Code name: “the monster”. This is how Olivier Nora, CEO of Editions Grasset, nicknamed the enormous manuscript of Paulina Dalmayer, she says with a laugh. We can hardly believe it after having read The Heroics, and to have admired the meaning of the ellipse with which the sixty-eight years of the life of his heroine, Wanda are traced. By beginning to evoke the trajectory of his text, of which The Heroics is actually the first part – the second will have Wanda’s daughter and granddaughter as protagonists – Paulina Dalmayer confides almost gravely: “I have a big problem, I am very talkative, and it’s exactly the same in the writing. “ Of this volubility, the telephone conversation gives us a little glimpse, which we will all the less complain about as his words are tinged with an accent that makes the “s” irresistible. Polish, the accent, since Paulina Dalmayer, who writes in French and has lived in France since 1997 (she lives in Versailles), was born in Warsaw in 1974.
Intimacy with death
Poland (or rather “A certain idea of ’polonity'”) is at the heart of Heroics, novel she tackled in 2015 with the idea of “Pay tribute to women like [sa] mother “ : “They gave me the conviction that one can live and keep a certain nobility of soul, and a form of freedom, in any political regime. From this mother, Wanda has the voice: “In the family, we were only allowed to talk about our misfortunes with detachment. I hope that something of this very Polish distance and self-mockery has stayed with Wanda. Even though my mother spoke in Polish, and I heard my character in French. “
Freed, strength of soul and irony intact, Wanda is when we discover her, while a cancer devours her and leaves her only a few months to live. When Paulina Dalmayer began her novel, she was coming out of a long investigation into euthanasia for I will hold your hand (Full Day, 2015). “Without this book, I would probably have placed Wanda in another context”, says the one who, moreover, notes that intimacy with death was already at the heart of her first novel, Love war (Fayard, 2013), where she transposed her experience as a reporter in Afghanistan and Libya into fiction.