Lincoln at the Bardo (for everyone) • Fayard • The novel of the month, George Saunders, Philippe Garnier, Bardo, Buddhism, America, Secession • Philosophy magazine
In Tibetan Buddhism, the Bardo designates the place where the souls of the deceased roam. This first novel gives them a voice against the backdrop of the American Civil War.
What happened on the night of February 25, 1862 at Oak Hill Cemetery, in Georgetown, a district of Washington? Nothing in appearance, except the night and the silence. But whoever got closer would perceive a cloud of voices, barely distinct from the murmur of the wind in the countryside. In Bobok, Dostoyev-ski was talking about the dead in a cemetery. George Saunders takes this staging very far and manages to construct one of the most singular novels of contemporary American literature. Who is speaking? Wandering shadows, breaths, characters who, for many, did not understand that they were dead. We hear the voice of Vollmann, an honest bourgeois on the verge of consummating his marriage when a beam smashed his head, or that of Bevins, a repressed young homosexual who persists in believing that his suicide has failed. Many believe that they have returned to the living world or have never left it. Their vital illusion is now deprived of bodies. This disbelief puts them forever in boundless purgatory.
Outside the cemetery, the Civil War is raging. President Abraham Lincoln has just lost his 12 year old son. It is at Oak Hill that the child has just been carried to the ground. The choir of the deceased comments on this extraordinary scene where Lincoln opens his son's tomb to hug his frail body one last time.
Here, the “kingdom of the dead” is a floating intersubjectivity, a kind of plaintive, worried or mocking chirp. George Saunders revives a conception older than that of Christianity or Islam, closer to limbo, Jewish Sheol, Hades of the Greeks or Tibetan Buddhist Bardo - which gives its title to the novel. This polyphony of one hundred and sixty-six voices - & nbsp; among which are inserted extracts from works, diaries or imaginary correspondence & nbsp; - sheds light on the multiple facets of the same immense reality. Beyond this formal prowess, Lincoln at the Bardo, who won the 2017 Man Booker Prize, talks about the boundaries: that between the living and the dead, but also those that the living keep recreating between them. Both, in a way, share the illusion of return which leads either to endless wars or to eternal complaints. With sovereign and devastating humor, George Saunders draws from the world of the dead an endless questioning about that of the living.
From a revelation on his father, Régis Jauffret reinvents this man with the most mundane existence, while continuing his work to undermine the family story.