By Helene Monsacré
Literary magazine n° 221
Juillet/Août 1985 (File literature and the exile).
“Oh! not, nothing is softer than fatherland and parents; in the exile, what good is the richest residence, among foreigners and far from its parents?”
It is at the time when Ulysses has just declined his identity in Phéaciens, and before even beginning the long account of its adventures, which it makes reference to the hardness of the exile. And what a exile! Ten years with guerroyer under the walls of Troy with the other Greeks, nine years to be wandered on the seas with the research of the way of the return. Because,it is to it the post-war period; it is the account of the returns of the Greek heroes in their hearths, more particularly the recit of the return of Ulysses. During nearly ten years, Ulysses fights to leave the inhospitable regions where, inlassablement, it fails; during ten years, this so difficult return will lead it of one exile to the other.
And which best framework to choose to make wander a man than that of the sea, of this Mediterranean, sea “in the medium of the grounds”, on which Ulysses is condemned to undergo the anger of Poséidon? The sea is dangerous and is not made for the man: to cross wants to say to expose itself to the storms, the marine monsters, the desolation of the moving and sterile vastness. Coming from the sea Ulysses does not miss the tests: hurricanes, storms, shipwrecks, exhaustions and bad meetings abound. Each stopover holds its surprises and moves away a little more Ulysses of his goal, the ground of the “men eaters of bread”; each halt brings its batch of sufferings.
As of the first towards poem, it is “that which such an amount of wandered (…) and, on the seas, passed by so many anguishes “, and its first appearance is characterized pareillement: prisoner of Calypso, it spends his days to be cried, with the variation, over his impossible return. The fabulous history of Ulysses it is, in a certain manner, the most completed human experiment exile, truth: that which makes that a man is nothing any more, is nobody any more. Beyond the account of tirednesses, wounds, frights which a man can support, there is in the marvellous painting of a temporary depersonalization. Because, in the last analysis, Ulysses is nothing any more, it very lost: its spoils, its boat, his/her companions, its weapons, his heroic past and until its name. It is an unknown, shipwrecked man anonymous; it “most obscure of all the men”, is insulated in an inhuman world.
Where is king d’ Ithaque, where is the hero of Troy? In these fabulous regions, the fame of Ulysses is impossible, does not have a catch. It is compared to the company of the men, thanks to the song of the aède which praises its value, that a hero can exist as such in the memory of the alive ones.
But, we know it, the destiny of Ulysses is not to disappear without burial at sea-bed, or unknown ground of the men. The poet shows it well: if it does not save any test with its hero, it always leaves him however its intelligence; and this intelligence, it is also the memory of its humanity. Ulysses never loses the direction of the return.
Ulysses held good: he never forgot his fatherland, never given up his wife, in spite of the charm of Calypso and the proposals for an immortality that she makes him. To remain on the island and in company of the nymph, safe from any concern, eternally young, would however be easy. Ulysses, however, faithful to itself, i.e. his temperament of endurance, resists and chooses the tests of the return, the anguish of the sea to find his place of mortal.
But if it finally leaves, thanks to Athéna, the world of the exile in fabulous country, it did not finish any, for all that, with the refusal of its true identity. Even in Ithaque, Ulysses is always except statute, of itself. He must pass by again a series of tests, to undergo many tests to find his véitable identity.
State of old anonymous vagrant, collected by his own Eumée pig-keeper, with that of poor wretch begging sitted on the threshold for its own palate, Ulysses, disguised, will know all humiliations. Once more, the variation is large between the condition of the beggar haillons some, abused by the applicants, and that of the all-powerful king of justice; it is in the sense that, even in Ithaque, Ulysses did not finish any with the exile. It is only after the contest of the arc and the massacre of the applicants, who mark the ultimate transition in the reconquest from his royalty, that his identity is recognized of all. By making a success of the exploit which qualifies it, it is worthy of the royalty, worthy of his wife; it is become again Ulysses, king d’ Ithaque at the same time as the victorious hero of Troy.
In were Troy, precisely, the Greeks ofIliade confronted with the feeling of exile? More than one index makes it possible to think it. It is advisable, however, to moderate the things: nothing is comparable with the long wander of Ulysses of, with his progressive dispossession of identity.
Iliade never evokes the need for warlike exploits without the obligatory reference to the fame, with the heroic morals which takes its direction only compared to the fatherland of origin. It is a question of taking Troy to avenge the made affront with Ménélas, but also to return as a winner to Greece.
Allusions to the discouragement, with lassitude abound and punctuate the action with the camp of the Greeks. And, in a certain direction, the community of the Achaens is in exile under the walls of Troy: the confrontations last since too a long time. The recurring memory of the native soil corrodes the tired warriors. But this memory stimulates them at the same time: the topic of the fatherland is dissociable heroic requirement. Because, being a hero, it is to be worthy of his ancestors, warriors them also, and valorous for his sons; it is to acquire the glory which will be sung by the generations to come. To return overcome is impossible.
The Achilles, most courageous of the Greeks, it knows better than whoever, even if temptation to return in his country effleure one moment. Indeed, since his quarrel with Agamemnon, Achille is with the variation of the combat. Far from its fatherland, far from his comrades in arms, it makes, for the time, him, “best of the Achaens”, appears of exiled. But its inactivity cannot last. The history is known: it chooses glory, it is essential on him, it will remain in Troy. “If I remain to beat me here around the town of Troy, it in is done for me return; on the other hand, an imperishable glory awaits me. If I return myself from there on the contrary in the war of my fatherland, it in is done for me noble glory; a long life, on the other hand, is reserved to me, and the death, which all completes, for a long time could not reach me.”
Since Patrocle, his/her friend, this “other itself”, is massacred by Hector, death is already on him. It does not escape from its destiny which is to die young person, in an immense glory: it will kill Hector, allow the catch of Troy and will die far from its country.
If the topic of the distance, of the exile is present in Homeric poetry, it is it to differing degree. On a side, inIliade, a community of warriors is temporarily cut of his country during ten years; other, in, an individual is ballotté with the liking of the fury of a god in dangerous worlds, in a nonhuman space and indelimity.
With Ulysses of the east evoked confusedly, but with force, the need for belonging in a community, a city. It is necessary to be at home to have an identity, like if, in this end of VIIIe century before J.-C., the obligatory reference to something moreover more extremely than the individual aristocratic values started to be felt.