Raluca Antonescu

French, La Baconnière, Chêne-Bourg, 2021

“Her whole body trembled as she lay there on the wet grass. She would be punished for having dared to ask a favour of the pit. The thought of this punishment was like a fist closing around her heart, and she knew she would not survive it. She scrambled to her knees and crossed herself again and again.”

“Until the end of the ceremony I hold the flower in my hand, unable to give it any other role than that of clinging to the thin fabric of my glove.”

In biology, inflorescence refers to the arrangement of flowers on a stem, a quality often specific to a family of plants. In her latest novel, Raluca Antonescu turns inflorescence into a human characteristic; that single small element indissociable from a whole, as are the intertwined destinies of the four women whose stories she tells.

In the 1920s, young Aloïse lives by hunting in the forests of the Jura, sheltering furtively in the recesses of a barn. In 1967, Amalia moves onto a brand-new housing estate in Seine-et-Marne, which corresponds perfectly with her vision of happiness. At the dawn of the 21st century, Catherine is planting trees and fighting to stop deforestation in Patagonia. At the same time, Vivian is burying her mother and languishing at a company in Geneva where her job consists of doing nothing.

At first, these four lives seem to have nothing in common; all the more so because each one unfolds in chapters devoted exclusively to it. But gradually, tiny details emerge that create links between them—tenuous at first, but then more and more solid: the same expression, a scar, a flower. Reminiscences come thick and fast, rapidly forming an underground network of interconnected roots. While the plants to which the protagonists are frequently compared may seem isolated on the surface, they are nothing of the sort. They all belong to the same bloodline, whose history Antonescu traces back over four generations.

Continuing with the metaphor of the garden, Inflorescence breathes vital originality into the genre of the family saga. Antonescu leaves aside the traditional family tree to explore in greater detail the thousands of interactions, similarities, and miniscule contrasts that bind the members of a single family. Through the generations, this family evolves like a garden—never wholly the same, and never wholly different.  It is a representation of kinship that offers a perspective as new as it is pertinent to what resists the passage of time.

The omnipresent motif of the garden does not merely provide the narrative with its loveliest metaphor; it constantly infiltrates the vocabulary that composes it. The plethora of flower species mentioned, taken from an immense work of documentation referenced at the end of the book, makes Inflorescence reminiscent of an herbarium in which all the dried flowers have been replaced with words and memories, crystallizing the record of a family over nearly a century: a notebook in which to preserve that which endlessly threatens to sink into the chasm of oblivion, before rising to break the surface of the text once more.

Text by Valentin Kolly

La Baconnière, Chêne-Bourg
Translation rights
Milena Asencio, milena@booksagent.frh
Publication date
January 2021


Raluca Antonescu

Born in Bucharest in 1976, Raluca Antonescu came to Switzerland at the age of four. She spent part of her childhood in a Swiss-German village before settling in Geneva. After training at the Arts Décoratifs and Beaux-Arts, she worked in video and made documentaries. She is currently a visual arts teacher in Geneva.

Photo: ©Atelier Mood Eyes