beyond the walls

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Like Arthur Rimbaud in The drunken BoatPhilippe Claudel could exclaim: “I miss Europe with its old parapets! » This Lorrain from Dombasle-sur-Meurthe (Meurthe-et-Moselle) engages in an intimate exploration of the notion of border, as he perceived it as a child, defined by his strict field of vision, with the Vosges as the boundary of the glance. To lose sight of his house, to venture beyond the horizon, was still inconceivable. Later, crossing the customs posts in the paternal car, with always a vague feeling of guilt in front of the barrier, confirmed that there were therefore limits. Then, little by little, the frame grew, the view became clearer. Geography, said Gaston Bachelard, is it not « the art of dreaming the earth » ?

Philippe Claudel does not stop there. He dwells on all the variations of this word, starting with the impassable border of the body. But also, at the end of the trying pages describing the agonies of his mother and his aunt, on that « porous » between the living and the dead who try to come together to abolish this separation that we believe to be definitive. That, indefinable, untraceable, of the sleep that leads to “country where one never arrives”, to use the enigmatic title of André Dhôtel’s novel. There are also those, numerous, cumbersome, well locked, of our own limits.

For this seasoned mountaineer, the summit of the mountains remains the ultimate barrier beyond which open up, as after death, infinity and mystery. With this introspective meditation on the visible and the invisible, the material and the elusive, the walls and the vast expanses, Philippe Claudel draws the contours of a fascinating self-portrait, supported by a style of high bearing which is not the least of the pleasures. This philosophical wandering of a free and peaceful mind is not content with what life imposes, it broadens the perspective.

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