Novelist Claire Etcherelli is dead
The novelist Claire Etcherelli, revealed with Elise or the True Life, is dead, we learned Thursday from his last publisher, Le Bord de l’eau. She was 89 years old. “She will have given us her last novel Take Great Care To Forget Me (2021)we will make sure not to follow his advice”testified the publisher, who pays tribute to him on his website.
Elise or the True Life (Dénoel editions), an autobiographical novel, received the 1967 Femina Prize and was adapted for the cinema in 1970, with Marie-José Nat. The Femina jury was very divided that year, never finding an absolute majority, and waiting for the tenth round, where a simple majority was enough.
Claire Etcherelli has always explored the vast territory of the poor. In Elise or the True Life, she drew her romantic material from her experience in the factory chain, not as a volunteer like Simone Weil, but to earn a living. She had done it at a time when the tension was the harshest between the French people and the Algerian workers. Elise or the True Life bears witness to this. “No doubt I would not have tried to meet Algerians, but the fact of working with them, of rubbing shoulders with them allowed me to get to know them at a time when very few had this experience. It is this experience that I wanted to translate…”, will she explain to Worldin 1967.
“Everything in my book about racism and the problems of Algerians is real, and I just had to choose between all the facts I knew. As early as 1947, chance had made me aware of the Algerian fact. I believed then that racism was the prerogative of certain classes, that it did not exist in the factory. I had illusions. The workers are also racist, most often out of a spirit of competition or because the existence of pariahs allows them to assert themselves, and the workers are even more so, because for them the Arab is an aggressor of women. At the time of the novel, the war in Algeria made “Noraf” the enemy. The French, men or women, were afraid, the Algerians even more so.
I felt sorry for this hunted game, these people caught between the brutal surveillance of the French police and the obligations imposed on them by the leaders of the FLN (Algerian National Liberation Front): no longer the right to smoke, drink wine, pour ‘tax.
A vacuum was created around me because I was interested in “raccoons”. »
A certain distance from the literary world
The book recounted the clandestine love in Paris between two workers, a French woman of very modest origin and an Algerian immigrant militant for independence. It exposed the taboo of racism in French society in the 1950s and 1960s, in particular the bullying suffered by immigrants from the Maghreb. Elise or the True Life, a realistic novel, was also praised for having accurately portrayed the condition of young women in factories. Simone de Beauvoir, who had appreciated it, had Claire Etcherelli hired in 1973 as editorial secretary in the journal Modern times.
The author published five other novels between 1971 and 2021, including the first two with Editions Gallimard, which did not enjoy the same success. Originally from Bordeaux, orphaned after the death in deportation of her resistant father, she had abandoned her studies and had become a single mother at a very young age.
Despite the praise for her first novel, Claire Etcherelli always kept a certain distance from the literary world, claiming to be ” office worker “.
His funeral takes place Thursday in Paris.