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“The Ballad of the Snake and the Singing Bird”

A detail from the American cover of the prequel to “The Hunger Games”. Scholastic Inc.

Eleven years after the start of her successful trilogy, American novelist Suzanne Collins announced in June that she will write a prequel Hunger Games, title in french The Ballad of the Snake and the Singing Bird. This new novel, whose release is scheduled for May 19 and 20, 2020 internationally, must take place in the fictional nation of Panem, sixty-four years before the main plot of the dystopia starring Katniss Everdeen – scope on screen by actress Jennifer Lawrence.

A short extract released in English on Tuesday January 21 allowed fans to discover who would be the hero of this new novel: the young Coriolanus Snow, before he became president of Panem and manipulative tyrant, Katniss' great enemy. The Pixels section of World invites you to discover below and in preview this same extract translated into French by the publisher Pocket jeunesse.

In the movies, actor Donald Sutherland plays Coriolanus Snow.
In the movies, actor Donald Sutherland plays Coriolanus Snow. Lions Gate

We also learn that Snow himself was a mentor of a participant in the Hunger Games, the macabre reality game designed to stifle social revolts and which forces young citizens to kill themselves. The original trilogy revealed little about the despot and his obsession with Katniss Everdeen. It is a safe bet that, in her intrigue, Suzanne Collins supports the rise to power and the authoritarian drift of a well-born young man.

Extract from “The Ballad of the Snake and the Singing Bird”, by Suzanne Collins

The main staircase of the Academy, which could accommodate the entire student body, was used by a stream of officials, teachers and students on their way to the harvest festivities. Coriolanus climbed the stairs slowly, with a confident detachment, in case anyone paid attention to him. Many people knew him or at least had known his parents and grandparents. However, a Snow had to have a certain outfit. This year, and from this day on, he hoped to also gain a form of personal recognition. Becoming a mentor in the Hunger Games was his last project before graduating this summer. If he succeeded, with his exemplary academic record, he would be awarded a scholarship sufficient to cover all of his university expenses.

There are said to be 24 tributes, one boy and one girl from each of the 12 defeated districts, chosen by lot to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. All this was fixed by the Treaty of Treason which ended the dark days of the district rebellion. It was one of the many punishments the rebels had to endure. As always, tributes would be dropped in the Capitol Arena, an old, now decrepit amphitheater that had hosted many shows and sporting events before the war. And we would provide them with weapons to kill each other. The Capitol encouraged people to follow the fighting, but many people preferred to turn away from it. The challenge was therefore to make the event more attractive.

This is why, for the first time, tributes would be assigned mentors. Twenty-four of the Academy's best students were selected for this. The specifics of their mission still remained to be defined. We were talking about preparing tributes for a television interview, to highlight them before their passage in front of the cameras. Everyone agreed that, to continue, the Hunger Games had to evolve, become a richer experience, and the idea of ​​associating the youth of the Capitol with the tributes of the districts aroused much curiosity.

Coriolanus crossed a black-draped entrance, entered an arched passageway, and entered the huge Heavensbee hall, where the Harvest ceremony would be broadcast. He was absolutely not late, yet the hall was already teeming with teachers, students and Games staff, whose presence was not essential on the first day of the event.

Mutes passed through the crowd with trays of posca, a preparation made from wine cut with water and honey and herbs. It was an alcoholic version of the sour drink that had supported the Capitol during the war, and that was supposed to ward off the disease. Coriolanus took a cup and rolled a few drops of posca in his mouth. Hopefully it would refresh his breath. But he only allowed himself a sip. This drink was stronger than we thought and, in previous years, he had seen several students who had abused it ridiculing themselves completely.

Everyone thought he was rich, but the only real wealth of Coriolanus was his charm, which he generously dispensed by splitting the crowd. Faces lit up when he kindly greeted his classmates or teachers, heard from their families, released a compliment here and there.

– Your course on reprisals against the districts was really very interesting.

– Pretty bangs!

– How was your mother's back surgery? Ah yes ? Give him my admiration.

***

Dean Casca Highbottom, the man credited with inventing the Hunger Games, personally oversaw the selection of mentors. He began by presenting himself to the students with the verve of a sleepwalker, his eyes vague, doped with morphling as usual. Formerly endowed with a certain presence, he had slumped and his skin was now hanging, forming flaccid folds. His recent haircut and the elegance of his costume only highlighted his physical degradation. His notoriety as the inventor of the Games still allowed him to maintain his position, however rumors said that the Academy's governing council was beginning to lose patience.

“And now,” he said in a pasty voice, waving a sheet of paper over his head, “I'm going to make the call.”

The students fell silent and strained to hear it despite the hubbub in the room.

– I will first announce the tribute, then the name of the person who will be his mentor. Okay ? Well. So in District One, the boy is for … (Dean Highbottom squinted at his sheet, trying to decipher what was written.) My glasses, he muttered. I forgot them again.

Everyone stared at his glasses, perched on his nose, and waited until he finally put his fingers on them.

– Ah, it's good. Livia Cardew!

A big smile split the small pointed face of Livia, who raised her fist in the air, shouting “Yes! In a high voice. She couldn't help but triumph. As if this favorable attribution was due to its only merit, and not to the fact that its mother directed the largest bank of the Capitol.

Coriolanus felt his desperation grow as Dean Highbottom went through the list, assigning boys and girls from each district to their mentors. After ten years, a general trend had begun to take shape. Districts One and Two, better nourished and better disposed towards the Capitol, produced more winners, followed closely by the peasants and cultivators of Quatre and Eleven. Coriolanus, who had hoped to give him a One or a Two, felt all the more insulted to see Sejanus pick up the boy from District Two. District Four passed unnamed, and the last potential winner – the boy from District Eleven – was attributed to Clemensia Dovecote, the daughter of the energy secretary. Unlike Livia, Clemensia greeted the good news tactfully, pushing her long black hair behind her shoulder before studiously writing the name of her tribute in her notebook.

It was a sign of the times that a Snow, who also happened to be one of the best students in the Academy, was so neglected. Coriolanus was beginning to believe that he had been completely forgotten – perhaps to attribute higher responsibilities to him? – when, seized with horror, he heard Dean Highbottom mutter:

– And, finally, the girl from district Twelve is for … Coriolanus Snow.

Read also In a decade, “Hunger Games” has turned adolescent literature upside down

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