C.F. Ramuz, Fernando Pessoa and Jean-Pierre Simeon

“The Need for Things and Other Chronicles”, by Charles Ferdinand Ramuz, introduction by Daniel Maggetti and Stéphane Pétermann, Zoé, “Pocket”, 288 p., €11.50.

“How others see us. Proses published during the author’s lifetime II. 1923-1935”, by Fernando Pessoa, translated from Portuguese by Simone Biberfeld, Parcidio Gonçalves, Dominique Touati and Joaquim Vital, collected and annotated by José Blanco, Les Belles Lettres, 400 p., €15.90.

“Poetry to live. Words of poets”, edition and preface by Jean-Pierre Siméon, choice of texts by Jean-Pierre Siméon and Marie Gargne, Folio, 144 p., 3 €.

The chronicler, his name says it enough, deals only with time, to the secret of its intimate duration, to the din of historical intensities or to the small flow of days. A temporal universe that he sifts to isolate the nuggets of events or delimit the interior whirlwinds. Placed under the invocation of need thingsthe thirty texts that Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (1878-1947) published in the Swiss press between 1907 and 1943 (Geneva Journal, Lausanne Gazetteor the weekly Today, for the most part) make it an exceptional historical watchtower.

Entrenched in its Swiss crow’s nest, a preserved topmast, cocooned in its neutrality, which it judges with severity (“the country in the middle of everything, but at the same time outside of everything”), he is brought, by his scrutiny of the news, to a vision that his methodical calm makes even more implacable. Throughout the chronicles published during the First World War, modern man appears to life “made of holes sewn to holes”creature born of war, “innumerable collective man”irresponsible and self-sufficient, hostage to a society where “universal melee of abstractions” of a language that has become artificial. The Ramuz of the 1930s then targets science as a pathogenic agent, a science quite incapable, like the machine, of satisfying its need for truth. Ramuz, sometimes, tightens the frame on a single object which symbolizes his vision, such as the city of Lausanne and its aberrant urbanization, or gold, “matter-sign” of which he delivers a powerful analysis. The outbreak of the Second World War led him to reaffirm his faith in fruitful and respectful exchanges between man and the immanent wealth of the world. Alongside a Jünger or a Bernanos, the creed of an uncompromising humanist.

During the interwar period, Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) submits to a completely different discipline and a completely different intellectual scenography. The second volume of texts (chronicles, commentaries) that he published under his surname (and not under that of one of his multiple heteronyms, fictitious figures who have their own works and aesthetics) show us this, with a an intellectual dandyism with a scathing arrogance, a formidable melancholy and a sharp humor, zigzagging from one subject to another. We go from a messianic profession of faith in the universal vocation of Portugal (and from a satire of provincialism) to a manual of commercial correspondence, from a spleenetic meditation to an evocation of fado, of the British writer and occultist Aleister Crowley to the national political crisis. Carefully annotated by its editors, this apparently disparate set actually delivers a vision of the world of total coherence, where the anxiety of universal emptiness clashes with a necessary interior aristocratism.

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