Mathieu Rolland: Writing as a way of life
The author Mathieu Rolland signs with Souvenir de Night a first novel with a refined writing, but full of images.
Share October 31, 2020 3:00 a.m. Updated at 8:00 a.m. Share Mathieu Rolland: Writing as a way of life
Karine Tremblay La Tribune As a child, Mathieu Rolland spent almost all his winters on the slopes, in the corner of Orford. “I come from a family that loves skiing”, explains the author who, today, rather slalom between ideas and words. His first novel does not borrow much from the landscapes of Estrie. Most of the story of Souvenir de Night, a literary UFO recently launched, takes place in Asia.
“I visited Japan five or six years ago, after graduating from university. I have a great affection for Japanese culture, which I had immersed myself in through various readings. We always say that the world is upside down, at least compared to ours. There is a simplicity there that appeals to me a lot and that can be found in all aspects of everyday life. It struck me, in Tokyo: even if the city is very dense, we do not feel attacked. We look at the skyscrapers, there are hundreds, thousands of people in these giant structures! But we walk around without feeling oppressed as in other metropolises. The culture of respect generates a real feeling of freedom. “
It is therefore natural that the settings of a large Asian city imposed themselves in his mind when he was weaving the framework of his novel.
In a refined language, but steeped in images, planted between the past and the present, he tells of an encounter. A lonely evening. The narrator of the novel stays in the city of the Far East on business, as often, when she sees it. Night is seated at his hotel bar. She finds him handsome, intriguing, attractive. They go up to his room together. It is only after torrid reconciliations that he asks her for money. She sees the prostitute several times. Between them a complex, carnal relationship is formed, made up of troubled moments, unspoken moments, moments where time always flies too quickly, repeated frustrations. In all this, the feelings are never really recognized, but the connections of the bodies are told in detail and precision.
“It was imposed because this character, his relationship to the world goes through the body. There are descriptions of things that she sees, that she hears, that she experiences, but she does not name her feelings. The word love is never expressed. She never names her mother either. This ease that she finds in the language of the body, in her sexuality, it should be named, because it highlights the discomfort and the awkwardness of the character in other spheres of her life. “
The sharp writing, although very sensual and evocative, also leaves room for ellipses and passages that must be imagined.
“Probably because I have a very impressionistic approach to writing. I like being in the evocation of things, undoubtedly because I do photography and I also dabbled in cinema and short films, when I was younger. For me, there are parallels between photography and writing. We let the light in at a specific place, we frame, we decide to show a portion of the image. “
The 31-year-old author now based in Montreal accumulated marks for five years before embarking on writing the novel, the first he has published but the third he has completed.
“When I had the flash of the first sentence of everything, the one that opens the book, things happened,” he says. I didn't have a story, it was built over time. The entire portion with the character's mother, which marks flashbacks, has been grafted along the way. “
Projecting yourself into such a female character could have been quite a puzzle, given the nature of the story.
“The project took different forms, but every once in a while the narrator was always a woman. I never questioned that, because while writing, the voice I heard was feminine. There is no political stake, but I knew it was delicate because I was telling the story of a visibly very reserved woman who expresses herself through her sexuality. I wouldn't say there was a risk, but there were certainly pitfalls. “
Holder of a master's degree in translation studies, Mathieu Rolland dreamed of this first novel for a long time. Secretly.
“I've been writing every day for years and have always wanted to be published. It's very ingrained in my daily life, but apart from my girlfriend and a few close friends, no one knew. Even my family didn't know I was writing until they knew my manuscript was accepted. But oddly enough, all the choices I made in my career were thought out in terms of writing. I had this great desire to move forward in this and it was not a given because I was not particularly good in French. Without being a dunce, I was not someone for whom it was easy to string together sentences. I signed up for translation a bit for that, by the way. It was a way of studying the French language in order to write it better afterwards. “
It was well seen. Some today draw parallels between his pen and that of Marguerite Duras. Not the least of the writers, after all.
“It's a compliment, a nice comparison. I can understand that, but at the same time, I don't consider myself to be Durassian. For me, the influence of this great literary is not so much in what she wrote as in the way she did it. There is inspiring freedom in his books. “