“There are no new lights without darkness”

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© MAGALI DELPORTE FOR JDD
This summer, the JDD publishes a series of meetings with great lovers of literature from the angle of reinvention. This week: the writer and academician Jean-Christophe Rufin.


When you pronounce the word “reinvention” in front of Jean-Christophe Rufin, the academician whose appearance could have destined him to play in the next James Bond does not think psychoanalysis, but Covid-19. “Medical base” requires. It is he who says it under a full sun on Place de l’Odéon in Paris. “The crisis was an opportunity to reconnect with this base. Life had moved me away. I felt that the medical gaze was still there in me, that it conditioned first and foremost my way of understanding it. humanity. We remain a doctor for life. This crisis has reconciled me with myself, by re-joining the two separate pieces of my existence: the medical period and my existence as a writer. “

Our “reconciled” has just created a foundation, Sustainable health for all. “An alliance of researchers and intellectuals to reflect on public health after the Covid-19, he explains. The ecology of health has changed completely. Our attitude towards biodiversity has consequences on diseases It is important to engage with actors in the field, to have a less compartmentalized approach to health, especially between animals and humans. We are no longer in the Pasteur era where a microbe alone produced a disease . Today, it is the interaction between a pathogen and an ecosystem that must be taken into account. “

It is hard to believe that he has just turned 68. It amuses him. He smiles, says he feels good about himself, and “maybe even better than 20”. Really? “It’s an age of accomplishment. I’m touching wood, I still have all the original parts!” He drops the jacket. To hear it, and he puts a lot of intensity into it, “a collective reinvention” is underway. He sees as proof “the choice of green mayors, the search for new more rural places of residence; the demand for industrial relocation and proximity in terms of consumption is a first signal”.

Reinvention through writing

With him, reinvention also involves writing. He looks serious, suddenly looks you straight in the eye: “Writing makes it possible to grasp a lived experience, often blurred, to put it in order and make it intelligible, in his own eyes. First. I succeeded Henri Troyat at the Academy. In paying him homage, I clearly realized this mechanism. Troyat had lived everything in his early childhood: wealth, exile, revolution, destitution, etc. He had buried these memories and it is through his work that he reinvested and sublimated them. I believe that the events that we have experienced with the pandemic, like all great episodes in history, do not were not perceived at the time in their depth. It will take many years, many testimonies and many creations for them to take their true dimension. Let us be a little Confucian: life is made of cycles. no rebirth without dark periods, no new lights without darkness. To the pandemic and to the mistakes to which if it has given rise, new progress will follow. What we have witnessed is the return of our weaknesses, that is to say of our humanity. “Where we see that he will never give up his optimism.

A doctor can see everything, know everything, enter houses, probe bodies and hearts

The former French ambassador to Senegal and Gambia is swarming with literary projects for Aurel Timescu, his “little consul”, that of the Suspendu de Conakry, the Trois femmes du consul and the Flambeur de la Caspienne, his latest book. “I would have liked to publish under a waterproof pseudonym, reborn under a mask.” Here, rebirth. “My editor was not very keen. I wanted to tell a lot of things seen from the front row. Speaking about the present using my diplomatic experience without betraying professional secrecy.”

We stop it; is a doctor like an emissary from the Quai d’Orsay? “I took the Hippocratic Oath at the end of my studies. This text proposes a sort of pact between the doctor and the real. A doctor can see everything, know everything, enter houses, probe bodies and hearts. But he must not reveal anything of the secrets that have been entrusted to him. This oath weighs very heavy the day a doctor decides to write. In order not to betray his oath, he must resort to tricks. that I started with historical novels. Today, it’s Aurel who allows me to take this distance. “

His warm voice is teased: “I have new ideas for Aurel. I am thinking of confronting him with the Amazonian piranhas.” The Amazon, he knows, he took her down last January. But he won’t write this summer; in the summer, he does not write. He was only an exception to the rule once, after having had surgery for a hernia on his back.

A rebirth in white

The ideal summer, according to him, “it’s a mountain summer, in the mountains, between now and the end of September”. “The withdrawal of the snows releases delicious pastures, reveals sculpted rock walls, allows access to refuges. These are moments full of color and light. In this regard, the confinement was gentle because the weather was good this spring and, despite the gloomy news brought by the news bulletins, we had before us a spectacle that already foreshadowed summer and the rebirth of life. “

The traveling adventurer was confined in Haute-Savoie, in Saint-Nicolas-de-Véroce. “A mountain next to Contamines where on January 22 the first case of Covid-19 in an English family was detected. This first outbreak was well controlled, managed without containment, in a cluster. Then, we gave in to our centralizing national genius: I am not convinced of the need to confine everyone in the same fashion, from Mulhouse to Lozère. “

He does not push the controversy any further, prefers to describe to you how he was hiding to sneak well beyond the regulatory kilometer. “There was a small side of the maquis …”, he quipped. When he was not walking in the woods, he was reading. “As president of the jury for the Orange Book Prize 2020, I was invited to read contemporary novels; it allowed me to discover, among other things Before the long red flame, by Guillaume Sire. “Without counting the classics.” I have traveled through a large part of Arthurian legend around Perceval the Welshman, Merlin and King Arthur. I devoured Ivanhoé and the prefaces where Walter Scott talks about the technique of his writing. I reread the five volumes of Clan des Otori, of an Australian who signs the pseudonym of Lian Hearn. “A saga which fascinates him, where the word” Japan “is never pronounced.

You could listen to him for hours on end talking about Baku, showing you pictures on his cell phone. Or his next novel, which is finished but still untitled. “A great love story in the mountain tradition without accidents or helicopters!”, He gets carried away. And the one in which each of the novels has its own color to specify that, this time, it is “white”. Wide smile. “On December 31, in Rio, everyone dresses in white to celebrate Goddess Yemangea and the New Year.” White, then. The color of rebirth.

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