“The Heroics makes us see the border between the role we play in the world and the essence of our being”

FIGAROVOX / READING – Luc-Olivier d’Algange has read The Heroics by Paulina Dalmayer. A novel retracing the last days of Wanda, a Polish woman suffering from cancer, this book is also a deep reflection on love, time and heroism, he believes.

Luc-Olivier d’Algange is a poet and essayist. He notably published The Secret Soul of Europe: Works, Mythologies, Iconic Cities (L’Harmattan, 2020) and The Deciphering of the World: The Poetic Gnosis of Ernst Jünger (L’Harmattan, 2017).


Here is a book full of muscles and nerves that changes us from the ordinary flaccidity of comfortable nihilism, from those novels which seem to be written with the lips of their lips. In these Heroics, it is a whole body which writes, with its tendons, its joints, its nerve endings, the electricity which passes between the neurons, the crackling of phosphenes, the circulation of blood in the veins and the beating of the heart – without forgetting the skin, which is the supreme organ of perception.

Wanda, who is the main character of this novel, knows that she is going to die, that her days are numbered and that her body, before falling apart, is the seat of a soul that persists. What to do during these remaining days? And above all, how to do it? What happens then? Endowed with this terrible certainty, which is the close limit that we cannot now hide under more or less amiable uncertain clouds, Wanda is not going to theorize a The art of dying, on the contrary, it will live and relive, kill and resuscitate, through reminiscence and desire, a ars amandi, an art of loving.

We will learn in this way, in this journey, that love is worth only loose and diverse, and that we must say, as in the past, The loves, not only to designate by this plural a greater or lesser number of loved ones, but also to understand that there are many ways to love, unexpectedly, with spirit, with loyalty or deep friendship, including none allows itself to be reduced to this sentimental compactness which packs in the same artificial compound – which will have the charm of dental amalgams – sex, feeling, possession, social name, family submission, and other occurrences of “big animal», To use the Platonic formula dear to Simone Weil, in other words of this society, of this forced collectivism, which have become the enemies of civilization and civility. Heroism will be to get rid of it.

Suffice to say that we should not expect these ethical pricelessness, these well-managed complaints, these gloomy mundaneities which are, alas, the most common background of current French novels.

Luc-Olivier d’Algange

This cruel novel, like the theater of Artaud or Grotowski – who is one of the characters in the novel, but we will not disclose any more – cannot be read as a gloomy or depressing antiphon: it looks at us and us decipher. It is not an object, but a methexis, a participation, thus verifying this evidence: the more the subject is subjective and personal, the more it is held in the framework of its own world and the better it operates in a kind of active impersonality where we can find our own truths and our own temptations , as Grotowski does precisely when he questions the passage from the “role” to the “essence” of the characters.

Paulina Dalmayer’s novel forces us to keep in mind this quivering frontier which separates and unites our “role” played in the world of the mysterious “essence”, out of reach, which alone remains, such, behind the scroll. footage from a movie, projector light.

Wanda is Polish, which is to say that she comes to us from Mitteleuropa, and what she tells us, by remembering, and by acting, comes from this civilization, prodigiously complex and alive, which also is, at this moment in history, on the verge of death. Suffice to say that we should not expect these ethical pricelessness, these well-managed complaints, these gloomy mundaneities which are, alas, the most common background of current French novels. We are, with The Heroics, on the Witkacy or Döblin side of Babylonian journey. The irony, which runs through the novel like a saving fluid right through, is not that of the nervous intelligence – that is to say, by etymology, deprived of nerve – but that of “double regard», which captures the day and night of the characters, with a single sure stroke, in its immediate sensitive ductility and in its final end.

In her beautiful escape, barefoot in the snow, Wanda certainly remembers her Polish youth, the collective communist imprisonment, her family curse, her theatrical adventures, but the memory prevails, lifts her in a present that will belong only to her

Luc-Olivier d’Algange

We understand, reading this novel by Paulina Dalmayer – the continuation of which is announced and awaited – that time is a flow, a flood, even on some ultimate shore, a wave that turns itself in the immemorial. In her beautiful escape, barefoot in the snow, Wanda certainly remembers her Polish youth, the collective communist imprisonment, her family curse, her theatrical adventures, but the memory prevails, lifts her in a present which will belong only to her, to recapture it and let itself be seized, in the rolling wave, by imponderable powers in the extreme fragility.

Such is heroism, which is a genius of intuition: to feel what raises in what fails, to verify the existence of the soul in the extinction of the body. This beautiful novel, however, escapes each sentence from sadness. His humor gives us tears in our eyes; without complaints he goes to his recourse, raw, the better to let us glimpse the distraught wisdom of living.

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