Russia: attraction and rejection

Fed by Russian writers, and especially by Grossman, discovered “ during the first incarceration », Jean Winiger pays an enthusiastic tribute to the literature of the largest country in the world, not without responding to the strong criticism of the current regime, and exploring the turmoil that took place in the former USSR. In doing so, the book cannot avoid some mistakes.

A theatrical story… and a romance

Savoyard director, grandson of the resistance fighter, Pierre Westman literally, western man, lives on a quiet farm near Entremont. Her relationship is weakening, though, and the man seems tired. Fascinated by the work of Vassili Grossman (1905-1964), an atheist Jewish journalist censored by the KGB, Westman left his comfortable place to go to Russia.

Immediately, aided by actress Assia, a descendant of a famous Soviet general, Westman tried to represent A blind and dumb lovepiece adapted from monumental life and destiny, the story of atomic physicist Victor Pavlovich Strum during the terrible siege of Stalingrad. The operation was a failure: Westman attacked against local authorities and was only able to make three performances.

The Alliance française never supported him, for fear of a diplomatic conflict. An idyll tied to Assia, against the “Old Blond” (Vladimir Putin), married to a Markov, apparathik cynical, that he no longer loved. Naturally jealous and hurt, Markov imprisons Pierre in unfavorable conditions, but Assia manages to free him. Sadly the novel is over. Don’t want to ruin the suspension, we won’t say anymore…

“I love this country”

Following in Grossman’s footsteps, Westman quickly introduced the writer, himself composed by Strum, to his double literature. The Frenchman, Christian and non-Bolshevik, very different from the author, Westman (whose surname is also onomastic reminiscent of that of Grossmann), nevertheless makes comparisons, especially that the writer’s mother, killed by the Nazis, died out of time, like hers.

Enthusiastic praise is given to the man in the letters: I suspect Assia will find theater in Moscow, that isA blind and dumb love still represented. But the energy will remain For a good reason, on life and destiny, on Whatever goes, in these 55 stories or news, the work of a life of only 59 years, a work rich in different, varied, amazing lights, lights that burn yesterday and for tomorrow. Amazed at Grossman, Pierre Westman ignored the danger, entirely out of his love. Assia seems to share this higher interest, both than “ united by the irresistible appeal of Grossman’s work “.

Therefore, the entire book can be read as a tribute, or rather as tributes, in the plural. Because Grossman is not the only author mentioned. Filled with Slavic culture, Westman lived a kind of initiative, literary journey, ” in the footsteps of Bulgakov by Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Pasternak or others. Every scene of daily life thus serves as a memory to read: observing locals filling themselves in a classy restaurant, Pierre thinks. petty bourgeois then to low ground by Maxime Gorky, before the release of ” place » Chekhov.

A diffuse melancholy bathed in general, carried on by a lyrical writing, sometimes a little insipid with great enthusiasm, etc. when Pierre traveled the land of Count Nikolai Cheremetiev (1652-1719), in the north-eastern districts of the capital, mentions caressing the pastel sky of constructions of the past “. A certain sweetness, a poem, can be seen, like a balm, amidst a harsh, post-Soviet environment. However, there is something that seems overly expressed, as it were. a question to make us visit Russia and its tourist attractions, at the turn of the pen.


The aim of the book is not only literary, but also historical, and even political. Assisted by Assia, daughter of a Bolshevik, and a Bolshevik himself in a way, Pierre, the man from the West, felt out of step in this post-communist country, against some part, led by an autocratic leader described as having unfriendly attitudes. . The Russian himself, attached to his country, descended from a hero, married to a bureaucrat, Assia finds it difficult to understand this somewhat useless Frenchman.

Their transitory association seems, in fact, hampered by cultural considerations. The whole past of the country thus resurfaces at the top of the pages, not in chronological order, but according to wanderings: tsarist Russia with a tour of Ostankino, Soviet era, is described as permanent, and finally current Russia, Putin, authoritarian, with his prisons and its brutal, murderous police, as revealed at the end of the novel. And it’s there, no doubt, that the shoe clicks: by mixing fiction and actuality, Jean Winiger often seems to become a trap, to scatter. Should we talk about writing? Navalny, opponent of “Vieux-Blond”, was quoted several times.

We also talk about the Uyghurs, persecuted by the Chinese state, or even pollution, the war in Ukraine, is already all over the media … Very ambitious, Jean Winiger is sometimes too didactic, and seems lost, to the reader disappears… Is this a romance novel, a Russian essay? The relationship between Pierre Westman and Assia seems to above all serve to convey a message. It’s about condemning the Kremlin master and protecting the West. Since then, the pure literature dimension has disappeared.

A sincere story

Despite its flaws, A blind and dumb love remains attractive because of its sincerity. Describing a violent country, wounded by events, land of creators, artists, Jean Winiger knows how to be a poet, and yet everyone brings life to a civilization close and away. We were also given a chance to discover, or rediscover, Vassili Grossman.

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