La France buissonnière: Véronique, assembler of quotes

Véronique Berger Grenier, at home, in Massay (Cher)

Un book changed the life of Véronique Berger Grenier: the quotes dictionary, from Larousse. This pharmacy assistant was 18 in the early 1980s when, pushing the doors of a bookstore, her eyes fell on this anthology of literary gems. “I read it like a novel”, she recalls. The young woman was then far from imagining that she would also publish, one day, a collection of quotes.

His work is less a catalog of aphorisms than a play. In The Great Meetings (Maïa editions, 2021), Véronique Berger Grenier indeed makes 660 authors converse, with the help of short replies gleaned here and there. Dead and living, men and women, young and old exchange in this literary patchwork called centon – “a piece in verse or prose whose fragments are borrowed from various authors”, according to the classic Larousse.

His favorite novelist, Sylvain Tesson, opens the ball: ” Autumn caparisoned the city of copper. » Gustave Flaubert continues: “It was in Megara, a suburb of Carthage, in the gardens of Hamilcar. » And so on… Nick Hornby, Nicolas Gogol, Maurice Genevoix, Louis Aragon, Virginia Woolf, Christian Jacq, Louis-Ferdinand Céline continue the discussion on the front page. A hundred follow around themes as universal as love, suffering, happiness, hope…

One of the 20,000 records recorded by Véronique Berger Grenier.

Dizzying work of assembly, which happens to be the fruit of a meticulous collection, started forty years ago. Véronique Berger Grenier has developed a demanding methodology consisting of copying extracts from novels into school notebooks and onto index cards. A cheerful clutter of shoeboxes occupies part of his living room in Massay (Cher).

Bernard Cazeneuve and Adriana Karembeu

The idea of ​​compiling 1,758 loans in this way – out of a stock of 20,000 – came to him a few years ago. “I had registered for a writing competition in Blois and I had started to assemble quotes on three or four pages, she says. Unfortunately, transitions between sentences were missing, and too few female writers made up my selection. » So Véronique densified her archiving business, extending her research to radio and television broadcasts. The cast of Great Meetings is not just literary. There are also singers, popes, sportsmen, scientists and even Adriana Karembeu (“You have to give yourself a chance”). A former Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, is quoted against it (“When we are in love, poetry is there, yet we seek the words”).

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