Corsair of letters, Michel Le Bris is gone

With his disheveled bard look, his Celtic druid beard, this granite Breton, with a soft gaze covered by an iron will, nourished by the sea spray and the desire for the open sea, geographical as well as philosophical, had been quite a mess. From his childhood in a neglected Finistère “Very poor, lonely, illuminated by the infinite generosity of my mother who sacrificed her life, by the support of a teacher and the grace of books” He will have the rage, expressed many times, to refute the peremptory doxa of his generation which considered man only as the product of his contexts. Noticed by his teacher from Plougasnou, an admirable representative of these black hussars who knew how to detect the best in the students entrusted to them, he had been saved from his obscure condition by books and a miraculous series of meetings. After having suffered, under the gaze of others at the Lycée Hoche in Versailles, to be sent back to his origins, Michel Le Bris became “Indestructible”.

Its home ports: travelogues and the great outdoors

A graduate of HEC, he learned about philosophy, notably with Emmanuel Lévinas. Maoist after May 68, general manager of The People’s Cause, a newspaper that frightened the Gaullist power, he was in a box for eight months. After his release from prison, he will be the co-founder, with Jean-Paul Sartre, of Release from which he moves away as soon as he feels dogmatism emerging. He returned to his home ports: tales of travels and open spaces, the shores of German romanticism. And to a writing, freed from journalistic constraints, which unfolded, in 1977, in The man with the soles of wind, an event, his biggest hit in bookstores.

Editor-in-chief of Jazz Hot, radio columnist for The new observer, director for three years of the programs of France 3 Bretagne, creator of the review Gulliver, Michel Le Bris had been director of various collections at Gallimard, Grasset, Flammarion, Payot, and especially Phébus, publisher of nearly 400 works.

“At the end of the 1980s, he explained, the dominant French literature, self-centered and preoccupied only with itself, unbearable me. After 1968, we had challenged ideologies (and we were over-ideologized) by going to see the world. Literature had to follow the same path. I have always defended a travel literature, adventurous, open to the world, anxious to say it, the meeting place for the children of Conrad and Stevenson. ” Stevenson, of which he was the world specialist.

The abundance and aura of its Étonnants Voyageurs festival

In 1990, from Saint-Malo, he launched Amazing Travelers, a unique festival of its kind, which brings together literatures from all over the world, as long as they distill the sea air and the rumor of the world. This vast gathering becomes the water point, the oasis of these adventurers of writing. Every Pentecost weekend (except in 2020 due to a pandemic), the troop of nomads and pilgrims of literature gather around the ramparts of the beautiful Breton city where Michel Le Bris greets them with greed, great organizer of this popular event. which branched out in Missoula (United States), Dublin (Ireland), Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Haifa (Israel), Bamako (Mali), Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Brazzaville (Congo), Rabat and Salé (Morocco). It is thanks to the recognition ofAmazing travelers that African and Haitian writers arrived on the shelves of French literature until the election of Dany Laferrière to the French Academy.

For “a literature-world in French”

In March 2007, with Jean Rouaud and Alain Mabanckou, Michel Le Bris throws a paving stone in the pond. A “Manifest” to encourage the advent of a “Literature-world in French”, embodied by these “Writers from beyond France”. Enough of the distinction between French-speaking writers and French authors which separates them when everything brings them together, he pleads. “The center, this point from which Franco-French literature was supposed to radiate is no longer the center. The center is now all over the world. “

An interview with Michel Le Bris

A few years later, he cannot remain inactive in the face of the scandal of the fate reserved for migrants. From Saint-Malo, with Patrick Chamoiseau, he launched an appeal to mobilize intellectuals: “We die, we let die, we watch them die, and we tolerate an ocean of degradation imposed on men, women and children, in which we find ourselves splashing around until the middle of the cities”.

Author of fifty books, fervent unifier of dreamers, Michel Le Bris always returned to the attractive mystery that illuminated his steps and gave meaning to his life: writing.

Michel Le Bris, offshore writer


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