all pictures by Anne De Gelas
L'Amoureuse by Anne De Gelas and published by Le Caillou Bleu is a book about loss. It's moving and heartfelt but also has a determination and hardness about it; the determination to confront unexpected and tragic loss, to be angry about it, to hate it, to accept it, to build it into one's life story and be able to move on to a place where the pain and anger is tinged with affection and love.
This is the basic story (rough translation from text above):
There is a never a right way to tell a child about the death of his father.
T., my lover and father of my son, died on April 5, 2010 of a brain stroke. He fell beside us on a beach at the North Sea. The violence of his death put me in front of a big void…a silence that echoed in my head only equal to the brightness of the blue sky which no planes crossed because of the ashes of a volcano in anger, my anger.
To face that loss, I plunged myself into the work that I had started more than 10 years ago consisting in writing a personal diary, now focussing on telling about my suffering but also about that surplus energy that burst within me.
Most of it was in French which I'm not terribly good at reading French, but the message still comes across. It's a story about family, childhood and being a woman who is suddenly plunged into a morass of solitude. How does that feel for you, for your family, for your future. What are the little things that will be missed, the little things that make a father and lover irreplaceable in a family's life.
It is also about physical and emotional love, and what it means to have that ripped away from you. What it means as a woman. There's a confrontation with both the immediacy of that loneliness, but also the wider void that threatens.
L'Amoureuse doesn't have a happy ending, because there's no happy ending to be had, but there is a resolution in the sense that life shifts, love changes and new beings are born out of tragedy. It's body focussed and seems almost therapeutic in feel - so has a touch of Jo Spence about it, but mixed with the nostalgia and joyfulness of Bertien van Manen's lovely Easter and Oak Trees; a book that reveals new layers with each viewing.
On the cover is a extended poem of De Gelas's last day at the beach with her son Max and her partner T. This brought tears to my eyes. It made me cry. I cry for films and songs and fiction, but photobooks?
The poem's called An (almost) perfect day - 4th April 2010.
This is how the poem ends...
I take your face between my hands,
I still feel your lips on mine
That sweet, mutual movemnet of union
you say 'I'm cold'
I answer 'go straight home and get a coat'
I turn round to pick up my spade
out of the corner of my eye I see
your dark shape falling
I turn you over in the soft sand
they said 'diagnosis of the vital signs is very bad'
I spent the night telling you I loved you
looking at you and smiling
still happy to be at your side
impossible to comprehend death