The magazine “Les Belles Lettres” immerses itself in “the fog of war”

The review of magazines. There are magazines that you enter like magical caves, containing a thousand and one secrets. The fourth bulletin of Beautiful letters, In the fog of war (2023) belongs to this category. After having explored in particular the contours of geography with Rebel Cards, in 2020, but also The Evolution of knowledge, in 2022, it is In the fog of war that the curious reader is this time involved. This choice is not surprising, since on European soil, the confrontation between Ukraine and Russia enters its third year on February 24, and other conflicts are flaring up in Gaza or dragging on, like in Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa.

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In a fascinating double interview, conducted by Camille Pech de Laclause, editorial director of the magazine, two helicopter pilots, ” Brothers in arms “, recount their missions in Afghanistan. The first, Brice Erbland, emphasizes that the Tiger he piloted is a helicopter designed exclusively for combat. “I systematically identified with the soldiers I killed”, he confides. Having neutralized a young Taliban without taking any risk shook him: in doing so, he believes he is breaking a “moral balance” comparable to the “red line that a robot could exceed”. Mathieu Fotius’ experience is just as traumatic. In a book, he recounted the crash of his helicopter, which caused the death of his teammate. “The relationship with death is a very private and personal subject. We don’t sign up to die”he said.

Two centuries of war

Former war reporter turned novelist, Arturo Perez-Reverte presents his ideal library, but above all reminds that literature has always been shaped by war. This goes back to The Iliadone of his bedside books, just like theHistory of the French Revolutionby Jules Michelet. “The West, in its absurd negation of the reality of war in the 21ste century, forgot that war was a natural state which returns periodically”, warns the Spanish author. “We made young Westerners believe, he adds, that the horror could be overcome. (…) We disappointed them. »

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Two centuries of war are also told in thirty-eight books, a great feat. A photo of Second Lieutenant Winston Churchill, a dashing cavalier, taken in 1897 in Bengaluru, makes you smile. The dark side of conflicts, ancient wars – Homer, The Aeneid, of Virgil, the rediscovery of Ségurant, the dragon knight, forgotten figure of the Round Table, by Emanuele Arioli – are mentioned, just like that of Vietnam. Finally, the historian and musician Hervé Mazurel returns to the most obscure episode in the life of Arthur Rimbaud, according to the admission of his best biographer, Jean-Jacques Lefrere. In 1876, the poet “with soles of wind”, hired as a mercenary in the Dutch army, passed through Sumatra, Java and Batavia, in the Dutch East Indies, before hastily deserting. We don’t know much more.

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