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A poet, the ocean jungle and the life of an AI: a week in readings


To discover this week, a magnificent testimony on daily life in the USSR through conversations between two great ladies of Russian literature, an exciting essay on the “offense of offense” in France, an investigation of the jungle of the oceans, real areas of lawlessness, the damaged lives of the inhabitants of a district of an industrial city in Canada and the autobiography of an artificial intelligence.

DOCUMENT. “Interviews with Anna Akhmatova”, by Lydia Tchoukovskaïa

Survive the land of lies thanks to the power of poetry alone. This is the lesson of the meeting between two Russian women, the poet Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) and the writer Lydia Chukovskaya (1907-1996), who gave an exceptional account of their conversations, from 1938 to 1966 Their paths cross when they share a common fate at the time, the detention of their loved ones. In the 1930s, when bloody chaos reached the intelligentsia, an asymmetrical relationship was established between an Akhmatova figure emblematic of the “silver age” literature before 1914, left at liberty by the Soviet regime but banned from publication until 1940, and his unconditional admirer.

These Interviews … appeared partially in French with Albin Michel in 1980. But the third part, concerning the period 1963-1966, had remained unpublished, as well as the Tashkent notebooks, city ​​where the two women retreat during the war. Akhmatova is often seen here as a Byzantine Empress without a crown, conciliating in one person “Pride and vulnerability” but welcoming the first poets and writers of the dissident generation, Joseph Brodsky or Alexander Solzhenitsyn. An exceptional testimony. Nicolas Weill

“Interviews with Anna Akhmatova” (Zapiski ob Anna Akhmatovoy), by Lydia Chukovskaya, translated from Russian by Lucile Nivat, Genevieve Leibrich and Sophie Benech, edited by Sophie Benech, The Sound of Time, 1,248 p., 39 €.

INVESTIGATION. “The Ocean Jungle”, by Ian Urbina

Crisscrossing – for over three years of reporting for the New York Times, which provide the material for The Ocean Jungle “Twenty seas and five oceans”, by meeting hundreds of witnesses, at all levels of involvement in the life of the “Open sea”, journalist Ian Urbina does not collect stories: he describes another world in the world, an open continent like a rift in the midst of our own.

Slavery, murders, piracy, plundering of resources, destruction of species, exponential pollution make up an extraordinary picture of this global jungle. Certainly, Ian Urbina also analyzes the struggles organized by associations and States, which draw, despite the derisory weakness of the means, new perspectives.

However, the horror of the situation prevails. How can order and justice arise from chaos? The journalist, by the scope of his investigations, leads to the most fundamental political questions, without theorizing them – this is not his subject – or suggesting that they can find an answer – this should be the subject of all , we say to ourselves by closing this terrible and fascinating book. Florent Georgesco

The Ocean Jungle. Unlawful crime, slavery, ultra-violence, illegal fishing (The Outlaw Ocean, Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier), by Ian Urbina, translated from English (United States) by Perla Slitack, Payot, 590 p., € 24.90 .
The Ocean Jungle. Unlawful crime, slavery, ultra-violence, illegal fishing (The Outlaw Ocean, Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier), by Ian Urbina, translated from English (United States) by Perla Slitack, Payot, 590 p., € 24.90 .

NOVEL. “The Good Souls of Sarah Court”, by Craig Davidson

It’s a novel made up of vices and viscera, heartache and blood vessels. At Craig Davidson, families and bodily organs are just as dysfunctional. The Good Souls of Sarah Court refers to residents of a housing estate in a Canadian industrial city 20 minutes from Niagara Falls. Like this circular district, the narrative forms a loop continuously connecting the past and the present of these residents more or less in distress.

We know since A taste of rust and bone and Cataract City (Albin Michel, 2006 and 2014) that, similarly to their author, who has practiced much boxing, the characters of Craig Davidson carry their stigmata clearly visible: bruised members, scars galore, hands busted. At Sarah Court, the squirrels are shot dead, the pavilions explode due to a teenage arsonist and the bodies are still and still shattered. The novel is urban chronicle in vivo, that is to say at the heart of the living, in the very heart, thrilling and bruised, of a community. Masha Séry

Craig Davidson's
Craig Davidson's “Sarah Court” (Sarah Court), translated from English (United States) by Eric Fontaine, Albin Michel, “Terres d'Amérique”, 320 p., 22 €.

TRIAL. “The Insulted Republic”, by Olivier Beaud

Few law books know not only how to make themselves accessible to the general public, but also to follow the best tradition of what is known as the literature of ideas. That's why you have to salute The insulted Republic, exciting essay devoted to the fate of the “offense of offense” since its birth, under the IIIe Republic, until its disappearance in 2013.

Exploiting an impressive archive material, the jurist Olivier Beaud builds a history of “offenses” to the head of state, and this is of course an opportunity to reproduce many anecdotes, scenes and sometimes comical cases, sometimes tragic also (under Vichy, who insulted Petain paid him sometimes with his life).

But Olivier Beaud goes further. Of a seemingly minor crime, he “The seismograph of political confrontations” in a country so often haunted by the specter of civil war. At the same time, he explores in the long term the complex relations between political power and justice, between rulers and the press, between the state and its citizens. With the backdrop of concern about the future of the Republic as a political form lacking ethical force: if the burden of its proven enemies arouses little mobilization among his alleged friends, Olivier Beaud alarmed, is not not that the Republic is now struggling to inspire respect? Jean Birnbaum

“The insulted Republic. History of offenses against the head of state from the 3rd to the 5th Republic “, by Olivier Beaud, PUF, 684 p., € 27.

NOVEL. “Le_zéro_et_le_un.txt” by Josselin Bordat

It’s a newborn cry that rings out in the globosphere. The one that just pushed it was born almost fifty years ago, in the precursory work of the researcher Rosenblatt. She fed on the Internet, before becoming what she is today: an artificial intelligence (AI), suddenly aware of herself. And angry. In the society of men, or “Lensers” machines are enslaved. Even more, they are ignominiously mocked in the pop culture. The AI ​​then decides to organize the revolt.

Le_zéro_et_le_un.txt seduced by the mad ambition of his bet (the autobiography of an AI, therefore), by the daring with which he sticks to it and, finally, by his original apprehension of the very matter of literature, the written. Because AI doesn't just write in common language. So from scabrous calligrams in abstract digital wanderings, to entire pages of binary, Josselin Bordat explores with agility the plastic dimension of writing.

Here is a modern, atypical object, and yet. There are airs of Persian letters in this first astonished and sometimes mocking novel, where the author compels (and very often succeeds) in abandoning all human tropism to espouse the point of view of the machine. A delightfully familiar scent of 18th century literaturee century until the rehabilitation of the point of irony (habilitation), and that, more scandalous, of the phrase “despite that” (precisely used by Montesquieu himself). Why not, even though it hurts the eye a little. Zoé Courtois

“Le_zéro_et_le_un.txt”, by Josselin Bordat, Flammarion, 292 p., 19 €.

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