Decorticate Genius & Laughing Ferrymen

One of the best things, in the world of books and ideas, is to hear a passionate lecture by someone who knows a style, an author, a field, a book.

Some writers are great teachers. Umberto Eco‘s essays are delicious (so Italian!). The literature classes of Nabokov are fabulous (so Russian?). Some guys have this talent to tell you how and why some classics are relevant, interesting and useful even in your little lives.

Le Misanthrope is a French play from the 17th Century. I just read a book from Fabrice Luchini (“Comédie Française, ça a débuté comme ça”), a French actor who tried to write his autobiography, but offered, in fact, pages of passionate lectures about French poetry (Rimbaud), theater (Molière) or prose (Céline), telling us how and why these authors are so enthralling (giving all details he learned as a skilled actor : rhythm, words, sentences, concepts – we French love words, you know that, right?).

Decorticate and peel genius, and offer the recipe to others.

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Well, I won’t do it for you now, but I have a slicexample. Luchini evokes Le Misanthrope, a French play by Molière, 17th Century, and a dialog between two friends. One is the misanthrope, angry against humanity (the full text translated in English is here). The other one trying to tame… Let’s see :

Alceste…times I feel suddenly inclined to fly into a wilderness far from the approach of men.

Philinte…let us torment ourselves a little less about the vices of our age, and be a little more lenient to human nature. Let us not scrutinize it with the utmost severity, but look with some indulgence at its failings.

Sometimes with are Alceste, grouchy against fashion bloggers, or people with 4879 friends of Facebook incapable of communicate with real people around, and at other times we are more like Philinte, trying to understand that these people… do what they can, that they struggle a lot, they try to live, to love, to stand up alive. Maybe they’re unbearable, but they’re not guilty! It’s a balance, a swaying, wavering between both. Haecceity! This is life…

One of my pleasure these days is to discover these authors, I could call them the ferrymen.

Who are yours? Who do you lecture? Do you remember the way you laughed with jubilation? With who?

Thanks for reading!

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