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Marie Redonnet: Rose Mélie Rose (Rose Mélie Rose)

Another novel from Redonnet about getting out of the womb, entropy and naming. Mélie is a foundling, found as a baby by Rose, the old souvenir seller, up by the waterfall, far away from any civilisation. On Mélie’s twelfth birthday, Rose dies and Mélie menstruates for the first time. She leaves the waterfall and heads down to the city of Oat. Mademoiselle Marthe, who works in the mayor’s office and later becomes mayor herself, helps her, while she lodges with Nem in what might have been Rose’s house. But Oat, as she discovers, is an island and is gradually losing status and population. Mélie has a series of adventures, meeting the old photographer who wants to start a museum, learning, possibly, about Rose’s past and meeting, marrying and losing Yem. She has a baby by Yem, which she delivers herself and returns to the waterfall with the baby.

The decay of the town, of course, is like the decay of the church and town in Forever Valley or the town in Splendid Hôtel. Oat seems like the big metropolis when she arrives but gradually the streets and houses decay, people drift away, the dance club fades away and no-one comes. A few vain attempts – Mademoiselle Marthe’s attempts as mayor, Yem and Mélie’s failed attempt at building a house, the photographer’s planned museum – all fizzle away.

And there are the names. As a good Editions de Minuit (home of the Nouveau Roman) author, naming things is important for Redonnet. Mélie herself is given a name by Rose which she herself wonders about and which, she finds, she shares with one or two people in Oat, causing a certain amount of confusion. But she has no last name and is given a number when she gets an identity card, a fact she comments on more than once. Rose herself has a fairly common name and there are also other Roses in Oat. Indeed, it is not entirely certain if Mélie’s Rose is the same Rose she and others think she is in Oat. Mélie, of course, names her baby Rose. Most other names are one syllable names and, except for Marthe, definitely not French names – Nem, Yem, Pim, Cob. Even the names of the streets is problematic, changing and causing distress for some of the inhabitants. But all is legend for the key name is the Fairy Kingdom, Mélie’s favorite book, Yem’s boat and the big white yacht she sees right at the end. Will she find the fairy kingdom? Will we?

Publishing history

First published in French 1987 by Les Éditions de Minuit
First published in English 1994 by University of Nebraska Press