Anne Vallaeys, of Belgian origin, was born in 1951 in Yangambi, on the banks of the Congo River. She spent the first ten years of her life between the savannas and primal forests. After graduating in history at the Sorbonne, she co-founded the daily newspaper: Libération in 1973. She was permanent correspondent in Marseille. She left the paper in 1981 and signed a contract with an editor, Jean-Claude Lattès. She and her companion Alain Dugrand are the authors of a fictional trilogy: Les Barcelonnettes which took her to Mexico. Other novels soon followed such as, ‘Coup de Bambou’, Agua Verde and La Mémoire du Papillon. There is a great cohesiveness to her writings. Anne Vallaeys deals with love confronted with the natural elements, strange settings, loneliness and human solidarity.
Other than fiction, she has also published two short stories focusing on her concerns Sale Temps Pour Les Saisons which deals with the intolerance of urban society towards the weather. Fontainebleau, la Forêt des Passions recounts the story of the largest forests of Western Europe planted by men under the first monarchs. In 2002, she published a chronic, Les Filles (Fayard edition) which deals with girls in their last year of high school in the suburbs of Paris. It explains how the Baccalaureat, or secondary school diploma constitutes the first step towards adulthood by, unfortunately, breaking up childhood friendships. In the fall of 2004, Anne Vallaeys published Médecins sans frontières, la biographie (Doctors without borders, the biography) (Fayard edition). In this huge 764-page tale the author recounts the story of the most notorious of the NGO’s, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.
On 2008, Anne Vallaeys is publishing Dieulefit ou Le miracle du silence, an investigation into the history of a town where resistance is a virtue and a part of honour that no one would dare depart from. She collected the testimonies of those who were children then and met with the men and women who have remained just as determined as they were then. And she has delved into the archives of that period. In her book, she paints a vivid picture of this extraordinary collective untold adventure. It was not so much a matter of heroism at the time, but rather simply a question of a way of living one’s life.
Bibliography (In French)
- Le miracle du silence (Fayard, 2008)
- Independance Tcha-Tcha (Fayard, 2007)
- Agua Verde (Fayard, 2004)
- Les Barcelonnettes (tome 3) : La Soldadera (Fayard, 2003 - avec Alain Dugrand)
- Les Barcelonnettes (tome 2) : Terres Chaudes (Fayard, 2003 - avec Alain Dugrand)
- Les Barcelonnettes (tome 1) : Les Jardins de l’Alaméda (Fayard, 2003 - avec Alain Dugrand)
- Rue de la République (Grasset, 1999)
- La mémoire du papillon (Flammarion, 1998)
- Coup de bambou (Payot, 1991)
- Médecins sans frontières : La biographie (Fayard, 2004 - Prix Joseph Kessel 2005)
- Fontainebleau, la forêt des passions (Stock, 2000)
- Sale temps pour les saisons (Hoëbeke, 1999)
- Les Filles : Chronique d’une année de première (Fayard, 2002 - récit)
- La bonne chère (Flammarion, 1998)
Synopsis of Dieulefit ou Le miracle du silence
Two thousand five hundred people lived in Dieulefit, an ordinary village in the Provençal part of the Drôme department in France when WW2 broke out. The directors of the Beauvallon school immediately took in all the Jewish children soon followed by their parents. A young – about twenty – town hall clerk started forging papers. Then other refugees started arriving, from all walks of life, ordinary people, but also artists, painters, poets and philosophers. And the residents opened their doors. The children simply sat closer together on the school benches and the town secretary became an exopert forger. The village took in as many people as there were residents. Not one of the refugees was ever arrested and nobody was denounced. During the four darkest years of our history, this small village became “The intellectual capital of France”, according to Pierre Vidal-Naquet, himself a child refugee. Dieulefit was able to contravene orders, disobey iniquitous orders, so that explains Dieulefit, or the miracle of silence!
Synopsis of Independance Tcha-Tcha
This is the story of going home - one day I will go back – and it provides an opportunity to confront the Congo of yesterday to the Congo of today. Obviously, the country has gone through many changes, but here, it is the narrator who feels nostalgically unable to relive her past experiences. It is however because of that distance that she will be able to renew her ties with the country, having broken with the colonial past that weighs heavily on people’s minds.
Before becoming French, I was born on the banks of the Yangambi, on a river bend. One of my ancestors was an officer of the king when the Congo, the personal property of the Saxe-Coburg family was transferred to the Belgian monarchy. My father was a man of the bush, the head of an agronomical station. My family had to flee the country during the uprisings of 1960. But the Congo remains deeply ingrained in our history. For years, I did not let myself think of the country. The colonial violence, the images of wars and massacres and the bloody tales of the Mobutu regime erected a barrier between my memories and myself.
But one day in 2005, Médecins Sans Frontières gave me the opportunity of going to North-Kivu to report on the opening of an emergency medical centre in this region devastated by ten years of conflicts. Could that be the opportunity I needed to overcome my apprehensions? I got to know the people of Kinshasa, this megalopolis of eight million inhabitants, full of energy after so many years of dictatorship, looting and fighting. I travelled over two thousand kilometres on the red laterite dirt tracks; I sweated in the tropical heat and humidity and made my way through dense, lush and green vegetation. I was looking for smells and feelings I could not easily relive. The landscape had not changed, but I suppose my childhood was forever gone. I’m not sorry I went on that trip. By getting re-acquainted with the country of my birth, I distanced myself from vain debates over guilt and responsibility. And I kept thinking of a statement by Léoplod Senghor who said that when people meet, they fight, but they no longer annihilate one another but rather intermix and that left me feeling quite elated