1 December 2023

“My evil I enchant. Letters from Here and Elsewhere (1866-1906)”, by Pierre Loti, edition established by Alain Quella-Villéger and Bruno Vercier, The Round Table, 592 p., 30 €.

“Oh! dear Loti, believe me, the Mask was good”, correspondence of Blanche Lee Childe and Pierre Loti, edition established by Hervé Duchêne, Le Passeur, 416 p., €9.50.

Viaud Ridge is an underwater mountain ridge in the Indian Ocean. Named in memory of Gustave Viaud, carried away by fever in 1865 aboard theAlpheus and immersed in the vicinity. A young military doctor in Oceania, then in Cochinchina, he was the older brother of Julien Viaud, that is to say of the writer Pierre Loti, whose centenary is being celebrated this year.

This admired elder is at the origin of Pierre Loti’s maritime vocation. At 16, he will follow in his wake, leaving the family home of Rochefort (Charente-Maritime) to prepare for the Naval School in Paris and become an officer. “To go even further than my brother, and more everywhere, all over the world”he will write in A Child’s Novel (1890). Leaving also means giving in to the imagination. In his letters, this big brother tells him about the“delicious island” (Tahiti), and suggests that you can live your dream and just as much dream your life.

Also read this archive (1950): Article reserved for our subscribers The Tahiti of Pierre Loti

Which Loti will do without unraveling anything. He puts on makeup, disguises himself as an Arab warrior, an Egyptian god. He wears the uniform, the habit of an academician. He embarks on a long journey, ignites for the Orient and nourishes his novels with his adventures – the first, Aziyadepublished anonymously in 1879, is the story of his tragic passion for the young beauty of a Turkish harem.

A childhood nerve

With Pierre Loti, everything is true and everything is invented, life, books (about thirty: novels, short stories, stories). What binds reality to the dream is a childhood nerve. A lively pulp of emotions, of sorrows. Alain Quella-Villéger and Bruno Vercier, biographers, specialists of the writer, revealed it in the five volumes of his Log (Scholarly Indies, 2006-2017). They led My evil I enchant (his motto, printed on his letterheads), a collection of nearly four hundred letters – family, crowned heads, artists, celebrities, friends – written between his departure for Paris to prepare for the naval school competition (1866) and the publication of Disenchanted (1906), his last great novel. epistolary, as Aziyade. Reading them, we touch, not on the truth, but on the sincerity of Loti, on his fragility. A sensitive portrait is composed which becomes clearer over time. We see the progress of the books.

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