Home > 2010, 21st Century, Collette Sandrine, French Literature, Novel, Polar > There Will Be Dust by Sandrine Collette

There Will Be Dust by Sandrine Collette

There Will Be Dust by Sandrine Collette (2016) Original French title: Il reste la poussière. Not available in English.

La vie n’attend pas qu’on ait envie d’y mettre les mains. Life doesn’t wait for you to be ready to put your hands in it.

In There Will Be Dust by Sandrine Collette, we are on a small farm in Patagonia at the beginning of the 20th century. Rafael is the youngest of four boys and has always been bullied by his brothers. Their father disappeared one day, never came back and the mother runs the farm with an iron fist.

Her sons are working slaves not better treated than mules and horses. She knows her older sons mistreat their little brother but she doesn’t care. They’re like a pack of dogs, she feeds them, lets them live under her roof but lets the pack find their own leader. She doesn’t give them any affection and Rafael finds solace in his horse and his dog.

Their life is tough, their farm is isolated and only the oldest sons, the twins Joaquin and Mauro are allowed to go to the nearest town with their Ma. The third son, Steban, doesn’t speak and tries to remain neutral between the twins and Rafael.

It’s a hard book to sum up because a lot of it is spend in everyday life and peering into the brothers’ minds. I felt closer to Rafael but also sorry for the others, to live in such dreadful conditions with such a hard mother. Their world is changing fast, there’s less and less room for small farms and they always struggle with money. One event will change their life but I can’t tell more without spoilers.

There Will Be Dust is a very atmospheric novel. It has an incredible sense of place. Sandrine Collette has a style that talks to all your senses. You can imagine the wind, the sun, the rush of riding a horse, the smell of the country. Her descriptions of sheep farming and sheep shearing ring true. She writes about the noise, the smell, the behavior of the sheep.

She takes you to this hard world, into this desperate family of hard working farmers. There’s a lot of violence in their life and Rafael seems to be their only hope for a different vision of life. But how to escape the yoke their mother put on their necks? How will they have a chance to life in a different light and let warmth seep into their interactions instead of the coldness ingrained by their heartless mother?

Their mother is like a dark spider, controlling everything and everyone. She’s a witch with economical and emotional power that she uses freely. Rafael’s natural temper is different and he’s incredibly resilient. His brothers and mother bully him and it should make him change. But he remains softhearted and hopeful and trusting in human nature. He’s their gift, his brothers’ chance at breaking their mother’s spell on them.

It’s an extremely powerful read. It’s a bleak family story in an unforgiving environment. In a way, it belongs to the same family as The Hands by Stephen Orr. Translation Tragedy

Update in January 2019.

Il reste la poussière is now available in English. It’s entitled Nothing But Dust and is published by Europa Editions.

Claire from Word by Word has read it and her review is here.

 

  1. June 4, 2018 at 7:35 am

    A shame it’s not available in English…

    Like

    • June 4, 2018 at 9:58 pm

      I know… Mysteries of translations, again. 🙂

      Like

  2. June 4, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    It does sound a translation tragedy. Oh well. Hopefully one day it’ll see an English language version.

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    • June 4, 2018 at 10:03 pm

      It’s a pity it’s not available in English. It’s only available in French or in Italian.

      Like

  3. June 6, 2018 at 5:10 am

    I drive through marginal farm lands all the time (including quite close to the location of The Hands most weeks) and it upsets me that ‘there will be dust’. Farmers turn marginal country into dust bowls over and over with inappropriate cropping and over grazing. Not directly relevant I know, but I drove through nil-visibility dust storms just yesterday caused by farmers unnecessarily turning over the soil (just sand in WA) in preparation for putting in crops.

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    • June 8, 2018 at 9:57 pm

      I’m not sure that the title refers to the dust bowls. These farmers don’t plant anything, they raise cattle.

      I’d say it’s more a biblical dust refering to our fleeting human condition.
      Actually, I had trouble translating the French title, Il reste la poussière. Literally, it says, “it remains dust” I thought it didn’t sound well in English, so I chose There Will Be Dust.

      Like

      • June 9, 2018 at 2:29 am

        I guessed the title was a metaphor but driving through badly treated farmland makes me cranky, and overgrazing is as harmful and as common as overtillage.

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        • June 9, 2018 at 8:59 am

          I guess trying to grow European plants in an non-European climate can lead to problems.
          Did anybody try to grow local plants ?

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          • June 10, 2018 at 12:56 am

            European crops and hoofed animals are major problems but ‘zero tillage farming’, not widely practiced, would resolve a lot of the dust problems (and don’t get me started on irrigated cotton and rice farming that has destroyed – not too strong a word – our major inland rivers). There is very little farming of Australian plants – macadamia nuts and blue gum plantations and not much more.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. January 12, 2019 at 11:09 am

    I’m sure the translation was already in progress, since the English publication of ‘Nothing But Dust’ came out in Nov 2018, though this was her first novel to be translated into English.
    I loved it’s thrilling atmosphere and that ray of hope that is felt through the youngest son, despite the cruelness he endures on his way towards salvation. Took a while to put my thoughts on it together, but managed to do so today.

    Like

    • January 13, 2019 at 10:18 am

      Yes it was.

      When I look for an English translation of a book, I try to recoup sources: I check on Amazon US and UK to see if I can find it (And have a sample, meaning I might have quotes translated by a professional translalor), on Goodreads since you can see the list of the editions of a book, on Wikipedia, on the English page of the author.

      When nothing comes out of it, I assume there’s no English version.

      Il reste la poussière stayed with me after all these months. It was difficult to write a billet about it, to give back the incredible sense of place, the freedom of the wilderness, the isolation and the hard life.

      Like you, I rooted for Rafael, I was happy that all his goodness remained despite the awful hand he had to deal with.
      The Mother is awful and one could argue that circumstances built her that way. But then there’s Rafael. He was born there too, lived through hell and it didn’t manage to snuff his natural way of reaching out to others.

      Powerful book.

      Like

  1. June 17, 2018 at 9:48 am

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