Ulysse from Bagdad (Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt) [Book review]

Auteur: Eric-Emmanuel SchmittUlysse From Bagdad
Titre: Ulysse from Bagdad
English title: Ulysses from Baghdad
Lu en: Français
Genre: Roman
Année: 2008
Pages: 320 pages.
Note: 5/5

RÉSUMÉ

« Je m’appelle Saad Saad, ce qui signifie en arabe Espoir Espoir et en anglais Triste Triste. » Saad veut quitter Bagdad et son chaos, pour gagner l’Europe, la liberté, un avenir. Mais comment franchir les frontières sans un dinar en poche ? Tel Ulysse, il affronte les tempêtes, survit aux naufrages, échappe aux trafiquants d’opium, ignore le chant des sirènes, et doit s’arracher aux enchantements amoureux. Tour à tour absurde, bouffon, dramatique, le voyage sans retour de Saad commence…

EXTRAIT

“Je m’appelle Saad Saad, ce qui signifie en arabe Espoir Espoir et en anglais Triste Triste ; au fil des semaines, parfois d’une heure à la suivante, voire dans l’explosion d’une seconde, ma vérité glisse de l’arabe à l’anglais ; selon que je me sens optimiste ou misérable, je deviens Saad l’Espoir ou Saad le Triste.

A la loterie de la naissance, on tire de bons, de mauvais numéros. Quand on atterrit en Amérique, en Europe, au Japon, on se pose et c’est fini : on naît une fois pour toutes, nul besoin de recommencer. Tandis que lorsqu’on voit le jour en Afrique ou au Moyen-Orient…

Souvent je rêve d’avoir été avant d’être, je rêve que j’assiste aux minutes précédant ma conception : alors je corrige, je guide la roue qui brassait les cellules, les molécules, les gènes, je la dévie afin d’en modifier le résultat. Pas pour me rendre différent. Non. Juste éclore ailleurs. Autre ville, pays distinct. Même ventre certes, les entrailles de cette mère que j’adore, mais ventre qui me dépose sur un sol où je peux croître, et pas au fond d’un trou dont je dois, vingt ans plus tard, m’extirper.

Je m’appelle Saad Saad, ce qui signifie en arabe Espoir Espoir et en anglais Triste Triste ; j’aurais voulu m’en tenir à ma version arabe, aux promesses fleuries que ce nom dessinait au ciel ; j’aurais souhaité, l’orgueil comme unique sève, pousser, m’élever, expirer à la place où j’étais apparu, tel un arbre, épanoui au milieu des siens puis prodiguant des rejets à son tour, ayant accompli son voyage immobile dans le temps ; j’aurais été ravi de partager l’illusion des gens heureux, croire qu’ils occupent le plus beau site du monde sans qu’aucune excursion ne les ait autorisés à entamer une comparaison ; or cette béatitude m’a été arrachée par la guerre, la dictature, le chaos, des milliers de souffrances, trop de morts.”

MES PENSÉES

Je ne suis pas une fan inconditionnelle d’Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt : certains de ses livres m’ont ravi le cœur et l’esprit tandis que d’autres m’ont déplu parce que drapés dans un intellectualisme excessif. Cela explique sans doute que ce livre soit resté six ans sur mon étagère avant que je me jette à l’eau. Or, une fois plongée dans ce récit, je n’ai plus pu le lâcher.

J’ai vu Saad grandir dans une Irak sous le joug de Saddam Hussein. J’ai vibré à ses côtés lorsque l’Irak fut libéré de son dictateur. Avec lui, j’ai pleuré les morts : Leila, sa fiancée, victime d’un missile tombée sur son immeuble ; son père, tué par erreur par les Américains ; Salma, « sa petite fiancée », sa nièce de six ans pleine de joie de vivre qui courrait chaque jour d’un bout à l’autre de Bagdad pour rassurer les femmes de la maison que Saad était toujours vivant ; Boub, son fidèle compagnon de voyage ; … J’ai vu le chaos s’installer dans un pays qui peinait à trouver son équilibre démocratique et la vie quotidienne des Bagdadis soudain hantée par la peur des attentats. Et puis, j’ai suivi le périple de Saad. Sa quête d’un avenir meilleur, symbolisé par l’Occident, et plus particulièrement par l’Angleterre, le pays d’Agatha Christie, la reine du crime dont les romans, interdits sous le régime de Saddam Hussein, avaient fait naître, chez Leila et Saad, une fascination démesurée. Au fil des pages, j’ai compris comment Saad (et tant d’autres) sombre volontairement dans la clandestinité.

