In Guadeloupe, when someone dies, we say “he climbed ofilao”. The wonderful, mysterious expression, meaningful and tinged with mystery, is also the title of the first novel by Geneviève Rochette, an artist, historian and playwright who also shows her talent as a writer. Through the character of Inès, Geneviève Rochette navigates between Quebec, France and Guadeloupe, in search of memories and origins, but also in search of identity.
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The story tells the journey of Inès, daughter of a Guadeloupean and a Quebecer, who goes to visit her grandmother, Théolia, in Guadeloupe. In 2009, the country is in crisis and Théolia reunites her son and her grandson who have not seen each other for years, one lives in Paris and the other in Montreal. He wants them to come to terms with their past.
On the plane, Inès reads a manuscript of her writer father and rediscovers part of her life from a new angle. Discovering the different branches of her family tree, Inès begins a journey back to where she came from and tries to understand what made her grow. Several poets came to feed his reflection: Aimé Césaire, Alain Grandbois, Gaston Miron.
Geneviève Rochette is very happy with the publication of her first novel. Another string to his bow and an artistic project that has done him good.
“It’s crazy, it’s like a lot of freedom! It’s actually a project that I’ve been dragging for a long time and there’s been a lot of pitfalls, a lot of deaths associated with it. It’s a tribute to my grandmother, whom I love very much,” he commented in a telephone interview.
The project, which first worked to become a screenplay, became a novel.
“There is something very liberating when you decide to pick up the pen for a novel. There are many hurdles to jump. I really enjoyed doing that.”
Ophilao is it autobiographical?
“Recently, one of my grandmother’s very good friends read the novel and said to me: I’ve heard it and seen it everywhere. But this is fiction. That means, inspired by him, his accent, his colors, his warmth, but it’s really made up.
“The character of Inès comes from a Guadeloupean father and a Quebec mother. Me, it’s the opposite: my mother is from Guadeloupe and my father is from Quebec. Inès lived back and forth with my lived in: Damencourt, this is the house of my grandparents. My grandmother came from Morne-à-l’Eau.
“For the fiction to be credible, I really started from my experience. Inès spent the whole summer there, she goes there almost every year. Me, it’s almost the same thing. I went a lot. I spent the whole summer with my grandmother. The Damencourt house was the house where I spent most of my time when I was in Guadeloupe.
Geneviève Rochette talks about interbreeding in Ophilao.
“In a microcosm like Guadeloupe, what’s amazing is to see how the racial division still exists and is still so strong. When I was young, I saw it in a somewhat vague, somewhat ambiguous way. But it was disastrous.”
He gives as an example an anecdote taken from the novel, where Inès’ grandmother, passing through Montreal, picks her up at school, and where someone says: your grandmother is black!
“That, I really lived. It was actually the first time I learned about skin color, that we assign ourselves to the color of people’s skin. It made me a little angry. It’s something that seems completely absurd and distracts me from my life.”
- Geneviève Rochette participated in the writing of several youth plays and co-founded the Théâtre de l’Allumette.
- He took part in writing shows for the Zapartistes group, of which he was a member until 2005 and received the Gémeaux prize for the best variety text in 2004.
- He graduated from INIS in screenwriting and the National Theater School of Canada.
- He wrote the screenplay for Tuesday morning somewhere, which won the prize for the best short film at the Barcelona Festival de Cinema Politic.
- She played the character of Isabelle Lévis in the series La Galère.
- He is currently completing his master’s degree in history.