“His smell after the rain”, by Cédric Sapin-Defour: much more than a dog

A young Bernese Mountain Dog, with a cat.

“His smell after the rain”, by Cédric Sapin-Defour, preface by Jean-Claude Dubois, Stock, 288 p., €20.90, digital €15.

The day the narrator of Its smell after the rain, the first novel by Cédric Sapin-Defour, adopts a Bernese mountain dog, her life changes – she goes down several floors, reconfiguring her field of vision. This dog “in the name of the slope”Ubac, becomes the “family beta blocker”, pushes back the contours, opens the horizon, transforms the days into a walk. Teacher and traveler, the writer, who spends part of the year traveling, has written extensively on mountains and mountaineering. Chronicler of the heights, here he inverts the direction of his gaze to place it on low ground, in a vibrant, extremely chiseled language. A clic syntax of a moralist with a boiling heart, which clashes magnificently with the sentence and its structure, restoring this thundering emotion: a life which bursts into ours and becomes indispensable to it.

Son then brother, soon father

Very quickly, the animal multiplies natures and functions. He becomes, for those who refuse to be his master, an adored long-term companion. It’s a “antifreeze” – no one resists him, he resolves all tensions; A “pruner” – in contact with him, everything is purified, the narrator sorts out his ociations and refines his philosophy of life; a “level” – the narrator knows, by reading his dog’s eyes, if he is “in equilibrium or if it leans”. Ubac is also a “metronome” – since dogs age seven times faster than humans, the hero celebrates the birthday of his own “twelve times too often”. Growing up, Ubac, taken in as soon as he was born, quickly becomes older than the person who adopted him. From chosen son, he becomes a brother, soon a father.

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The very great beauty of this new kind of romance novel is to turn such a universal, almost tenuous and yet crucial subject – the sacred bond between a man and an animal – into such a penetrating meditation, supersensible metaphysical elevation . Ubac and his companion form “an eight-legged thing”a “dyad”existential chiasmus based on a reciprocal balance: “When I walk, we walk. When he stops, I stop. » Soon, the family – or the pack – grows, welcoming Mathilde, the narrator’s new love, into its midst, multiplying the combinations: “Ubac and me, Mathilde and Ubac, Ubac, Mathilde and me. »

By the grace of his wall-ping voice, Cédric Sapin-Defour transforms the definition and the mathematics of the kingdoms: love, friendship, parenthood, filiation, beings, animals – all dialogue and metamorphoses, transgressing the notions of verticality and horizontality, ownership and authority. A novel in fusion, which is making its revolution, written not at human height but in augmented reality, linking the human to the animal and to all of nature – “he is she”.

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