De plus, certains passages m’ont donné matière à réflexion. Ainsi, quand Saad fait une demande visant à obtenir, auprès des Nations-Unies, le statut de réfugié, il se heurte à l’orgueil des Occidentaux qui, dans leur grande bonté, ont délivré l’Irak de la dictature et offert, en offrande, au peuple irakien, la démocratie… Si les Irakiens ne savent pas recevoir comme il se doit un tel cadeau, qu’ils aillent au diable ! L’Occident ne saurait souffrir un seul instant la nostalgie d’un peuple pour les heures plus paisibles de la dictature. Après avoir souffert aux côtés de Saad et de sa famille, on se sent empli d’incompréhension et de révolte devant la position qui est en fin de compte la nôtre, celle de l’Occident : prenez votre mal en patience. Même les atrocités subies par les compagnons de voyage de Saad – qui, du propre aveu de ce dernier, sont sans commune mesure avec les siennes – ne suffisent pas à leur obtenir le ticket d’entrée dans le club très sélect des réfugiés.

Et pour finir, il y a ces mots que nous livre un médecin français qui vient en aide aux sans-papiers :

“Le problème des hommes, c’est qu’ils ne savent s’entendre entre eux que ligués contre d’autres. C’est l’ennemi qui les unit. En apparence, on peut croire que le ciment joignant les membres d’un groupe, c’est une langue commune, une culture commune, une histoire commune, des valeurs partagées ; en fait, aucun liant positif n’est assez fort pour souder les hommes ; ce qui est nécessaire pour les rapprocher, c’est un ennemi commun. Regardez ici, autour de nous. Au XIXème siècle, on invente les nations, l’’ennemi devient la nation étrangère, résultat : la guerre des nations. Après plusieurs guerres et des millions de morts, au XXème siècle, on décide d’en finir avec les nations, résultat : on crée l’Europe. Mais pour que l’Union existe, pour qu’on se rende compte qu’elle existe, certains ne doivent pas avoir le droit d’y venir. Voilà, le jeu est aussi bête que cela : il faut toujours qu’il y ait des exclus.”

Voici un discours qui frappe par la justesse de l’analyse et qui, figurant dans un roman publié en 2008, nous fait prendre conscience qu’aujourd’hui, en 2015, ce texte est encore plus que jamais d’actualité.

Posted in Uncategorized, Book reviews, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie Night at the Gilmore Girls’ house : les 100 meilleurs films américains

Envie d’organiser une soirée films comme nos Gilmore Girls préférées? Voici un petit lien utile : un top 100 des meilleurs films américains. Il ne vous reste plus qu’à prendre un abonnement à la vidéothèque et faire des provisions de popcorn, bonbons, chips, pizzas, etc.

Le top 100 des meilleurs films américains

Gilmore Girls Movie Night

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Literature assignment at Stars Hollow High School (Take Six)

1x01 (11)It is the second book on the list of the Reading Like Rory Gilmore ChallengeSeason 1 – Episode 1: Rory is consciously doing her homework during the Literature class in Stars Hollow High…

Mrs. Traister: For those of you who have not finished the final chapters of Huckleberry Finn you may use this time to do so. For those of you who have, you can start on your essay now. Whichever task you choose, do it silently.
The girls around and in front of Rory pass a bottle of nail polish back and forth as Rory concentrates on writing in her notebook.
GIRL #1: Maybe it’s a love letter.
GIRL #2: Or her diary.
GIRL #3: Could be a slam book.
Girl #4 peers over Rory’s shoulder.
GIRL #4 (with disgust): It’s the assignment.
The girls turn away. Rory sits up straighter and smiles.

Later on… Lane and Rory are walking home from school.

Lane: Well was it a good color at least?
Rory: It had sparkles in it.
Lane: Wow.
Rory: And it smelled like bubble gum when it dried.
Lane: Oh, well, there’s no way Mark Twain could compete with that.

Author: Mark TWAINHuck Finn
Title: (The) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
French title: Les Aventures d’Huckleberry Finn
Genre: Satirical Novel
Year: 1884 (in the U.K. and the Canada) – 1885 (in the U.S.)
Pages: 320 pages.
Rating: 4/5

“Just because you’re taught that something’s right and everyone believes it’s right, it don’t make it right.”

SUMMARY(from amazon.com)

Mark Twain’s classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, tells the story of a teenaged misfit who finds himself floating on a raft down the Mississippi River with an escaping slave, Jim.  In the course of their perilous journey, Huck and Jim meet adventure, danger and a cast of characters who are sometimes menacing and often hilarious.

