“The University square was teeming with people stunned by the stupidity of their time,” writes Catherine Lemieux at the beginning of her second novel, a sentence to be heard as a warning. In the pages that follow, no one will be spared the ruthlessness of his view of an academic world that has resigned its mission to reflect.

A dark fable, where caricature merges with a comically grotesque form of hyperrealism, Lourdes tells how the candor of the young woman who gives its title to this book will be derailed, when she agrees to play the role of attendant at the buffet (! ) during the Neo-Me Feminizing Laboratory Symposium, in a prestigious European university.

Catherine Lemieux castigates in dazzling formulas full of poison the false subversion of hashtags in abundance, the preventive self-expiation sessions in which the holders of power performatively indulge, feminism defused by money and the panicked fear of saying the something too much. The very possibility of real speech is here constantly neutralized by the discourses of self-care, benevolence or awareness of one’s privileges. The Quebecer living in Austria thus honors the relentless cynicism of one of the greatest Austrian writers, Thomas Bernhard.

Be careful, she tells us through one of her fabulously appalling teacher characters unaware of her own ridicule: “It is possible that an ill-intentioned person took advantage of a moment of inattention to slip into your cultural baggage a dangerous idea whose edge you neglected to blunt. »