- Imaginer l'avenir contre l'absolutisme de la realité by Maurice Weyembergh
The cover art for Maurice Weyembergh's monograph shows an aerial photograph of a man trapped in a giant maze. He tries to see beyond the entrapping walls, but they are too high, and the farther he looks, the darker it gets. Is there a way out? And should one even bother to search for it? This photo by Stewart Sutton perfectly illustrates the issues debated by Weyembergh in his wide-ranging study. The maze represents the path that will lead humans into the future and bears the burden or "the absolutism of reality," as the title states. By evoking the terminology of the German philosopher Hans Blumenberg (9), Weyembergh analyzes the constraints of reality and humans' efforts to improve their life span and, possibly, to overcome their finitude.
The book is part of a collection whose main aim is to encourage the debate on the future of a civilization characterized by a constant interaction between traditions and technosciences. The collection, founded by André Robinet and coordinated by Gilbert Hottois, includes more than twenty-five books already. Weyembergh's study is integral to the spirit of the collection. Dealing with a vast array of texts, originating from different times and places, it interrogates philosophy, literature, and also technical books, though there is a clear prevalence of literary texts that the author feels compelled to justify in his introduction: "La littérature parvient à dire des choses que les ouvrages spécialisés ne disent pas: elle rend en général aux événements leur poids d'existence, avec leurs peines et leurs joies" (15) [Literary texts are capable of saying things that specialized books cannot: they provide the events with a burden of existence, sorrows and joys included]. Weyembergh further adds that literature can even shape and give voice to silence, enabling the victims, or those who are often neglected, to speak. Since the very beginning, echoes of Camus and his myth of Sisyphus pervade Weyembergh's text. Indeed, the first paragraph of the text ends with the following statement: "Il peut [End Page 692] s'inventer d'autres vies, de plus grandes vies, ou se précipiter par désespoir dans la finitude, hâter sa fin" (7) [One can invent other lives, greater lives, or plunge, by despair, into one's own finitude, anticipate one's own end]. Those who share Sisyphus's spirit will certainly choose the first option.
The book is divided into seven sections: an introduction, titled as such, and six other chapters, the sixth being, in fact, a conclusion. In addition, it contains two helpful indexes: one for personal names and the other one for book references and concepts. One thing that can puzzle the reader is how the chapters differ considerably in terms of length. The first chapter, for example, titled "Cormack McCarthy: Du monde post-apocalyptique à la volonté suicidaire" (17–21), is very short (only five pages long), especially when compared with the following ones. In this chapter, Weyembergh revisits two books by the American writer Cormack McCarthy: The Road (2006) and The Sunset Limited (2006). These were chosen because they represent characters in extreme situations, in which the absolutism of a "reality" that does not take into account the desires or needs of the human being imposes itself dramatically on individuals, thus testing their limits and, above all, the limits of their goodness. In both cases, Weyembergh recognizes significant dichotomies emphasized by the language of the protagonists: a father and his young son in the first text, a white nihilist professor and a black ex-convict converted to religion in the second one. Although this is a chapter that can be seen as the motto for the rest of the book, one to which Weyembergh returns a couple of times, it could perhaps have been integrated as a subsection of chapter 2, which is mostly concerned with texts whose main issue is the end of a/the...