Greek Summer

Today is the day when Spring and Winter join the tips of their fingers.

I had a dream yesterday. I was talking with my friend M. about somebody I don’t remember now, a man, I believe. I said something like: what is good about him is that he believes in the soul. My friend looked a bit sceptical. So I embarked on a long, convoluted and utterly self-addressed explanation of the reasons why I know souls exist. I can’t remember any rational argument now. But I can still feel the images, the colours, the touch of the light.

I was trying to make my point through images (the things you do in dreams), the very pictures which have stayed with me after reading L’Eté grec by Jacques Lacarrière a long time ago. On my journey from a mythical Greece I had chosen as my “patrie imaginaire” deep in childhood, to living in the real world and embracing Christianity, that book (how do you translate a “récit de voyage” ? Traveler’s tale ? Account of a journey ? Travel story?) built a bridge which allowed me to cross a rift that I had never imagined I would want to or be able to cross. Sometimes people ask me why I became a Christian. I may have been able to explain it quite well some years ago, but the words and the chain of events have left me now (my memory is capricious). Yet I know that I would probably have died without that conversion. And I think with tenderness of the moment when my friend lent me his volume of L’Eté grec (he used to scribble poems by Ronsard on tiny bits of paper during the German lessons and, if he at first expected me to take my turn in this literary game, he soon came to realise I wasn’t able to do it, being far less cultivated than he was. Yet he didn’t hold a grudge and carried on making the destroying of Heinrich Heine bearable).

How I loved that book ! The Mediterranean sea, the colours, the smells, that beauty you recognise at the unmistakable piercing of your heart, Lacarrière’s lighthearted step on the stony paths of Mount Athos, the funny encounters with a few crazy monks, and the song of the waves – yes, of course, we have a soul. Mount Athos became a sort of key for me, the key to the gate linking the Greece of my dreams to a real country where people lived real and sometimes Christian lives (how I was heartbroken when I discovered I would never be able to visit the Holy Mountain!). I was young when I read it. Yet I trust the book must really be what I thought it was then, because my friend’s taste was very sure and his mind truly brilliant.

If you haven’t read Lacarrière, get yourselves a copy of (The?) Greek Summer. The man, an erudite Classicist who practised journalism, literary critics, theatre and of course traveling, is very inspiring, and his style lively, witty, poetic, similar in some aspects to that of Nicolas Bouvier (how on Earth does Bouvier do funny, poetic, original and deep at the same time? I find his writings have the precision and the evocative power of those estampes where a few strokes create a world).

Jacques Lacarrière

Jacques Lacarrière, source : http://www.babelio.com/auteur/Jacques-Lacarriere/8690

My dream wasn’t really about the existence of the soul. It was about this very moment when Winter and Spring join the tips of their fingers. Our bodies take part in that unmistakable swelling of the new season, which in the depths of my unconscious memory connected to the rise of that Summer light. A new door was opened then, to the landscape of a Greek Summer which kept me alive.

Couverture : L'été grec

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