Le Crieur de Nuit

Published April 2010

“I learned the news this morning, listening to the answering machine. Isa said, ‘Papa passed away.’ I poured myself a cup of coffee and called her back, then I dialed Air France. Thierry came in yawning, looked at me and said, ‘What’s happening ?’ I answered, ‘Papa’s dead.’ Isa says ‘passed away.’ But I say ‘dead.’ I don’t see why I should handle it with kid gloves. Though I wouldn’t say I’m familiar with the idea of death, it has been tormenting me long enough that I feel I have the right to call it by its name.

You are dead. At last.”

Addressed to her dead father, this is the lyrical, dark and humorous attempt of a daughter to come to terms with the man who raised her even as he constantly put her down, in so many abusive words.

Sophie returns home to Brittany after the death of her tyrannical father to help her mother and siblings prepare for his funeral. Over the course of one week spent planning and attending the funeral, she relives her tormented childhood, and narrates the day-to-day preparations for the funeral, which often approach hilarity. As the days go by and the funeral preparations proceed, she comes to terms with what it means that this man has died, and slowly regains her taste for life.

Alard writes “without putting gloves on,” she explains, saying the things that are true but that one is not supposed to say aloud. The narrator is not supposed to say that she is relieved that her father is dead, but she does. People from Brittany shouldn’t say they hated growing up there because it rained all the time, but she does. Children shouldn’t draw a blank trying to think of kind things to say about their late father, but that is what happens. A wife caring for her husband through thirty years of Parkinson’s is not supposed to admit that she sometimes felt like leaving him on the floor, or that she let him wander the yard holding a dangerous power tool, but that is the truth.

The geographical, sociological, and historical context of Brittany, as one interviewer at Le Télégramme put it, is another character in the novel. Alard chose to ground the family’s story in a very specific place and time as a way to approach the familiar theme of family relationships in an original way, without clichés. The family’s history, the Breton traditions and separatist movement, the gravelly language Sophie hears throughout her childhood but never understands, fishing, the rivalry between Bretons from the north and those from the south ; all of these things make up the world which shapes and holds the story. Of particular importance are the mystical beliefs surrounding death in Breton culture, illustrated by the numerous excerpts written by Anatole Le Braz in the late nineteenth century, interspersed in the text, and which form a kind of macabre chorus to this story.

Le Crieur de Nuit in the press :

“We are stunned by this first novel.”
Jacques-Pierre Amette, Le Point

“A searing book.”
Eric Neuhoff, Le Figaro Madame

“Black humor, killer style.”
Jérôme Garcin, Le Nouvel Observateur

“A healthy lust for life.”
Isabelle Lortholary, Elle

“Original and captivating.”
François Lestavel, Paris-Match

“A dark comedy...Enthralling.”
Bernard Pivot, Le JDD

“After the death of her tyrannical father, a young woman regains her taste for life. Both compelling and playful, Nelly Alard’s writing is striking in its tempestuous rhythm.”
Marine Landrot, Télérama

Prix Roger-Nimier 2010
Prix National de littérature du Lions Club 2011
Prix « Un livre, une commune » de Combs-la-Ville 2011
Prix des audiolecteurs de la Ville de Nantes 2011