La nuit de feu

Author Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Vote 5/10
Reviewed on 2016-10-05
Read in French

La nuit de feu is a book by the French author Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt and is part of my effort to learn this fine language by also reading it. I had read another book by the same author this year, and I wasn’t enthusiast about it; I also recognize, though, that the first 10 or 20 books I read in a language I don’t master are inevitably penalized in my judgment. But oh well, c’est la vie.

This is the very personal tale of the encounter that E-E made with some mysterious force when, at a very young age, he got lost during an expedition in the Sahara desert, and went through a near-death experience. I must admit that in the beginning, the tale felt cold, and a bit detached (but see what I say above about me reading in an unfamiliar language), even though I appreciate the depth of the observations made by the narrating voice, and the description of the impact felt by a European when getting in touch with a people like the Tuareg. Later in the tale, I’ve felt a bit puzzled when the element of the faith in God has crept in, through a debate between the protagonist and one member of the expedition: the protagonist was very close to present a trite argumentation between the stereotypical skeptic and a hard believer.

It is at the climax of that the book that the main event takes place. I won’t spoil it, but the protagonist gets lost at night, and for the unique circumstances, he despairs to see the light of the Sun again. Hallucinatory description ensues.

As incredible as the tale of the experience may sound, the main strength of the book lies in the way the author presents his own reflection on it. He could have fallen in the narrative trap of simplistically having talked about a revelation, and openly telling the story to his fellow pilgrims. He decides instead to interiorize it, and to understand what kind of consequences it has had on him, and would have from then on, if any. The problematic nature of what happened is the big strength of the story. Whatever the encounter’s real nature was, the impact on the young man’s life is lasting and meaningful, gives him an inner peace, that might have drifted into religion, and instead keeps its spirituality, refusing to be identified with any known cult.

I liked it and I’d suggest it as a good reflection on one’s spirituality.