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Marie Redonnet: La femme au Colt 45 [The Woman with the Colt 45]
Marie Redonnet seemed to have stopped publication, after a series of quirky but interesting novels in the 1980s and 1990s. However, she has now re-emerged with a new novel, and a different publisher. The theme, while not completely different from her earlier work, is somewhat darker.
We first meet Lora Sander, a woman around fifty in a forest, apparently on the run. We learn that she had been the leading actress at the Magic Theatre in Aziria. Her husband, Zuka, ran the theatre and, though not directly involved in politics, had put on plays critical of the government. They had a son, Giorgio, but he had left to join the armed resistance to the dictator. Zuka had been arrested and taken away in the middle of the night because of his plays so Lora had decided to flee to neighbouring Santaria, accompanied, as the title tells, us by her trusty Colt 45, which she had inherited from her father. She arrives at the edge of the forest, a hill overlooking the river where she will have to cross. She scrambles down the hill and gets a place on the boat. There she sees a dozen other women, all being taken off to forced labour.
Once safely across, she stays in a nearby hostel which, though very expensive, only consists of dormitories, divided by sex. There she meets an English woman, Emy Spencer. Emy is having a relationship with Samir Osri, a left-wing playwright, who wrote for the Magic Theatre but who is now on the run. She can only see him when he contacts her and that is very spasmodically. Lora is determined to get to Santaré, where she has friends. She manages to hitch a lift on a lorry but, while en route, the driver stops the lorry, takes her Colt and rapes her. He does, however, take her to Santaré and gives her back her Colt.
However, in Santaré, things do not improve. None of her friends seems to be there. The situation in the country is not much better than in Aziria and, inevitably, she is dependent on men, who abuse and exploit her. She works for a pizza seller and for a man who owns a second-hand bookshop but they use her for sex. She loses all her possessions, including her prized Colt. Even when she seems to find something that works, things go wrong. But she does meet a man, the gay husband of a (female) friend. Il m’aide à m’accepter telle que je suis sans chercher à paraître ce que je ne suis pas [He helps me accept myself as I am without trying to look like what I am not].
Though the book, at the end, seems to be about Lora finding out who she is, not the actress putting on a face but the real Lora, much of the rest of the book is concerned how the real victims of war and political instability are women. This is not just because the belligerents or authorities clamp down on women, though they do, but, because there is a lack of rule of law, men of all kinds take advantage of this to abuse, assault, rape and control women. From the unfortunate women who are being sent off to forced labour at the beginning, to Lora’s continual problems with and sufferings at the hands of virtually every man she meets, women suffer throughout this book. Even if the Colt 45 can help offer protection, at the end it is seen to be just another instrument of male oppression.
First published in French 2016 by Le Tripode
No English translation