28 September 2016

Roger Ikor: Je porte plainte (1980)

Roger Ikor won the Prix Goncourt in 1955 with Les Eaux  mêlées. Je porte plainte (lit. 'I'm making a complaint') came twenty-five years later, after the suicide of Ikor's son Vincent on 30 December 1979. The brief book (just 117 pages) is dated 15 November 1980, and is constructed as a complaint, or plea, to the President of the country, no matter who he be.

Vincent killed himself by hanging, although Ikor seems to think that his 'real' death was 'zen macrobiotics', which he calls a cult, and a deadly one. To Ikor, it's all about eating a really strict vegan diet, fasting for some time, but to the extent that the member of the 'cult' is starving. I was baffled by his revelations, although Ikor makes some interesting points.

One point is that the age of majority has been lowered from twenty-one to eighteen, which Ikor is against largely because the reduction of years of the onset of puberty, and the attendant earlier onset of sexual behaviour do not in any way tally with moral (or emotional) development. In fact, the government has increased the date of educational maturity by so many years that young adults are actually taking longer to mature than before.

And that's not all. Since World War I and its attendant pessimism – beginning, say, with surrealism – there's been a continuing culture that life isn't worth living, leading to the contemporary feeling that there are only three options: join a cult, take drugs, or kill yourself.

The eighteenth century was filled with promise, hope and the joy of living, whereas now (when Ikor wrote this) young people, living for instance under the cloud of the atomic bomb, feel only despair. What escape have they other than to join utopian sects (or much worse)?

Roger Ikor wrote this at the end of 1980 and killed himself in 1986. I don't know. He mentions Sartre in a negative light, seemingly unaware that Sartrean existentialism is in fact an optimism, and doesn't he mistake intellectual fashion for a way of life? I've never viewed zen macrobiotics as a suicide religion, not even as a religion at all: isn't the real problem not so much a question of coping with all the alternatives to God, but more just learning to live – in freedom – without Him?

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