Sylvain Tesson, what remains and what collapses

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Our columnist returns to the petition launched against the writer Sylvain Tesson. Between the poets who love what remains and those who prefer what collapses, there are witnesses to what lasts versus what gives the illusion of lasting.

By responding on Sunday January 28 on France 2 to those who had petitioned against his sponsorship of the Spring of Poets , Sylvain Tesson was able to situate the debate on the ground that he should never have left: that of the French language. This is why he himself proposed to his adversaries a whole series of insults that they could have addressed to him, instead of once again drawing out “extreme right”, “word of absolute conformism”. And to suggest to them “retrograde”, “out of date”, “rebellious”, “workhorse” or “old locomotive”. There was something of Cyrano there, offering the sneer, incapable of finding anything in his own mind, a thousand sarcasms on his nose. 

Two types of writers

Beyond the game of synonyms, Tesson made this clarification: “I want to admit that I like what remains rather than what collapses. » Those who can only think in political and Manichean terms will translate by “conservative” rather than “progressive”, but they will thus miss the full poetic significance of the expression. More than two political families, the opposition can designate, without the slightest value judgment, two types of writers. There is a beauty of the rediscovered residence, of the majestic durability of a cathedral, of the transmission of a poem from century to century. There is also, from Du Bellay to romanticism, via Diderot, a poetics of ruins, because the collapsed monument suggests the “worldly inconstancy” and the vain efforts of man to perpetuate in stone. This does not prevent, moreover, the conclusion that the spirit remains… In front of Notre-Dame de Paris in flames, some thought of reconstruction so that Christianity could continue, others meditated on the end of an era reduced to ashes. Nothing says that poetry is more on one side than the other. “What remains and what collapses” would not be a bad theme for the 2025 edition of Spring of Poets .

However, the writer and disciple of Christ is permitted to formulate things a little differently, without idolatrous conservatism or destructive progressivism. Also Mauriac noted, in 1965, the day after a mass for the tenth anniversary of Claudel ‘s death : “Yes, yesterday at Notre-Dame he [Claudel] could have believed that nothing had changed in the Church ; but there again it would have been an illusion, because more than one stone has already come loose; the liturgy unravels before our eyes, a prayer, and then another prayer will enter into eternal silence. » It is to the point that Mauriac thinks of “a terrible word” from Talleyrand: “The funeral of a great cult. ” But, knowing how to see the One who alone remains when everything collapses, Mauriac adds: “And certainly I did not think of it with a thought of blasphemy, I who have never confused worship, rite with the object of faith and who knows that what matters at Notre-Dame de Paris, as in the most abandoned village church, is the breaking of bread, it is the living bread. »

The witness of what lasts

To this same Mauriac who wanted to introduce him to the French Academy, Bernanos provided a response which also blurs the boundary between the love of what remains and the taste for what collapses: “You will certainly agree that this distinction is not made for me, nor for the kind of services that I provide, and which make me pass, among so many fools, for a demolitionist when I would like – God knows – to stay only until end, in a society which is falling into dust, the witness of what lasts against everything which gives the illusion of lasting. » Bernanos conservative? Good luck to anyone who wants to demonstrate this. Bernanos progressive? Even more absurd. But Bernanos is a Catholic , yes, quite simply, castigating with the same freedom the cruel habits that the world insists on preserving and the barbaric novelties that it passes off as progress in the midst of the ruins of Christianity.

“What lasts versus what gives the illusion of lasting. » Even more than what remains versus what collapses, this could be the motto of a writer who venerates neither the tombstones of the past nor the progressive mirages. It is not certain that this has its place in the Spring of Poets . 

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