Though some of the situations in Huckleberry Finn are funny in themselves (the cockeyed Shakespeare production in Chapter 21 leaps instantly to mind), this book’s humor is found mostly in Huck’s unique worldview and his way of expressing himself. Describing his brief sojourn with the Widow Douglas after she adopts him, Huck says: “After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care no more about him, because I don’t take no stock in dead people.” Underlying Twain’s good humor is a dark subcurrent of Antebellum cruelty and injustice that makes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a frequently funny book with a serious message.

A BIT OF CULTURE (wikipedia)

(The) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by the American author and humorist Mark Twain which is actually the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens). It was first published in England in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885.

MAJOR THEMES (wikipedia)

Huck struggles not only with the challenges of his strenuous journey, but also with the 19th century social climate and the role it forces on him regarding Jim. Throughout the story, Huck is in moral conflict with the received values of the society in which he lives, and while he is unable to consciously refute those values even in his thoughts, he makes a moral choice based on his own valuation of Jim’s friendship and human worth, a decision in direct opposition to the things he has been taught. Mark Twain, in his lecture notes, proposes that “a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience” and goes on to describe the novel as “…a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat”.

MY THOUGHTS

It took me a month to finish Huckleberry Finn but it wasn’t the book’s fault: it was mine. I wasn’t always serious with my reading and reading in English (which is always taking me more time) wasn’t helping anyway.

Once I had finished my reading, I wasn’t that impressed by Mark Twain’s so praised masterpiece. It’s only after a few researches that I discovered the great message hidden between those pages. It’s the story of a young adult who experience an inner and disturbing conflict about laws: is it right to obey laws, if the laws are wrong? A young adult who is asking himself why is it so important to do right when it is so easy to do wrong.

“What’s the use you learning to do right , when it’s troublesome to do right and it ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?”

So many important questions that we have asked ourselves so many times. And wisdom about life distilled sometimes by a runaway slave:

“Sometimes you gwyne to git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but every time you’s gwyne to git well agin.”

“The average man don’t like trouble and danger.”

“Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.”

At the end of the day, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of those great novels that everyone should read once in his/her life but it is also one of those books you need analysing in order to grasp its amazing meaning.

Posted in Book reviews, Reading Like Rory Gilmore Challenge, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Literature assignment at Stars Hollow High School (Take Five)

The second noted reference comes from the twentieth episode of the seventh season of Gilmore girls. Rory is disappointed and doubtful since the letter saying she isn’t taken for the New York Times internship and Lorelai tries to reassure her with the established fact that some great writers, for example, had difficult beginnings but the experiences they made then were important part in their future greatness.

7x22

Rory: No, thanks. [short pause in the conversation] Mark Twain.

Lorelai: Hmm?

Rory: Well, Mark Twain had to work as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before he became a successful writer. And if he’d ever had that experience, he never would have written Huckleberry Finn.

Lorelai: Which is one of your favourite books. Remember when you made me have your 12th birthday at the Mark Twain museum in Hartford? I thought one day I was gonna find you on a raft made out of empty milk cartons, sailing down the Housatonic river.

Being a steamboat pilot was accurately part of Mark Twain’s beginnings. Actually, he also tried his hand at printing, typesetting and then gold-mining before finding his calling in journalism and travel writing.

Rory Gilmore isn’t the only one who raved about Twain’s masterpiece. Both T.S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway (THE author worshiped by THE Jess Mariano) considered it as one of the most important books ever written in the U.S. And William Faulkner dubbed Mark Twain “the father of American literature”!

In 1910, Twain died after a colorful life of travelling, bankrupt and great literary success.

Posted in Book reviews, Reading Like Rory Gilmore Challenge | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Literature assignment at Stars Hollow High School (Take Four)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a recurrent cultural reference in Gilmore Girls.

We all remembered the little anecdote that involves Rory, Lindsay and a Mark-Twain’s-Head-Magnet.

Moreover, I have noted at least two episodes, other than the first one, that refer to this classic of the American Literature. I am going to share those scenes with you, dear reader.

The first noted occurrence comes from the fifth episode of the second season titled Nick and Nora, Sid and Nancy.

It is the first day of school. Lorelai and Rory are at Luke’s. Lorelai goes to the counter to get some donuts but Luke is busy. At the same time, Taylor is there with a bunch of scouts boys. At the end, Lorelai goes behind the counter and gets her own donuts.

Huck Finn 1

Boy 2: Hey, Mr Doose. She is not supposed to do that.

Taylor: That’s right. She’s breaking the rules, and people who break the rules end up very lonely with no friends because they have become society’s outcasts.

