Writer Olivier Adam: “I claim to look at people from a human height”

A novel that accurately dissects the ambivalence of brother-sister relationships.

What is the origin of this family camera which probes the identity of a sibling on the occasion of the burial of his father?

I wanted to work on the subject of brothers and sisters who have become adults. I was struck in my personal life by the significance of this link and by its complexity. What’s special is that we keep an attachment and tenderness for people we probably wouldn’t talk to if we met them at a party.

I wanted to bring together two brothers and a sister in a place from which they cannot escape and in a period of grief to see what happens to siblings when the father disappears, what that authorizes, what that cracks…

It’s not a novel about bereavement in the sense that the death of the father isn’t really the subject here, even if it is important. The issue, as in the theater, is what is said and not said, the past only intervenes in the present and in what we remember…

Claire, Paul and Antoine grew up together in a patriarchal family, yet they do not have the same vision of their childhood…

I was marked by a scene in my private sphere, someone who said “My father was not like that”; and his brother answered him: “Yours maybe, but mine, yes!”

In reality, even when we are brought up together, we never have the same parents, everything depends on the places assigned, the sex, the age difference, the privileged links or not that we had with one or the other of his parents… And then, everything is a matter of feelings.

As Paul says in the book when speaking of his father: “Ultimately, that might not be what he told me, but that’s what I heard.” A common memory is not necessarily the same for everyone. It is also the equivocal character of memory, there is nothing less reliable than memory, yet one spends one’s life trusting it.

Paul, a successful filmmaker, is accused by his brother and sister of throwing family life aside to feed his work…

Paul, who had broken up with his father, effectively plundered his family for his movies and plays while defending himself against it. What interested me was talking about these artists who vampirize those around them and who don’t hesitate to stage their loved ones on the pretext that it’s “their freedom, their life, their truth”.

In the name of that, there is a kind of impunity. I wanted to give voice to the other camp, to people who are legitimately hurt to appear under unflattering features or to see their intimacy unveiled to everyone’s eyes. While not giving right or wrong to either of these two camps, because their judgments are both legitimate.

We are here in a family of modest origins, in this suburban France that you like to examine and defend…

I’ve always thought that if you want to talk about the life we ​​all live, you have to be interested in this France that we call peripheral when it is the majority heart of the country.

In reality, it is the big bourgeoisie that is overrepresented in power and in fiction. It’s not just a political approach for me, I want a “I” who says “We” and that my books have a collective dimension. I claim to look at people from the height of a man and to be a writer of the majority.

“Below the roses” (Flammarion editions, 248 pages, €21).

Family reunions

On the occasion of their father’s funeral, Claire, Paul and Antoine find their mother in the family pavilion. It’s the first time they’ve all been reunited since successful artist Paul cut ties with his father…

In a game of verbal ping-pong, the unsaid, resentment, grievances, and also the love of siblings in search of common memories deformed or stolen by the years burst forth. Expert in the art of probing the intimacy of his characters and the social universe in which they move, Olivier Adam signs an overwhelming novel of accuracy and sensitivity.

Writer Olivier Adam: “I claim to look at people from a human height”