Olivier Adam: “In a sibling, whatever our parents say, we are not brought up the same”

With Under the roses, Olivier Adam offers an unprecedented form of theatrical novel. In this story of siblings, reunited at the death of a father, the author continues to tie the intimate and the social by questioning the fiction of our lives.

In his new novel, Under the roses, Olivier Adam attaches to the siblings: “We may have grown up under the same roof, we have taken different, sometimes opposite paths … We love each other, but it is sometimes difficult to support each other.” Claire, Antoine and Paul find themselves in the suburban house of their childhood to bury their father. Claire tries to calm Antoine’s outbursts of anger towards their brother, a filmmaker who has never ceased to nourish his work with family life, by distorting it… Between play and novel, the author of the selvedges (2012) continues to tie the intimate and the social with the sense of orality that we know.

In video, “The Super-8 Years” by Annie Ernaux and David Ernaux, excerpt

Miss Figaro. – Why did you adopt this theatrical form, this division into three acts in a single place?
Oliver Adam. – I like to rub shoulders with other artistic genres and put them at the service of novel. In this one, everything is played around confrontation. What the characters manage or fail to say to each other. What one hears when the other speaks. Hence the choice of camera and alternate points of view. I also wanted to reach the vitality of the theater. Everything arises from speech and from the present, including the past. I thought a lot about Chekhov. For the cyclothymia of feelings. Nostalgia. The alcoholic side, too.

What interests you about siblings?
The foundation of a sibling is shared childhood. However, over time, we realize that we do not have the same perception. That we didn’t even know the same parents. Because we were a boy or a girl, the eldest or the youngest. Because we didn’t have the same character, and we didn’t feel the events in the same way. Because, no matter what our parents say, we weren’t raised the same. To the point that the confrontation of memories sometimes seems to designate a liar. Especially since there is nothing less reliable than memory.

Is this text also a reflection on creation, through the character of Paul?
Paul arrogates to himself the right to “say”, in a family where the unsaid are the rule. He claims the freedom to draw on family history, to mingle his memories with fiction, without worrying about the injuries he may inflict on those close to him, who perceive this as a form of abuse of power. There is something irreconcilable there. By comparing the two points of view, I let the reader judge. Are there limits that should not be crossed? In the name of what would one reproach an artist for using the material of his own life, and for mixing truth with lies?

Do your novels have a sociological vocation, questioning in particular the notion of class defector?
In his book The heart does not give in (2022), Grégoire Bouillier notes that often novel characters are only moved by affects, their character, their psychology. As if our social trajectories did not determine us. And he concludes: “That’s probably why we talk about ‘fiction’. Because “in real life”, it does not exist. I share this astonishment. And try, at my level, to remedy it. As for the concept of class defectorit did not seem pointless to re-examine her, while the literature present day seems to have frozen it in an unambiguous story, despite everything quite debatable.

Olivier Adam: “In a sibling, whatever our parents say, we are not brought up the same”