On Residency at the Chalet Mauriac

October 23rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

chalet mauriac

For almost four wonderful weeks in late October and early November I was at the Chalet Mauriac, former summer home of the Nobel laureate’s family, and now lovingly restored by the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region which, in partnership with the organization ÉCLA (Écrit-Cinéma-Livre-Audiovisuel), runs a residency welcoming translators as well as visual artists, filmmakers, and writers of all sorts (poets, novelists, comics creators, YA authors). Other residents during my time there included Heli Allik, an Estonian translator working on Céline, and Parisian filmmaker Lucie Borleteau with her screenwriter Clara Bourreau.


The Chalet is located at the edge of the village of Saint-Symphorien, on wooded grounds—when I was there, in full autumn conflagration—crisscrossed by trails and adjoining the Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park.


Alain Herman, the regionally appointed curator, proved a font of knowledge regarding the history of the grounds and house, while head housekeeper Chantal Durros was a delightful and solicitous—awful of me, but I couldn’t help thinking of Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts. Photos of past residents lined the inside, of approximately original ornament (tiles, wainscoting) and completely modern furniture, and when I peered out from under the fretted gables I felt a little like M. Hulot on holiday, though tramping back from town at night on matted leaves through unlighted woods, I felt more like I was in a home invasion movie, or as the Lucie and Clara put it, “guests in the mansion from Cluedo.”


During my time there, I was interviewed for the online newsletter Éclairs by Nathalie André upon arrival and Olivier Desmettre upon departure, and in between enjoyed a complimentary photo session with photographer Quitterie de Fomervault-Bernard (we trekked into the forest for the light). I left the day after the election, the mood in the plane subdued as chastened fellow citizens flew home to uncertain times.


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