The writer who died in 2007 occupied a unique position in the literary landscape. Much cited but more modestly read. Not to mention the recent generations, which one can doubt that they practice assiduously At Argol castle (1938), A handsome dark (1945), the Shore of the Syrtes (1951), A balcony in the forest (1958) or, closer to us, the shape of a city (1985) and Diaries of the great road (1992). The small volume published today by Corti, the lifelong editor, with a preface by Bernhild Boie, the undisputed specialist in his work, could constitute a good means of discovery for this contemporary readership. Pending the publication of the 29 notebooks of Notules, from 2027, Julien Gracq having prohibited their disclosure for a period of twenty years after his death.
The fragments gathered in Life knots embrace the two main axes of this writing. His constant love of raising things seen to the level of poetic, if not mythical, objects, and his no less propensity to look at the world without illusion. The one who, throughout his life, taught history and geography, had early asserted himself by his ability to connect the two and to make them signify in evocations which, according to him, the opposite of simple descriptions, constitute the primary spring of literature.
Those familiar with Julien Gracq will thus be able to find from the first pages, in almost literal proximity with the Diaries of the highway, the rating of the “manic” care given to their living environment by the inhabitants of Sologne, a distant reminiscence of the castles where their ancestors had served. This admirable prose ricochets from fragment to fragment of a beauty that is sometimes luminous and sometimes acid. We think of “The sadness without thought and without horizon of the third age”; embarked for a cruise on Lake Geneva. Or at “The heavy square silhouette” banking and insurance buildings, “Money silos” from Switzerland. If the Gracquian registers are multiple, the language is always held at its highest. Not hesitating to bring down on the literary world of his time a few final verdicts, in the controversial vein of Literature in the stomach. Placed at the end of this invigorating volume, several texts explain Julien Gracq’s demanding relationship with language. Without appearing there, nothing less than the poetic art of a major writer. To read or reread