Narrative in times of environmental crisis

Through some of the great works of world literature, Camille de Toledo presents a literary essay that returns to the fictions that connect us or alienate us from the world.

The various fabrications or encodings by which we try to relate to the world are sources of destruction. A sense of vertigo comes from the disintegration of our earthly supports. The whole challenge is to imagine how we can get rid of this curse that strikes at the very existence of the fictions that we are.

This is the whole subject of this essay, which Camille de Toledo cannot be described as eco-poetic. It progresses through some of the great works of world literature to offer a historical synthesis of the story during the environmental crisis.

We are all Don Quixote

Don Quixote is the prototype Sapiens NarransToledo tells us: a being who believes in the stories he weaves more than the trials of his body and the world “. In fact, we are very much like him. Living in a world saturated with fictions, but also with theories, calculations, plans or models offered to us, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to distinguish between these encodings and life on earth. This allows us to ignore the extinction of species and climate change.

Here’s how to avoid death: The prospect of an ending creates a world-turning fear, then immediately the flight reflex kicks in and the story returns. “. And so on : ” the so-called impulse Sapiens Narrans is a direct result of the destruction it caused. “.

In Cervantes’ Spain, according to Toledo, it was a matter of erasing the traces of Jewish and Arab presence. ” For us, the inhabitants of the twenty-first century […] it is a more or less belated observation of our role in the depletion of life forms on earth. »

That’s the whole point of being close to a form of surgery, Toledo explains translation To make us hear worldly voices again and disconnect us from the world: ” Our writing takes us away from Earth; but at this distance the need for translation increases. “.

Map against terrain

Our regularly changing stories or maps fail to restore our connection to the world. They follow each other more and more quickly, the abandoned ones remain in the background, causing dizziness, writing vertigo, which reflects the obsolescence of the old support systems.

Here, the author calls out Borges and Lewis Carroll for using the map’s depiction of the country fifty years apart, at the end of which, in Borges, the country itself (which was still visible in Lewis). Carroll in the form of farmers opposing cartographers) disappeared.

We produce languages (improving) to connect us to the world. It is these languages ​​that separate us from him. », the author explains. ” What is missing takes the form of missing bonds; and these multiple disappearances—extinctions, obsolescences, erasures—trigger a thirst for coding. »

The Danube (by Claudio Magris) The book was published in 1986. It presents itself as a counterpoint to the period of reconstruction after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when peoples tried to respond to uncertainty and general anxiety by affirming the State, the Identity, the border. “Everything is visible there [dans ce livre] from the low point of the descent, then those who fall. Everywhere the river is lurking, and with it the bareness of life. »

The eruption of Mount Pelee in Martinique in 1902, which covered the city of Saint-Pierre, is an opportunity for the author to recall the work of the poet Edouard Glissant, the latter ” calls (his relational philosophypublished in 2009) A shock not seen by Europeans at the beginning of the 20th century “, at that time they were greatly admired for having a certain world vision.

Camille de Toledo sums up Glissant’s attempt to heal the wound in the diagram that accompanies this chapter: to start over from the destroyed place (which is also childhood for the poet) and make the world better back from the “universal” abstraction. “. However, he differs by explaining that he does not have enough faith in language to bet on such meetings, preferring to see the way of translation rather than the result.

Fragmentation of points of view and the impossibility of a common world

The explosion of viewpoints and human conflicts to assert oneself as a subject have historically been a constant cause for questioning encodings. The invention of the perspectograph by Dürer in the fifteenth century is valuable here as a metaphor for this separation between a subject. who sees, measures, commands all objects whose contours he assumes the right to define, “.

Then we will find paintings in the history of painting that will challenge death or the combination of elements, even the dissolution of the subject, into such a separation. And literature will not be left behind, in its turn depicting the fragmentation of points of view and an impossible common world, to the point of questioning language – which the author wants to get here – with a monologue of a stunning dead mother. As I die By Faulkner.

How to overcome this fragmentation and rejoin the world? Then of course we think of Pessoa, Toledo tells us: who sleepwalks […], A song composed between 1913 and 1935 “, torn ” between the despair of her loneliness and the hope of reconnecting to a destiny greater than herself, bound to the trees, the oceans, the stars “. The author says that we find this “song” in Romain Rolland under the expression “oceanic sensations”, which since then has been reinforced by the life sciences that focus on patterns of entanglement and intertwining.

Toledo points out again that we detect this feeling in Moby Dick, the harpooner of Polynesian origin. Unlike the other characters in the novel, it continues with other beings, unaffected by the “monotheistic break” that rejects all of nature’s existence in the grand scheme of things that can be exploited, as shown by Melville (from 1851). trust relationship.

And it is the canoe coffin he built when he thought he would die of fever that would save the narrator’s (Ismail’s) life, provided he conveyed the message inside to his side: ” a complete treatise on the heavens and the earth, and a mystical treatise on the art of attaining truth » then he wants to believe Toledo, who nods, other encodings, entanglements, symbioses…

From ruins to rebirth?

The book ends with WG Sebald’s reminder, ” This writer of ruins, whose works are wandering among the ruins in Europe, haunted by past experiences “.ruins” where human and nonhuman things intertwine in a dance of death “.

Investigating a crime, looking for something other than the judgment of the guilt of a few. It’s what he’s looking for […] : how our way of living, rooted in the way we codify life, tends to destroy it; How we aggravate the wound between the earth’s human habitation and nature; how our languages, by which we confine human life, impair the mental ascension by which we capture other forms of the world; and how this narrative habitat protected by our beliefs is causing destruction. “.

Which covers perfectly, the argument of this book will be understood. Toledo simply adds that “ Due to the intertwining of humans with natural beings, it attracts those who rise from the ruins […] the horizon of our survival. “.

Although highly readable and impressive for his mastery of the analysis of his frequently annotated works, the book offers relatively few points for discussion. The author chose not to address this to an audience in a position to discuss the propositions, but to a friend who would not object. It is definitely more literature than essay. This does not diminish his interest and enjoyment of reading.

The book is decorated with reproductions of paintings and photographs with comments and drawings by the author. It also contains an appendix that summarizes the ideas developed in the various chapters in the form of diagrams.

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