A fine Agosto il giornale francese Le Monde ha pubblicato sei articoli su Monte Analogue, il romanzo di Daumal che ha ispirato il nome della nostra associazione.
Abbiamo deciso di pubblicarli uno per volta, con la traduzione in inglese di ognuno.
Il secondo articolo, Il libro preferito di François Mitterand è un racconto del legame che il politico ha avuto con il romanzo.
Racconta di come sia venuto a conoscenza del libro, di come se ne sia innamorato.
Si accena alla riscoperta del romanzo avvenuta nei campus americani negli anni settanta, in cui il libro di Daumal era diventato un vero simbolo, e veniva scambiato e girato fra universitari continuamente.
Per Mitterrand stesso, il libro era un simbolo, e i vari significati e le ambiguità presenti nel testo rimarranno qualcosa a cui il politico dedicherà ricerche e riflessioni fino alla morte.
At the end of August, the French newspaper Le Monde has published six articles on Mont Analogue, René Daumal’s novel which our Organization was named after.
The Team of Monteanalogo has therefore decided to republish them, with an English traslation of each one of the articles.
The second one, François Mitterand’s favourite book, tells us about the importance of the book trough Mitterand’s life.
We will know how the famous French politician has discovered the existence of the bool, and how he fell in love with it.
The book was rediscovered by everyone during the Seventies in the USA, where Doumal’s novel became such an important read that students shared it continuously.
For Mitterand too the book was not just a novel, but first of all a symbol: all those ambiguities and meanings hidden in the book will be by Mitterand’s side until his very last breath.
François Mitterrand’s favorite book
For François Mitterrand, the year 1968 is a test: it seems to him that his own youth is slipping through his fingers. His presidential candidacy, announced on May 28th, hasn’t gained the expected support, and his affair with Anne Pingeot is struggling – as one can see (and if one chooses to trust it) from their correspondence, collected in Letters to Anne (Gallimard, 2016). “I am truly dismayed”, he said on May 29th, annoyed that his mistress didn’t wait for him on a date. “My beloved Anne, in spite of the History which marches at great speed on this day, I am the one you love and who loves you”.
It was then that he devoured Le Mont Analogue, an unfinished novel published in 1952, six years after the death of its author, the Reims writer René Daumal (1908-1944). To win back his lover, the socialist literally leant on the book: “I am writing to you stretched out on the wheelbarrow, using Mount Analogue as a desk”, confided her on July 6th. He started reading it on the plane: “I’m spellbound. I believe you will be too”; three days later, a new letter: “I have finished Le Mont Analogue. It is a masterpiece; it would have been a major work of French literature if Daumal had not died before completing the fifth chapter. I’ll bring it for you to read in Gordes” (Gordes is the village in Vaucluse where the two lovers met). Anne is 25 years old, François is in his fifties. In December 1967, he decorated his room with a poster of Che Guevara.
Did you know that in American campuses, hippies passed each other Le Mont Analogue as if they were trading drugs and sex partners? The book is about the ascent of a symbolic mountain by a group of scholars. For Mitterand it will be symbolic in many ways; and he will mark out its ambiguities until death. So it is with his loves: he will praise the novel with Anne in vain, because it will be his wife, Danielle, a bookbinding enthusiast, who will adorn with red morocco the three copies he will acquire over time. And so as well with his friendships. Gabriel Matzneff – currently targeted by a preliminary investigation for the rape of a minor of less than 15 years – visits as a neighbour François Mitterrand on October 7th 1968: “We spoke at length (…) of René Daumal, of which he lent me Le Mont Analogue“, notes the writer in his diary Venus and Juno (La Table Ronde, 1979).
At the same time, Mitterrand praised the novel with another controversial figure: Roland Dumas. On November 14th of 1968, the lawyer pleaded for the posthumous publication of the letters of Roger Gilbert Lecomte (1907-1943), a poet from Reims who led, alongside Daumal, the literary group Le Grand Jeu. “The governess of Gilbert Lecomte’s father had inherited the rights. She prevented everything because she said that he made her dad suffer”, recalls Dumas, at the height of his 98 years. And the old lion modulated, in a smooth voice: “It must be said that all these writers were quite drugged”.
A book that calls for infinity
The mountain described by Daumal is surrounded by the Pacific. It is on another kind of pebble, Saint Louis Island, in Paris, that Dumas receives us. Documentary filmmaker Laurent Védrine, 45 years old, joined the interview. Ever since he discovered it through a friend five or six years ago, he’s been obsessed with Le Mont Analogue. His father and his grandfather, Hubert and Jean, were close collaborators of Mitterrand; and it was his maternal great uncle, the glassmaker Pierre Chigot, who introduced the socialist to Roland Dumas. “When he talks about ‘the forces of the mind’ in his short speech in 1995, do you think he had Daumal in mind?”, asks Laurent Védrine. The nonagenarian leaves the mystery hovering: “They had, without any doubt, the same state of mind”.
Boris Bergmann also lives on Saint-Louis Island. Lawyer Paul Grunebaum-Ballin, his great-grandfather, was close to another socialist, Leon Blum. For the fall, the 29-year-old writer is preparing a collective exhibition in Reims on Mont Analogue, as well as a beautiful book, at the book publisher Gallimard. While going through the archives, he came across an “Apostrophes” program, broadcasted on February 7th of 1975, in which Mitterrand reiterates his love for the novel.
The young man wonders: was the president actually imagining this magical mountain during his ritual climbs on the rock of Solutré, in Burgundy? At the time of imagining the Louvre pyramid in 1983? Or to climb Sinai in 1987? “It’s a book that calls for infinity …” sighs Bergmann dreamily.
Despised by Chiraquie, the 61-year-old judge Eric Halphen found in his boxes a copy of Mont Analogue, annotated by singer Guy Béart (1930-2015). It belonged to his father, the journalist André Halphen (1930-2017), founder of Télé Poche. “Dad was fondling a draft biography of Daumal, his favourite author. Mitterrand, whom he frequented in the 1970s, should have signed the preface. The project got lost in limbo, alas”.
When she worked at Gallimard, Prune Berge watched over the audiovisual rights of Mont Analogue. According to her, one has to go back to Jarnac, in Charente, where Mitterrand grew up, to understand his crush: “He was very close with my aunt, Françoise Delons Royer, the niece of one of the members of the Grand Jeu, André Delons (1909-1940). Maybe they talked about Daumal?” In his Memoirs, Bernard Gheerbrant (1918-2010) remembers the socialist’s visits to his bookshop-gallery, La Hune, at the beginning of the 1950s, in Paris: “He rediscovered the periodical Le Grand Jeu“, he writes.
Madeleine of youth
The Charentais hypothesis therefore seems plausible: for Mitterrand, Daumal would be a madeleine in his youth. Over time, it will also be a companion on the road beyond. In September of 1992, during his stay at Cochin Hospital, where he was treated for prostate cancer, businessman Pierre Bergé brought Le Mont Analogue to the president.
“I witnessed a passionate discussion between the two of them about this novel in a bistro at the end of 1989,” says journalist Laure Adler. “In 1995, I interviewed him in his room at the Elysee Palace: Mount Analogue sat enthroned on the bedside table, surrounded by books on Teresa of Avila and Buddhism”.
After the death of the Sphinx on January 8th in 1996, at the age of 79, other politicians – from François Bayrou to Dominique de Villepin – looked to Daumal; the brother of socialist Pierre Moscovici, the banker Denis, even collected his manuscripts…
This is because the mountain, as wrote the Rémois, “is the way men can rise to divinity, and divinity reveals itself to men”. For those who aspire to the heights of power, there is undoubtedly something to think about.