2 February 2024

“The Unforgivable” (Gli imperdonabili), by Cristina Campo, translated from Italian by Francine de Martinoir, Jean-Baptiste Para and Gérard Macé, Gallimard, “L’imaginaire”, 312 p., €12.50.

“The Factory of the Masterpiece. How the classics are born”, edited by Sébastien Le Fol, Pocket, 508 p., €9.50.

“Sacred and profane poems”, by John Donne, preface by Virginia Woolf, translated from English by Bernard Pautrat, Rivages poche, “Petite Bibliothèque”, bilingual edition, 204 p., €9.50.

This is undoubtedly the word that best describes what the writer is and should be: “unforgivable”. From Dante to Proust or Chekhov, no great creator who, by the probe he has cast into our abyss, has worked to make himself unforgivable to the community, always concerned with sifting and mitigating things that can be confessed or acceptable pleasures. By placing her meditation under the sign of the irremissible, the Italian poet, critic and translator Cristina Campo (born Violetta Guerrini, 1923-1977) has definitively settled the question. Unique witness of his vision, The Unforgivables (1992), a miraculous series of essays illuminated by a terrible inner asceticism, in which his entirely Rilkian vision of literary secrecy is condensed. A vision which, relying on Pasternak, John Donne, Proust or The thousand and One Nights, summoning mystical hagiography (the Desert Fathers, John of the Cross) and its master Borges, makes the literary act a risk. Writing being, for Cristina Campo, an extreme science, that of the magic carpet weaver playing with the intertwining of threads and the concert of graphic patterns, but also the grace of the flute player traversed by the pneumatic genius of music or of Chopin, whose fingers danced on the piano keys, guided by this supreme quality: the sprezzatura, “messenger of the ineffable and the terrible”. The Unforgivables, or the alpha and omega of the art of reading.

Read also (2006): Cristina Campo: the fires of a mystique

If Cristina Campo tried to unlock the alchemical secret of writingshe never gives, with the works with which she deals, this feeling of familiarity, of the happy level that one finds in The masterpiece factory, directed by Sébastien Le Fol. There is the feeling of scholars cycling through the valley of masterpieces. At each monument, we slow down and one, a specialist in love, analyzes the site, details the facade and qualifies the genius of the place. Sebastien Lapaque leads Gargantuaby Rabelais (1534), to make him smell at home, Antoine Compagnon tells the story of the Trialsde Montaigne (1580-1588), and Laurence Plazenet circulated the manuscripts of Thoughts, by Pascal (1670), drilled from the tiny hole through which passed the wire which ensured its cohesion. Nicolas d’Estienne d’Orves slams the palace with the Physiology of tasteby Brillat-Savarin (1825), leaving it to Jérôme Dupuis to remind us that the unforgivable Céline writes “to make others unreadable”. The trip ends with the Memories of warby Charles de Gaulle (Plon, 1954-1959), in which Arnaud Teyssier sees the “foundations of a cathedral under construction”.

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