Survivor is a diary of the end of the world, as experienced from the inside. Between a house too big for her and the natural surroundings of the banks of the Doubs, the diarist gathers, lists and organises the fragments of a world that has passed in order to build a new one, day by day. Post-apocalyptic more in the challenge it throws out to its readers than in its form, Survivor intelligently questions our relationship to solitude, separation and change.
Published in December 2019 by Les éditions d’autre part, Survivor is Julie Guinand’s third published text. Coronavirus was only a distant threat at the time and a pandemic a scenario that everyone preferred to keep at a distance. And yet this world that comes afterwards that haunts all our current conversations bears an uncanny resemblance to the one that the narrator tries as best she can to inhabit, day after day: “There is a before and an after. That’s what I’m starting to understand,” she writes in her diary for Day 21.
And for good reason: three weeks earlier, her world took a dramatic turn. “The light suddenly goes out.” It is with this simple but definitive phrase that Julie Guinand’s diary-novel opens. Before this, an irrevocable disaster has occurred, about which we learn nothing. From the first lines, Survivor is an account of its consequences. The mystery surrounding the triggering factor and the constant uncertainty that goes with it give the text the feeling of a fantasy story. Is this the irreversible end of the world as mankind has built it? Or is it rather the end of a world, of a failed love affair constantly recalled by the presence of a you, whose multiple occurrences merely emphasise its absence? “But if you were here, would the end of the world have happened?”
Through the hundred or so entries contained in the diary, this primary uncertainty is accompanied by reflections which move back and forth. Between before and after. Between the individual and society. Between fiction and a prosaic, lonely reality. Between the order of routine and the disorder of change, which the narrator tries as best she can to contain by compiling endless lists, desperate attempts to restore order even though order has ceased to be meaningful.
All these reflections lead to a crucial possibility, which takes shape as the cornerstone of Julie Guinand’s novel: “Could it be […] that the end of this world is also the beginning of a new one?” It is with this in mind that the implicit challenge of Survivor emerges: a challenge to change our habits, to rethink our way of life and get closer to nature. And to do so, there is no need for a generalised apocalypse or a global disaster; a break, a new start, a shift in the order of things may be enough.
Text by Valentin Kolly
- Editions d’autre part, Geneva
- Translation rights
- Jasmine Liardet, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Publication date
- December 2019
Julie Guinand was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, in 1989. Her collection of short stories, Dérives asiatiques (Asian Drift), appeared in 2016 and Reportages climatiques (Climate Reports), a collective work to which she contributed, in 2015 (both at Éditions d’autre part). Her short novel Hors-la-loi (Outlaw) was published by Paulette Éditrice in 2018. A member of the AJAR collective, Julie Guinand has received several awards for young authors.
Photo: Juliette Félix