him in this life changing event, after escaping when they were sure they would die, life’s worries are put into perspective.

I am not a fan of this particular style of author-centric writing.

First Published in French as “Plage de Manaccora, 16h30″ in 2009 by Grasses& Fasquelle.
*** my translation

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