FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE – On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his death, this September 22, the Bouquins collection brings together the writings of Jean-René Huguenin. An invitation to spirituality against the materialism of our time, according to the lawyer.
Lawyer, local elected representative and Deputy Director General of the Thomas More Institute, Aymeric de Lamotte published Storm on Aconcagua published by Transboréal in 2022.
First there are finely chiseled features, taut and smooth skin, eternally frozen in the time of youth. A square jaw with a broken chin. A smile that stretches mischievously without rising, a sign of challenge sent to existence. An eagle gaze that darts the insolence of those sure of their faculties.
This spectacularly handsome man would command attention only briefly if his face didn’t appear contorted with a fleeting worry, if it weren’t hollowed out by an uneasiness that he tried in vain to dispel by nervously drawing on his cigarette as he drew on the life, if a blazing fire did not crackle in his alert eyes. Julien Gracq, his teacher at Lycée Claude-Bernard, put it together in this brilliant formula: “He stubbornly recalled the full wind”. Everything Huguenin is contained in these three words: full wind.
Literature also reserves its lightning strikes. The name of a writer enters distractedly through one ear, the work begins without apprehension, a plot grabs the attention, a style seduces, time slips away and sometimes a collision occurs between the reader and the author lurking in the shadow of the work. The diary, which is an exercise in stripping, facilitates this unique encounter because it reveals it intimately.
An attitude towards existence, perceptions of the outside world, a temperament ribbed with impulses, feelings, fears resonate deep echoes in the attentive reader. By words alone, a stranger seems extraordinarily close. the Log by Jean-René Huguenin evokes Murat’s famous cavalry charge at Eylau.
His straight-lined sentences, precociously imbued with that beautiful seriousness that only experienced writers usually possess, exult and breathe such a thirst for life that they become audible. When you read it, you instantly hear his voice, which still vibrates in the ear for a long time after you look up. His writing is a roar continually renewed by an incomparable vitality — “Throw yourself into the street, into life, into the world, with your head held high and your body exposed.” We would have been to him what Cassady was to Kerouac.
We would have watched him with admiration, he, armed with all the gifts, was consumed “like a Roman candle”; and we would have liked it.
In their prose, Chateaubriand and Proust meticulously embroider their poetry and adorn it with multiple details. Conversely, Huguenin progresses by using an elliptical style, comparable to that of Céline.
Aymeric de Lamotte
His only novel, The Wild Coast, is a dazzling manifestation of poetic prose. Suzanne Julliard associated this one, very appropriately, with the verses of Les Djinns by Victor Hugo: “A song on the shore, at times rises (…)”. In their prose, Chateaubriand and Proust meticulously embroider their poetry and adorn it with multiple details. Conversely, Huguenin progresses by using an elliptical style, comparable to that of Céline.
In these two writers, we find this same emotion held in check, distilled by broken sentences, which lifts our lips, this art of sketching the feeling by allusion. It is suggested literature—and therefore eminently poetic. Céline’s prose is a dirge while Huguenin’s is a song of tragic joy — “Make the tragic feeling of life not a reason for despair, but the source of its exaltation.” Huguenin is a sunny Céline who intensely loved the bright light of a summer that was too short.
Both crack the distinction formalized by Sartre between the prose writer who uses of language and the poet who serves. Célinien and Hugueninien songs are not only utilitarian, they do not go straight to the point, they take roundabout paths that address the imagination and serve language. While reading The Wild Coast, we are torn between the poetic description of summer days in the Breton setting and the disturbing nature of the plot. The two men also have this in common to be annoyed by an indifferent post-war levity.
When Celine says: “That they were heavy.” , he alludes to the materialistic preoccupations of his contemporaries and their passion for frenetic and derisory movement. Huguenin writes that what is not severe not only bores him but pains him, and which he experiences in the face of the levity “a kind of childish sorrow”. Superficiality weighs on them.
We distinctly hear Huguenin’s voice because he roars, but also because his literary and political positions clash in a time of moral liberation; and which continue to dissonate, with even more clarity, in our time when this liberation is worsening. He is surprised by the optimism of his elders with regard to this new sexual release. He is startled to read that they congratulate themselves on having taken up the challenge of Rimbaud (“Love is to be reinvented.”).
The author of The Wild Coast think, conversely, that today “the bold, senseless, but perhaps ultimately liberating enterprise would be to speak of love”.
At a time when we allow the tyranny of entertainment to distract our lives and gut our resolutions, Huguenin stands as a salutary call to order.
Aymeric de Lamotte
He writes that his generation “begins to be tired of this civilization without mystery which claims to give him the answer to everything and teach him to believe only in what can be seen, touched or counted. She is tired of possessing bodies so easily and of losing, by this very ease, the hope of a more delicate enjoyment, which she does not dare call love. She is tired of only feeling her heart beat for thirty seconds, on a barely crumpled bed, the very evening of the first meeting; (…) and in the secrecy of her torn, misunderstood heart, she dreams of more lasting beatitudes”.
Huguenin would no doubt have considered that the experimental trilogy — To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, Song to Song — by American director Terrence Malick participates in this enterprise, which reconnects with eroticism, a suggestive unspoken, adjourned kisses, the delicate taming of beings and the tentative discovery of bodies. The acuity of his observation has not dulled.
Houellebecq has completed the diagnosis of this society won over by the instinctual consumption of the other and pornography, which impoverishes, dries up and prevents love from flourishing. In Serotonineven Kate and Camille’s immense reservoir of love fails to hold back Florent-Claude who, to his greatest misfortune, yields to the infinity of possibilities.
The criticism formulated by Huguenin of the modern conception of love and, above all, of the modern conception of life, continues in his criticism of the New Wave. He “settles his account” at this “myth” by castigating the disgust of the world, the sadness of enjoying and the fatigue of living of its heroes. Michel Poiccard in Breathlessplayed by Jean-Paul Belmondo, is an illustration of this.
Much has been made of the “fury to live” archetypal characters of that time—Sagan, for example, whom Huguenin scratched several times—but they seem rather inhabited by a fury to flee from each other, a fury in the face of their insensitivity and their boredom that they fill with substitutes existence: alcohol, speed, “everything that intoxicates, turns your head and closes your eyes”. Conversely, Huguenin hated dispersion. His Log is traversed by a perpetual struggle with himself to escape facility, weakness and indifference.
His demand on himself was ruthless. He wanted at all costs to resist himself, to conquer himself. He sought the company of loneliness and suffering to better descend within himself and build his work. At a time when we allow the tyranny of entertainment to distract our lives and gut our resolutions, Huguenin stands as a salutary call to order.