“The spirit of adventure is the answer to the absurdity of the world”

AT In the era of GPS, 5G and the god Google, what has become of the taste for risk and the spirit of innovation of the “trail discoverers”? What if adventure, adventure was no longer really adventure? The superb – and necessary – “Points Aventure” collection, directed by Patrice Franceschi, who no longer has much to prove in this area, is taking advantage of its tenth anniversary to prove that if adventure navigates as it can between the reefs ultramodernity, his spirit is far from having said its last word.

Point : Long considered a sin of youth, then glorified for its values ​​of courage and its spirit of innovation, what is “the spirit of adventure” today?

Patrick Franceschi: Your question distinguishes “adventurous spirit” from mere “adventure”, and you do well. If adventure as we were able to define it in the past is definitely behind us given the global evolution of the world, it is fortunately not the same for the “spirit of adventure”, it is that is to say for the intellectual dimension, even spiritual, associated with the adventure when the latter is truly itself in its goals, its way of being and its way of thinking. This is the idea defended by the “Points Aventure” collection that I created ten years ago and whose anniversary we are celebrating.

As a writer-adventurer – that is, a writer trying to create literature from lived experience – I have always given primacy to the “spirit of adventure” over the adventure itself. The difference is significant, because the spirit of adventure requires, in my eyes, the combination of four “virtues”, in the Greek sense of areteprinciple of excellence of things.

It does not seem pointless to recall them here: anti-conformism, understood as the potential to challenge the order of things; the aptitude for risk, understood as exaltation of life and disdain for death; the need for freedom, understood as a tension towards the best possible life; the desire for knowledge, understood as the exhortation to the effort to understand the world.

These four virtues of the spirit of adventure run through, I hope, every book in the collection, and their success demonstrates that these virtues still live on in the depths of our society. Just blow on the embers to revive them. If I add that the words adventure and freedom are synonyms, the essential is said.

The spirit of adventure therefore pays in excitement what it costs in risk. Isn’t he, in this, a salmon – solitary – who goes up – in the wrong direction – the river of the time and its ultra-safe spirit?

This is becoming more and more evident, alas. Today, Christopher Columbus would be prevented from leaving: destination unknown, return unlikely… From a civilizational point of view, this is an impoverishment whose deleterious effects will one day be measured. A society only progresses if it produces individuals inhabited by the spirit of adventure, whatever the profession in which they exercise this spirit. There was a time when there were bankers or insurers who knew how to translate the spirit of adventure into their daily decisions.

But let’s not worry too much. The spirit of adventure has always gone against the grain, whatever the times. Nothing really new, then. Things have only gotten worse over time and that’s all. The quest for security is, and will remain, for a long time the absolute priority of men. And the spirit of adventure, the best response to the absurdity of the world and the tragedy of life.

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It is accurate with regard to the falsification of reality that a certain modernity offers us, inaccurate in the intrinsic truth of the spirit of adventure. The more general problem of this business is that it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish the true from the false in our time – who does not see it? – and that the commodification of travel – like everything that exists – is not going to help matters. For example, you will see that eventually mass tourism will replace individual travel.

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And what about video games and metaversewhere the cardinal values ​​of adventure – risk-taking, need for freedom, anti-conformism and the desire to explore – are virtual endangerment, on the cheap?

They are fakes of the real world, and those who master new technologies are not done inventing them. The human imagination is limitless for the creation of counterfeit currencies. This is one of the reasons why the literature of lived adventure remains one of the last refuges of the truth resulting from the experience of the “field”, that which one learns through the knowledge of the flesh.

This literature is perhaps the ultimate citadel where the spirit of adventure can resist and set an example. The dozens of writers I have published in my collection in ten years, from Le Clézio to Kersauson, from Paul-Émile Victor to Henry de Monfreid, or from Erik Orsenna to Roland Garros, Graham Greene, Stanley in search of Livingstone, Jules Verne, Queffélec, Chaliand and so many others thus form, lined up side by side in my library, something resembling a citadel, a haven and a lair. I like to imagine that at night, when men are asleep, all these authors, most of whom have never met, talk to each other over the past centuries.

Adventure is having something to explore, not to observe… Is there nothing left for the adventurer but the territory of thought?

Yes and no. However, it seems to me that the essential thing is that the adventure continues to be, for those who exercise it, a formidable “tool of knowledge” by its capacity to transform each experience into consciousness – on condition, of course, of “thinking this experience and write down the result. Because without this thought, the adventure story runs the risk of remaining at the level of the factual, the trivial, without drawing any lessons that can be transmitted. And the books are there to transmit. This is why the literary dimension is essential to this affair.

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They are simply consubstantial. I can’t imagine them other than intrinsically intertwined. There are, between adventure and literature, consanguineous links of the same order as those which link adventure and freedom. The whole forms a coherent, logical and exhilarating whole, something like a “song of life”. When they talk about travel, these books easily remind us that adventure is “exposing yourself”, while tourism is “protecting yourself”.

Why is it important to keep this spirit of adventure alive in our society?

The disappearance of the spirit of adventure would quite simply mean the end of a long era which lasted five centuries when we were masters of our destiny because we were dominated by energy, the taste for risk, disinterestedness, the desire for discovery and the dream of great things to accomplish. Most of my contemporaries don’t see things that way because they reduce adventure to its minimum. For many, it is a kind of muscular gesticulation in an exotic environment… It’s the syndrome of Koh Lanta. When the game replaces reality.

Today that everyone is forced, under pain of a conviction by default for the crime of lese respectability, to embrace some lucrative profession, to be an adventurer, is it to resist?

It follows from all that has just been said that the last adventurers are, in their own way, “resisters”. Provided, in my view, to integrate into their way of life and thought a commitment to something bigger than themselves. Resisting for oneself will always be worth less than resisting for others. Most adventurous writers of the XXe century engaged in the struggles, wars or revolutions of their time, from Hemingway to Malraux and from Orwell to Gary, Koestler or Kessel. Along with a few other writers of the same caliber, they remain role models.

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They are in a gestation all the more difficult as the mold is broken. For all sorts of reasons that would take too long to explain here, modern society now opposes the birth of men and women of this type. However, the need for dreams and freedom remaining strong in each of us, do not panic: the emergence of today’s adventure writers remains within the realm of the possible. It’s just harder for them to exist.

If there were only two to mention among the writers in the “Points Aventure” collection, I would choose Katell Faria, a young adventurer writer who knew how to get involved in the Kurdish women’s battalions fighting Daesh or tell us about the pioneers of aviation in Sky Adventurers, and Jean-Pierre Brouillaud. The latter, although blind, has traveled the world for years as if he saw as well as you and me, and recounts these adventures in books that are unlike any other. Through his bravery, his intense desire for life and his refusal of victimization, he teaches us all the greatest lesson.

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