Lorelai: Planning on burning a little Huck Finn fater lunch, Taylor?

I only noted this reference a little time ago and I didn’t really understand it at first. But some research’s lightened me.

Since its publication in 1884/1885, (The) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was immediately banned. Actually, it is the sixth most frequently banned book in the United States! However, this novel has also been on required High School reading lists for almost as long. It is also a book that colleges chose for summer reading for their first-year students. Moreover, Huckleberry Finn has been called the “Great American Novel”i.e. “a novel that is distinguished in both craft and theme as the most accurate representation of the spirit of age” (i.e. “of the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time”). [Thanks to Wikipedia!]

This surely is a paradox!

Actually, its history of censorship makes Huckleberry Finn one of the Great American Novels. If a book is banned, it means that it makes (some) people uneasy thanks to the issues raised by it. Moreover, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn challenges the American legal system known in the U.S. at the time.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn isn’t only about a poor kid running away from an abusive dad. If it was, this novel wouldn’t be Twain’s masterpiece: it would only be another Tom Sawyer. Actually, when Huck runs away, he immediately encounters another runaway who isn’t escaping a mean dad but who is escaping an entire system of racially based oppression. Jim, the runaway slave, is escaping slavery.

Then, Huck is stuck in an ethical dilemma because helping a runaway slave is not respecting the law… but at the same time, he’s starting to see Jim as a real person rather than someone’s property.

It is why The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a rich subject of study for all the philosophers of law from the Law and Literature school. It raised some important issues as the following one: is it right to obey laws, if the laws are wrong?

Moreover, Huckleberry Finn suggests that the accepted moral values of society are wrong. It suggests that individual conscience should be a more important guide than the rules and laws that everyone follows! One can immediately see then that Huckleberry Finn holds as many pearls for Law and Literature scholars as most classics which have already been studied further.

According to Hemingway, “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn”. Nevertheless, he continues with a somewhat wrong statement: “If you read it, you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating.” This is missing one of Twain’s most important critique: White men like Tom Sawyer will forever manipulate the Huck Finns of the world. Before Tom Sawyer’s arrival, Huck and Jim are making good progress at working out of the hierarchy into which they were born. Then, despite his own moral code and his own logic, Huck Finn follows Tom’s order. In the story, Tom Sawyer leads because he is looking for adventure and Huck follows because he wants to do right… Therefore, choosing our leaders is important in a democracy and solving the racism problem requires a change coming from the Whites.

Posted in Book reviews, Law and Literature, Reading Like Rory Gilmore Challenge | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Literature assignment at Stars Hollow High School (Take Three)

DSC_008811 P.M., in a little town lost somewhere in a surrealistic country named Belgium (Bel(le)-Gique – or something like that😉 – in French).

I am sipping some coffee (decaf actually – if knowing can make you reassured of my sanity, dear reader) because I am availing the fact that it is one cooler day amongst dog days to drink some of my favorite beverage which I am most of the time deprived for the moment since I am not this addicted for drinking hot coffee when it is 35°C outside… But never mind, dear reader: I am rambling, once again! So, I am sipping some decaf coffee while contemplating my notebook and thinking about… Huckleberry Finn. It is amazing: I am hooked! It took me one year to decide of seriously reading Mark Twain’s masterpiece (for the Reading Like Rory Gilmore Challenge), something like one month to actually finish my reading and two weeks to begin serious research about this novel after finishing it… When I read the last page of Huck Finn, I wasn’t that impressed. It was more like: “Ok. That is nice. But I don’t really see why it is called “the Great American Novel”.”

Of course, I had read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when I was much younger and I have felt while reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that it was not the same kind of novel. Huck Finn was a more “mature novel” where Tom Sawyer was, actually, more what we can call, in a very simplified way, “a simple children book” (if even I truly think that there isn’t simple children books because children books, under simple appearances, hide real treasures).

But still, I didn’t understand all the excitement about Huck Finn, despite Rory’s, Hemingway’s (and many others famous) praises.

This evening, I jumped: I began those researches and, as I already said, I am popeyed! Which means… that there would be some articles about it during the newt days… So, close your eyes, dear reader, and imagine you on a raft on the Mississippi River many moons ago, feel the water flowing through your toes and just take a nap… I will be back soon. Meanwhile, let you carry by the power of imagination and let the travel begin!

Posted in Reading Like Rory Gilmore Challenge | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE explanation for my lack of review here

1x04 (02)A zombie gaze because of tiredness and lack of sleep, an imperative need of chocolate and a huge discouragement feeling… Were you a Law Student, Rory???

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment