The poetic tombs of Joseph Andras

In the distance the southern sky and So we make war on them

by Joseph Andras

Actes Sud, 112 p. and 94 p., € 9.80 each

Joseph Andras shies away from public curiosity in a form of Gracquian pride. His refusal to appear, his rejection of Goncourt high school students in 2016 for his first book, Of our wounded brothers, are hammered to satiety. But behind this erasure of the author thrives an aesthetic, moral and political quest rarely emphasized: to highlight those who were swept away, crushed, crossed out; through history; or rather by the system, thus denounced. The writer wants to be invisible, so that it is finally possible for us to discern those to whom he devotes himself – by building poetic tombs for them.

There was that of the communist activist Fernand Iveton guillotined in the last years of French Algeria (Of our wounded brothers), then that of a non-violent Kanak pushed to the limit by colonial domination, in 1988, during the Ouvéa tragedy (Kanaky. In the footsteps of Alphonse Dianou). Does Joseph Andras only love fates struck down to concoct heartbreaking hymns “To the captives, to the vanquished!… To many more! “ (Baudelaire)?

Finding himself in tension – each of his sentences obeys an overheated placidity – Andras nevertheless refuses that his writing and his revolt do not turn to the process. He drills today in the fate of a being who has become considerable and therefore dominating – Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969), master of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam -, but by tracking the Parisian period of the hero in the making, at the end of World War I. It was Nguyên Ai Quôc again. The future oppressor, in the name of communist reason of state, was then an ordinary oppressed of capitalism. Here it is seized by a novelist-entomologist, garnis in sordid sub-slopes of the so-called City of Light.

In the winding folds of the old capital, one thing leading to another, the story becomes palimpsest: Fourier, Lenin, Cézanne and other figures who have haunted the places slip by, the dead of the Commune or the Charonne metro infiltrate, and even yellow vests creep in. While Joseph Andras builds a libertarian prosopopoeia with sometimes – unconsciously – Malrucian accents: “You know, of course, that chiaroscuro does not make a body, that the enemy has never been enough to close ranks, that smiling at slogans remains a flirtatious art. You nevertheless believe that it is advisable to listen to the ally until dawn as soon as the ogre closes its fangs; that disunity is a luxury to which the Earth is not yet entitled; that we must seek in the day what the night tells us and in the night what the day reveals. “

In the distance the southern sky carries a refractory melancholy. In a colder and more restrained tone, but not without an always terrible power of evocation (“Seventy bullets penetrate the interior of the animal, its lively and warm flesh”), Joseph Andras simultaneously publishes another book, just as brief: So we make war on them. It is a triptych devoted to the animal cause, to the human condition, to the fate of women, to the adversities experienced by the world of work, to the violence of the order of things. Once again, it is less the prejudices, the allergies, the ideas and even the ideology of the author that grab us, than the controlled lyricism, the determined rhythm, the richness of the timbre and the formidable pulsation of a prose of rebellious aede: “But we laugh at poets, innocent as we are. “


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