17/52 Anna Gavalda: Lohikäärmetatuointi ja muita pintanaarmuja 2018 (Fendre l´armure, 2017) With this collection of stories Anna Gavalda cleans potential dust from reader's lacrimal ducts. Starting from the first story she opens the human mind in it's barest. There are multiple characters that are different from the surface and come from various backgrounds. Woman who works in a pet shop, widow who is hooked on liqueurs, corporate owner who has it all and a truck driver whose dog is dying, just to mention few. What connects these and the other characters of the stories is that they are all alone and lost in life. Gavalda knows how to describe how cruel life can be in small details of abandonment and what are the coping mechanisms people have created to survive. I claim that it is impossible to read these stories without a tear so precise and to the point these are.
Fear of being present seems to haunt many of the main characters. Is it what they have experienced that has taught to them not to fully trust on people? Young woman feels that the animals she takes care of at the pet shop are better and more trustworthy than people. She seems cynical and doesn't dream that her short relationships would become something bigger. She tries to manage one night stands without losing parts of herself but she is not intact. What makes her to be so pessimistic and disappointed of people she has just met even before she even knows how things would end up? Even though she would like to be hard and self-sufficient and that way unbreakable she is not. In the end there is the fact of human presence that is not the same as robot's which can be put to work in a certain mood. One is destined to exist and think, make expectations for other people and dream. And what follows is that our dreams meet someone else's and might collaborate or crash.
In Gavalda's stories people meet in challenging circumstances and turning points of life. They help each other to survive and continue. Moral issues are not given much role. Who would like to be told in a difficult phase of life what errors have lead to that point? not to talk about clear methods of making things right. Everyone knows deep inside what has been done wrong and feels remorse. No help pointing that out. Also simple solutions usually sound great and work on paper. Stop doing what hurts you and your nearest and dearest. Be a better person. Most often those solutions one could find out self and act if it were that easy. Acknowledging the right way to sort things out might be actually one thing that pulls down. There is knowledge but it doesn't lead to a capacity to execute. When a widow attached to her bottles and woman who has ended up to a role of the other woman meet each other and became friends they don't point out where life has gone wrong or study whose fault it is. They just listen to each other for hours and try to find to the core. Widow questions why her friend wants to be in a waiting room her whole life dreaming for something to happen when she could choose to be free and get exactly what she wants. It is the bigger picture of life we need help to see, not the how to manuals. And a listener to hear our own thoughts spelled out loud.
When two men, both in good positions in their career, meet they understand each other behind the positions. Main character who leads a successful family company has been taught to acknowledge his privileges and abandon his inner thoughts that communicate dissatisfaction for life. In a company that shares the same world he is allowed to admit himself that he has not been the person he would like to be and not in a life and role he would feel right for himself. Other people have treated him according to his position, wealth and status and presumed that he has a life everyone would be content living in. Friendship with someone with whom one can forget what is obvious is refreshing and offers new way to evaluate inner thoughts. Everyone can have experience of loneliness and in that situation people who are far away from each other come the same and have very similar feelings about dreams not meeting the reality, notification that there is no control over one's own life and that life is happening somewhere behind the closed doors of the waiting room. Not the best of resources given will prevent loneliness because it is inside one's own head. Not money, position, health, talent, being smart, young etc. can explain loneliness away. To move in life big decisions are made alone and in best cases someone supports by listening.
The main characters in Anna Gavalda's novels are alive and because of that they are incomplete. They don't become better individuals who manage life with ease. I wonder if it is even be possible to become complete and fully enlightened as long as one is alive and in contact with life. As in the novel where a man is losing his dog and gets to finally work his pain about injustice of life and his own ways of acting in given circumstances. This is not a fair game. It is not that sad though. The man whom life has made numb and pessimistic finds new openings that are not grand but something that take him forward. Grand turns are what we quite often dream about and wait for. That things would at once become totally different from what was before. In these stories the main characters are having cosmetic changes in their life and their own thinking. So small changes that it is not even possible for an outsider to see them but direction has been chosen and it might accumulate.