#WITMonth Day 9: Lydie Salvayre

Lydie Salvayre © Martine Heissat.jpg

Lydie Salvayre is a former psychiatrist, who grew up near Toulouse after her exiled republican parents fled Franco's regime. As a child she spoke Spanish, only learning French after starting school. She studied medicine and specialised as a psychiatrist in Marseille, before beginning to write at the end of the 70's, with her first works appearing in literary reviews in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille around the beginning of the 1980's. Her novel La Compagnie des spectres won the Prix Novembre in 1997 and was named Book of the Year by Lire. Cry, Mother Spain, her first novel to be published in English, won the Prix Goncourt in 2014.

Cry, Mother Spain is a highly autobiographical novel, drawing on the experiences of Salvayre's parents as they fled Franco's forces from Spain to France. Describing her dual heritage of French and Spanish, Salvayre commented: "I grew up with two cultures, two languages, “swimming between two shores” in a literary sense: the Spanish shore with its excesses, its exuberance, the Baroque and “bad taste”, and the French shore with its classicism, its rigour, simplicity and measure. It’s why Cry, Mother Spain is a mix of tight, refined prose and outrageous insults. In the book there are poetic quotations alongside jokes of questionable taste. My Spanish bad taste contaminates my French good taste at all times."

Recommended reading

The following title by Lydie Salvayre is currently available in English translation:

Cry, Mother Spain, translated from the French by Ben Faccini (MacLehose Press, 2016)


Elise Williams