For a long time, Eugène Nicole did not want to write about Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, the small French archipelago in the North Atlantic where he was born in 1942. The chance that gives birth to us somewhere justifies it to devote a writer’s life to it? No. But our impressions, emotions and memories, yes. They are precisely the source of The Work of the Seas. In other words, five novels published between 1988 and 2011, brought together in a volume of nearly 1,000 pages (L’Olivier, 2011). Since then, three books have continued this great novel of a childhood and a place (Territorial waters, The silence of the cards, Return of Ulysses to Saint-Pierre, L’Olivier, 2013, 2016 and 2017), which was formed in the mind of Eugène Nicole when he left his archipelago in 1957 for Vendée, where his family sent him to continue his studies in a boarding school.

He is 14 years old, and the feeling of having been torn from his end of France in this end of the world where there is no high school yet. Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon is 242 square kilometers blown by the wind, covered by snow and ice in winter, and often by thick fog, even in summer. The small island of Saint-Pierre, arid as a rock, is separated by a channel from the large island of Miquelon, made up of three peninsulas: Cape Town, Grande-Miquelon and Langlade. Eugène Nicole’s family goes to the latter in the summer, covered with forests and peat bogs. Child, it is a paradise of freedom. The center of the world.

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Disappearance of his childhood home

Many women inhabit this microcosm: his mother, who died when the future writer was only 5 years old; Jeanne, her “Little grandmother”, who raised him with his sister and his brother, and who waits for the high school student every summer when he comes back from Vendée; but also the “Walkers” who walk the 8 kilometers of the road to Saint-Pierre, thinking of a lover or a lost son. There is still ” Sir “, the teacher who takes himself for the French explorer of the XVIe century Jacques Cartier, and Mr. Telo, the owner of the only car in the archipelago.

In the evening, in the bed of his Vendée dormitory, Eugène Nicole thinks and dreams of Saint-Pierre, reconstructing the streets down to the smallest detail – the parish hall, “The work of the seas”, converted into a cinema and a theater, which has gave his name to the literary project; or the houses, which are characters, as evidenced by Return of Ulysses to Saint-Pierre, built around the disappearance of his childhood home. The place no longer exists, only fiction can make it emerge from the waters of memory.

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